Now that I have your attention, I would like to extend my apologies to those expecting an account replete with sordid details about my innumerable weaknesses and shortcomings in the year of 2020! Those are definitely conversations for the box, but I’m most likely not alone in my sentiments that this past year was indisputably challenging: physically, mentally, and spiritually.
2020 provided multitudinous opportunities for us to grow in virtue, while also exploiting our many weaknesses. In the fall I caught that dreaded rona. I was pretty concerned because of my age and the fact that I am asthmatic, along with having a host of other health challenges. After hearing my test results, I made a quick account of my life as I knew things would most likely get much worse. A profound feeling of vulnerability came over me, especially when I realized that I may not be able to get to Confession at a time when this healing sacrament was most desired and necessary. It wasn’t long before it became too difficult to focus on my spiritual life in any way whatsoever. It was a pretty terrible ten days, but thankfully I narrowly avoided being admitted to the hospital after a day in the ER on oxygen with bilateral pneumonia. I was monitored closely from home and am extremely grateful for the prayers and support from family and friends, along with the countless nurses who swiftly phoned me with love and concern the numerous times my oxygen level fell below 90%. Nothing like a global pandemic to make us all feel a little skittish and bring us to our knees! I don't know about you but I have high hopes that 2021 will be markedly better.
Hopefully you have all had a few minutes to jot down some goals for this year. If not, it’s a really great idea to do so, making your goals as granular as possible and each having its own plan with action items. That is, of course, only if you want to reach the end of 2021 having improved your lives. For as they say, a goal without a plan is just a dream. Finances, health, career, vacations and leisure are all areas most people set as priorities. All of these are worthwhile and your spiritual life should be interwoven within each of these aspects. I can honestly say that the few years of our marriage that didn’t begin with a detailed set of yearly goals just weren’t the same. Fail to plan. Plan to fail.
I recently overheard three women talking about food. One of the women was emphasizing the profound importance of what goes into your body. They talked with great conviction for what seemed like an eternity in great detail about what constituted the absolute best nutrition. What struck me was their intentionality, which was quite admirable. I wondered, however, how often we think or speak with such conviction about our lives as Christians. What’s the plan for 2021? How can we improve our spiritual lives? What will provide the perfect nourishment for our souls? What are the ultimate and best resources at our disposal? How about starting your 2021 quest with the most important things first, for as Archbishop Sheen states. “Eternity is without succession, a simultaneous possession of all joys. To those who live toward eternity, it really is not something at the end, it is that which influences every moment of the now.”
There are truly countless ways to develop and nurture a good spiritual life. Perhaps in another post I can offer a more complete list of resources. For now, let’s just start with a few of the necessary heavy hitters:
The Eucharist is the utmost nourishment for our souls. Getting to Mass as often as possible is the closest you will ever be to Our Lord here on earth. “Unless you eat My flesh and drink my blood you shall not have life within you.”
Frequent Confession is a fabulous way to grow in faith. It’s a sacrament, so not only is there a boatload of grace provided for us, but it’s super awesome and restorative to be told “Your sins are forgiven, go in peace”! As 15 year old Blessed Carlo Acutis asked, “What does it matter if you can win a thousand battles if you cannot win against your own corrupt passions?”
Read the Scriptures, especially the Gospel, for a few minutes every day. “Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of God.” St. Jerome
Pray every day, especially about your vocation and the relationships/people God has entrusted to you. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is especially powerful and the daily rosary is super helpful. “Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.” Saint Ephraem of Syria
Find a great Examination of Conscience and use it as a tool to ascertain progress in your spiritual life. "A soul does not benefit from the sacrament of confession if it is not humble. Pride keeps it in darkness. The soul neither knows how, nor is it willing, to probe with precision the depths of its own misery. It puts on a mask and avoids everything that might bring it recovery” (St. Faustina).
I am writing this on the beautiful feast of The Epiphany. The priest saying our Mass today offered some wonderful insights about the three kings. He remarked that “The three kings were sincere and honest men seeking goodness and truth. We can learn much from their humility. These wise men were seeking the one who could offer a reason for their own existence. They were seeking truth from a God they had just come to know in the person of a Child.”
May we all seek Our Lord as the three kings did humbly in search of goodness and truth in 2021 and beyond!