A little something I wrote for Our Sunday Visitor:
Whatever way you welcome 2022 — I’ve reached the age where I’m usually asleep when the ball falls in Times Square — you can’t help but face the fact that another milestone has been reached. There are 365 days ahead of you, with bright empty pages in your calendar waiting to be filled. This is a moment of possibility. You’ve started another circle around the sun. How will you spend it?
While a lot of us want to stick to that diet or dust off that treadmill — the one you got two Christmases ago and that now serves as a sturdy place to hang damp laundry — let’s be honest. By February, most resolutions are history. Our waistlines haven’t gotten smaller, and the box of donuts keeps reappearing every week in your grocery shopping cart.
But take heart! There are other options, other resolutions. And one of the most important is one we can easily overlook. Yet it’s so simple, so basic, so fundamental to our lives as Catholic Christians.
I’m talking about prayer.
Before you try to cut out the carbs and start counting those 10,000 steps, consider a few ways to jumpstart your prayer life. It’s easier than dieting, more convenient than exercise — you can do it anywhere! — and you might find yourself shedding unwanted indifference and building up muscles of faith.
If you want to use the new year to create a new you, prayer is a terrific way to start.
So here are a few ideas to get you going. These are practices that have enriched my own life — and I hope they’ll do the same for you. So let’s pour a fresh cup of coffee, take a deep breath and get started.
1. Practice gratitude. Begin every day with this simple idea: Thank God. You can never go wrong by embracing an “attitude of gratitude.” Blessed Solanus Casey, the Capuchin priest who ministered with such humility in New York and Detroit, used to offer this timeless advice: “Thank God ahead of time.” Every moment, every challenge, every opportunity, every speed bump on the road of life can be considered a gift. God has placed these in your path for a reason. Who knows what graces might be waiting for you? Thank him!
Remember the example of Martin Rinkart, the Lutheran deacon from a small village in Germany who somehow survived the Thirty Years War, which brought with it the plague and the heartbreak of having to bury thousands of innocent souls — including, tragically, his wife. Rinkart composed a short prayer for his children to say before they went to bed each night, and the words became the basis for one of the greatest Christian hymns, “Now Thank We All Our God.” Gratefulness helps us bear the heaviest cross.
When you awaken, whispering a simple prayer of gratitude for the time we have been given can change our approach to the day and make the impossible seem possible. After all, as someone once put it, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Seize the day with a firm, grateful grip!
At night, thank God for all he has brought you that day — the good, the bad and the ugly. Recognize that the greatest gift of all is life itself, and that life comes with both joys and sorrows. Being thankful for all of it can adjust our perspective.
As one minister put it, reflecting on the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving: “Perhaps the pilgrims weren’t thankful that they had survived a hard winter. Perhaps they survived a hard winter because they were thankful.”
Gratitude is an attitude that can change everything.