‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions! Christmas gifts have been unwrapped; meals have been cooked and savored; you’ve cleaned the house and watched football and played with the grandkids. And now, we look to the future!
Oh, how things will change in 2012! We—collective Americans—will be more organized, will get to work on time, pray more, drink less, stop smoking, get out of debt.
News media and self-help gurus are stepping up to remind you that it’s time to turn over a new leaf, to make some New Year’s resolutions. Even the federal government has gotten into the act, establishing a webpage with concrete advice for resolution-makers.
The custom of starting the New Year with the hope of being somehow better than we were dates back to the Middle Ages. In 1740 John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, originated the “Watchnight service”—providing Methodist Christians with a godly alternative to drunken parties on New Year’s Eve. Even today, the United Methodist Book of Worship includes songs, prayers and scripture readings for this popular service.
Among African-Americans, the Watchnight service took on a new political significance especially during the Civil Rights era—remembering that in 1862, many slaves gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve to await news of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.
But this year, I was particularly inspired by two statements by earnest men of faith, calling their flocks to consider New Year’s Resolutions of consequence.
First, Fr. Eduard Perrone, pastor of Assumption Grotto parish in Detroit, urged his congregation to consider a weekly act of penance during each week of 2012. Diane Korzeniewski, in her popular Te Deum Blog, reported on Father Perrone’s stirring homily:
There is a proposal I would like to make to you this new year. Being your pastor, your spiritual guide, I should protect you, teach you and give you goods for your souls. I therefore would like you to take on a practice this new year as a means of imploring God’s blessing on our parish and on you, my parishioners.
It is this: that everyone elect to do one act of penance every week during the year 2012–an act in addition to any penitential acts which may already be one’s practice or which the season (viz., Lent) may dictate.
This would mean that, if everyone cooperated, there would be fifty-two penitential deeds done by each person in the parish by the end of the year. The motive for these would be exactly what they have always been historically: to avert God’s punishments and to obtain the divine favor.
Read the rest here.
And lastly, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in his blog The Gospel in the Digital Age, proposes a few promises we can make for 2012, during these first days of the first week of the New Year, about the first things in life.
Number one: first thing, every day, is a morning offering. Our first thought daily is of the Lord.
Number two: first day, every week, is Sunday Mass.
Number three: First Friday, every month, we approach the sacrament of penance. Remember the beautiful custom of First Friday?
Archbishop Dolan encourages us to make spiritual resolutions which have eternal consequences. This so exceeds weight loss and smoking cessation and balancing the budget! Don’t miss it.