I hope everyone is enjoying the Feast of Mary, Mother of God! Or, as non-Catholics call it, “New Calendar in the Kitchen Day.”
The new year is an arbitrary kind of holiday. It doesn’t commemorate anything other than someone deciding that the next orbit of the planet around the sun will be recorded from today. There’s no grand concept to celebrate beyond that.
That’s not a bad thing, though. We need holidays to blow off steam, take a break, keep things from getting in a rut, and various other common phrases meaning “change things up.” New Year’s is one of those days.
It’s also a good time to stop and reflect on what we’ve done, what has been accomplished, and how things might be made better in the future.
Now, I’ve often said that a New Year’s resolution is a bit stupid. Not that we shouldn’t be making resolutions to do better, but that we shouldn’t be doing this only once a year. How many people last until the end of January? How many will last a week? How many will last until the end of this week?
It can especially be silly for a Catholic; after all, we make a resolution every time we go to Mass. We all admit to being sinful, to having committed sins, and ask for each other to pray for us as we look for the strength to do better next time. Confining such things to one day each year seems ridiculous to me; life is going to kick you in the teeth, and we should all be in the habit of reaffirming things every day rather than just waiting until January rolls around again.
However, last year, someone brought a different argument to my attention:
“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”
As with many of his arguments, G. K. Chesterton’s words here forced me to reconsider some of my prejudice, and recognize that it’s more of a reaction to the casual exercise of the custom than the nature of said custom. Instead of saying “Why should we wait a year to make a resolution?” I should have been asking “Why not have a big moment each year where we share our resolutions?” Instead of saying that the Catholic tradition was better and leaving it like that, I should have been realizing that the thing that bugged me about the usual practice was the one appreciable difference between it and the common Catholic prayer I mentioned.
That difference is asking others to help you.
How often do we stand around criticizing those who failed, rather than trying to figure out how we should help them? Why should I be sitting around, secure in my own righteousness, when I should be thinking of helping someone else be right?
So I think that the only thing really wrong with the tradition of New Year’s resolutions is that when someone mentions theirs we should ask “Is there any way I can help?”
And it was only after that when I realized there was a bit of symmetry with this practice and the Catholic feast that shares the date. Mary, the Mother of God, put others before herself. We should all follow her example, to the best of our ability. Even if we can’t be as purehearted as her — and I doubt I ever will be — we can use her as a mirror to examine our own actions, and our own devotion to helping others. When Mary made her resolution, she kept it completely, despite every struggle she faced, despite what it would cost her. She was there to the end, never wavering, and always thinking of others.
And with that in mind, we here at The Catholic Geeks begin another arbitrary year with a non-arbitrary commitment to continue being Catholic, to continue being geeky, and to continue write about both for you, our audience. And we ask you to pray for us, so that we can keep doing it better than we ever have.