The daily decalogue of Pope St. John XXIII

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

The movie fans among us will recognize that quote not as the words of a famous saint, but as the statement of the wiser-than-his-years protagonist of the ’80s cult classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” But why do I bring up young Ferris here?

There’s a reason that, nearly 30 years after the movie was released, his words have taken an iconic place in cinematic history. Truth is always relatable, and I believe that most of us wholeheartedly have been able to relate to the truth of that particular statement at one point or another in our lives.

If you’re anything like me, you may suffer from the temptation to go through life at break-neck speed without pausing to look around or, worse, at times, without giving a second thought to words or actions.

The days speed by as we check off boxes on our lists, looking ahead to what’s next more than we enjoy the present moment. Perhaps it’s this knowledge that I need to slow down, be more attentive to the present moment and more intentional about my day-to-day actions that led me to open “Just for Today” (Eerdmans Books, $16) when it came across my desk a few weeks ago.

Though put in the “young reader” format of a large-print, hard-cover and illustrated book, the words are those of the daily decalogue of Pope St. John XXIII, whose canonization the Church celebrated in April 2014. The “good pope” recited this prayer every morning as he struggled, as we all do, to live a life of virtue.

The first two of the 10 reflections, alone, show me how far I have to go: “Just for today, I will try to live for this day alone, without wishing to solve my life’s problems all at once. Just for today, I will take great care of how I present myself: I will dress simply; I will not raise my voice; I will be polite in my manners; I will not criticize anyone; I will not look to improve or discipline anyone other than myself.”

Another one reminds us that we are not in charge of our lives, no matter how much we would sometimes prefer to be: “Just for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without expecting circumstances to adapt to my wishes.”

Each reflection is beautiful and thoughtful — a mini examination of conscience to recite in the quiet of morning before the rush of the day begins. And in this children-friendly format, it’s a reflection the whole family easily can take part in.

The decalogue of St. John XXIII, said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in a 2006 homily commemorating the late pontiff, is one that expresses clearly “the Church’s holiness and human wisdom.” In short, he said, it leaves us with an “all-embracing resolution” in the words of St. John to “be kind, today and always, to everyone.”

To read a version of the entire daily decalogue, go to

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