What is your spiritual focus for 2014?

File:FoelixHicNovusAnnus.jpg

“I am as new as Christ child born of a virgin pure, Mortal, may your new year be just as happy and sure.” 16th-century woodcut from Prague (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).

 

Some people dislike making New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps they have failed too many times in the past to carry their resolutions out. Perhaps they are lazy. Or perhaps they have good and legitimate reasons I know nothing about. As for me, I find resolutions at the start of a new year to be very human and helpful. The best resolution we can make is to grow closer to Christ in the coming year.

Rather than having a specific spiritual goal–such as, “I’m going to become more humble this year”–I like to choose a spiritual focus. I don’t want to be presumptuous. God is in charge of my spiritual life, not me. His plan for the coming year might be different from mine. His timing often does not coincide with my own.

When I choose a spiritual focus, I choose a virtue or practice to work on. I leave timing up to God. And if it turns out He has something else in store for me right now, I will try to pivot to that.

It’s best to work on one area at a time

Writers such as Dom Lorenzo Scupoli and St. Francis de Sales advise us to work on one area of the spiritual life at a time. When an athlete trains for the Olympics, he doesn’t try to excel in every sport. Unless he does the triathlon, he usually chooses one.

Sometimes even within that sport he will choose a narrower focus. A skier might focus on the slalom. A gymnast might focus on the floor routine. In the same way, if we want to grow closer to God, we should avoid trying to do everything at once.

Last year I worked on trusting God. I am still working on trust. With my book on trust two-thirds finished, the virtue is on my mind nearly every day. It will take a lifetime to trust God completely. But I feel I have made some progress in this area and I’m ready for a new challenge.

From trust to detachment

For 2014, I’ve decided to work on detachment.

Detachment and trust overlap each other. In fact, when we grow in any one virtue, we grow in several others as well. I have already worked on detachment somewhat in 2013, looking at it from the perspective of trust. Now I hope to give it my full attention.

I don’t know anyone who would say detachment is his favorite spiritual practice. It’s not as attractive as working on joy, for example. But detachment is a means to joy. It’s an expression of love for God above and beyond everything else.

God willing, I will write many posts about detachment in the coming months. I hope to share with you any insights, struggles, and triumphs in my life. I hope by this time next year to be a new person. But even if I am not, I will place my trust in God. For the most important thing I can be detached from is my will.

Connie Rossini

Share with us: Have you chosen a spiritual focus for 2014? How are you planning to work on this area?

Comments

    • says

      Good one, Terry! Sometimes it takes a while. I had a head start on thinking about this, because I had to give a talk on detachment. I realized I need to practice what I preach a little more!

  1. Cynthia says

    Our prayer group will be meditating on St. FAUSTINA’s New Year’s Resolutions of 1938! These will change your life. PRAISE Jesus!

  2. says

    My focus will be to grow in humility as an antidote for vainglory. How I will work on this is first of all to pray for a humble attitude. Beyond that I don’t know. Do you or your readers have any suggestions?

    • says

      I would try doing a menial task I don’t like as soon as possible after temptation to think I’m something great. For me that might be cleaning the bathroom, scrubbing the kitchen floor, or ironing my husband’s shirts. Or for something simpler, you might try kissing the floor or doing a quick examination of conscience, reminding yourself of all the sins you have committed in the last 24 hours. Or you could find a Bible verse that reflects humility to recite at those time, such as: “Without you we can do nothing,” or “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

      • Alyosha says

        I very much agree with Connie’s practical approach. Relating with pride on the spot as it arises is the most effective practice. Even just being able to see pride as it arises is an accomplishment.

        For what it is worth, I’ll add a couple of insights from the Buddhist tradition. The first is that a mind filled with pride is essentially humorless. An ability to laugh at oneself is an indication of being free of pride in that moment. You can see this in cartoons or Marx Brothers movies where the pompous politician or business man slips on a banana peel or gets a pie in the face. Genuine humor transcends and destroys a prideful mind.

        The second insight from the Buddhist tradition is that poverty, self criticism and self-denigration is not the opposite of pride. Rather, somewhat counterintuitively, these are manifestations of a prideful mind. When external circumstances support our prideful self-image (we receive praise or awards), we develop a “big head” and become arrogant. When external circumstances conflict with our self-image (we lose a contest or experience ridicule), we experience ego deflation and painful feelings of poverty, self-criticism and low self-esteem. Both states of mind, arrogance and impoverishment are therefore aspects of pride.

        One useful approach when we are able to see our prideful mind is to realize that we are not spiritual superbeings. A Christian might say that we are sinners — and the recognition of the sin can be used to reduce spiritual pride. Buddhists might use the term confusion, rather than sin — but the approach is similar.

        What is ultimately required (if I can be permitted to use Christian terminology) is grace. We can’t overcome pride ourselves because the struggle that is involved in fighting pride is ego’s struggle. Grace is a process of relaxation — or in Connie’s terminology — trust. It is seeing that there is nothing that needs to be done — except to see clearly. If you you can smile at the stupidity of your own pride, you are halfway there.

        But in many moments we don’t see pride or find it difficult to relax and to trust. In these moments, we can turn to active contemplation, making aspiration to be free of pride for the benefit of others, performing prostrations or other spiritual practices to shape our minds — or engaging in prayer based on our different traditions.

      • says

        Thank you, Connie and Alyosha, for such practical suggestions. I was really having a hard time coming up with my own. I will try to weave your ideas into my spiritual practices for this year. God bless both of you!

  3. says

    Happy new year! Though I’m still having trouble with the idea of limiting myself to focus on one area, I think the biggest priority has to be mercy — forgiveness of others. The other two that I really want to keep are important and good, but lacking them will not risk my eternal life in the way that unforgiveness will (that whole “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” and “the measure that you measure out will be measured back to you” thing!). Not to mention that the unforgiveness has a daily toxicity to it, and has started leeching into other areas of my life. Heaven help me!

    • says

      Heaven will hear your prayer, Kristin! Have you read “Divine Mercy in My Soul” by St. Faustina? You may want to start saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, if you don’t already. We have to remind ourselves that all of us are simmers. None of us merits God’s grace, but He willingly forgives all who come to Him. Of course, sometimes those who have gravely sinned against us never apologize. They might not even realize the wrong they have done. That makes it really hard to forgive! I think we have to go through stages of forgiveness, just as we do with grief. It helps me to recognize that nothing other people have done (or will do) to me can thwart God’s plan for my life. God will use it all for my benefit! As Joseph said to his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God meant for good.” Peace.

      • says

        Thanks for your reply. :) Though I’ve read about the Divine Mercy devotion at length — and am attracted to it — I have not read St. Faustina’s journal, only excerpts. I try to pray the Chaplet when someone I know is dying or after a death, but I rarely get in the daily habit. Your words about forgiveness are exactly the crux of my issue — and good to remember. Thanks!

Trackbacks

Share your thoughts with us.