It’s January 28th. By now, you have considered a New Year’s resolution and likely tried a few. Maybe you have made good progress, or maybe you’re like me: I keep falling head first off of the New Year’s resolution wagon.
My new year’s resolution was to go to the gym five times a week. I have been to the gym exactly once. Why haven’t I followed through on my resolution, you ask?
I haven’t followed through because the resolution was completely arbitrary. Instead of being intentional about what I should do in 2020, I tossed around ideas, both noble and not-so-noble about what I could do: Keto diet! Weight Watchers. Volunteer for the PTA. Send more thank you notes. Leave love notes for my husband. Don’t skip my prayers in the morning. Organize my closet. Stop listening to naysayers. The list of good ideas went on.
Saying I would go to the gym more frequently was alluring in the moment, and it would definitely be good for my health, but I did not take any time to discern what I should change in my life this year in order to more closely live out the calling that God has given uniquely to me. A spur of the moment, arbitrary decision – even a decision to do something good – is not necessarily the right resolution.
I propose that we re-examine our New Year’s resolutions (whether we have kept them or not) and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on what we should resolve to do in 2020. For an example of the difference between doing good things, and doing the good thing that God asks of us, let’s look at St. Katharine Drexel.
St. Katharine Drexel is a saint whose life provides a guide for discerning resolutions for this year. Katharine was born into a wealthy Philadelphia family. She had the financial means and influence to do almost anything she wanted with her life. But she did not take action arbitrarily. People around her urged her to do all kinds of good things: to get married; to use her fortune for philanthropies; to become a cloistered nun; or even to live a single life in service to the poor.
However, Katharine’s spiritual director urged her to “festina lente” – make haste slowly. Festina lente – I find these words encouraging. Don’t jump into a decision – even a decision to do something good. Take time to choose the good to which God calls you.
Always drawn to serve the poor, in 1887, Katharine attended a private audience with Pope Leo XIII and urged him to send missionary priests to the United States to serve Native Americans. He responded, “Why not my child, yourself become a missionary.” This interaction helped to lead Katharine to her vocation. But Katharine made haste slowly. It was not until four years later, in 1891, that she became a missionary and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a religious order dedicated to working with Native Americans and African Americans.
I wonder what might have happened if Katharine had not taken the time to discern what the Holy Spirit was prompting her to do. She might have married and raised a family comfortably in Philadelphia. Or she may have been a great philanthropist. Admittedly, these would have been good pursuits. But because Katharine took time to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit, she was able to choose, among many good options, the one to which God uniquely called her.
Through discernment, Katharine found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and resolved to spend her life founding missions and schools throughout the United States. In all, her she and her sisters established 145 missions, 50 schools for African Americans, and 12 schools for Native Americans. Had Katharine made an arbitrary decision or resolution, she might not have become, as some describe, an “apostle to the poor.”
Meditating on Katharine Drexel clarifies my New Year’s resolution. Spoiler alert – it’s not going to the gym five days a week. My resolution is a prayer to festina lente – to make haste slowly this year – to avoid that instinct to accomplish all the things I could do, and instead, listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that reveal the things I should strive to accomplish.
2020 is still new, and as the adage goes, it takes 21 days to form a habit. St. Katharine Drexel perfected her vocation of missionary service through over 50 years of active ministry. I’m going to need more than 21 days and a lot more practice to festina lenta. Did you plunge head first into an unrealistic resolution? Have you already abandoned your resolution? Are you still looking for that perfect resolution? If so, perhaps you could make haste slowly with me.
Copyright 2020 Elizabeth Tomlin