A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘New Year’s resolutions

Looking at last week’s flyers, it’s easy to tell that the top three New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, quit smoking, and get organized. I couldn’t count the number of pieces of fitness equipment, nicotine patches, and storage totes advertised.

I often make New Year’s resolutions. Not because I enjoy the prospect of failure—experts tell us at the start of each new year that, by the middle of January, many of us give up on keeping them—but because I like having goals to work toward. For example, some of my goals for 2016 include taking another cooking class and trying the weaving kit I bought last year.

We know that goals need to be specific, measurable, and time-limited, not to mention realistic. There’s no point in saying we want to be healthier without pinpointing how much weight we want to lose, how many points we want our blood pressure to come down, or how many times we’ll exercise each week and outlining the steps we’ll take to make it happen.

If we focus only on health-related or clutter-clearing goals, though, we could be missing out on other areas of our lives where God wants us to make changes.

Maybe this is the year that we learn to put down the PDA, laptop or cell phone and look at our spouse when we’re having a conversation. Or that we have regular family game or movie nights so that we do more as a family than rush from one activity to the next. Or that we work harder to keep in touch with friends—or to make new ones.

Maybe this year we could also try to grow in our faith. We could plan to take a few minutes each day to read the Bible or pray, to volunteer to serve on our parish’s social action or maintenance committee, to sign up for pre-authorized giving, or to plan our giving for the year.

Maybe 2016 is the year we ask God to show us what changes we need to make and focus on those instead of the changes we think we should make—the year we take to heart these words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:9-11*:

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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With a new year come new resolutions—or old resolutions that we vow, once again, to keep. For example, I’m renewing my New Year’s resolutions to reach a healthier weight and to arrive a few minutes before the start time for lessons and appointments.

Many of us have resolved to find exercise that we enjoy, to quit smoking, to get organized, to cut back on or cut out caffeine, or to meet some other goal.

I heard on the radio the other day that most people give up on their resolutions by mid-February. Perhaps it’s because of black-and-white thinking: either we stick perfectly to our resolutions or we quit. But maybe it’s time to stop hoping that we can snap our fingers and instantly be the people we want to be and to stop trying do things in our own strength, whatever aspect of our character, our habits or our lives we want to change.

We need to make our goals specific, measurable and achievable and plan how we’ll accomplish them. And we can ask others to use their talents and abilities to help us, to keep us accountable, or to join us in striving to hit these targets. But maybe, in making our plans, we’re ignoring the spiritual side of things.

In the “Celebrate December 2014” column of last month’s Catholic Digest, I read this quote from St. John Chrysostom:

Grace can do nothing without the will, and the will can do nothing without grace.

Rather than just trust our gut feelings about the changes we should make and rely on our willpower to make them, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to show us how God would have us transform our lives with his help, and to pray that the Spirit would guide and strengthen us in going forward.

For those who, like me, make New Year’s resolutions and struggle to keep them, I pray that we would take heart in remembering that Jesus, “because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18*).

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

I’m not much for staying up till midnight on New Year’s Eve, but I do follow “year in review” media coverage.

Sometimes I shake my head when I think about the stories that loomed large over the past year—drug use and sexting by certain politicians, or the tendency of certain performers to go for shock instead of substance, for example. The recaps of the events of 2013 focussed on such scandals, and the choice of Pope Francis as the new head of the Catholic Church earned a quick mention in comparison.

As we look back on 2013, we can look at the place we gave our faith in our own lives. And as we begin a new year, we can make our faith more than just a footnote in this chapter we call 2014.

Our priest spoke at yesterday’s Mass about making resolutions for the year ahead—resolutions, not wishes. He suggested we make faith-related resolutions, such as a commitment to read a chapter or two of the Bible or the Catechism or spend ten minutes meditating in God’s presence each day.

The Year of Faith declared by Pope Benedict XVI is over, but I pray that this too would be a year to deepen our faith by taking more time to read the Bible, become more familiar with the Catechism, pray more for our families, and spend more time with God. Or to return to the Church if we’ve been away for a little or a long while.

May we praise God for his blessings over the past year, and try to recognize the ways he blesses us this year!

“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.”

~ Malachi 1:11*

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

A few days ago, I heard a radio host say that many people have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions.

I guess listeners could react to that in a few different ways:

  • “I don’t bother making resolutions. It’s a waste of time.”
  • “At least I’m not alone.”
  • “Hey, thanks for the encouragement!” (Heavy with sarcasm.) “I’m still trying to keep my resolutions.”

I fall into group number three. And being something of a pessimist, one thing I don’t need is any help in the discouragement department.

What I do need is to make another resolution for this year: to get rid of the old and make room for the new. I don’t mean physical clutter—I mean the mental baggage that holds me back from following the path God has planned for me.

My clutter is negative self-talk. The kind that tells me not to speak up because people wouldn’t be interested in hearing my thoughts. Not to volunteer my help because someone else could certainly do the job better. Not to try because I’m sure to fail. And the list goes on.

Even though it would never cross my mind to talk to someone else like this, at some point I decided it’s okay to speak to myself this way. Sad to say, I’m sure I’m not the only person who knows how hard it is to make good use of your gifts when these are the messages you fill your head with.

But I know there’s a better choice. Read the rest of this entry »

  • In: Faith | Prayer
  • Comments Off on Praying Without Ceasing

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to make time for prayer. To me, that involves setting aside a decent stretch of time to pray a set of mysteries on my rosary or a prayer request list. So I may feel I don’t really have time to pray on a given day.

But I’ve been ignoring another option.

While rereading The Confirmed Catholic’s Companion: A Guide to Abundant Living today, I came across an interesting bit of advice. Under the heading “Odd Moments Prayer,” author Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND, offers this suggestion:

Pray during spare time, while:

  • you are on hold on the phone,
  • waiting for traffic lights to turn green,
  • standing in a checkout line,
  • waiting for a bus or plane,
  • waiting for an appointment,
  • waiting for something to download.

This advice could not have come at a better time. For me, time spent waiting is often time spent feeling impatient. Why couldn’t I use these “odd moments” to pray?

Not only would prayer be a better use of my time, it would also be a stress reliever. I think sharing my cares and concerns with God—asking for his guidance, wisdom, comfort or healing for myself or others—would make it hard to focus on the slow pace of traffic or the lengthy download time for a software update.

And as I write, I can think of other moments when I could be praying. Moments when I’m not waiting but rather doing simple tasks such as these:

  • sorting or folding laundry;
  • doing the dishes;
  • taking out the compost or recycling; or
  • wrapping gifts.

In Ephesians 6:18, St. Paul tells us to “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition).

Today we are so busy with chores, errands, work, our kids’ activities, and even church commitments that prayer time easily slides to the back burner. A ten- or fifteen-minute block of uninterrupted time may be more than many of us can manage. But taking advantage of these brief moments can help us follow St. Paul’s guidance…and draw closer to God.

What “odd moments” could you turn into prayer time?


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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