Spiritual resolutions can strengthen our bond with Christ

The calendar has flipped over to 2019, and with that comes the automatic question: What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Many of us are likely to trot out the tried and true ones: Lose weight. Eat better. Save more money. Exercise more. 

There are, however, resolutions that can improve our spiritual life. A new year is a perfect time to begin practices that can strengthen relationships with Christ.

The first resolution that will help make this a better year? Pray more and pray better. 

“If you want to connect with God in a deeper way, the number one way is prayer,” said Father Raymond Carlo, pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Lexington. “Take a little time out of your day, tune everything out and spend time heart to heart with the Lord.” 

Pastors suggest that people consciously set a specific time aside, even if the only quiet time available is the daily commute. For those who already have a prayer routine, Father Carlo suggests adding additional time to it. Close out all distractions. Try new prayers or ways to connect with God, such as praying parts of the Liturgy of the Hours each day or attending Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament once or twice a week. 

Here are some other ideas for spiritual resolutions. They include ways to nurture our spirit and relationships with other people:

* Make spiritual readings part of the day. Along with regular prayers, take time each day to read Scripture or use a daily devotional book. Set aside time in the morning or the evening to read, pray and meditate on those readings. 

* Attend Mass more than once a week. Try to prioritize schedules in order to attend daily Mass at some point during the week. If work schedules won’t allow it weekly, try to attend at least once a month. 

* Get to know a saint. Choose a saint whose life story speaks to you. Someone who overcame relatable challenges, or who is a patron of something connected to you personally. We can learn about the lives of saints and what helped them become holy, and try to emulate those qualities. 

* Make a gratitude list. Even when things are hectic or unpleasant, set a goal to write down three things we are grateful to God for each day. This will help us see that His blessings are all around us. 

* Engage with people. Make eye contact, smile at others, focus less on social media and more on real, in-person conversations. Really listen to the people we encounter each day. Jesus was engaged with the people he encountered, and we can all help make a better world if we try to follow His example. 

* Perform random acts of kindness. There are so many ways we can be nice to others. Pay for an elderly person’s order at a coffee shop, help someone carry a heavy package, or simply offer a compliment to someone. By reaching out in love to those around us, we will be more conscious of how God’s love helps us each day. 

*  Contact a certified spiritual director. Throughout the state, men and women are available to help guide and deepen our relationship with Christ. Visit the Office of Formation for Ministry to find a director near you, at https://charlestondiocese.org/formation-for-ministry/spiritual-directors-in-south-carolina/