What could be more important than growing closer to God in the new year?
“A New Year’s resolution is a wonderful thing to do … until you break it!” says a funny children’s song. The New Year is a natural time to make a new start and fresh beginning, but too often, attempted resolutions aren’t realistic your lifestyle—so they quickly become unsustainable.
This year, try something different: Set a spiritual goal, one that fits into your current schedule and lifestyle, yet gives you that extra little push to make your relationship with Christ your top priority this year.
Catholic author and speaker Katie Warner has put together a fantastic resource for anyone looking to grow in faith in the new year (or anytime!). As you think about ways to improve your life, give at least as much attention to strengthening your soul as your body.
It can be tempting to focus on physical improvement, but spiritual growth is even more important. Our souls will last forever while our bodies will return to dust. Best of all, you may find that strengthening your spiritual life has a spill-over effect that improves all other areas of your life too.
Making a clear plan for spiritual growth
“So many people start the year with goals to lose weight, to be more organized, to cook at home more or save more money, but our faith life is the most important,” Warner says. “We know that deep down, but we may not know how to go about making those changes. How do we make that rubber meet the road?”
The key to success is making a concrete plan to get there and sticking with it. Small, measurable steps lead to success over time, as long as there’s consistency.
“We need practical ways to meet those goals,” Warner says. “Once you know what you want to focus on in your spiritual life, the Goal Guide walks you through the steps to do that. Sometimes you don’t know where to start but you know you want to read the Bible more, or pray more. This will help you make a plan to achieve that goal.”
Warner’s goal guide includes actionable steps to achieve any of the following goals:
- Strengthening your prayer life
- Reading the Bible more
- Enhancing your experience of the Mass
- Getting to know the saints
- Improving your marriage
- Studying the Catechism
- Living the liturgical year at home
- Doing more spiritual reading
An easy way to remember a spiritual goal and make it stick is to “anchor” the new habit to an existing part of your day. For example, you might start praying the Rosary every morning on your commute to work, or listening to a religious podcast or spiritual audiobook. If you drink coffee every morning, make that your reminder to read a passage from Scripture or pray the Morning Offering (and this mug can help remind you!).
Setting goals rooted in relationship
Not sure what spiritual goal to set for this year? Warner offers great advice for how to set spiritual goals. The first step is simply making the time to spend with God in prayer asking for His help and guidance.
“The spiritual reality sometimes feels so intangible that we don’t think of setting goals for it,” she says. “We want to grow in holiness, but if we don’t make a plan to get there, we may let another year pass by without anything changing. Take time to sit down and think about how you’re going to achieve that goal.”
More than anything, she says, it’s about opening yourself up to God’s will, and putting into practice whatever God wants of you.
“Open your heart to ask, ‘What is God calling my family to, that will help us grow in love? What is God calling me to, that will help me grow in love? Where in my life do I lack love?’ Look for those areas where you see you lack in love, and lack in relationship with the Lord, and focus on those areas first,” she says.
Keep at the front of your mind this idea of a loving relationship. Return to it again and again if you start to lose track of why it’s important to set spiritual goals, or how to put them into practice.
“When thinking about growing in the spiritual life, it’s not about quantifying things or checking off a list,” Warner says. “Sometimes I think that, if I have this perfect plan, it’s all going to be so easy. But really it’s all about having a relationship with Our Lord. Everything has to be rooted in that love and relationship.”
Resources drawn from real experience
Whatever your goal, Warner offers helpful, practical resources to grow spiritually. This ministry grew out of her desire for resources to guide her own young family in raising faith-filled kids and building a marriage deeply united to Christ.
“I’ve always been involved in ministry, and as I got into family life, I was drawn to make resources that I could use in my own family and marriage,” Warner says. She has written several books designed to help strengthen readers’ prayer lives, including Head and Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for your Familyand A Parent Who Prays: A Journal to Guide You in Praying for Your Children.
Warner has created an array of thoughtfully designed picture books for the littlest Catholics, such as Father Ben Gets Ready for Mass. Reading and discussing these books with your children or grandchildren could be part of a spiritual goal to live the liturgical year at home, or cultivate your family’s faith formation. Warner collaborated on the books with her close friend and fellow Catholic mom, illustrator Meg Whalen.
“I never set out to write children’s books but the Holy Spirit sort of dropped it in my lap,” she says. She recalled how their work on these picture books arose out of casual conversations during play dates when she and Whalen were both new mothers living near each other.
“We wanted to see more good, true, beautiful Catholic children’s books that could stand up to secular books in terms of content. We wanted them to have that spark that captivates kids, that makes them run to the bookshelf to read it again and again,” she says. “We find so much meaning in helping form these really little disciples.”
Disciples of all ages can find in Warner’s work a meaningful, carefully designed resource to nourish faith and love for God. With the help of her guide, and your own time spent in prayer and recollection, you’ll be able to make a spiritual “New Year’s resolution” that will bear great fruit—not just for this year, but for the rest of your life and, God willing, in the life to come.