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Training a soul fit for the New Year

January is a month for resolutions, but we should remember to make time for our spiritual health too, Fr Michael Kane writes.

Silent nights. It’s an apt description of life around the parish during these post-Christmas days.

The frantic ringing of the phone or doorbell pauses for a few days after Christmas as parishioners spend quality time during the holidays to be with family and friends.

In all honesty it is a welcome change of pace for many priests who look forward to a few quiet days, after the Christmas and New Year Masses.

I’m sure it’s equally anticipated among ordinary families: a time to eat, sleep and rest before the routine kicks-in again after the holidays.


A new year

It’s difficult to believe we have arrived at another New Year, with 2018 now consigned to history.

Such a transition for Catholics is an important opportunity to thank God for the blessings He has shown us over the course of this year, and to entrust our new paths into his hands.

On January 1, the solemnity of the Motherhood of Mary, we asked for Our Lady’s intercession upon us as we set out on this new year, inviting Mary to extend her maternal mantle over us and our loved ones and our future journeys.

This annual tradition puts the right accent on our Catholic New Year celebrations.

For some the arrival of a new year will be a welcome transition after a difficult period.

Some families may have experienced traumatic events such as bereavement, separation or a whole host of other worries which marred their 2018.

Opening a new door to a new year will hopefully bring healing and perspective to some of these crosses.


‘New beginnings’

Any New Year marks new beginnings, and more often than not, New Year resolutions.

Some people will make promises to give up smoking or drinking or other bad habits. Others will focus on the latest diet fad or gym routine.

Almost all of these resolutions seek to focus on getting the body into better shape in the year ahead.

If the adage is true that ‘you are what you eat!’ then most of us are walking turkeys at the moment, in urgent need of a salad and an exercise bike!

Resolutions to get us back into shape are noble in themselves, even when they may not see past February 1. But may I add another few suggestions to the possible pot of resolutions?

May I suggest ones that focus on getting our souls into better shape in the year ahead?

Such a resolution requires an honest conversation about our spiritual health as it is today, coupled with a sincere desire to make changes where necessary.

When our bodies are in poor shape we make changes to our diet and exercise. But when our spiritual lives are limping along we don’t think to make changes.

We just expect that things will improve, and that God will bridge the gap and move closer to us.

Rarely do we imagine that we have an active role to play in our spiritual growth.

Rarely do we see that human cooperation is key to such interior growth.


Spiritual training

There is a great irony in the fact that we all expect to be in top spiritual shape, even when we don’t always ‘train’ spiritually.

So how is my spiritual life today? How is my prayer life? How is my relationship to God and his Church and His sacraments? Am I in need of a spiritual resolution for 2019?

Experts says that when your exercise routine doesn’t change then your body begins to plateau.

If the body is not constantly being challenged in new ways then muscles can no longer grow.

It seems to me that our spiritual lives work in much the same way. If our prayer, which is our spiritual exercise, loses its dynamism and creativity then we will no longer grow and develop in our relationship with God.

I once heard a wise man say that ‘the person who prays more, prays better.’ I have always tried to remember those words in my own life.

We know what happens if you spend more time in the gym or more time dieting: the body becomes healthier.

The same growth comes when we spend more time with God in prayer and contemplation.

In truth, time is our most precious commodity. In the busy lives we lead, time is the one thing we must prioritise, and use diligently and wisely. When we share this gift with God then it becomes a valued sacrifice that He uses to transform and change us interiorly.

So as we set-out on this New Year, and as the ‘silent nights’ are replaced with the familiar routine of hectic days, let’s not forget to set a spiritual resolution and give God the time He deserves from all of us.

With new resolutions in mind, let’s not forget some food for our souls.


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