In January, we write our “New Year” resolutions, such as losing weight, having a healthy diet, investing more money, writing a book, and so on. However, “New Year” resolutions tend to be broken, or put at the back burner in a matter of weeks or days as we get less motivated whenever we miss or fail to keep them, until we have long forgotten them. So how do we keep our resolutions that must be aligned with our own goals and values in life, especially for us Catholics? I offer two recommendations that may well serve as groundwork towards not only keeping your resolutions, but also staying grounded in all aspects of our lives.
Attend a spiritual retreat and clean your home. Better if the former goes first than the latter; especially for first-time retreatants. But why attend a spiritual retreat? In St. Josemaria’s book, The Furrow, he says: “Days on retreat. Recollection in order to know God, to know yourself and thus to make progress. A necessary time for discovering where and how you should change your life. What should I do? What should I avoid?”
Spiritual retreats enable us to examine our own lives and that eschatological goal of full communion with God. All of our resolutions must be created in view of eternity, the Final Goal. Go to spiritual, silent retreats (the Church has different charisms so choose what works for you) that focus on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven. These may sound too heavy as subjects for starters, but after attending one, it feels like an anchored ship that can withstand any storm in the sea of life. If we hinge our resolutions on the thought of the Last Things, we are building on the most rock solid foundations.
Clean, ordered homes give us more space – not just physical space within the house, but also familial space within our homes. If we are to conquer the world for God, we must start within our homes, where seeds of virtues must be planted to bear fruit in action. Homes are brought to light not by purchasing more material things but by having an atmosphere of unity, affection, moral strength and human warmth. Although goods (material things) themselves are good and we can certainly enjoy them, we must detach ourselves from them to fix our gaze on eternity.
Whenever I purge my room, I would take stock of what I had written in my previous retreat and then remove those material things that have nothing to do with my goals – both human and supernatural. Not an easy feat at first since it is hard for me to let go of things I had accumulated through the years. But after the purging process, I always feel lighter and at peace. I also notice that I am much more efficient and effective in performing my duties and responsibilities.
As St. Augustine says, “Seek what suffices, seek what is enough, and don’t desire more. Whatever goes beyond that, produces anxiety not relief: it will weigh you down, instead of lifting you up.” Our homes must be like the Christian homes of the early Christians where the faith is central to their lives.
In one of his homilies, Pope Francis says, “Christian families are missionary families”. He adds further about experiencing joy in Christian homes,
“…. you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well… True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centeredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society.”
Learn to begin again
Of course, we do not need to wait until the end of the year to start creating our resolutions. We can start writing resolutions and then compare these with the resolutions and goals we made during previous retreats. Every day is an opportunity to make good resolutions for our continuous improvement, since at the end of the day, at the last hour of our lives, we will give a serious account of our Christian duties and responsibilities when God calls us to judgment.
Most important of all: It is the struggle itself in keeping the resolutions (not so much of the resolutions per se) that matter most to God. If we fail or miss, we must learn to begin again. Let us ask Our Lady that God, through His mercy, may grant us the gift of final perseverance.