Many years ago I had an individual tell me, "You are responsible for your own joy." That was a message I needed to hear because I had let my joy be stolen by someone else. Actually, I had freely given up my joy because of how I responded to a difficult situation and a person involved in the midst of the chaos. After that experience I made a commitment to myself to never let it happen again. I decided from that moment onward to respond in a more productive way to the challenges and difficulties of life. Once in a while, I still need to remind myself of that commitment. What better time than on New Year's Eve? We each make choices in how we respond to circumstances confronting us. As we move into a new year let's make a concentrated effort to respond in ways that help us grow in holiness.
My new readers in Council Bluffs will be unfamiliar with my annual New Year's Eve ritual. It will be a repeat for the more seasoned readers. (I can't believe I have been writing on these pages since 2013. Wow!) My idea of partying on New Year's Eve has diminished to making a few extra trips to the refrigerator from the couch while watching television. Okay, even that may be a stretch. I try to stay awake until 10:00 P.M. How about that?
In all seriousness, I try to make the entrance into a new year by being in prayer. I want to close out one year with a prayer of gratitude and usher in the new one by asking for God's bounteous blessings. My resolutions are few because I know the odds against sticking to them. However, I always have a few things in mind in regard to future growth from an intellectual, physical, and spiritual perspective. How about you?
First, let's take a little time to review of where you have been. Did you make any conscious changes last year to enhance your life? If so, what were they and how did those decisions impact your life?
"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."
~Viktor E. Frankl
"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the game."
"Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots."
"There are three constants in life... change, choice and principles."
"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
The journey on this earth is for a limited time. The reality of the shortness of this pilgrimage prompts me to take a serious look at how I spend my time. Is the way that I am living my life truly giving glory to God? How can I more fully cooperate with God's grace so that I am truly building up the Kingdom?
Now, let's look ahead. Catchy quotations may spark the imagination, but the discipline to do something is a moment by moment decision. Will 2020 be a year of personal growth for you?
Are you making any resolutions for the new year in regard to your spiritual journey?
Are you any closer to God at the end of 2019 than you were at the end of 2018? If so, how? What did you do differently to attain this growth? If you are not closer to God now, why not? What needs to change? It comes down to one simple question:
What will make 2020 a year of grace and holiness for you?
"Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed."
My New Year's Eve tradition is to stay home where it is warm, quiet, and peaceful. I will be following that same tradition this year. I especially like to end the year in a spirit of prayer.
First of all, I give adoration, thanks and praise to God for all the blessings in my life. I am grateful for the gift of family, friends, faith, and fellowship. Margaret and I have celebrated more than 31 years together in our journey of wedded life. We have two wonderful children and now our first grandchild as well. (I can already see that being a grandparent has less rules than being a parent.)
I am also grateful for the privilege of ministering as a deacon in the Church for more than 20 years now. Serving in my current role as executive director of Saint Albert Catholic Schools is a new and exciting opportunity to use what I have learned all these years and lead a magnificent school to new heights of excellence. I am blessed to be entrusted with such a wonderful mission. Part of my prayer this year will be to lift up all of the administration, faculty, staff, volunteers, students, parents, grandparents, alumni, friends and supporters of the school. This institution is a beacon of light in the community and is only able to keep shining brightly because of all those who support the mission. We are blessed indeed to have people committed to Catholic education in such a profound way.
It seems like there is never a shortage of people to pray for and concerns to be brought before the foot of the cross. Here are just a few of my petitions for this New Year’s Eve.
It has been another difficult year for the Church due to scandals and a lack of appropriate action in some cases. Subsequently, I pray for all of the Church leadership—the pope, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and all lay leaders striving to proclaim the Good News of Salvation in their respective roles. May they be filled with zeal, energy, hope, integrity, courage, perseverance, and a genuine love for God’s people.
I pray for all who have been harmed by Church leaders and personnel. May they find healing and hope.
I pray for all who bear the name of Christian, especially in those areas of the world where Christians are persecuted. May each of us live our lives in such a way that we truly bear witness to Jesus Christ.
I pray for all who do not know Jesus Christ—may they come to encounter the living God through the faithful witness of those who believe and follow in the footsteps of Christ.
