Too late to make a New Year’s spiritual resolution?

By Joe Tremblay | The Compass | January 6, 2021


“New Year’s is the time for resolutions. But I have heard there are spiritual resolutions. Are they different? How do you make one?” — Green Bay


There is some similarity between the two, but there are differences. New Year’s resolutions are typically made in January and center on self-improvement for the coming year. Losing weight, exercising more or reading a few good books are just a few examples. However, spiritual resolutions, as taught by several Catholic saints, are meant to be ongoing; made throughout the year. The ultimate goal of a spiritual resolution is to draw closer to Jesus Christ through prayer and living as he did. By doing this, we rely on his strength, not ours.

Like with any resolution, if spiritual resolutions are to bring about a positive change, they should be specific and tangible. They are most effective when they draw inspiration from a meditation on a Gospel passage. Take for example, the wedding at Cana (also the second luminous mystery of the rosary). In this story, the host of a wedding feast runs out of wine; an embarrassing situation. Mary, the mother of Jesus, recognizes the need. She communicates that need to Jesus and then instructs the servants: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).

To make a long story short, Jesus miraculously changes water into wine with the six jugs of water presented to him. He worked with what he had. Therefore, the inspiration we can draw from this story (through reading and meditation) is that, although our current circumstances might be beset with scarcity, with Jesus, abundance can be had in the end.

One spiritual resolution from reading and reflecting on this story is that, with whatever I am challenged with scarcity today, like Mary, I can communicate my concerns to Jesus and trust that he will bring abundance out of that scarcity. St. Francis de Sales wrote a lot about spiritual resolutions in the 17th century. According to him, drawing inspiration from reading and meditation is necessary but not enough. St. Francis, like other homilists, enjoyed compliments about the sermons he delivered. However,  he once said that he would rather hear, “I will do something,” rather than, “That was beautiful.”

To be sure, the purpose of spiritual resolutions is “to do something.” That is, put Gospel inspirations, received through prayer, reading and meditation, into action. Since ongoing conversion is a series of beginnings, with each spiritual resolution we make, we begin anew — not just every year — but every day.


Tremblay is parish evangelization director for the Diocese of Green Bay.


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