Catholic Herald staff
Editor’s note: Reporter Jenny Snarski has compiled a list of tips for spiritual renewal in the New Year.
“Our lives change when our habits change.”
Matthew Kelly’s well-known quote is easily applied to the topic of New Year’s resolutions. Kelly addresses the how in various books and talks, many which might be on bookshelves in homes across the diocese. Reading or listening to Matthew Kelly could very well be a first New Year’s resolution to put other resolutions in place.
James Clear, though not a common name in Catholic circles, also has much to offer on the topic of habit formation through the lens of behavioral science. He writes at jamesclear.com and has been published by TIME Magazine, Forbes and the New York Times, among others.
“The Three R’s of Habit Change” is an article in which Clear compiles knowledge learned from a Stanford professor, BJ Fogg, and Charles Duhigg, author of the best-selling audiobook, “The Power of Habit.”
He breaks down habit formation into three steps: reminder, routine, and reward.
The reminder sets the habit in motion. In order to trigger the action, Clear suggests attaching the reminder to something you already do on a regular basis. Then be sure the new habit is very simple and doable, so it is possible to create the routine. Lastly, a positive reward leads to the desire to repeat the habit-forming process.
For this paper’s readers, desiring to form some new habit of spiritual life or faith formation is likely not the difficulty. Below are ideas and suggestions following the Three R’s (reminder-routine-reward) outline in hopes of forming new habits and renewing the faith all year long. Choose one that best matches with the area of most growth needed in your personal or family life.
Meal preparation – Nourish your mind and soul as you prepare to nourish your body. Listen to Catholic radio (via internet or app if needed) or a podcast such as Fr. Andrew Ricci’s at studyprayserve.com (available as podcast or email subscription). Then use the content as a conversation starter for an enriching family meal time. If you eat alone, write a brief note to a friend sharing what touched you or journal for yourself to refer back to.
Even simpler: Commit to grace before meals.
Commute/routine travel – Fill this time with information and inspiration. Another opportunity for Catholic radio programming when available, or subscribe to Lighthouse Catholic Media CDs, offering topics for faith formation and spiritual growth. During travels, bring along a book to read and talk about. AveMariaPress.com has multiple family and parenting titles, or find a book on spirituality at your local/regional parish bookstore. Upon returning home, practice spontaneous prayer to thank God for what you learned and how it can be applied to improve your daily life or relationships.
Even simpler: Choose one day a week or one regular destination and spend 10 minutes of reflective prayer time.
Date night – Include spirituality in your marriage relationship and experience the fruits of deeper intimacy. As you wait for your meal, visit foryourmarriage.org for insight and information. Choose one small relationship tip to work on and share progress on the next date night, or set a reminder to follow up on it upon waking or before saying good night to your spouse.
Even simpler: Keep a couples journal and write a note of appreciation or affection monthly on the day of the month you were married.
Weekly chores/cleaning – Intentionally make time for personal conscience examination and/or intercessory prayer. Use an app such as Laudete or search online for a Catholic examination of conscience. Include it in your cleaning caddy or leave a copy on your workbench. Take one question to reflect on per room or task. Or cut out the list of people needing prayers from your church bulletin and offer your work for their needs. Reward yourself with the grace from the sacrament of Reconciliation (you’ve already prepared for it) or a deeper sense of God’s forgiveness during the Penitential Rite at Mass.
Even simpler: Post a sticky note to your bathroom mirror with an inspirational Bible verse to read while you brush your teeth.
Weekly Mass attendance – Extend the fruits of weekly Mass throughout the week. Attend a faith formation course or Bible study offered by your parish and reward yourself with the fellowship. Or find an online course to take in the comfort of your home – Ascension Press and mycatholicfaithdelivered.com are two of many resources. Or utilize resources such as the Sunday Mass Prep at holyheroes.com to make Mass participation more meaningful as a family.
Even simpler: Turn off the radio on the way to Mass and have each person in the vehicle share one prayer of petition they bring to the altar that week.