The Great New Year Challenge

A New Year is upon us and I am sure every Facebook newsfeed is full of classic resolutions: eat healthier, exercise more, spend more time with family and friends. I think beginnings are wonderful – the beginning of a new semester, the beginning of the year, the beginning of a good book. Every year I set high ideals for myself, such as to dedicate myself to my studies, keep up with all my friends, save money, run marathons, change the world when I am not busy with my extracurriculars – you know, be everything the world tells me I should be and more. However, setting so many resolutions stretches me so thin that I become discouraged and give up on them all. So this past week, I have been telling everyone that my New Year’s resolution is to floss my teeth. I hate doing it, but I need to, and it’s something I can definitely accomplish, right? There is nothing worse than feeling like you can never meet your goals.

But this is a completely NEW YEAR. The first and only 2016.  At the end of this year, will the only improvement I make be better dental health? It’s not just about good personal hygiene, however. Even by making a small, tiny change, I am pushing myself to improve my self-discipline, to maintain a commitment to myself, to make tiny changes that build my confidence, because these small changes add up to big ones.

Pope Benedict said “You were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness”. Greatness. While flossing may help me take better care of my body, that is hardly greatness. But by doing something small, I am improving, I am growing towards greatness. Does your resolution help you become a better person, even if it is small and silly?

But even more than simply growing in discipline through flossing, through pinpointing changes in my life, I recognize that I can be better – and so can you (even if your resolution is a bit more glamorous, such as climbing Mount Everest). So in addition to your New Year resolution,  I have a challenge, for you and for me.  

Pope Francis reminds us “To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone”.

Oftentimes, as a college student, living out my vocation seems so far away – but I have a vocation now, along with everyone, to be a saint today! This year, 2016, not some far time in the future. What an exciting adventure ahead this year – to live out our vocations as saints! Whether you are a devout Catholic, attend Mass a few times a year, or are just beginning to discover the Church, we are all called to lives that proclaim Christ’s love in this world.

So ask yourself these questions: Am I living that life now?! When people see me, do they see Christ?

Today, I am putting up a challenge, to use this year not only to maintain good dental habits, but to do something radical with our lives. To live dangerously – to be saints. In our world, it is not popular to be a Christian, to be a Catholic, and far too easy to become complacent in our relationship with God. But in the end, what really matters? So, I am challenging both myself and you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to grow in faith and live out our vocations as Christ’s hands and feet in the world! Below are some ideas. Some are very concrete, which can be helpful if you struggle with keeping resolutions (like me!), and others are more broad. Pick one, pick two, pick one hundred – all that matters is that we remember each day that we are called to something so much more!

  1. Share the Faith! In your workplace, school, home. This takes courage, and sometimes it is hard to know how to do this – here are some ideas.
    1. Bring a friend to Mass! This is something that I personally am working on this year – I want to invite someone to Mass every week. I want everyone to know that they are welcome at a Catholic Church, whether they are Christian or not.
    2. Read a book together.
    3. Wear a Miraculous Medal, Crucifix, sacramentals – this can start awesome conversations, and is a wonderful way to show devotion to the Blessed Mother and saints.
  2. Learn about the faith! Entering into the adult world, I realized how easy it is to go months without learning anything new about my Faith. Don’t be stagnant!
    1. Join a bible study at your local parish. If there isn’t one, start one or join an online study!
    2. Go to RCIA classes and learn about the fundamentals of the Faith, even if you are a cradle Catholic!
    3. Read a book! Whether it’s a classic like St. Therese’s autobiography or a modern-day book on the Faith (try Scott Hahn for books on many subjects that are easy to read and understand!), you will learn something new!
    4. Listen to audio CDs in the car – you can’t use “I’m too busy” as an excuse for this one! Try Lighthouse Catholic Media for short talks by popular Catholic speakers, full-length audiobooks or podcasts.
  3. Spend time in prayer. I am pretty sure this is ALWAYS my New Year’s resolution, but it’s hard to do without intentional planning.
    1. Set aside at least fifteen minutes every day for quiet prayer. If this is a lot, start with five and work up!
    2. Pick an adoration time every week, and treat it as a commitment. See if your local parish offers Eucharistic Adoration, or spend time in the chapel.
    3. Daily Mass is AWESOME.  “With all the strength of my soul I urge you young people to approach the Communion table as often as you can. Feed on this bread of angels whence you will draw all the energy you need to fight inner battles. Because true happiness, dear friends, does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we have only if we are pure in heart and mind.“–Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.
      With a recommendation like that, how can you say no?
    4. Prayer journals – these can help keep you focused in prayer and also a wonderful way to keep track of what is going on in your life, and to grow in your relationship with God as you give Him your burdens, your joys, and your thanksgivings.
  1. Give of yourself – we are called again and again to service and helping others throughout the Gospels.
    1. Donate to a local charity – and not just your coin, but your time!
    2. Spend time with someone who needs a friend.
    3. Make something for someone – dinner for a local shelter, a card for someone who is lonely, blankets for the homeless.
  2. Participate in the life of the Church! We can’t do it on our own. The Church is the Bride of Christ – and becoming involved with your parish, your school’s Catholic organization, or school can bring you supportive friends who will help you on your journey and give you opportunities to grow in faith!
    1. Participate in the liturgy. Lector, altar serve, sing in the choir! If not these, don’t just mumble the words in Mass – say the prayers proudly, and be present.
    2. Go to Confession – God is waiting for us with open arms, to forgive us. Start the New Year by accepting His mercy and starting fresh! Check your parish for Confession times or talk to your priest.
    3. Meet someone new in your community. Saints come in pairs – that person you always shake hands with during the Sign of Peace is your brother or sister in Christ – reach out!
    4. Have an accountability partner – a friend, a roommate, a family member – someone to remind you of your goals, push you, and to walk alongside you towards heaven!

 

Share your own ideas, remember to floss, and don’t be afraid to set your goals high. I will be praying for you in this New Year (pray for me too!) as we strive together to live out our vocations as saints!!!

 

 

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