We had another challenging year in 2021, and many of us are looking forward with hope to a better year in 2022.
If you’re looking for ways to ensure a good start to the new year, the following 10 ideas for growth in the Catholic faith may be for you.
1. Observe monthly devotions
Traditionally, each month of the liturgical year is dedicated to a mystery of the Catholic faith or a special saint. Observe each month’s devotion through prayer and contemplation. Meditate on how each mystery and saint guides us in better understanding God’s love for us as we move through the seasons of the year.
The monthly devotions are:
- January: The Most Holy Name of Jesus
- February: The Holy Family
- March: St. Joseph
- April: The Holy Eucharist
- May: The Blessed Virgin Mary
- June: Sacred Heart of Jesus
- July: Precious Blood of Jesus
- August: Immaculate Heart of Mary
- September: The Sorrowful Mother
- October: The Holy Rosary
- November: The Holy Souls in purgatory
- December: The Immaculate Conception
2. Incorporate spiritual reading
Spiritual reading can help you to make great progress in your Catholic faith journey this year. One way to start is by reading one chapter of the Gospel each evening before bedtime, which should take about three minutes per day.
You may also consider reading one of the many classic books written by saints known for their spiritual wisdom, such as “An Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales, “The Interior Castle” by St. Teresa of Avila or “The Story of a Soul,” by St. Therese of Lisieux, to name only a few.
There are also more recent publications by well-respected lay people who write about the Catholic faith, such as Scott Hahn, Chris Stefanick, Matthew Kelly and others.
3. Enhance Marian devotion
Our spiritual mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, wants us to love her Son, Jesus Christ, and she can lead us to a deeper relationship with him in the new year. St. Louis de Montfort tells us that Mary is “the easiest, the shortest, the most perfect means of approaching Jesus Christ.”
Try starting your day by praying a Marian prayer, such as “Hail Mary” or the Angelus. Honoring the Mother of God in prayer is an excellent way to start your day. Consider praying the rosary daily. If you already do so, perhaps invite others to join you in your rosary devotion and pray together.
You may also consider Marian consecration. Father Michael E. Gaitley wrote a helpful preparation guide to consecrate oneself to Mary called “33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration.”
“The act of consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary,” Father Gaitley writes, “marks the beginning of a gloriously new day, a new dawn, a brand new morning in one’s spiritual journey. It’s a fresh start, and it changes everything.”
4. Make a New Saint Friend
Select a saint who possesses virtues or patronage in an area where you’d like to experience growth this year. Read about the life of this saint and ask him or her to pray for you. Entrust yourself to this saint’s intercession throughout the year, and with this special help, you may find it easier to achieve your goals for the year.
And remember, you can never have too many friends, especially saint friends!
5. Attend an extra Mass
Since Mass is the source and summit of our Catholic faith, carefully review your weekday schedule, and perhaps you can make arrangements so that you can attend Mass one extra day each week. As Matthew Kelly writes in his book, “Resisting Happiness,” you may find a weekday Mass “focuses you and fills you with peace.”
6. Friday penances
Sacrifices aren’t for Lent only! Fridays outside of Lent are also days of abstinence or fasting. You can go meatless on Fridays throughout the year, or you may want to dedicate extra prayers or small acts of charity as your weekly sacrifices.
Penances help to make us stronger, and better able to resist the temptations of our world. Too much comfort makes resisting temptations much more difficult!
7. Embrace generosity
There is much consumerism in modern life. Lots of advertisements bombard us for new and trendy clothes, makeup, designer handbags, etc. We are called to “the stewardship of God’s graces” (Ephesians 3:2), and to share the gifts God has bestowed upon us.
Share your time, talents and treasure for God. Donate to your parish and other charities that reflect your values.
One time when St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (then Sister Faustina) was given spiritual counsel by Jesuit Father Jozef Andrasz, he told her: “Act in such a way that all those who come in contact with you will go away joyful. Sow happiness about you because you have received much from God; give, then, generously to others. They should take leave of you with their hearts filled with joy, even if they have no more than touched the hem of your garment” (Diary, 55).
8. Joyfully share your faith
You can simply live joyfully in your faith journey, and others will likely notice. When they ask the source of your joy, you can tell them about the joy you find in your Catholic faith. Invite them to attend Mass or a faith sharing group with you. Share with them books you’ve read that inspire you.
9. Practice divine mercy
The word “forgiveness” is not commonly used these days. There’s more talk of “recompense” and “revenge.” But it’s best that we forgive others, and also ourselves, for past transgressions. “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ,” says Ephesians 4:32.
For inspiration, look to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska and the messages of Divine Mercy, which were revealed to her by Jesus Christ. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which may be said at any time but especially on Divine Mercy Sunday and Fridays at 3 p.m.
10. Word of your year
Find a word that describes an important value or goal for you to incorporate in the upcoming year. This word can guide you on your spiritual journey as well as your daily routines.
If perhaps you want to grow in hospitality in the upcoming year, you could select the word “Welcome.” If you’ve had difficulty forgiving yourself and others, you could select the word “Forgiveness” or “Redeemed.”
On the Internet, you can find tools that will generate a word of the year for you, though prayer and reflection may provide more reliable results. When all else fails, open the Bible to a random page and read until you encounter a word that holds special meaning for you. Write this word down and re-visit it throughout the year as you pray and reflect on your spiritual growth.
Try one or more of these ideas and hopefully, you’ll see your spiritual life blossom in the new year!
Gia Myers is a writer in the Philadelphia area and a member of the Catholic Media Association.
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