The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Benedict's New Year's resolutions

Up until nearly 10 years ago, when I began the journey that eventually led me to the monastery, I typically rang in the New Year drinking heavily, and then spending the first day of the new year nursing a hangover while watching college football bowl games. Thankfully, that is not part of my routine any longer. New Year’s Eve and Day around here are rather reflective, joyous since we are still celebrating Christmas, and subdued compared to my former way of life.

Most of today for me will be spent performing necessary chores and continuing reading and research on my master’s thesis. As I do most days, I will likely take a walk. Yesterday, I visited via Skype with immediate family members gathered in my hometown of Findlay, Ohio, to celebrate Christmas. Later this evening, I will do some lighter reading for pleasure or indulge one of my more frivolous pursuits – playing the computer game Baseball Mogul. I’m addicted, I’ll admit. A complete waste of time. But it’s fun!

As a community, the monks here will celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God this evening, followed by dinner and recreation together. Today is the seventh anniversary of the election of Archabbot Justin DuVall, and the occasion is marked with an abbot’s conference immediately following Compline. Most of us will likely be in bed by 9 p.m. I might possibly stretch it to 10 p.m. Tomorrow, New Year’s Day, we will celebrate the solemnity. A few monks may peek at some of the bowl games. Most likely, I will spend the day reading and writing and visiting with confreres. In the afternoon, I may enjoy a walk, and perhaps a nap.

Mostly, though, I find New Year’s Eve and Day conducive to prayer and reflection—for the year that is ending, and the one we are beginning. One of my favorite meditations for such times is St. Benedict’s Prayer of Firm Purpose of Amendment, which is based on Chapter 4 of the Rule, the “Tools for Good Works.” It is a perfect set of New Year’s resolutions for anyone, monk or not. It goes like this:
O Lord, I place myself in your hands and dedicate myself to you. I pledge myself to do your will in all things: To love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength.

Not to kill. Not to steal. Not to covet. Not to bear false witness. To honor all persons. Not to do to another what I would not wish done to myself. To chastise the body. Not to seek after pleasures.

To love fasting. To relieve the poor. To clothe the naked. To visit the sick. To bury the dead. To help in trouble. To console the sorrowing. To hold myself aloof from worldly ways. To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

Not to give way to anger. Not to foster a desire for revenge. Not to entertain deceit in the heart. Not to make a false peace. Not to forsake charity. Not to swear, lest I swear falsely. To speak the truth with heart and tongue.
Not to return evil for evil. To do no injury: yea, even to bear patiently any injury done to me. To love my enemies. Not to curse those who curse me, but rather to bless them. To bear persecution for justice’s sake.
Not to be proud. Not to be given to intoxicating drink. Not to be an over-eater. Not to be lazy. Not to be slothful. Not to be a murmurer. Not to be a detractor.
To put my trust in God. To refer the good I see in myself to God. To refer any evil in myself to myself.

To fear the day of judgment. To be in dread of hell. To desire eternal life with spiritual longing. To keep death before my eyes daily.

To keep constant watch over my actions. To remember that God sees me everywhere. To call upon Christ for defense against evil thoughts that arise in my heart. To guard my tongue against wicked speech. To avoid much speaking. To avoid idle talk. To read only what is good to read. To look at only what is good to see.

To pray often. To ask forgiveness daily for my sins, and to seek ways to amend my life. To obey my superiors in all things rightful.

Not to desire to be thought holy, but to seek holiness. To fulfill the commandments of God by good works.

To love chastity. To hate no one. Not to be jealous or envious of anyone. Not to love strife. Not to love pride. To honor the aged.

To pray for my enemies. To make peace after a quarrel, before the setting of the sun.

Never to despair of your mercy, O God of Mercy.


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