People sometimes scorn the idea of new-year’s resolutions, thinking that they are often unrealistic and only lead to more failed goals and frustration. However, making resolutions (goals of improving some aspect of our life in the future) is a traditional Catholic practice after a period of prayer or a retreat. One key to keeping a resolution is that it is realistic. Making the goal of coming to daily Mass, after never going to daily Mass in the past, may not be realistic. A better start would be coming to Mass one extra time per week in the new year. It can be satisfying to accomplish simple goals which are helpful to your spiritual life.
A big part of our spiritual life as human beings is developing concrete habits of prayer and encounter with God. Our lives are made up of many cycles and rhythms – weeks and years, hours and minutes. We all have a routine every day, even if it is not always exactly the same. To have solid lives of prayer, we need it to be part of our routine. Just praying “when we feel like it” guarantees that we will never pray when we need to the most – when things in life are not going our way.
At all four parish Masses last weekend, we proposed a new-year’s resolution for all of our parishioners – praying three Hail Mary’s every day in 2022. One of these is offered for the three intentions of our clergy, our parishioners, and yourself. This is very realistic and measurable. To remember doing this, it would be helpful to attach it to something that is already part of your routine, like getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast. For those who are looking for another spiritual resolution for the new year, I would propose that you add twenty minutes of prayer time to your daily schedule. A concrete way to begin this prayer time is by reading a passage from the Bible. The Gospels are the best place to start, and after reading a passage, take a few minutes to examine whether some part of the passage drew your interest or stirred something in your heart.
Another resolution that could enrich your life in the new year is transferring some daily media time into reading time. There are so many good books out there, many of which are spiritual, but some of which are just good stories. We spend a lot of time on our phones and watching television. You may be surprised (even embarrassed) at how much time, on average, you spend on your phone per day. I know I sometimes am, even with a pretty full schedule as a parish priest and high school co-chaplain. One of my goals for this year is to spend more time reading books instead of consuming media. Even ten minutes per day spent reading a book will result in several books read this year.
There is a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi which I really like. I am not sure if he said it or not, as many quotes attributed to him are not historically accurate. Nevertheless, this quote is good: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” This is a good way of looking at habits and goals that you have for your life. As a Catholic, the bare minimum that you should be doing is attending Mass on Sundays and going to Confession periodically. If this is you, then start by doing what is possible, like praying for 20 minutes every day with scripture or reading a spiritual book. Before long, you will attain what was previously impossible for you, and your life will be richer for it!