How to Build Spiritual Habits for the New Year

With the turning of the calendar to a new year, my thoughts always turn to how I am to better myself. The typical list of resolutions went through my head again this year – eat healthier, exercise more, budget better … work toward my own sainthood.  That’s when I put on the brakes, trying to squeeze out the origin of that thought. Work toward my own sainthood? Definitely not on the typical list, sounds a little self-serving, but when it comes down to it, what would be a greater failure in life than not becoming a saint? We make so many temporal resolutions. This year, let’s challenge ourselves to make a resolution that holds weight in eternity.

The typical resolutions are hard enough to keep, even though we can often see tangible results. How much harder will it be to maintain spiritual resolutions? Last fall, during one of our family formation nights, also known as Colloquium, at Regina Mater, Fr. Gerold Langsch shared the Schoenstatt practice of keeping a spiritual schedule.

Every month, you create a list of spiritual habits you want to build. Some may be done daily, others weekly or anywhere in between. These practices are written down on a tracking sheet, with one practice on each row and one column for each day of the month. Every evening, you check off or grade yourself on each spiritual practice.

We use checklists and set goals in many aspects of our lives, but applying the practice to our spiritual lives can help make spiritual resolutions a little more tangible and hold us accountable. The goal is to grow in virtue, deepen your prayer life, and journey toward sainthood. Here are a few ideas to get you started making your spiritual schedule.

  • Morning offering

    • There are many formal versions of the morning offering that can be used. At Regina Mater, our students pray the Schoenstatt Consecration Prayer every morning. Whether formal or informal, the intention of the prayer is to align our will to God’s will for the day. God has prepared each day for us as individuals from all eternity no matter the circumstances. Our response is to live the day as he wills.

  • Mental Prayer

    • Many different methods have been used for mental prayer: The RosaryLectio Divina, and Ignatian Meditation are a few. As the name suggests this is a prayer of the mind. We allow scripture to illuminate our experiences, and our experiences to illuminate scripture. Like the conversations we have with a friend or spouse where the ultimate goal is to build a loving relationship, the ultimate goal of mental prayer is to prepare our mind to allow our hearts to receive God’s love.

  • Growth in virtue

    • Our culture and media teach us that as we age, our faults should come to define us. (That’s my pessimistic take on the “be yourself” movement.) But God gives us the grace to build on our nature and grow in virtue rather than vice. Virtues are habits that must be formed through practice. Adding a concrete focus on a specific virtue in your Spiritual Schedule leads to forming these good habits.

  • Evening Examen

    • The examen is the other bookend to the day, a counterpart to the Morning Offering. It is a short examination of conscience at the end of the day while everything is still fresh in your mind. Where did I follow God’s will and where did I fail? It is also the perfect time to review your Spiritual Schedule for the day.

If you’re like me, deadlines and checklists are often the motivation to help me focus and move things forward. Give your spiritual life a jump-start this year by using the Spiritual Schedule. I hope you have a blessed and holy new year.