A new year is a chance for a new start. We’ve already been inundated with messages to make those new year resolutions. Charges such as “conquer your habits!” or “make those resolutions stick!” might feel overwhelming — that is, if we’re not grounded in our relationship with God.
Pope Francis said that a new year is a time to remember that all people are brothers and sisters. It’s also a time to nurture the amazement that God became human to save all people. In a homily Jan. 1 on the feast of Mary, Mother of God, Pope Francis also urged people to begin the new year holding on to the “amazement” they should have experienced at Christmas — amazement that God was born a baby, “held in the arms of a woman who feeds her creator.”
This year, we challenge our readers to focus their new year’s resolutions on practicing virtues — the four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, courage and justice; and the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
But don’t feel overwhelmed at the idea of tackling all of those. Instead, start small. Choose a virtue (or two) that fit well with your particular vocation in life. In the “Introduction to the Devout Life,” St. Francis de Sales wrote that “in practicing any virtue, it is well to choose that which is most according to our duty, rather than most according to our taste. … Every calling stands in special need of some special virtue; those required of a prelate, a prince, or a soldier, are quite different; so are those beseeming a wife or a widow, and although all should possess every virtue, yet all are not called upon to exercise them equally, but each should cultivate chiefly those which are important to the manner of life to which he is called.”
Also consider exchanging a bad habit for a good habit — or in the context of faith, exchanging vice for virtue. St. Francis de Sales noted: “When we are beset by any particular vice, it is well as far as possible to make the opposite virtue our special aim, and turn everything to that account; so doing, we shall overcome our enemy, and meanwhile make progress in all virtue. Thus, if I am beset with pride or anger, I must above all else strive to cultivate humility and gentleness, and I must turn all my religious exercises — prayer, sacraments, prudence, constancy, moderation — to the same object.”
Through the gift of free will and the help of God’s grace, virtuous habits are possible. This takes time and effort, so taking small steps is important. Achieving virtue takes practice, and it is important to remember that when we commit to challenging ourselves. It’s OK if we stumble and fall — it’s an opportunity to stand up and start again.
So in 2019, we invite you to continue the amazement of God becoming human in order to save all of mankind. In the meantime, while we wait for Him to come again, we can practice virtue among all of God’s children in an effort to make this earth a better place in which to live.