While I love the idea of a “fresh start” and the momentum that can come from looking at “day 1 of 365” on a calendar spread, I don’t typically enter the New Year with my goals and intentions fully fleshed out. This largely has to do with my current stage of family life (I have a baby, a three-year-old, and an almost-five-year-old) and the fact that December is full of festive plans and activities (read: mayhem). What minimal amount of quiet reflection time I have throughout the weeks leading up to the New Year I spend buried in my Advent devotional and listening to O Come O Come Emmanuel, and then sitting in front of the Christmas tree with my kids (and feeding them, breaking up fights, etc.) and visiting with family members and friends who are in town for the holidays. It’s not a good month for me to sit down with my journal to consider the past and plan for the future.
Besides the logistical impracticality of planning for the New Year in December, I also prefer to put off my reflection and intention setting until January because I need something fun to do in the month that feels like it’s 476 days. I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoy sitting down in front of a cozy fire, with a cup of hot chocolate (or a glass of wine) at my side, after the chaos of children’s bedtime is complete, to prayerfully consider the year gone by and the year ahead. I’m telling you, this activity is the perfect antidote to the cold, dark nights of January!
Given how much I take pleasure in crafting my resolutions for the year ahead, it should come as no surprise that I usually have anywhere from six to twelve goals in a given year. While these goals vary in their size and content, at least one of them always has to do with deepening my spiritual life.
If you, too, hope to strengthen your faith this year, here’s a list of Catholic Inspired New Year’s Resolutions that you might consider committing to in 2024.
Go on a Spiritual Retreat
While retreats take many different forms – individual or group, silent or guided, short or long – all spiritual retreats share the quality of time set apart for prayer, rest and connection with God. I have benefited tremendously in the past from spending a few quiet days at a local monastery – joining the monks for prayer and meals, but otherwise enjoying solitude with God – and I’ve also been on group retreats and a couples retreat that I found impactful. While searching for retreat centers, monasteries, or convents in your area to peruse their retreat offerings is one good approach for finding a retreat that will fit your desires, you can also make your own retreat by booking yourself a campsite, airbnb or hotel room for a night with the intention of stepping away from ordinary life for a while to reconnect with God.
Make a Regular Practice of Praying the Rosary
The Rosary is a Scripture based prayer practice that guides us through some of the most important prayers of our faith, calling to mind the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the accompaniment of his mother Mary alongside him. The practice has nurtured the faith of countless Catholics across eras and areas, and it can feed your soul as well. To learn more about how to pray the rosary, start here.
Partake in the Sacrament of Reconciliation
The Sacrament of Reconciliation provides each of us with the opportunity to take an honest look at ourselves, notice our failings, experience God’s mercy and forgiveness, and reconcile ourselves with our creator and our community of faith. What a gift!
The Church’s guidelines on frequency of receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation depend on circumstance. The Catechism states:
According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year." Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time. (1457).
Maybe you’ve kept up with these guidelines throughout your baptized life. Or maybe it’s been a few years since you found yourself in a confessional! Regardless, 2024 could be the year in which you experience Reconciliation in a new way, either by returning to the Sacrament for the first time in a while, or by making it a regular part of your pursuit of holiness with monthly or weekly confession.
Read a Spiritual Classic
The words of the saints, church leaders, and other seekers on the journey have the potential to guide us on the path of living a holy life by offering both profound wisdom and practical advice. Maybe you’ve been meaning to read St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul, for years, or maybe Divine Intimacy just caught your eye. Let 2024 be the year in which you pick up and work your way through (however long it takes!) a spiritual classic.
Download and Regularly Use a Prayer App like Hallow
I started using the Hallow App a year or so ago, and it has brought so much richness to my prayer life as it has introduced me to numerous prayer techniques, guided me in Catholic meditation, and provided daily doses of food for thought through sermons, reflections, and teachings by leading Catholic voices. I know that Hallow is just one of many Catholic Apps available, so take your pick!
Whether you enjoy setting New Years resolutions as much as me or not; whether you do most of your planning for the year ahead in December or January; it’s never a bad time to add on a new goal that draws you closer to God.