Not everyone sets goals and makes New Year’s resolutions. Some people set goals or resolutions for physical gain such as losing weight, getting in shape, and being healthier. Some do it for emotional gain: spending more time enjoying life, being outdoors, relaxing, etc. And some set goals for monetary gain such as saving for college, a child’s wedding, retirement, or paying down debt. Many people set goals for their professional life such as gaining sales, new clients, or a promotion. But what about your spiritual life?
Our lives are so brief compared to eternity, and some are shorter than others, that we should all be “eternity minded.” How much do we really focus our time and effort during the year thinking about our life everlasting with God?
A good resolution, made any time of year but especially at the beginning, is a good way to start taking charge of your most important goals, including those of a spiritual nature. The key is to really think about what needs to change in your life, and make a very few small goals toward that resolution. In one study, 35% of participants who failed their New Year’s Resolutions said they had unrealistic goals. Too large, or too many, goals are doomed to fail, but small practical changes that can easily be stuck to are more likely to succeed, and the changes will be painless. And remember too that progress isn’t linear. You will hit setbacks, and slowdowns, but just keep going! If you fall, have trust in God and begin again.
For centuries the Catholic Church has taught those serious in the spiritual life to make a “Plan of Life” (also called a “Plan of Love”) which includes resolutions for daily spiritual growth. Many saints, like the Divine Mercy saint, St. Faustina Kowalska, had small daily goals they discussed with their spiritual director, and wrote in their journals, or kept a little tally, of their successes and failures, to help spur them on.
While a Plan of Life is great, you don’t have to get formal or complicated to progress in your journey to holiness. Author and friend of mine, Patti Maguire Armstrong, has a great book on “Holy Hacks” to get to heaven. I’ve got my own list of resolutions or “Holy Habits” for you to choose from that I think can help you make those small but “sticky” changes to succeed on this ultimately heavenly goal.
- Get up 5 minutes early to pray
- Read the Daily Mass Readings of the Day at breakfast or lunchtime
- Turn off the radio, music, or podcast, and pray the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, or just talk to God on your commute
- Raise your heart frequently to God, gently and with peace, even during daily tasks. Aim to do this 7 times a day.
- Schedule in a regular Confession time in your calendar
- Participate in First Friday or First Saturday devotions
- Choose a good spiritual classic to read a few minutes a day
- Resolve to daily, or occasionally, listen to a spiritual podcast on your way to work, while doing errands, or while making dinner
- Learn how to pray with the scriptures, called Lectio Divina
- Go on a Pilgrimage this year – even to a local church or holy site
- Select a specific Spiritual and/or Corporal Work of Mercy you would like to practice more and just do it!
- Go to Mass one extra day a week to offer for those in need
- Resolve to do a Daily Examen once or twice a day. Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV has an excellent book and free podcast series about how to do the Daily Examen, and how fruitful it can be in your life!
- Do an Examination of Conscience daily, weekly, or monthly, looking for sins, especially in preparation for Confession. This is different from the Daily Examen.
- Reconnect with old friends and family – whether that means picking up the phone, jotting a note on the mail, or sending a friendly text or scheduling a zoom get together. In the early church, the means of friendship was the most effective way to evangelize.
- Go on a weekend retreat this year
- Attend an online spiritual webcast or event
- Join a live or virtual Bible Study or Study Group at your or a neighboring parish
- Listen to the daily The Bible in a Year Podcast with Fr. Mike Schmitz, it is also in Spanish. You can start any time.
- Spend at least 30 minutes a week in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
- Start getting your news from solid Catholic news outlets
- Pray while brushing your teeth
- Volunteer at your local pregnancy crisis center to help moms & their babies in need.
- Use Sacramentals daily, such as Holy Water, or resolve to wear a scapular, Miraculous Medal, or St. Benedict medal daily. You can even purchase scapulars with a small Miraculous Medal and St. Benedict medal sewn in!
- As a parent, you have the spiritual authority to bless your children. Resolve to do a simple blessing (a Sign of the Cross on their forehead, for example) and pray a small prayer for them at the beginning of the day, before they leave for school.
- Arrange for Masses to be said at your parish for sick or deceased loved ones.
- Enroll your family or deceased friends or loved ones in perpetual Masses at a favorite religious order for their souls. Gregorian Masses for a holy soul in purgatory (Masses for 30 days in a row for one deceased person) are particularly good.
- Resolve to pray daily for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
- Practice meatless Fridays year-round. Once a strict rule in the Church, meatless Fridays as an act of penance for our sins, never really went away. The Church just allows you to substitute something else as a penance that day. We still have to do penance on every Friday unless it is a feast day.
- Choose to fast for a specific intention, on either a weekly or occasional basis. Some people fast completely, others on just bread & water, others skip a meal or two.
- Pray to your Guardian Angel for assistance daily.
- Make a resolution to only post uplifting and encouraging things on social media.
Visit my Resources Page for more info to live a faith-filled Catholic life.
My book Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic can help beginners, or the more advanced, further their Catholic spiritual life. Please ask your pastor, DRE, or parish events coordinator to bring a Beyond Sunday Mission to your parish, especially for Lent!