I want to take a moment to wish you a very Happy New Year! I pray that, even though we’re fewer than three days into 2018, you’re experiencing happiness. The new year always brings a sense of a fresh start to me and I love the feeling of anticipation and hope. The first days of a new year are like looking at newly-taped boxes: the months lay ahead like unopened gifts. It’s a very fun time, at least for myself.
This year will be my first full calendar year as a confirmed Catholic. Instead of sliding into 2018 without any passing thought, I wanted to create an intentional entrance. In many places on the Internet, especially Twitter, the idea circulated of a patron saint for one’s year. Many that I follow on the social networking site had picked a saint to pray with throughout the new year, using the Saint’s Name Generator (the site, after a simple click, will display a saint’s name and feast day: some known, some lesser known).
Granted, I am very wary of using any type of randomizer to determine God’s will in any situation. But, with the vast number of saints, I knew the generator would be of assistance. After clicking through, I was pleased that I was presented with Blessed Pier Giorgio Frasatti, often referred to as the Man of the Eight Beatitudes. In brief, Frasatti is noted for his piety and care for the needy. He died of an illness, possibly contracted from his work in poor neighborhoods, at the age of 24. Also, shortly before his death, he became a Tertiary Dominican. Interestingly enough, in the past months I have been interested in Dominican spirituality. In 2018 I look forward to learning more about the life and Catholic faith of Blessed Frasatti.
Finally, I have dedicated my year to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In a nutshell, the Sacred Heart devotion is focused upon the love that Jesus had, and still has, for humanity. EWTN describes the devotion this way:
“In honoring the Heart of Christ, our homage lingers on the Person of Jesus in the fullness of His love. This love of Christ for us was the moving force of all he did and suffered for us — in Nazareth, on the Cross, in giving Himself in the Blessed Sacrament, in His teaching and healing, in His praying and working. When we speak of the Sacred Heart, we mean Jesus showing us His Heart, Jesus all love for us and all lovable.”
A personal struggle I have is that of freely giving mercy and love. I’ll readily admit that I want to slide people into categories: the deserving and undeserving. Those who deserve my mercy, grace, and love are those who are living in a way I approve. These are “proper” people: those who are generally good and well-rounded, but sometimes just hit a tough spot. That’s where I can step in with my ministry of love. Everyone else not in my self-declared “deserving” category is a person to be tolerated, and in a best-case scenario, ignored.
While I write these words, I can physically feel the conviction of the hardness of my heart. While I’m subconsciously sorting people into “deserving” and “undeserving” categories, I often forget that Jesus did not become incarnate just for me and my internal list of approved people. Even worse, I forget that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner. We are all in the same group: undeserving. Despite all of this, Christ died for every soul that has (and will) live.
I chose to dedicate this year to the Sacred Heart because I want to be more like Christ. I want to be more open and loving of those around me, not just those I think are worthy of my love. Even though I believe myself to be good, I’m still a sinner. Christ chose to die in order to reconcile me to God. Through this fact, Christ gently puts me back in my place and reminds me that despite my best intentions, I am still in need of His grace, mercy, and divine love. Jesus is truly the Good Shepherd.
So, do you have a saint who you will walk and pray with this year? Do you have a special devotion to the Sacred Heart or a favorite prayer practice? If so, I’d love to hear about it. You can contact me here. I pray that your 2018 is full of the love of Christ. Allow Him to change you from the inside out. In the words of St. Pope John Paul II, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ!”
Happy New Year!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ. // Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati