I hate New Year’s Resolutions. Truth be told, I’m not all that keen on starting a new year in the middle of winter. Yes, I understand about the equinox and the lengthening of days and all the other things that go into making January the beginning of the year, but a better choice for me would be either spring or fall. In fact, did you know, that prior to 1582, April 1 used to be New Year’s Day? The new year was celebrated for eight days beginning on March 25. When the Gregorian calendar was introduced, New Year’s Day was moved to January 1. So I guess I can blame Pope Gregory VIII for my malaise this time of year.
Since it is a new year, however, and this is a place where we talk about personal spirituality, particularly within the context of those of us who work officially or unofficially for the Church, I’m going to make a radical suggestion. Don’t make a new beginning, a fresh start or any kind of resolution right now. Instead, just do what you have been doing.
I can hear the “harrumphs” now, but bear with me. Each year I make resolutions that are very similar to the ones I made the year before and the year before and the year before. They are very good resolutions, I might add. And each year, I somehow don’t quite follow through with them. By March at the latest, they’ve gone by the wayside and I’m back to my “bad old ways.”
So this year, instead of resolving to change, I’m simply going to pay attention to what I’m actually doing. Because, as all self-improvement teachers will tell you, until you are fully aware of what you are doing, you can’t make real, lasting changes.
One thing I’ve already noticed is that while I always intend to set aside time each day to pray, I rarely do it. Another thing is that I tell myself that the rosary is a wonderful prayer, but I find my mind wandering every time I pick up the beads. It’s little wonder that every time I’ve resolved to pray the rosary more regularly, I’ve failed miserably.
On the positive, I have observed that I frequently find my mind and soul turning toward the Divine when I see something beautiful in nature. Even the winter rain in Oregon can elicit a feeling of wonder.
So far, I haven’t done much more than observe my actions, but already I can sense little sprouts of genuine change pressing against the resistant soil of my habits. For example, because I find myself spontaneously giving praise in the presence of natural beauty, I’ve started bringing home the occasional bouquet of flowers from the grocery. (I particularly like the overstock…I got a dozen roses for $1.99, only slightly wilted!) Every time I see them on my counter, I am filled with gratitude for their beauty.
I’m not sure how this is going to work out, but I’ll keep you posted. For now, however, I’m not making any new year spiritual resolutions (or any other resolutions for that matter) except for one—to be as fully aware as I can of my actions and in doing so, try to become more fully aware of the actions of God in my life.