How To Deepen Our Faith This Year
There are many ways in which we can deepen our faith, and Fr Runaine Radine suggests some.
The new civil year began on the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord, the day on which the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.
The Gospel reading for the Mass on this day transported us to the manger at Bethlehem (Lk 2:16-21). Already on the fourth Sunday of Advent we reflected on the silent acceptance and obedience to God’s will of St Joseph, and we saw this again in the story of the Flight into Egypt on the feast of the Holy Family.
Perhaps we could adopt the inner spiritual attitude of Our Lady and St Joseph as we enter into a new year with all the prayers and resolutions we wish to make, coming from our hopes, wishes and dreams.
After the shepherds found Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus, lying in a manger, they repeated what they had been told about him.
Having received the testimony of these lowly ones, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2: 19).
Commenting on this passage, Pope Benedict XVI, in a New Year’s Day homily given at St Peter’s basilica in 2006, said: “The Evangelist Luke describes her as the silent Virgin who listens constantly to the eternal Word, who lives in the Word of God. Mary treasures in her heart the words that come from God and, piecing them together as in a mosaic, learns to understand them.
“Let us too, at her school, learn to become attentive and docile disciples of the Lord. With her motherly help, let us commit ourselves to working enthusiastically in the ‘workshop’ of peace, following Christ, the Prince of Peace.
“After the example of the Blessed Virgin, may we let ourselves be guided always and only by Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).
One of the best resolutions we can make for any day, any new year, and certainly for this new decade, is to deepen our faith and live our vocation as disciples of Christ, baptised and sent.
Our Catholic traditions and customs can make this somewhat easier for us. As a start, every month of the year is dedicated to a particular devotion. The month of January, for instance, is in honour of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
This provides a spiritual framework to guide us through the year.
If one desires to deepen one’s understanding of the Scriptures this year, the daily readings for Mass is a good place to start.
How about punctuating the day with popular prayers like the morning offering to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; a prayer to Holy Spirit before beginning the day’s work?
There is the Angelus, which can be said in the morning, at noon and in the evening.
A helpful way to end the day is by doing an Examination of Conscience.
Admittedly, spending long periods in prayer is difficult, but making the effort to stick to a particular routine or spending more frequent shorter moments in prayer throughout the day can be fruitful.
For all of this to happen effectively, we need to create and appreciate silence and solitude.
Is the Sunday Mass still the highlight of our week as Catholics? Is weekday Mass only for retirees? How often do we make use of the sacrament of confession?
The sacraments, especially the Eucharist and penance, are channels of healing and peace, and we can participate in them frequently. This can bring us the happiness for which we long.
Families can grow together in the faith this year by simply, yet devoutly, praying together before and after meals or saying the Rosary as a family.
Each member of the family could revisit the story of their particular patron saint and, when the feast day comes around, present the life and meaning of the saint to the whole family, in a spiritual or social setting. In so doing, families can be moved to carry out some work of justice and mercy.
Above all, like Mary and Joseph, let us keep Christ at the centre of our lives this new year, witnessing to the Lord in word and deed, wherever we find ourselves, relying always on God’s grace.