The new year is upon us and brings with it the hope for a better job, a loving relationship or a healthier body. We’ve likely come up with a whole host of resolutions—from joining a gym, to creating an online dating profile, to kicking a bad habit.
As Catholics, we should also consider our spiritual health in the new year. What can we do to deepen our faith and grow closer to Jesus Christ? Remember, our spirit lives forever, so we want to make sure we nourish it. Here are some resolutions every Catholic should consider.
Attend Mass Every Sunday
Sunday Mass is the foundation of our lives as Christians. It’s our opportunity to receive Christ in the Eucharist and unite with the rest of the Church in His living body. Pope Francis has said that by participating in the Mass, “We participate in the mystery of the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ.”
Unfortunately, many neglect the Mass. We think skipping it is no big deal, but by doing so we are placing our soul at risk, regardless of how many other people skip.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass” (CCC: 2180). The Third Commandment itself calls us to honor the Sabbath. By not attending Sunday Mass, we are not only missing out on having Christ come into our lives; we are committing a mortal sin.
So resolve to spend that hour a week with God this year. If you are sick or must take care of a loved one, that’s one thing. But don’t skip Mass because of football or a trip to the zoo.
Go to Regular Confession
It’s easy for many of us to skip going to confession for weeks, months, or even years. We think that as long as we haven’t robbed a bank or killed someone, we have nothing to confess.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. If we spend some time each day examining our conscience, we’ll probably find that we sin more often than we think.
Ask yourself questions like: “Did I go to Mass on Sunday?” “How did I treat that coworker I don’t like?” “Did I cause someone else to commit a sin?”
If you still feel you don’t sin and don’t want to examine your conscience, then reflect on that too. You may be guilty of the sin of pride, one of the most devious of them all because it’s hard to see in ourselves.
Once you identify your sins, don’t wait to go to confession, especially if they’re mortal. Catholics are required to go to confession at least once per year. Aside from that, there isn’t a “correct” amount of times to go. You don’t plan how often you’ll visit the doctor; you go when you’re sick.
Likewise, when we sin, our soul becomes sick, and we must allow our heavenly doctor to heal it by going to confession. In the new year, resolve to go to confession as often as you need to so that you can receive the graces to overcome temptation.
When we pray the “Our Father,” we say “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Furthermore, Jesus says, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15).
It’s clear that we are required to forgive our neighbor, even if he or she has really hurt us. It can be one of the hardest things to do, but it’s something we must strive for. Think about the anger, resentment and despair you feel when someone has wronged you in some way. Does that feel healthy? It’s not. It pushes us toward seeking vengeance and leads us down an evil path.
When we let go of those feelings, we will ultimately feel better, and our soul will remain pure. This takes more than just saying “I forgive you” while keeping a grudge in our hearts. We must be honest with ourselves and truly let go for healing to occur. Remember, you can always go to your priest for spiritual guidance if you are really having a hard time. It might be a two or three-year resolution, but the point is to start.
Practice the Corporal Works of Mercy
As Catholics, we are called to live out our faith as examples to others. This means going out and practicing what the Church calls the Corporal Works of Mercy: To feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the impoverished, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and bury the dead.
Jesus Himself commands us to do these Corporal Works of Mercy, concluding with the statement, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25: 40).
Living out our faith means using our God-given time, talent and treasure to help those in need. You can donate to a charity, volunteer at a food pantry every few months or help paint a homeless shelter. Find some cause or initiative that you are passionate about, and donate your time to it.
Pray the Rosary Once a Week (or daily)
It’s possible you learned the Rosary once as a kid and never prayed it again because you thought it was too “long” or “boring,” but think about the benefits. The Blessed Virgin Mary promised to Saint Dominic that praying the Rosary would protect us from sin and evil and deliver us special graces and blessings. At Fatima, she told the three shepherd children to pray the Rosary daily. It’s one of the most powerful prayers we have.
The Rosary takes about 15-25 minutes to pray. This year, start by choosing one day a week to pray it. Eventually, it will become second nature, and you can keep adding days until you are praying it every day. By meditating on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, you’ll grow deeper in your faith and love for God.
Read a book on a Catholic Topic
We must constantly grow in our faith as Catholics. Part of this involves increasing our knowledge of Catholicism. If the last time you read anything about religion was during grade school CCD, then you need an upgrade.
There are so many great books out there—from theological works, to prayer guides, to guidance on living a more Christian life.
These sources can breathe new life into our understanding of the faith and why we believe what we do. If you’ve ever wondered about the Holy Trinity, the importance of Mary or the concept of Purgatory, the knowledge is out there, waiting for you.
In fact, knowledge is an important part of evangelization. You won’t be very convincing to your non-Catholic friends if you cannot explain your own faith. It may actually have the opposite effect and make them think Catholicism is a bunch of incoherent hogwash.
If you don’t understand your own beliefs, why should they take them seriously? So go to the Roman Catholic section of your library or bookstore and get reading this year.
Go to Adoration Once a Month
Eucharistic Adoration involves spending time with Christ in the form of the Blessed Sacrament. The Sacred Host, which becomes the Body of Christ, is removed from the tabernacle and placed in a container called a monstrance and displayed on the altar for prayer and adoration.
By adoring the Sacred Host, we are literally adoring Jesus because of His presence in the Eucharist.
What does it take? Just a few minutes of quiet time with Christ. Say a few prayers or just meditate on the Blessed Sacrament while gazing upon it. Most churches hold Eucharistic Adoration once a week. Others have a 24-hour Adoration chapel.
Consider going once a month this year. It will help you grow closer to Christ and develop a greater appreciation and love for the Eucharist.
The Bottom Line
Of course, there are many other resolutions a Catholic can make in the new year. St. Mary Mokena encourages you to consider a resolution that will strengthen your relationship with Christ.
We always find motivation at the beginning of the year to get in better shape, eat healthier, have better relationships and so on, but we should also find the motivation to live a life that will lead to Heaven. Otherwise, those other new year’s resolutions don’t really matter.
As you reflect on your resolution this year, consider how God is calling you closer to him. Is it through Mass, praying more, Adoration, Confession or in some other way? God is always trying to draw us closer to him.
We just need to listen.