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Marist Bulletin - Number 104


Brother Enrique Escobar encourages the use of a Personal Life-Plan

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Br. Lluís Serra

Brother Enrique Escobar, 49, was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. He has a Masters Degree in Education, has taught on the elementary through university levels, and spent ten years working in his Province’s formation centers. In December he finishes six years of service as Provincial of our Western Mexico Province.

Where did you get the idea to promote the Personal Life-Plan in your Province?
I can do many, many things when inviting and trying to motivate others to change, but it’s up to the heart of each one of us to decide. While people and circumstances may help or hinder my decision, ultimately I alone am responsible for what I do with my life. No one can wreck my life, make me bitter, or bring peace to my soul unless I allow him or her to do so...
The PERSONAL LIFE-PLAN (PLP) enables individuals to be serious about their human development. Besides, I believe that good intentions to grow and change need the support of structures to sustain them... the PLP is one of these.

What does this personal plan include?
It consists of gifting myself with a time for planning and renewing my strength and energy, clarifying my objectives, and concentrating on the road I want to take on my life’s journey. When I say planning my life, I don’t mean carrying around a detailed, neat-looking map showing every turn I ought to make, but a guide that shows me I’m headed in the right direction, one that will lead to my personal fulfillment and happiness. Distractions, weariness, discouragement, confusion, and losing my way may make personal fulfillment a seemingly unattainable goal at times… That being the case, a written record of my conscious thoughts and decisions can serve as a mirror, a reminder – a road sign to help me get back on track and stay there.

How has the plan been received by the brothers in your Province?
Thanks be to God it’s been widely accepted. During the last school year 120 out 150 brothers worked on it and shared what they did in personal interviews. The challenge is to let the plan light up our path each day – put it into practice and evaluate our progress on a daily basis.

The fact that 120 out of 150 brothers can chat with you about their personal plan speaks volumes to me. When a brother adopts this dynamic approach for human and spiritual growth, what effects does it produce?
Depending on the individual, very different ones. One person might see the plan as an activity involving supervision and control. I think a good number implement it, live it and share it as a vital part of their lives, as something that supports their growth. Personally, when I listen to the Life-Plans of my brothers, my own life is enriched, I’m consoled, my hope is renewed, and I’m challenged to keep on going… Like Moses in front of the burning bush, I feel a need to take off my shoes as I prepare to tread with reverence on holy ground.

I’ve read the text, and the title says a lot. “Give me the boldness to start over!” You call for a change in attitude, for conversion... overcoming an inertia that makes it that much more difficult for us to better ourselves.
The plan is intended to foster a humbler, less pompous attitude towards life. It’s an ever-present invitation, like a door that’s open for the first, second, fifth, umpteenth time... It’s also meant to redefine “starting over” as a bold initiative, not a sign of failure. It springs from something Br. Roger, the founder of Taizé, once said: “It’s not in our power as human beings to do something once and for all and then rest on our laurels; that’s why we have the audacity to begin again and again.” I have transformed this thought into a trustful prayer in the drawing I made for the booklet’s cover.

How much effort is required to put together a Personal Life-Plan?
I’d say a very big effort, because it means swimming against the current. There’s a sentence in the booklet that makes me think, listen to my heart, and confront myself: “In our densely populated, pluralistic, hi-tech urban centers we are immersed in a process of alienation that us crowding out our ability to think, feel, and want things that are of vital importance in our personal lives.” Over and over I experience this brutal reality in my heart and I can sense it in my brothers, my relatives and friends, and our partners in mission... The PLP helps me break the back of this alienation process, invites me to go to the core of my being, listen deeply, make decisions and begin again every morning, at each crossroads.

From what I can gather from your booklet, without an interior life and silence the plan makes no sense at all and can’t be carried out. What suggestions do you have for creating this interior life and silence?
The booklet contains an exercise that invites us to analyze how we spend our time. Often I find myself proclaiming beautiful beliefs and high ideals, but there’s very little proportion between them and the time I take to put them into practice. For example I’m capable of playing paddleball for three hours or staying up late at night working or chatting with a friend, yet when it comes to Jesús, the center of my life, I only squeeze in a few minutes before running off to do a thousand things. I have to stop and welcome opportunities for the two of us to be alone. Some communities are rediscovering the value of having a monthly retreat and that makes me happy. In our schools we are suggesting to those in charge that they take advantage of meetings to set aside some time for this kind of reflection.

I’ve seen a copy of the latest edition of your booklet, published in August 2003. Clearly it’s a text from which lay people can benefit. Do you intend asking them to make use of it as a means for self-improvement, and if so, do you think they will welcome your invitation?
The need to plan and renew vitality is not one that applies to the brothers alone. Clarifying the aims and direction that we want our lives to take is a more universal phenomenon. We brothers talk about having a shared mission; we need to invest time and energy in the formation of our partners in the mission.
There are people within and outside the Institute who have used and enjoyed previous editions of this booklet. For example, the printer who publishes the booklets has been very touched – when we published the first edition, he grasped the plan’s value, started putting it into practice, and is very thankful for it.
How interesting it would be to apply this plan to our organizations. As administrators in our schools, how much are we aware of the dreams and challenges our lay partners? How can we help the institution and the person reciprocally nourish each other for the benefit and fulfillment of both? Not in a “give-and-take” way but one that ensures the common good, knowing that when one person is enriched, everyone is.
Thinking of these men and women in our schools, we have put together a special edition to help them develop a PLP. Some will be doing this for the first time.

What role does prayer play in the Personal Life-Plan?
Praying means stopping whatever I’m doing to enter the depths of my heart, listen carefully to my innermost thoughts, and realize with surprise, joy and conviction that my path and God’s are not parallel – to find out that the Lord doesn’t judge; rather that He is intensely interested in my being happy and reaching my full potential. Praying is discovering that my solitude is a tremendous opportunity for a meeting; finding out that whatever weaknesses, bewildering ideas, contradictions, doubts and uncertainties I may have, there is Someone who can get things done... and that with Him, I can too!

What advice would you give us in our efforts to place Jesus at the center of our lives and commit ourselves to serving Him and the men and women, children and young people all around us?
None. I have a hard enough time with this in my own life, how can I advise anyone else? …I can only invite others and myself earnestly to open our hearts to welcome God’s awesome freelygivenunconditionallove and fall in love with Him – YES! FALL IN LOVE WITH HIM! FALL IN LOVE WITH HIM! FALL IN LOVE WITH HIM!… Life only has meaning when you hand it over to someone - Someone.

For people interested in learning more about this Personal Life-Plan... how can they obtain a copy of your booklet (in Spanish), or who can help them?
If anyone’s interested – I’m at your service with muchísimo gusto: enriqueescobar@hotmail.com

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