Don’t Give up on Your New Year's Resolutions Yet

This Spe Salvi reflection can help you to find daily hope to keep your resolutions. Your struggles can actually be very meaningful to your own salvation and the salvation of others. Read Ana’s story to find out how.
by Brother John Antonio, LC | Source:
I met Ana last week at one of those mom & pop’s where you need to walk through the kitchen to find the rest room. She took a break from the grill to sit down and chat. Ana is a mother in her late fifties who has all but lost hope for her only son, Andy. He used to be a clean cut, regular altar server. Today, his hair looks like it were self-cut without a mirror at hand, he has more rings on his face than he does on his fingers, and instead of leaving the house in the morning to serve Mass he often comes home in the earlier morning all but sober. He is occasionally escorted by a cop, who gives a stern warning to Ana and her husband regarding their son’s nightly activities.

For Ana hope is difficult because she just doesn’t know what will become of Andy – in this life or the next. Sometimes when we’re not sure of an outcome we console ourselves by thinking in “the worst case scenario”; but in the case of Andy – or perhaps one of our own loved ones – it’s not too promising. The unknown isn’t all bad though. In Spe Salvi Benedict XVI speaks of it as, “This unknown ‘thing’ is the true “hope” which drives us, and at the same time the fact that it is unknown is the cause of all forms of despair and also of all efforts.” In other words, what you don’t know may or may not hurt you, but it depends on you. People who seek to hope feast off the unknown while those who don’t, find it hard to digest.

I gave Ana what seemed to me a simple suggestion: “Do you think you could make a vow to Our Lord that you will wake up each day with just a small drop of hope for your son?”

She hesitated for a few moments and I began to see that it isn’t as simple as it seems. After much deliberation she said with tears in her eyes, “It would be difficult, very difficult. I don’t make promises any more; because in the past I’ve broken too many promises – but I’ll try.”

Each New Year we begin is 365 days of the unknown. It’s an opportunity to recover the sense of hope and the courage to make a promise. However, in Ana’s case, as for the great majority of us, it’s not an overnight virtue. God can choose to infuse us with the theological gift of hope, but the habit of hoping takes time to form. For this one, we need a daily workout program.

Once again, Spe Salvi practical wisdom to share, “There used to be a form of devotion – perhaps less practised today but quite widespread not long ago – that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs”, thereby giving them a meaning.” Offering up these “cold weather” inconveniences gives them meaning. Living them with a spiritual intention helps us to look beyond the irritation of the here and now to believe that some unknown fruit will come of them.

It’s enough to say to yourself and God, “Instead of becoming frustrated or upset, I’m offering this for…” and then let God do the rest. What God actually does with that sacrifice you may never find out until you can ask him face to face, but that’s all part of hope. Through the 5:00pm traffic, dirty socks on the kitchen floor, or fall out with friends we train ourselves to find hope in the unknown amidst the pain of the known.

Perhaps it’s providential that Spe Salvi should come out in December of ‘07 to start us off on a path of hope for ‘08. If your New Year means a ball falling in Times Square perhaps it won’t be so new once the ball has fallen; but if it means renewing hope for some person or situation in life, you’ll find a new meaning in each day of it.

As I left the restaurant I told Ana that I’d be praying for her. Her response led me to believe that for her the unknown of Andy wasn’t completely out of heaven’s hands. “Don’t pray for me,” she said, “pray for my son.”

Brother John Antonio, of the Legionaries of Christ, studies for the priesthood in Rome.

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