The Right Resolutions Are Everything
Ho hum. Another New Year’s Day, another chance to dust off the usual New Year’s resolutions.
As likely as not, those pledges — exercising more and losing those unwanted pounds — will melt out of mind before spring gets here.
That doesn’t have to be the case, and those don’t have to be your resolutions.
Suggestion: This year, set as your goal going to Eucharistic adoration once a week, praying the Rosary every day or volunteering to help some charitable organization.
After all, Jan. 1 is the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Ask her to help you keep your promises to yourself and, especially if they’re the kinds of actions that can lead to a closer walk with Christ, you can bet she’ll help you succeed all year.
This is exactly what Sandy Tobin of Crystal River, Fla., experienced when she put the two together after becoming aware she never prayed for a family member who had died. In a charitable way, she recalled he wasn’t a nice person and nobody in the family had a good relationship with him.
“It occurred to me one time over the holidays that probably nobody was praying for him,” she explains. “And if we were not praying for him, we were judging him. So I made a strong decision at that time I didn’t want to continue that way.
“I made a New Year’s resolution that I would pray for him every day,” she continues about her decision to begin this work of mercy. “And I have. And I know the Blessed Mother has helped me keep that resolution.”
Dominican Father Juan Diego Brunetta, who serves at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., points out that it makes sense for Christians to bring the Blessed Mother into the picture. She has what it takes to help them keep resolutions tending toward growth in holiness.
In fact, he says, she’s the prototype of resolution-keepers.
“The Blessed Mother seems most natural as the premier one who is resolute,” says Father Brunetta. “She understood the will of God, fixed herself resolutely on it, and followed through in daily life — which creates a model for us.”
While we don’t want to denigrate natural goods like exercising or losing weight, he says, other goals are far more important.
“I think the primary resolutions need to be spiritual,” says Father Brunetta.
Tobin sees eye to eye with that. She realizes it would be ludicrous if she made up her mind to see a movie once a week and asked Our Lady to help her keep such a resolution. But it’s an entirely different story if she asked for help to say the Rosary daily.
“She will help me because she’s my mother,” says Tobin. “She knows what I’m asking for is good for me and for my soul. When we ask her to help us to say the Rosary every day, she knows prayer is essential to our very life and so she will help us keep that resolution. What’s uppermost in the mind of any mother is what’s best for her children.”
Father Brunetta suggests several similarly worthwhile resolutions.
We can commit ourselves to a period of reading Scripture every day and meditating on those passages.
We can aid the poor as a work of mercy, making concrete and concerted efforts to do things for those worse off than we are.
Father Brunetta calls this a matter of Christian formation. It’s important getting the younger members of the family involved with some kind of Christian service. “Because it’s part of their faith formation,” he says, “it becomes almost second nature to want to go out of oneself.”
We can focus more on making our family the Church in miniature — the “domestic church,” as Pope John Paul II put it. It’s so easy to let meals together go by the wayside, for example. And every meal is an opportunity to pray before “breaking bread.”
“Our growth in holiness is about these day-by-day commitments,” says Father Brunetta. “Turn off the TV in the evening. The family can sit in the living room and talk or play games.
“Regular confession would be good, too” Father Brunetta says. “Make it a family event. We go to Mass together. Why not go to confession together?”
And we can read the Catechism together as a family.
“Read a paragraph and discuss what that means,” he says. “It’s a tool for family faith formation. We learn the faith in the context of the family.”
This suggestion fits perfectly with the New Evangelization. Many times John Paul II pointed out, in such documents as Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), that parents have a duty and responsibility as primary educators of their children.
Where to start? The Rosary is a natural.
“When it comes to the Mother of God,” says Msgr. F. Joseph Harte, director of Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine in Orlando, Fla., “one of the best resolutions anyone can make is to pray the Rosary.”
He reminds us that John Paul II said outside the liturgy the Rosary is a prayer particularly suited for everybody because it recalls the events of the live of Christ himself.
In Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary), John Paul wrote: “In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin.”
In each Hail Mary, in fact, we address Mary in her New Year title when we ask, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners …”
And she will, for our spiritual resolutions. Msgr Harte reminds that St. Augustine said her power is subject only to her will — what she wills for us, we get.
“It’s coming again from Cana,” says Msgr. Harte. “What he’s really saying is: If we can get her to pray for us, we’re in business.”
May 2006 be your holiest year ever.
Joseph Pronechen writes from