I love making resolutions for the New Year. Some years I make the same resolution over and over and that can be depressing. But if I am real about it there is always some kind of change, even if it is indiscernible to everyone but God and me.
When I make New Year’s resolutions I try to make one for my mind, one for my body, and one for my soul.
For example, my New Year’s resolution for my mind this year is to read more. Read more! I’m pretty sure most of us could read more than we do. It is sad how much reading has become a lost art with the advent of smartphones. One sister helpfully advised me to make a process change to read more rather than make a vague resolution. So instead of setting a goal to read 50 books next year, I am going to resolve to read at least 15 minutes a day.
This year, my New Year’s resolution for my health is to drink less caffeine, and eat less sugar.
I am still mulling over my New Year’s resolution for my soul.
Here are some obvious and not-so-obvious practices that might help you decide what to incorporate into your spiritual life for the new year:
- The Rosary: I don’t know about you but I often go through phases when I pray the Rosary daily and then for some reason I don’t pray it for a time. But after a while I realize that I need to go back to this bread-and-butter spiritual practice because Mary’s aid in the spiritual life is so powerful. Have you prayed the Rosary lately?
- Daily Exam: Saint Ignatius gave us some amazing helps in the spiritual life. The spiritual exercises he wrote for making retreats would have been enough, but the daily exam is another Ignatian gem. Often prayed at the end of the day, this method helps a person to review the events of the day and give thanks and ask God for grace. For me, the exam has helped me to see how God is present in my life. Maybe something to try out?
- Particular Exam: Unlike the daily exam that is more general, the particular exam is something that helps a person to grow in a particular virtue or eliminate a particular vice. During the Christmas season, I used the particular exam to approach my day with more trusting joy. I would stop periodically and ask myself, “Are you living with joy?” It is amazing what these little timeouts can do in our spiritual life.
- Daily Mass: Even if you cannot get to daily Mass every day, it is a treasure trove of grace available for the days that you can. And nothing is better for your spiritual life than receiving the Eucharist regularly.
- Mindful Social Media Use: I go through phases on social media. Sometimes I am using it to evangelize and to de-stress for a few minutes. And other times, often when I am upset or sad, I find myself mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds wasting away precious time. This year I plan to make my social media use a part of my daily exam at the end of the day by asking myself, “Today, did I use social media in a healthy way to spread God’s love?” Perhaps a similar social media resolution would help you in your spiritual life?
- Lectio Divina: I really believe that lectio divina is a spiritual practice that could energize so many people’s spiritual lives. If you won’t take my word for it, trust Benedict XVI. He emphasized the importance of lectio divina over and over during his pontificate. This practice is basically a prayerful way to read Scripture and to listen to God’s voice because he wants to speak to us through his Word.
- Fasting: This is a lost art in many ways. But fasting is central to the Christian life. Jesus fasted and told his disciples that fasting and prayer was sometimes necessary. The devil hates fasting because it is a powerful weapon against evil and so it is no surprise that the practice has waned. Fasting is difficult, but it is a powerful way to boost your spiritual life.
- Spiritual Reading: The saints often exhorted people to read books on the faith. My spiritual life would not be what it is without the profound, enriching books I have read. Unfortunately, as someone who works in publishing, I can tell you firsthand that spiritual reading has gone down in the past several years. This is very worrying because one of the primary ways we learn about the faith is through reading. And not just online articles (although those are great too, of course!).
- Works of Mercy: The Year of Mercy is over but the importance of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy is not. Try reading a list of the works of mercy and see if one jumps out at you. Perhaps God is asking you to put more emphasis on that work of mercy in this new year.
- Let Your Joy be Contagious: Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of joy often and I think this is because joy is key to evangelization. A Church of grumps does not attract others to the amazing treasure we have found: Jesus Christ. If we have truly found Christ, then we have found joy. This year, try finding joy, even in the midst of struggle and anxiety.