The new year is the traditional time to make resolutions to improve and grow as human beings and as Christians. You may already have identified areas in which you want to improve in 2011. Here are some other ideas, in no particular order of importance:
Resolution No. 1: Read Scripture. Pope Benedict XVI recently issued the apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (“The Word of the Lord”), which is being called the most important document about Scripture since the Second Vatican Council. (It’s not easy reading but it is available on the Vatican website at http://bit.ly/aLhEuH). Spend at least a couple of minutes a day reading the revealed word of God and meditating on it.
Resolution No. 2: Practice civility. Thank God we’re no longer in an election year. Maybe now our Congress and president can exercise some bipartisanship to address the real ills that face our country. And maybe we can encourage them to do so through reasoned, polite and persistent communication with our elected leaders, via letter, email, phone calls and direct contact.
Resolution No. 3: Don’t wait for someone else to solve our neighbor’s problems. We’re still experiencing the fallout of the Great Recession. Our faith compels us to care for the least among us. Are we volunteering and reaching out to support the aging neighbor, the struggling couple, the troubled child, the unemployed in our neighborhood, our parish or our family? Many lament the disconnectedness of the modern digital era. Are we building and repairing direct personal relationships in our own communities?
Resolution No. 4: Support the next generation. Hundreds of thousands of young people are expected to attend World Youth Day with Pope Benedict in Spain this year. We cannot all go, but we will support them financially and most importantly with prayers. In our parishes, we will rededicate ourselves to passing on the fullness and joy of our faith to youth in Catholic schools and religious education programs.
Resolution No. 5: Practice frugality. The Great Recession should have taught us a lesson: The urge to splurge is a recipe for financial disaster, impacting families, businesses, communities, societies, nations and the globe itself. The Bible and Christian tradition teaches us that our first fruits should go to charity, not consumer electronics.
Resolution No. 6: Stop watching cable television news. Withdrawal might not be easy, but you’re sure to see immediate improvements in your blood pressure and how you sleep. The talking heads seem engaged in an anger and anxiety arms race, playing mercilessly on ignorance and fears to get the best ratings. Be informed, but find more rational and less incendiary ways to be so.
Resolution No. 7: Practice forgiveness. Identify the person closest to you — spouse, family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker — for whom you harbor the most hurt, and take as much energy and time as necessary to find a way to completely forgive them. That is the core of what it means to be a Catholic Christian, to learn how to forgive. The saints tell us now is always the time to start over.
Resolution No. 8: Practice Catholicism. Being Catholic is more than just showing up for Mass on Sunday. It means trying to develop a vision of life through the eyes of faith. That means setting aside time and resources to learn about the faith, read Catholic periodicals and books (and share them with less catechized friends and family), and support Catholic radio and television.
The year 2011 holds the promise of hope and change for all of us. May we all become, with God’s grace, what he envisions for us.
Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; John Norton, editor; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor.