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Aim higher: New Year’s resolutions to take you beyond earthly goals

Ready for a new year and a fresh start? Want to keep a spiritual focus for 2022?

Two archdiocesan deacons suggest a faith-based approach to New Year’s resolutions this year. They recommend trying one or two of the following ideas to start the year out right and see where God wants to lead you in 2022. 

Deacon Ron Ryan, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Omaha and a judge for the archdiocese’s Metropolitan Tribunal, encourages regular prayer, reception of the sacraments and reaching out to others through acts of mercy.

  • Begin each day with prayer. This is a great way to orient your day and put God first, before anything or anyone else. You can pray a “Morning Offering” similar to the one available on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website, http://www.usccb.org/prayers/morning-offering, or you can offer a spontaneous prayer.
  • End each day with prayer. Before going to bed, take a few minutes to review your day. Focus on what blessings you received from God that day, as well as how you both succeeded and failed in living out your faith. You will likely find that keeping a short journal of your daily review can be very helpful to track your progress over time.
  • Receive the sacrament of reconciliation. One may be apprehensive about going to confession, especially if he or she hasn’t done so in a while, but it can be helpful to remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Just as the father of the prodigal son runs to meet him and welcome him home, Jesus waits for us to turn to him, through this sacrament of healing, so that he can welcome us home. The sacrament of penance is perhaps the most underutilized of the sacraments and we would do well to receive this sacrament on a regular basis. Keeping a daily journal (see previous item) will greatly help you prepare to go to confession.
  • Spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist and that he remains present – body and blood, soul and divinity – in the consecrated hosts. Therefore, one of the best things we can do spiritually is to spend time with Jesus in eucharistic adoration. Many parishes offer hours daily for eucharistic adoration, so see if it is available at your parish. Some even offer perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Attend daily Mass. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highest form of prayer, so there is no better way to pray than by attending daily Mass one or more days per week.
  • Pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Many people – ordained priests and deacons, men and women living in consecrated life and lay people – pray some or all of the Liturgy of the Hours. It is known as the prayer of the Church and it provides a great way to remain spiritually focused throughout the day.
  • Live out the spiritual works of mercy. The seven spiritual works of mercy are counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, comforting the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently and praying for the living and the dead. The USCCB provides suggestions for living out each of the spiritual works of mercy on its website.
  • Live out the corporal works of mercy. These are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting prisoners, burying the dead and giving alms to the poor. Suggestions for living out the seven corporal works of mercy also can be found on the USCCB website.

Deacon Tim McNeil, archdiocesan chancellor and director of the Permanent Diaconate, and member of St. Bernard Parish in Omaha, offered several ways to deepen one’s prayer life and help spread the Good News to others.

  • Pray with Scripture. Lectio divina, Latin for “divine reading,” is a meditative way of praying with Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels. Many aids to this form of prayer are available, including those on the USCCB website, https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/meditations.
  • Evangelize. Help lead people to God through the Catholic faith. That would include people who’ve never been baptized or welcomed into the Catholic faith, as well as those whom Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI would call baptized pagans, who might have a baptismal certificate but no longer practice the faith.
  • Invite someone to Mass on Sunday. It’s one specific way to evangelize.
  • Join or form a small faith-sharing group. Parishes are extending a special invitation to everyone to live and grow in the faith through small group gatherings, where they can learn, pray and find support. These groups will be offered especially during Lent through an archdiocese-wide initiative called Live Lent Together. For those willing to lead a Lenten group, training sessions will be held in January and February. For more information, see https://archomaha.org/lent/.