Resolutions are an ongoing part of every valid spirituality: during our time of prayer, as the Lord illumines our hearts and we grow in his love, we continually make resolutions as to how we can address our faults and mature in our Christian life, which is to say, in our life in general – we cannot compartmentalize our spiritual dimension!
Still, we take advantage of certain times of the year, which tend to give us the motivation and sense of “being in it together” that all of us need. Thus, New Year’s resolutions, Lenten penances, Friday abstinence from meat, etc.
I would like to suggest that prayer be your first and most important resolution for this New Year.
Why? Because when our prayer is in good order then it is easy to deal with the other areas of our life.
For example: many people wish to improve their health and so make weight loss and exercise their New Year’s resolution. It’s so common that it’s cliché, and gyms experience a rapid uptick in memberships at this time of the year. Yet the diet and exercise regimes are often abandoned after a short time. Because it takes a lot of willpower, a lot of motivation, and a lot of self-denial to switch to a more healthy way of living. The transition to health is unfun in direct proportion to how unhealthy we currently are.
When we take our health to prayer, however, we start to find the motivation and strength we need to take it more seriously, because we have the help of God’s grace; we do it out of love for him; we become convicted in our hearts (and not merely in our minds) about the need to pursue health out of a sense of justice to ourselves and others.
Exercise/diet/health is but one example of many.
I have posted before (here) about basic prayers that everyone should know, but that post simply included a list and not the prayers themselves. So, to aid your prayer life (as you hopefully put prayer first in the coming year), I made this two-sided handout with a selection of such prayers. Some of them will be obvious and you already know. Others, maybe not! Click the icon below to download the PDF file:
Some people might object to the exclusion of certain prayers; others might claim that some of the prayers I have included are not really necessary for memorization. There is a certain amount of arbitrariness to it. Let me put it this way: I actually think that there are more prayers that every Catholic should know by heart than I have included in this sheet, but I had to draw the line somewhere.
This leaflet would be especially useful for children. It’s easiest to memorize things like this as a child. Those who have children, or who are involved in catechesis, would do well to share this resource with them. My impression, verified rather frequently, is that children today do not learn nearly as many of the traditional prayers as they should. And don’t even get me started about the confusion that most children have about words like “thee”, “thy”, “art”, “beseech”, etc. Literacy in the English language is definitely on the decline. How will they ever read the classics if they don’t even know the meaning of words that we still say at Mass each week, like “thee” and “thy” – much less other words that are found in venerable prayers? O tempora! O mores!
Remember, parents: you are responsible not only for the education of your children, but for their spiritual formation. You are responsible for the salvation of their souls. What use is it if they get degrees at the best universities and jobs with huge incomes, if they don’t make it to heaven? It’s better for them to be experts in prayer than experts in anything else. And prayer is best taught by someone who prays. Prayerful parents beget prayerful children. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…
Getting back to resolutions, I repeat my heartfelt recommendation: put prayer first. This could include practices like the daily Rosary, visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament, going more often to daily Mass (Sunday and Holy Day Masses being taken for granted), daily family prayer (a topic I will start focusing on more), more frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the use of certain devotions (novenas, chaplets, etc.), and so forth. We should pray according to our state in life: if you are not a monk or a nun, don’t try to be one. God does not expect that from you. But generally speaking, nowadays we tend to the opposite extreme: prayer is not one of our major priorities, we leave it to last or close-to-last, we stay so busy that we only infrequently find time for it, and then it is full of distractions. Let’s all try to find the happy medium.
I wish you all a very prayerful 2014!