MISSION MATTERS: How Many New Year's Resolutions are Enough?
By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry
Some say our efforts to make and keep resolutions periodically during the year--Advent, New Year's and Lent, for example--reflect our personal attempts at conversion, change, trying to regain control of aspects of our lives we may feel we've given away. We may try to quit smoking or cursing or eating too much chocolate and on and on and on. A goal, if not the goal, in these instances, is to change our exterior. We'll be thinner or we'll not smell of smoke, we won't be scowling...But that really sets our sights too low, allowing us, after a short or longer while, to revert to the acts we tried to control in the first place.
That's all fine, of course, and perhaps more appropriate to New Year's resolutions--if we keep them for any length of time--but it seems the real point of resolutions, regardless of the time of year, in our context here at Saint Louis U, is that if/when we change our interior, the exterior will follow. We need a conversion of heart, a resolution to change our hearts, our lives. A mature faith calls us to more strenuous opportunities for conversion than simply quitting smoking or eating less chocolate.
The real questions center around areas of our lives and the control we need to regain. What positive, forward-looking attitudes do I need to adopt? Some say that anything we do for 28 days becomes a habit, part of our lives. What a great opportunity we have, in the freshness of this new year, to develop new habits in our lives. Are externals such as quitting smoking or eating less or any of those things important? Of course. But are they all we can do? Are they all we need to do? Of course not.
This is not really a matter of "should" or "ought," but more a matter of reflective self-appraisal, of trying to see ourselves more clearly and deeply than we typically see ourselves. This may be an attempt at sincerely trying to see ourselves as God sees us...but sincerity influences longevity of our resolutions.
Our Jesuit General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, recently observed that ..."Jesuit education should change us and our students...we educators are in a process of change...there is no real deep encounter that doesn't alter us..." Resolutions are opportunities for us--educators all, regardless of our specific position-- through a deep encounter with ourselves and those people and situations around us, to change interior and exterior aspects of our lives. This is serious business, urgent business, important business. This is business that reaches far beyond us, but it has to start with us.
So, as we enter this fresh new year, we can take a fresh new look at our lives--personally and corporately--adjust the important things, regain control and convert our hearts. St. Ignatius tells us that The man who sets about making others better is wasting his time, unless he begins with himself.
Wise words to the wise...
Happy New Year...welcome back to Saint Louis University.