By PJ Williams
New Year’s resolutions provide a chance to start fresh – a new year filled with endless possibilities. But if you still haven’t finalized any major changes for 2014, consider these Ignatian New Year’s resolutions that will help this year be the best year yet.
Everyone seems to stress about everything. Work, friends, family, money and, of course, the lack of those things. Countless studies show that meditation has positive effects on one’s mood and stress levels. The Examen is a daily Ignatian prayer that provides the chance to reflect on one’s life to see what might be changed, while also discovering the ways God’s reveals his presence to us. Learn more about it here. You can even go as far as to pray an Examen for where you saw God in the past year.
Get out of Debt and Spend Less
This is a common resolution that people try to stick to: spend less so that you can have more saved up. And it’s one that people often have a hard time sticking to because they do it for the wrong reason. In the essay Downward Mobility Fr. Dean Brackley, SJ, questions the ways that modern society measures success by level of wealth. “When regarded as the road to happiness,even to salvation, upward mobility turns into an idol,” he wrote. Fr. Brackley presents Downward Mobility as a way to remember what’s important in life. Instead of focusing on the status and wealth that you don’t have, focus on your friends, family, a loving God and the people who are impoverished and need help. This doesn’t mean that you should sell everything you own and live on the street but more of a call to live simply. Instead of being deprived fancy cars, titles and TVs, you’ll be liberated from having those things distract you and come between you, God and others. Click here to read Fr. Brackely’s Downward Mobility.
Get Involved and Volunteer
In addition to their work as educators, Jesuits are known for their social justice work. Pope Francis has been very vocal on his stance on helping the poor, and Jesuit affiliated volunteer organizations are abundant. The Jesuit Volunteer Corps is a prime choice for those who are willing to spend a year or two in service to those in the United States or across the world. For those over 50 there is the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, which connects volunteers to those in need. If getting out of your comfort zone seems a bit too daunting this year, the national Jesuit Conference also orchestrates advocacy campaigns for different social issues. There is still a lot of help needed in writing letters and working towards a greater social change.
Although it can be difficult to find time to read, Jesuit resources are everywhere. Between books on spirituality, humor, astronomy and even paleontology it can be hard to find a place to start. America magazine regularly publishes a list of books for their monthly book club including many by Jesuit authors. Or maybe you only have enough time to read a short article on your smartphone, in which case we recommend checking out the Jesuit Post. Additionally, JESUITS magazine is the official magazine of the Maryland, New England and New York provinces. Get your copy by clicking here.
Travel to New Places
When asked why they don’t travel more, people typically point to time and money as the main barriers. Retreat centers offer affordable weekend retreats that allow people to retreat from the stresses in life and focus on what’s important. St. Ignatius is the patron saint of retreats because he saw the importance of taking time to evaluate one’s relationship with God and other people. There are retreat houses all over the United States offering overnight stays, including Loyola House of Retreats, in Morristown, NJ, and Eastern Point Retreat House, in Gloucester, Mass. Not only is this a great way to get out and see new places but this is also a way to reflect and explore new concepts spiritually.