New Year’s Resolutions

The custom of making New Year’s Resolutions goes back thousands of years.  There is evidence that the Babylonians had a New Year’s celebration which included promises to pay debts and return any borrowed objects.  Similarly, ancient Romans made sacrifices to the god Janus and made promises of good conduct for the coming year. 

Merriam-Webster reports, “a 1671 entry from the diaries of Anne Halkett, a writer and member of the Scottish gentry, contains a number of pledges, typically taken from biblical verses such as “I will not offend any more”. Halkett titled this page “Resolutions”, and wrote them on January 2nd, which would possibly indicate that the practice was in use at the time, even if people did not refer to it as a New Year’s resolution.”

In 1740, the founder of Methodism, John Wesley created a service celebrated either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day that included readings from Scripture and hymns and provided a spiritual alternative to traditional New Year’s celebrations.  Today within evangelical Protestantism these services include making resolutions for the coming year. 

The January 1st issue of a Boston newspaper from 1813 reads, “And yet, I believe there are multitudes of people, accustomed to receive injunctions of new year resolutions, who will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behaviour, and with the full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away all their former faults.” 

While clearly long-standing and popular, one cannot say the practice of making New Year’s Resolutions is very successful.  Forbes magazine reports that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s Resolutions.

Why am I writing this to you on November 29th?  And what does it have to do with Living This Catholic Way of Life?  This Sunday is the First Sunday in Advent and with Advent we usher in a new year in the Church.  Why not consider making some “New Year’s Resolutions” to mark the season, and perhaps to look at our three pillars of Stewardship to focus your thoughts:

  • What is one thing I can do this Advent to cultivate Generous Hospitality in my life?
  • Can I commit ten minutes a day to some extra spiritual activity – reading or prayer as a way to live Lively Faith?
  • Is there a virtue the Lord would like me to grow in?
  • Can I commit to being more intentional about how I spend the gifts of time and other resources this Advent and thus become a more dedicated disciple?

In doing so, we have very little to lose and everything to gain.  Calling on the grace of God poured out to us each day and asking for the zeal to draw closer to Him gives us powerful assistance in beating the dismal secular failure rate of 92%.  Our New Year’s resolutions have a power behind them that purely secular good intentions do not.  And even if our efforts do not go as we plan, even if, in our eyes, we seem not to have “achieved” our goals, the Lord will bless our efforts.

St. Theresa of Calcutta is credited with saying, “God does not call us to be successful.  He calls us to be faithful.”

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