Nailing New Years Resolutions

In case you hadn’t noticed, it is the time of New Year’s resolutions. A tradition in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement that begins on New Year’s Day.

The time when all the world is throwing advertisements for gyms and weight loss, calendars and organisational tools, new gadgets and fashion at us, so that we might better achieve the ways we desire to better ourselves this year.

How long will we last at them? How do we keep New Year Resolutions?

Starting Afresh

As Catholics our constant aim is self renewal. Becoming better people, refined in virtue, keeping it all in balance and love to reach our goal of heaven.

And during the year we are giving many opportunities to start afresh.

The Church’s official New Year began with the start of Advent around 6 weeks ago. Advent brought a period of waiting for Christ. Thinking about Hope, Joy and Love, fasting, almsgiving and growing in virtue. Keeping our eyes on Christ.

What great resolutions to start a year.

Then comes the start of the year, the time we are in now, a time of Christmas and holidays when we are celebrating Christ’s birth. We, along with the secular world, come up with some resolutions we need to work on for the year. We reflect on the past year. It’s joys, successes, miseries and failures. We start afresh.

The Lag of Resolution

This ticks along for a while. By February we are starting to lag a little. We are back to ordinary life and forgotten about the hype of the holidays. Maybe that goal of going to the gym has become a bit tedious, work and children become hard and make us grumpy or tired. Maybe we just became gluttons again, disregarding looking after ourselves and being conscious of what we eat. Or maybe we failed back in week one of January and gave up.

But do you know what comes along on February 10, 2016? Just when you’ve given up hope that you’ll ever get this?

Ash Wednesday. The start of Lent. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

Another New Year’s call. A call to fasting, penance and almsgiving. A call to grow in virtue and be a better person, to get to know Jesus. Hey, there’s even a call there to be prayerfully mindful of food and what we eat.

And then, after six weeks of that, we get to have another big celebration. The joy of Easter. The resurrection. Our hard work is rewarded with rejoicing.

Nailing the New Year’s Resolution

And from there we reach ordinary time, a time scattered with celebrations of Saints – heroes of faith. Who lived hardships like us and got through it.

Great models of the New Year’s resolution – seeking to better themselves, grow in relationship with Christ, and organise or start ministries to change the world. Or just do whatever they did in their lives well. And they succeeded. They nailed the New Year’s resolution. They obviously became models for us in the form of Saints. And they encourage us to do the same.

So for New Year’s remember your call to self improvement. Join in the fun. But have hope that you’ll be doing this all over again in 7 or so weeks time. Failure is ok. That’s what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is for. Jesus built that in specially for us, knowing the human tendency to fail at resolutions.

And we might need some help along the way. Why not pick a saint to pray for guidance to for the year? Check out this great Saint Generator for help.

God bless you all in the New Year.

Self Knowledge: How can we know ourselves?

How do we gain true humility? How well do we really know ourselves?

Recently for spiritual reading I’ve been reading St Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. Its a book I tried to read before, but it was a bit forced and never had much impact. This time, I feel like she wrote that book just for me. Right to my soul. God’s timing huh? The idea that has recently captured me, and changed my life recently, is her talk of self knowledge. An idea early on in the book, one that I had brushed over before, but for some reason not taken too seriously (I’d been stuck in an outer mansion). Teresa’s talk of self knowledge relates to humility. Humility on its own, as a virtue, can be rather forced. It isn’t true humility if you are solely endeavouring to be humble. However, with self knowledge, you are first made truly humble. Humility is secret. You are aware of your actions, thoughts and their effects, and where you need God’s grace in your life. Rather than outwardly seeking to appear humble, we truly gain the virtue. We endeavour to grow and change for the better.

“Self knowledge is so important that, even if you were raised right up to the heavens, I should like you never to relax your cultivation of it; so long as we are on this earth, nothing matters more to us than humility.” – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle

The Mirror of our Flaws

Self knowledge can be a tough things to face. Like seeing in the mirror all your flaws. And we become aware of our need for God. We realise our failings. The areas we need to grow in. And that we can’t do it on our own. We need divine help. And for the knowledge of ourselves in the first place we need God. It is cyclical.

“We shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of his greatness and then come back to our own baseness; by looking at his purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating upon his humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble” – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You Every hour I need You My one defense, my righteousness Oh God, how I need You” – Matt Maher, Lord I need you

The secret is prayer and meditation. Knowledge of god brings self knowledge.

“If we turn from self towards God, our understanding and our will become nobler and readier to embrace all that is good: if we never rise above the slough of our own miseries we do ourselves a great disservice.” – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle

St Teresa speaks of how we get stuck in thinking solely of ourselves, ironically suffering from a lack of self knowledge. We have a fixed idea of ourselves, thinking that we are humble, yet being self obsessed. This is a trick of the devil to prevent us really knowing ourselves and the way of God. We seek satisfaction in things that aren’t actually fulfilling, that we think we need but we won’t find true happiness in.

But with prayer and self knowledge we gain perspective. We are able to really ‘walk’ with God. To open our eyes to his graces in our lives and how we respond to them. To better make decisions. To be joyful and to greater give ourselves as gifts for others. To live our lives as a prayer.

How can we grow in self knowledge?

Catholic Digital Media Conference 2014

Mary Mackilop

I have just returned from Sydney, Australia, where I attended the Catholic Digital Media Conference (CDMC). Here are a few highlights and reflections from me about the experience: Room for Independence and Reflection This week was my first week off … Continue reading