2021 Priorities, Deepening Faith

Categories: Blog

Studies show that 80% of resolutions fail. Most often these failures are due to lack of clarity or unrealistic expectations. The challenges of 2020 have allowed us to rethink our businesses, our relationships, our routines and much more. As we begin a new year, there is still much uncertainty anticipated and reports state that recovery and a new normal will take years, not months. So rather than consider resolutions for the new year, why not consider priorities?

With all the reconfiguring and reimagining from 2020, we have been able to see many aspects of our lives in a new perspective. The new normals are sure to include some of how we used to do things with the addition of the new methods we have learned throughout the pandemic. This new normal allows for enhancements and with our faith, a deepening of faith which is a great priority for us to have.

How we practice our faith has changed these past few months and the changes are different for each of us depending on our circumstances. While our spiritual communion has been a blessing through social distancing, we long for the real presence of our Lord and our faith community. Returning home to our churches and our priests is a priority but must be done safely for us and our entire faith family. If your priority is to return to church physically, please continue to social distance and wear your mask. Each parish community is preparing for our safe return although these preparations are different for each community. Some are using tickets, some are using outdoor space – check your parish website to find out more about your own parish community processes for a safe return. Click here to learn about the general practices for returning to church throughout the diocese.

The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days remains lifted until further notice. This allows for our new normal of attending in person on different days which may be less crowded and watching livestreams or recorded Mass on Sundays. Perhaps we can attend more Masses this year by attending some in person and some spiritually? Our catechism tells us that the Eucharist is our ‘source and summit of our Christian life’ and through the Eucharist ‘we unite ourselves to Christ’.

Making a spiritual Communion is not intended to take the place of sacramental Communion but to increase our hunger for it and our connection with Christ. The spiritual communion prayer can be done anywhere and at any time. Here is a beautiful spiritual communion prayer to increase your desire for the Eucharist and unite you to Christ:

My Jesus, I believe even before I was born, you have been with me knitting my very being, day by day, into the garment of your love, clothing me with grace every moment of my life. And on the day of my baptism you poured love into my heart through the Holy Spirit who unites me eternally to you.

Through that same Spirit I pledge my love and adore you, present in your Most Holy Body and Blood. Though I cannot consume you in the sacred banquet let me be consumed by your complete desire for me so that my longing for you may be filled by your love alone and your mercy overflow through me into this world so in need.

On that joyful day when I do receive you in the Eucharist, may I remember that this precious gift is still but a foretaste of the holy gifts that await your holy people at your heavenly altar. There, with the saints and angels, we shall see you face to face and give you perfect praise forever. Amen.

Taking time to pray is another priority we can establish for ourselves. You may have had this goal before and it is indeed a lofty aspiration to find time in our busy lives, surprisingly even amid the pandemic. What does ‘ordinary time’ in our liturgical calendar mean to you? During the great seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter we are focused and intent with preparations and celebrations of our faith life. We could perhaps be as fruitful in deepening our faith during ordinary time. Praying, sacrificing, giving and serving can be prioritized in ordinary time as we do in other seasons.

There are many resources that can help with prioritizing our faith. There are hundreds of apps for those who have smartphones and instead of  spending too much time on social media apps, these apps can help us pray the rosary or the liturgy of the hours, confess our sins and learn about saints and our catechism. The Divine Office app is one of the best Catholic apps and is free. This app allows us to participate in the recitation of the public prayer of our faith community with several opportunities each day.

As the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis has proclaimed a ‘Year of St Joseph’ from December 8, 2020 through December 8, 2021. Unless you have spent much time learning about St. Joseph and his ‘Father’s Heart’ this gives us the opportunity to get to know God and Christ through his life. Pope Francis offered a new prayer and encouraged us to pray it this year:

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil.  Amen.

On the first day of 2021 while getting ready for his beloved Notre Dame to play a bowl game, one of our diocesan priests, Father Eamon Tobin, was called home by our Lord. Father Tobin helped God’s people experience His love and provided resources for prioritizing faith in their lives. One of his books, 13 Powerful Ways to Pray, offers insight for prayer and several ways to integrate prayer into our lives. His book is available at Amazon and other stores (and may be available in your parish Gift Shop).

Where our faith is deepened, so too will our charity. Prioritizing charity can improve the lives of others as well as our own. Sharing our time and talent with others and supporting a cause that does good in the world can give us a warm glow and truly bring us joy. Even more, how we serve others and share our blessings gives us an opportunity to think about what is really important to us. We can engage in charity with our family members too, strengthening our family bonds while transitioning our values to next generations.

Living in a global pandemic has exposed what we miss in our lives. There may be a tendency as we begin the new year to want to reclaim what we had. However, rather than focusing on what we want from life, focusing on what life is asking of us or from our faith perspective – what purpose God has for our lives – allows us to see more clearly what can be prioritized. We begin this new year with continued uncertainty which increases the potential failure rates of resolutions. With the lessons of 2020 and the opportunity of the new year, consider God’s purpose for your life and establish priorities which will help you achieve that purpose.