I think most Catholics in the world would love to grow in their relationship with Jesus. People have a genuine desire to grow in holiness, even if they are not able to articulate their desires for it.
On New Year ’s Day many people re-evaluate their lives. They examine how their lives were in 2015 and make resolutions about how 2016 can be the best year! Weight loss and eating right will top people’s lists. But why not make some spiritual resolutions as well? Examine how your spiritual life has been in 2014 and make some sort of resolution for 2015.
All too often, when we make resolutions we make too many. Instead of thinking of 5-10 resolutions, why not focus on just one or two? Also, don’t bite off more than you can do. Once we begin to fail at our goals, we become discouraged and ultimately give up!
If you are interested in igniting your spiritual life, here are a few simple suggestions for your New Year’s resolutions:
- Patron Saint for the New Year
It is a tradition for people to choose a patron saint for the New Year. Some people do this by putting several names in a hat and drawing one, but maybe you would like to develop a devotion to a particular saint. St. Faustina wrote of this practice:
“There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year’s Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning, during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn’t read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: ‘I am your patron. Read.’ I looked at once at the inscription and read, ‘Patron for the Year 1935 – the Most Blessed Eucharist.’ My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament, where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.”
If there is a saint that you have been fond of, why not learn more about them this year? Ask for their intercession daily. Want a random saint? The internet is full of stories about the lives of obscure saints! You are bound to find one!
Want to know who a patron saint is of something? Google it. Saints are our friends in heaven who pray for us.
- Read the Scriptures
There are many books out there that promote reading the whole bible in a year. Those readings are really long for each day—averaging 20 minutes. Maybe you don’t have time for that much reading. Why not dust off your bible, and begin reading the Gospels?
You could start with Matthew, but don’t become discouraged with the genealogy of Jesus! I promise you it gets better! Choose one of the four gospels and read small excerpts each day. The New American Bible has headings of stories (called pericopes). Read a small snippet, 5-10 verses a day. You will learn more about Jesus, and you will come into contact with the living Word of God.
- Pray a Decade of the Rosary or the Angelus
Many people want to have a stronger devotion to Mary. Maybe 20 minutes of praying the rosary is a lot of time. (You could pray in your car with a rosary cd or rosary app). Some people find five decades to be a lot! Why not pray a decade a day? In five days’ time you will have completed one set of mysteries. Then begin again.
There is power in the Hail Mary prayer—each time we ask Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of death. I don’t know about you, but I need the Madonna’s prayers right now, and especially at death.
If the rosary doesn’t appeal to you, there are many other Marian devotions. The Angelus is quite simple and can be prayed once a day or three times (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Find the Marian devotion that suits you and go with it.
- Do Spiritual Reading
There are treasuries of spiritual books out there and reading a small portion for five minutes a day can be of great benefit. St. Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul is a favorite for many! Maybe you are attracted to the Divine Mercy devotion, and would like to read the Diary of Faustina.
The saints have written many books that will surely lift you up. There are also contemporary writers like Scott Hahn who can help you in your spiritual life. Spiritual masters note that when we do not do spiritual reading, our spiritual lives begin to lag. Pick up a book today!
- Listen to Catholic CDs or Radio
Lighthouse Catholic Media produces many CDs about the Catholic life. Many parishes make these CDs available in their vestibules for a small donation. Consider listening to a CD each month. Lighthouse Catholic Media makes this easy by offering a monthly subscription service at $6.00 a month. Listening to these CDs will bring you to a greater understanding of your Catholic faith.
In addition to CDs, most cities throughout the US have Catholic Radio, be it Relevant Radio, Radio Maria or EWTN Radio. Take a listen and you will see how adding a Catholic culture to your life will make a positive difference.
- Pray Before and After Meals
As a young person you might have prayed simple, catchy prayers before meals. Each of us should be grateful when we sit down for a meal because there are many in the world who go without proper nutrition. If you don’t regularly express gratitude to God for the food you have received, consider starting.
When we give thanks before and after meals we cultivate an attitude of gratitude which will pervade beyond the food we eat into every aspect of our lives.
- Do a Nightly Examination of Conscience
Before we go to Confession, it is recommended that we examine our consciences. Many pamphlets exist that help us to do this. One spiritual practice employed by some is a nightly examination of conscience. In addition to calling to mind one’s failings of the day, a person also recalls the blessings of the day—how God was at work in their life.
In the new year, consider pausing each night before bed, and reflecting on the movements of your day. Be thankful. Be contrite. Ask God for help in whatever tomorrow will bring.
In addition to our physical health conscious goals, we must also be conscious of our spiritual life when making our annual resolutions. There are many other suggestions I could have included, like going to a daily Mass once a week, if you are able, or go to Confession once a month.
2016 can be a year in which we all grow in holiness. It begins with a simple goal and not biting off more than you can chew. Together, let us all strive to love the Lord more each day this year by putting Jesus at the center of our life.