Some tips to convey more personal and sincere wishes to loved ones and strangers alike.
On the occasion of a New Year, the pope presents his good wishes in as many languages as possible so that everyone can receive them. Although it can’t substitute for a visit in person, a phone call or a simple letter with a few warm words can alleviate someone’s loneliness, especially when this is one of the few contacts you have with them over the year.
Rather than limiting his wishes to his close circle of friends, Steven has decided this year to send his best wishes to his “best enemy.” Julie, for her part, has decided to write to her husband, her parents and her children: “We spend so little time telling them that we love them and sometimes it is more difficult because of the proximity.” So, this year, why not take the time to ask yourself who to wish a happy year to as a priority and, above all, how to do it in a different way than saying a simple “Happy new Year!” or “All the best!”
1Say good things about them (it feels good!)
Our relationships with others “are often governed by conflict, criticism, judgment and condemnation, rather than by blessing and openness of heart,” explains psychologist Yves Boulvin. The deep meaning behind these messages is to wish them well, to speak well of them (benecidere in Latin means, literally, “to speak the good”). It means entering into a logic of love that sees the good, the beautiful things, the good side of each one and gives thanks for it. Evoking a quality or expressing our gratitude has unsuspected repercussions: “Words of blessing are good for the soul,” assures the Benedictine monk Anselm Grün.
2Bless each other
During the Visitation, the Virgin Mary is blessed by Elizabeth, who sees in her the mystery of the woman she is and child she is carrying — an expression that is not exclusively for a spiritual elite, since we are all blessed by God. If God loves each one of us absolutely freely, we can certainly bless each other. And so we become a source of blessing, just as others are for us. In the Christian tradition, a blessing is always accompanied by words. By our words, we express what God can offer to this person, the way He sees them, and what they mean to Him. To bless someone goes beyond interceding on someone’s behalf through prayer; it is a way to show that: “You are loved by God, you are precious to Him.”
3Make it warm and personal
“When I write or call to wish someone a happy new year,” says Perri, “I try to remember what they most want. Using personal words is more moving than using ready-made formulas, as long as those words are chosen carefully, because the word creates a relationship with the other person.
The way you say it is just as important as what you say. There is no need to write something long, but it should be appropriate, as close as possible to what the other person is hoping for, without knowing for sure if your words will have the desired effect. It is a way to learn to give without expecting anything in return, an act that is done freely. What will be good for the other person? What is he or she looking for? Then, your wishes for them, beyond the standard formulas, will express your affection that can can be quite touching for them. Sometimes, you will get a reassuring answer back, “like a friend who sent me a message I wasn’t expecting. She told me, ‘What you are telling me makes me happy and sheds light on the things I was feeling but didn’t know how to express’,” Sophie explains. Unfortunately, it can also happen that a message full of good intentions falls on deaf ears or lacks finesse. To find the right words, “I pray before the Holy Sacrament,” confesses Steven, “and I ask the Holy Spirit to inspire me as I think of each person.”
4Be willing to share your feelings
Sincere greetings require that we take the risk of speaking our deepest feelings—a way of letting ourselves be truly seen and therefore loved. These feelings can be expressed in different registers: friendship, gratitude for moments of grace, empathy towards those who are going through a hard time, recovering a neglected relationship, a request for forgiveness … opportunities, in any case, to express and live in charity. They encourage an authentic encounter. For Anne-Charlotte, a mother who lives far from her friends, “it’s a way of sharing our lives, respecting where the other person is at, paying your respects to what they are going through.”
5Wishing someone truly the best
Wishing someone well is not the same as pretending that the year will be free of suffering or hardships. We can only wish to be able to accept everything that comes along with trust and the belief that the Lord is hoping we live it with Him. “For us Christians, it is perhaps an occasion to contemplate this new year as a new birth, like a child waiting and expecting,” says Anne-Charlotte. As Benedict XVI advised in his homily on October 19, 2006, on the occasion of his pastoral visit to Verona, we should express our wishes for the new year not in a triumphal manner, but in peace, “encouraged by the awareness that only Christ can satisfy the deepest hopes of every human heart and respond to the most disturbing questions about pain, injustice and evil, about death and the beyond.”
6Give testimony to the presence of God
The origins of the tradition go back beyond Antiquity, when the Romans released birds to the sky from the Capitol to take their good wishes to the farthest reaches of the Empire. On January 1 of each year, the liturgy of the Mass repeats God’s blessing on Aaron from more than 3,000 years ago, at the end of the Liturgy of the Hours: “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord look upon you with favor and extend his love to you; may the Lord show you his favor and grant you peace” (Num 6:24-26). In the original text, the threefold invocation of the name of God assures Israel of the presence of the God of the Covenant, the source of every blessing. When we personally bless someone, our words should express this maternal tenderness of God over us, which continues to remain with us until the end of time.
Prayer for a New Year