I pray for all government leaders worldwide—may they govern with wisdom, prudence, and integrity as guided by the Holy Spirit. Specifically, I pray for our president and vice president, the current U.S. Supreme Court Justices and any to be appointed, the U.S. Senators and Representatives, Cabinet Officials, ambassadors, and all appointees who wield power and influence.
I pray for all local government officials as well—the governors, lieutenant governors, secretaries of state, treasurers, auditors, representatives, senators, judges, mayors, city administrators, council men and women, sheriffs, and all appointees who wield power and influence in any way. May each of them carry out their duties with diligence, prudence, wisdom, and integrity.
I pray for all families. May the Domestic Church of the home blossom and grow.
I pray for all who are struggling in any way.
I pray for those whose hearts are broken due to relationships falling apart. May the shattered hopes and dreams eventually be pieced back together in renewed spirit and vigor.
I pray for the incarcerated and all of their families--may they find strength, hope, healing, and conversion.
I pray for the homeless—may they find shelter in the immediate circumstances and eventually obtain a safe haven that is more permanent.
I pray for the unemployed and the underemployed—may all who seek gainful employment be successful in their endeavors.
I pray for all those suffering from physical illness—may they experience healing, comfort, and peace through the mercy of the Divine Physician.
I pray for all those suffering from mental illness and emotional issues—may they find solace and healing from the support and encouragement of loved ones. May they also experience beneficial help from the medical community and the healing touch of our Lord.
I pray for all who are depressed, especially those contemplating suicide—may they reach out and get the help they need to cope with the current circumstances and be led to healing and wholeness in the love of Jesus Christ through the love of people around them.
I pray for all those who are home-bound, in hospitals, nursing homes, and under the care of hospice—may they experience genuine love from those who care for their needs and find peace and contentment.
I pray for the terminally ill—may they find comfort in the love of family and friends and eternal hope in the embrace of Jesus Christ who is Lord forever and ever.
I pray for all those suffering from addictions. Through God's grace, the help of others, and a definitive purpose to be set free, may each of these individuals truly experience the freedom they desire.
I pray for all those family members who care for loved ones who are suffering—may God fill them with patience, fortitude, and strength.
I pray for all who are grieving the death of a loved one—may they find comfort and peace in the warm embrace of God’s love and the care and concern of other family members and friends.
I pray for the safety of all travelers.
I pray for our law enforcement personnel and other first responders—may they be protected at all times, but especially on this particular night which generally adds to the stress level of their positions. Give each of them keen insight and awareness, quick reflexes and solid judgments, and bring them safely back to their families at the end of their shift.
I pray for all who are coping with natural disasters.
I pray for our culture—may we turn back to God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.
I pray for all couples preparing for marriage.
I pray that we may be aware of the sacred dignity and value of each human life from conception through natural death. May we build a true culture of life in our society.
I pray for all children who will be born today—may they come to know a world which chooses life over death and light over darkness.
I pray for all little children who await the birth of a new sister or brother—may the joyful expectation that shows in their eyes inspire their parents to hope and conviction.
I pray for obstetrical doctors and nurses and all who nurture the life of children in the womb--may God bless them for their faith, compassion, and love.
I pray for all who have been scarred by the tragedy of abortion—may they experience repentance, healing, and peace.
I pray for all people who work in the media—may God move them to a conversion of heart which reverences human life and upholds the dignity of human sexuality.
I pray for those who march for life in Washington, D.C. and all across the nation each January—may their voices be heard and the lives of children be saved.
I pray for all those trapped in human trafficking—may they be set free from the bondage they are in and society effectively address the needs of the vulnerable among us.
I pray for the refugees and all persecuted Christians—may they find safety and security from those who want to do them harm.
I pray for all who have died this past year. May they rest in God's eternal dwelling.
I pray for peace throughout the world.
Lord, please help me to grow in wisdom and in favor with You in 2020. Give me Your grace and Your blessing that I may root out sin from my life and join my will more completely to Your Divine Will. Dear Lord, make me holy as you are holy.
I close with this personal message to each of you.
If you have specific prayer requests that you would like included in my list of intentions, please mention them in the comment section below. If it is a private request that you don't want everyone to see, feel free to e-mail it to me at:
I trust in the Sacred Scriptures which tell us the power of two or more praying together for a specific intention. (See Matthew 18:19) I look forward to joining my prayer with yours.
Have a wonderful end to the year 2019. May 2020 bring you an abundance of God's grace, mercy, and healing!