Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
Becoming better is an ongoing endeavor so whether it’s the first week of 2018 or later, resolutions are always beneficial.
“Keep it simple,” the experts advise, pointing to dismal statistics of only a few hardy souls making to February with promises intact. Life hacks are practically synonymous with simple. They are wildly popular as oh-so-clever ways to effectively and efficiently make life improvements. Holy Hacks are simply easy ways to integrate holy habits in which to grow closer to God and accomplish spiritual good.
The article, “20 Holy Hacks to Help You Get to Heaven” had a lot of traffic despite a few detractors. For instance an old high school classmate challenged me on Facebook, insisting that Jesus saved us freely so we don’t need to earn his favor. Sigh. That old argument. Catholics don’t think of good actions as obstacles to God but rather opportunities to grow closer to him.
And so, in the spirit of growing closer to God in 2018, here are some holy hack suggestions.
1. Keep a little notebook handy. When people ask for prayers, add them to the notebook so you really will remember to keep them in prayer.
2. Make a pick of the day. Select someone every day that makes your skin crawl and pray for them. No matter how heroic you feel, God cannot be outdone in generosity. “The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you,” (Matthew 7:2).
3. Abstain from complaining one day a week. Don’t even grumble about the weather.
4. Pray for the souls in Purgatory every day. They will pray for you and greet you in heaven one day. To become part of a mission to pray them out, become a Releaser.
5. “Offer it up” every day. It’s an age-old way of not wasting suffering—not even the low-level suffering of life’s little inconveniences. In his book, When You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and Understanding, Jeff Cavins explains that we draw closer to God by uniting our suffering to Jesus, and like a prayer, we can use it for our intentions.
6. Identify prayer triggers. For instance, if you get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, pray for poor people without indoor plumbing. When you water a plant or wear an item that was a gift, pray for that person. If your triggers abound, so will your prayers.
7. Praise and thank God throughout the day.
8. Resolve to compliment at least one person every day. Especially compliment people to others when they aren’t even present.
9. Pray ongoing novenas—nine days of prayer in imitation of the apostles and Blessed Mother who prayed from the Ascension to Pentecost. The possibilities are endless. A favorite of mine is the Novena of Surrender by Father Don Dolindo Ruotolo (1882-1970), whose cause for canonization has been opened. The ending prayer can be a daily mantra: “O Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything.”
10. Stay informed and understand current events through a Catholic lens. For instance, make the National Catholic Register your home page and get the daily emails. For early morning news summaries, subscribe to The Good News Letter for relevant headlines along with fun facts and inspiration.
11. Get green scapulars for loved ones away from the faith. They are based on the approved apparitions to Sister Justine Bisqueyburo, a Daughter of Charity, in the early 1840s in Paris, France. Sister Justine explained: “It suffices that it be blessed by a priest and worn by the one whom we desire to benefit by Our Lady’s intercession. If, on the other hand, the person is unable or even unwilling to wear it or carry it, it may even be slipped, unknown to him, into his clothes, bedroom or possessions.”
All you have to do is to pray three times a day: “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.” Go to Society of the Green Scapular to learn more. You don’t need to join to ask for prayers or order scapulars.
12. During times of stress, make it a habit to accept what is happening and tell God you trust in his will.
13. Vow to make at least one sacrifice a day, no matter how small.
14. Whenever you are tempted to gossip, compliment that person then force yourself to change the subject.
15. Buy leftover nativity stamps at the post office so you can evangelize on your envelopes all year.
16. Sponsor of a child in a poor country with a monthly donation through a trusted organization.
17. Pray the Litany of Humility once a day, or a week, or on the first of the month.
18. Wait five minutes a day. Select a routine activity: driving to school or work, beginning a meal or turning on TV, checking email or going on social media, etc. Before proceeding, spend five minutes in prayer. That’s enough time for a Chaplet of Divine Mercy!
19. Write someone a letter. There are people in the military and the prison ministry if you don’t know who would like it. Pray for them when you mail it.
20. Be a Secret Santa all year. Pick a new person every month or week. You don’t have to know them, such as people in your neighborhood.