On New Year’s Eve, our local newspaper ran a feature entitled “50 Things to Do in South Carolina before You Die.” Not surprisingly, it listed attending Spoleto, going to the sweet tea festival in Summerville, floating down the Congaree, and taking in NASCAR races in Darlington. The underlying premise was that adventure and novelty make for a happy life.
Meanwhile, Amazon and Barnes & Noble presented two books from globally recognized spiritual leaders as holiday fare. Both suggest that fulfillment and personal satisfaction come from far deeper resources. One is a collection of excerpts from homilies, interviews, and encyclicals by Pope Francis entitled “Happiness in This Life.” The other is a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu called “The Book of Joy.” They counsel that serenity amid suffering and global turmoil comes from within. None of these books’ insights are news to spiritual seekers. We Christians discover early on that happiness doesn’t arise from a jam-packed travelogue. Those of us who have faced life-threatening events know that faith provides us with resources that urge us to get up in the morning and do so happily.
So, instead of developing a list of 50 things to do before the Beatific Vision, I thought it might be worthwhile to make a short list that doesn’t require mileage, tickets to events, or a life jacket. Here are some suggestions for 2018 (and thereafter), set down in the spirit of the books cited above — 10 Life-giving Things to Do:
- Get to know the Three Persons of the Trinity personally. There are some tried and true routes to this: Bible reading, faithful attendance at Mass, quiet prayer, Eucharistic adoration, and lifelong learning about the faith.
- Keep the commitments that matter most — baptismal promises and the vows or promises of marriage, ordination, and religious consecration. No one lives his or her vocation perfectly, but we can live effectively if we continue to review what matters most in life and renew what we have pledged our lives to.
- Love generously and widen the circle. Every day we have an opportunity to answer that question “Who is my neighbor?” in the spirit of Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan.
- Offer each day to God, right at the start. A simple morning offering in a child’s sing-song will do: Lord, I offer you today/All I think and do and say.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Our Gullah friends teach us a great daily refrain, which they say in all sorts of circumstances: I’m blessed!
- Review the day as it ends — and decide to do better tomorrow.
- Balance work, sleep, social time and solitude. It’s necessary for mental and spiritual health.
- Smile and laugh.
- Make a retreat—whether it’s a day of recollection, a parish mission, a weekend, or something more extensive.
- Continue to hope and dream. A great Amen ends Sacred Scripture. It promises that the best is yet to come: Beatitude.
Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM, is the Secretary for Education and Faith Formation at the Diocese of Charleston. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.