Since I began seeking to live liturgically—that is, to observe the Church’s calendar and traditions in daily life—I have found that even small acts have introduced a new richness and joy into the rhythm of my days. There is a simple pleasure in anticipating upcoming feast days and other liturgical occasions and observing them in ways either light-hearted or prayerful. In recent years, I have celebrated the Feast of the Archangels (September 29) by preparing angel hair pasta to share with a dear friend, and I baked a honey pound cake for my co-workers on the Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist (August 29), the patron of my parish, who subsisted on locusts and wild honey in the desert (see Matthew 3:4). Marian feasts are always an occasion to dress in blue and wear a Miraculous Medal. The pleasure of brightening an otherwise monotonous week with such celebrations is accompanied, moreover, with the joy that comes from developing a deeper appreciation for the richness of Catholic tradition and entering more fully into the universality of the Church. Becoming more attuned to the feasts and seasons of the liturgical year has helped me to feel more united with Catholics across the globe and throughout the centuries.
As New Year’s resolutions abound, it’s important to reflect not only on what resolutions we might make, but also why we are making these resolutions. We just spent several weeks preparing for the coming of Christ. While the joy of Christmas is now upon us, we still live in a period of already/not yet. We still await Christ’s return in glory, so in a way, we are always called to prepare for his advent. Maybe this year, in addition to resolutions to exercise, eat well, be more fiscally responsible, etc., we might consider a resolution to cultivate a spirit of preparation all year long so that our hearts are ready to welcome Christ when he comes again.
There are a lot of reasons why I don’t like the prescription to be “the best version of yourself,” but maybe the strongest one is that it not only ends with “yourself” but actually begins with “yourself.” It is as if there is a preset catalogue of “yourself-s” and the point is to choose the best one. Or, instead, it means something like maximizing your potential, especially spiritually. Either way, that’s the wrong image, and images shape our imaginations.