Monday, February 4, 2013

Renew Your Resolutions (Post-Cana Post)

As I stated in an earlier post, New Year's resolutions are a lot like Lenten resolutions -- well-intentioned, but hard to keep.  During Lent, my failure to keep my Lenten resolutions often tops my list of things to confess.  One priest, after hearing such a confession, responded in a thick Spanish accent: "It is a good resolution." Then, rolling his "r" dramatically for emphasis, he advised, "R-r-r-enew it!"  New Year's resolutions need renewal, too.

I made eight New Year's resolutions, one for each family member, which is rather a lot.  And they all need renewal.  So instead of updating you on all eight resolutions, this post will focus on the highest and lowest performers, so to speak.

Most progress

And the winner is ... teaching two-year-old Elisita how to talk!  Little Elisa's vocabulary at the beginning of 2013 was limited to single words mostly from the A section of the dictionary, like agua, abre [the Spanish word for open], and A-a-amen.  She has progressed all the way to two-word sentences --"Meanie Mama!" -- and even to simple sentences strung together -- "Marga crying.  Miguel did it."  It's an improvement from a linguistic standpoint, at least.  Now we just have to give her more positive topics of discussion.

Least Progress

Sad to say, I've made the least progress on personal prayer.  Years ago, I was quite rigorous about praying, reading a spiritually uplifting book, and even reciting the rosary nearly every day.  Then a new spiritual director recently advised me, "Don't worry so much about keeping to a strict prayer schedule.  What I want you to do is both very easy and very difficult.  Think of Our Lord every moment of the day."  When I expressed surprise, she said, "I know you can do this, because you are deeply in love with Our Lord."  The problem is, I'm not.  I very much want to be.  But my heart is just a few sizes too small.  Duty inspires me more than love; it always has.

My kids have even picked up on this.  One day in the middle of an argument, my seven-year-old daughter, Maria, shouted at me, "You don't really love us!  You just love us because you have to!"  Stunned, I began reciting by rote that love is not a feeling, it's a choice, a decision, a commitment.  All true.  But.  Do I really appear that way to my own children?  So cold?  Am I that cold to Our Lord?

I asked my spiritual director if she could order me to return to my previous prayer schedule, and check up on my progress every time we met.  She refused.  I explained that imposing a specific rule on me would probably produce great results.  She refused again.  The impetus for prayer must come from inside of me, she insisted.  Her approach resembled the advice of St. Francis de Sales, who said: “All that we do must be motivated by love and not force. We must love to obey rather than fear to disobey.” 

Where inside me can I find this kind of love?  I do not have the heart of saint, a heart like a burning furnace of charity on fire with love for God and others.  All I can do is pray that God will grant me one.  This is a great resolution.  I will renew it.

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