Last weekend, as I was greeting people and shaking hands after Mass, I said to a few parishioners, “Happy New Year!” Some of the glances and puzzled looks that I received in return gave me the impression that for a few, I really took them off guard—and someone even warned me that I was a bit early for ushering in the new year.
What I meant, of course, was to wish people a happy beginning to the Church’s new year, which commences every year with this season of Advent. As of last Sunday, we began a new liturgical cycle, reliving anew the mysteries of our salvation ‘from the top,’ starting appropriately with this season of postured anticipation of a Savior who will be born among us at Christmas. We move from studying Luke on most Sundays to Matthew in this coming year. In all of our liturgical books, we made what the seminarians I studied with used to call the “big flip,” which was when we moved the ribbons from the very back of the books to the very front. All in all, there’s just something satisfying about knowing we’ve completed another year in the Lord’s grace, and so we begin again.
While I’m not sure it’s ever necessarily been the practice to make resolutions at the beginning of a liturgical year, I think this ‘new beginning’ does present us with a perfect opportunity: to examine our spiritual lives with fresh eyes; to ask the Lord to illumine those ways in which He is calling us to grow deeper in the mystery and in the practice of our faith; and to resolve to adhere to some simple and achievable practices in this coming year. Ask yourself in prayer this week,
“How is God calling me deeper? What can I do to recommit myself to this life of discipleship and prayer? What is a small resolution that I can make to God in this coming year?”
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- If you haven’t gone to confession in years (yeah, you!), there’s no time like the present!
- Start praying before meals with your family, if you don’t already. Kneel by your beside every night and thank God for the beauty of another day.
- Commit to reading the Scriptures every day. Read a single chapter of one of the Gospels or start with the Book of Psalms. If you want something systematic, the Augustine Institute published a Bible in a Year that I find helpful, and it only takes about 20-30 minutes per day. (For the more technologically inclined, there are apps for this as well.)
- Spend a weekly or monthly hour in adoration. Start coming to Cathedral’s offerings of adoration on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Come see what our Late Advent Holy Hour is about!
- Resolve to pray the Rosary daily or weekly or to spend your commute offering a Divine Mercy Chaplet.
- Look through this Weekly and pick one of the plethora of Advent Offerings and go. Invite a friend! Go to some of the many adult faith formation opportunities we host. Discover the beauty of prayer and song at Lessons and Carols. Come see what a Rorate Coeli Mass is.
- Ever tried going to a daily Mass? Try going one extra day a week. See what grace the Lord has in store for you.
- Pick a different thing to fast from every week (coffee, snacking, salt, dessert, social media/internet, etc.). Offer the little suffering for someone you know who is sick or in need of your prayers.
- Explore the world of Catholic podcasts. I’m a fan of Catholic Stuff You Should Know. The Diocese started a podcast called Dive Deep. There’s even a podcast for praying the Liturgy of the Hours (called Pray Station Portable).
- Follow the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois on Facebook or Instagram. Share a post every once in a while. Be that person.
- Up your weekly contribution by $5. Pick a charity that you know and trust—local or global—and send them a donation. Commit to living discipleship in your financial life as well.
- Pick up a book for spiritual reading. Learn about the saints. Dive in deeper with some theology or spiritual classics. If you need suggestions, call me!
The options are endless. Pick something you can accomplish. Like our other New Year’s resolutions, we don’t want these to be a distant memory in just a couple weeks from now. Don’t try and do everything; but as a spiritual director once told me, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Resolve to do something good, even if we’re never going to implement in perfectly. One thing I know is that our Lord can never be outdone in generosity—if you commit to growing with the Lord, even a small effort can be met with great reward!
Father Michael Friedel is a Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral and Chaplain at Sacred Heart Griffin High School.