Around the close of the year, many feel inspired to start fresh with new commitments, resolutions, or personal pursuits. While these usually focus on physical health, financial habits, or academic interests, there are also numerous opportunities for deepening one’s spiritual life. To assist those interested in embarking on new paths towards holiness, here are some suggestions to prayerfully consider in 2023:
Attend daily Mass every day in January. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, which means that receiving Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament should be a top priority. If you do not already attend daily Mass, consider doing so for the first month of the year and reflect upon the ways your heart and mind grow during that time.
Commit to a weekly holy hour. If daily Mass is not a possibility — or even if it is — it is essential to spend time in silent prayer with the Lord. Relationships depend upon communication, reliability, and time. Give God your time, listen to His voice in the Scriptures, and take the risk of trusting Him. Nothing given to God is wasted and He will never be outdone in generosity.
Read (or listen to) the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Known for his astoundingly popular “The Bible in a Year” podcast, Fathert Mike Schmitz will soon be giving listeners an opportunity to delve into the Catechism beginning January 1st. He emphasized, “after the Bible, the Catechism is the most important book for Catholics.” Over the course of 365 days, Father Schmitz will lead listeners through the entirety of the Catechism, presenting the essentials of the faith and why they matter for deepening one’s relationship with Christ and His Church. A companion reading plan is available at ascensionpress.com. Both “The Bible in a Year” and “The Catechism in a Year” podcasts are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Hallow, and more.
Begin praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Participate in the daily prayers of priests and religious around the world by joining in the Divine Office. Accessible in book format at wordonfire.org/pray or your local Catholic bookstore, online at divineoffice.org, or via the app iBreviary, praying the Hours allows one to bring the Psalms and liturgical life of the Church into your regular routine each day. This is a beautiful tradition to begin within families, especially for establishing consistent times for prayer together.
Consider starting — and finishing — a personal consecration to Jesus through Mary. Spiritual writers throughout the history of the Church have written about the importance of consecrating one’s life to Jesus with a special emphasis on His relationship with Mary. In 2014, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades invited parishioners of the diocese to read “33 Days to Morning Glory” to help deepen their awareness of Mary’s role in salvation history and increase in devotion to her as their spiritual mother. While many did read this book, others admitted that they started but never fully completed the process. This year, consider completing this consecration or renewing one made previously on a significant liturgical date. Popular options are available from authors such as St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Father Michael Gaitley, and Father Boniface Hicks. Should one start this Dec. 31 and stay with it to the end, they would finish on Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
For additional Marian-themed ideas, genuinely reflect upon Our Lady’s words at Fatima to pray the Rosary every day and to honor the First Saturdays of the month by receiving communion, going to confession, praying the rosary, and reflecting upon these mysteries for fifteen minutes.
Bring Catholic art into your home in a new way. It is a beautiful tradition to have one’s home blessed after moving in. As the years go by, incorporating fresh, attractive reminders that the home is dedicated to the Lord can help elevate the hearts and souls of those living inside. A fun family project could be to build an outdoor Marian grotto or a shrine to the Sacred Heart of Jesus or a favorite patron saint that becomes a prayerful spot throughout the year and for years to come.
Explore the lives of the saints. A new website entitled “The Saint Challenge” offers 90-second daily audio reflections on specific saints. Each clip invites listeners to grow in holiness through the example and inspiration of the day’s saint. Sign up is free at thesaintchallenge.com.
Join a Church apostolate. It can be daunting to try to take on new spiritual endeavors alone. Consider the needs at your local parish and how you can contribute to its spiritual community while also gaining new friends and experiences. If your preferred type of group does not currently exist at your parish, consider asking to start one there! Or explore what other parishes offer and go participate in those groups. Either way, seek out new avenues of spiritual nourishment within a Catholic community.
Engage in the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. Beginning in January, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne, will be offering a 14-week retreat for laity on the principals of Ignatian spirituality. Participants commit to daily prayer and journaling with Scripture, as well as a weekly group session. Leader Sarah Lane states this program “would be a good New Year’s resolution for someone who wants a schedule and accountability for daily prayer, self-reflection regarding values, relationship with God and the Church.” As Ignatian spirituality “requires candid self-reflection and group sharing,” she recommends that participants already have a spiritual foundation on which to build. For more information, including registration, email Lane at [email protected].
When discerning new practices to incorporate into one’s schedule, it can be helpful to consider the methods one learns best (reading, watching, listening, experiencing firsthand, etc.) and how God is specifically calling and guiding the relationship to go deeper. Find ways to grow by setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Also consider asking a family member or friend to join in the pursuit! In the words of Saint John Paul II, “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch!”
Jennifer Barton contributed to this article.
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