The arrival of a new year is traditionally associated with making resolutions. It’s a natural and salutary thing, because the change of the calendar is an occasion to take stock of ourselves, to see where we are and to make those course corrections we need to get us where we want to be.
The cynical might say that we make resolutions to see how quickly we can break them. Will we fall? Maybe. Even likely. But we won’t fail unless, upon falling, we don’t get up again. That’s the difference between falling and failing: one letter, and a world of difference.
Resolutions should not be whatever pops into one’s head. Take some time in these first days of 2023 and ask what you want to see different about yourself in the last days of 2023, provided God gives you them. What should I work on now to achieve a positive change a year from now?
It’s not just about how you see yourself. Ask God to help you to see yourself as he sees you. Then pray honestly, to know how God would like to see you differently. And then figure out what you need to resolve to get from A to B.
For all starters, here’s a set of resolutions for 2023. Consider it the “basic package.” I take no pride of authorship: they were spoken to me by a good priest, Father Ignatius Kuziemski, many years ago. There are three of them:
- Every day, make time for prayer.
- Every week, make time for Mass.
- Every month, make time for Confession.
Every day, make time for prayer. A Polish Dominican, Jacek Salij, once observed that there are two things characteristic of a person who believes in God: he prays regularly and he thinks about eternity.
Many people will claim they don’t have time for prayer. Well, you make time for what you think is important. So …
… so when you wake up and when you’re ready to go to sleep, kneel down and say an Our Father and a Hail Mary. Kneel down. Don’t say them as you walk around the house or in bed. The act of kneeling down sends you a message: this is important, this is something I need to do, this is about Someone bigger than me. That simple gesture does two things: it focuses you on the truths I just noted and maintain your knees in supple condition.
An Our Father and a Hail Mary. Not looking for much longer, especially in the morning, because too long and the resolution will fail. An Our Father and a Hail Mary focuses you on God. At night, add an Act of Contrition, because your day wasn’t perfect and you want to make it better.
Now, you may have time to pray more. In your car on the way to work. In the bus or subway. If you can, do so. But establish the basic habit: I start my day on my knees before God with the two most basic prayers to the most important Persons in heaven: God himself and Our Lady.
Do you want to go to heaven? If you’re planning on spending eternity with those Persons, try to start talking to them now.
Every week, make time for Mass. Yes, it’s a basic obligation stipulated by the Third Commandment. But if you think of Mass mostly as a “duty,” you’re never going to appreciate why this act is so important.
Jesus makes himself present here, in his Word and above all in his Body and Blood. The week is a natural rhythm: the Book of Genesis presents it as coming from creation itself. So going to Mass on Sunday is a regular, systematic reminder not just of God but also of his Church, of our fellow Christians who, like us, are on the path of salvation.
You need to make Mass a central part of your week to make Sunday special. Otherwise, it’s just the denouement of the “weekend.” But setting aside Sunday Mass binds families and encourages the expansion of Sunday to other things, done together, that focus everyone on God and away from the hustle and bustle of the mundane. So many forces are centrifugal to the family, breaking families apart, turning family members into individualized atoms and homes into lodging houses. Recovering Mass and Sunday is a way to resist that breakdown.
Every month, make time for Confession. God is holy. We are not. God wants us to be better than we are. We need grace to do that. Confession is necessary to remove mortal sin, but that’s not its only purpose. Confession is a constant source of God’s grace to move us ever closer to God.
A month is also a relatively reasonable span of time. Go much beyond it, and time begins to blur. When time blurs, we begin to lose sight of everything that goes on in our lives, minimizing or obscuring faults and failings that, if we attended to them more carefully, we could overcome with God’s grace. Yes, you need to take a shower when you stink and yes, you need to visit the mechanic when the car’s emergency lights are on. But good hygiene does not depend on smell and the smart car owner does not wait for a breakdown to keep his vehicle in good running condition. Is your spiritual life any less important?
I called these three resolutions the “basic package.” Let me offer you the “silver” and “gold packages.” Upgrading should not be hard if you follow the proposition of monthly Confession.
Our Lady promised her help at the hour of death for our salvation if we dedicate five consecutive First Saturdays of reparation to her Immaculate Heart. The conditions are:
- confession (which is another reason I suggest monthly confession);
- Communion (most of us would be free on Saturdays, and wouldn’t it be a good thing occasionally to join in Mass not because it’s our “duty” but because it’s our privilege?) and
- saying the Rosary with the intention of making reparation.
(Don’t you feel somewhere you probably should say the Rosary sometime? Here’s your chance). The First Saturday of 2023 is Jan. 7. Five Saturdays will take you through May, Our Lady’s month.
Our Lord promised St. Margaret Mary Alacoque 12 blessings, ranging from peace in families to God’s graces to, most importantly, the graces necessary for a good and holy death if we dedicate nine consecutive First Fridays in reparation to the Sacred Heart The conditions are to receive Holy Communion on nine consecutive First Fridays with the intention of reparation to the Sacred Heart. Because, obviously, we want to be close to God and prepared to receive him well, Confession prior to Communion is advised — another reason for the monthly Confession of my “basic package.” The First Friday of 2023 is Jan. 6 (the traditional date of Epiphany). Nine Fridays will take you through September.
Apart from the spiritual benefits Our Lord and Lady promise to these devotions, their practice makes them part of the rhythm of one’s life: many people simply continue on, having been drawn into a closer relationship with God and his Mother. Isn’t that what our resolutions are about?
So, my suggestion. Start with Basic. If you want to add on, try it. You have opportunities in the first week of the new year, and it’s also a chance to learn what Confession opportunities exist in your area. You might be surprised. You might also be surprised how, by starting with and grounding these three basic resolutions, you’ll have the spiritual scaffolding for a richer spiritual life to which future additions will be easier.