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FAITH AND CULTURE | A new year of mindfulness

Every season brings unique challenges and opportunities. As humans preoccupied with many things, it's useful to calendar significant social events, historical moments and a variety of other spiritual and religious movements that are part of faith lives. The rhythm of our experiences has us moving physically, as well as in constant spiritual and psychological motion, seeking answers to our deepest questions and anticipating the future.

Compounding our active and energetic lifestyles is the fact that we're beneficiaries to a social culture that supports forward movement. It's good to anticipate and plan well, and we find encouragement in being proactive. Even in the most mundane things, it's challenging to be attentive and patient. For example, we seldom enjoy waiting in lines, and we fret about travel changes that don't honor our immediate expectations. In short, very little in our current culture prepares us for attentiveness and being in the moment.

Yet, there's something to be said for a time and season of attentiveness and mindfulness. Deep inside the human spirit lies the need to be receptive and open to the beauty and goodness that emerges when we aren't in control. At different times, we've all experienced the benefits of being surprised by the love and care of friends and family members. What often makes these moments of receptivity and trust meaningful for us is precisely knowing that we had very little to do with them.

I suspect that part of our recent rhythm and movements of Advent, Christmas, the New Year and Epiphany in our faith calendars are meant to remind us of this receptive capacity in our human spirit. The fact that we set aside weeks to practice the Advent waiting and see Christmas lasting more than a day signals how important it is to step back a bit, and find the time to reflect more intentionally on God's grace in our lives. Indeed, while the world would have us preoccupied solely with New Year's goals and aspirations, our faith beckons us to slow down and simply quiet our spirit, mind and body so as to pray and discern more intimately to and with our Lord.

In this quiet space, we begin to open our hearts to the goodness before us. And, like Mary our mother, express our joyful exaltation: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked with favor on the lowliness of His servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name" (Luke 1:46-49).

This mindfulness of God's marvelous work in our lives prepares us to be attentive and disposes us to see and embrace what really matters. The noise and distractions that will confront us again this New Year will rarely provide the needed inner peace and spiritual insights. Like Mary in her prayer, we have to shift our attention beyond the clatter of the moment to the things that magnify the good, and bring us closer to the Lord.

May this attentiveness and care with the Lord, also, grant us the courage to come closer to those around us, especially the poor, needy and hungry (Luke 1: 51-54). And may our goal to see and embrace one another more intentionally increase our faith and hope. Happy New Year!

Orozco is executive director of intercultural and interreligious affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

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