I have many new year's resolutions. I love a fresh start, a clean slate, a reason to start anew. It's one of the many reasons I love butterflies.
My birthday is close to the end of the year, and on my birthday, I made some "new year's resolutions" for this year of my life. For the calendar year, however, I have decided to come up with just a theme for the 2014 year, something simple. The resolutions (for my birthday) and the resolution (for the year) are very much related.
For 2014, my resolution is to love.
My favorite saint is St. Therese of Lisieux. She's not my confirmation saint, and I can't even tell you how I discovered her. She discovered me. She came into my life through a means I really don't even really recall, and the more I learned, the more I realized that her "Little Way" was for me. It made sense. It was possible. It was simple. My vocation is to love. Now that I know more about her, I realize she's a popular saint that many (Catholics and non-Catholics, Christians and non-Christians alike) revere. However, when I discovered her for myself, I felt like it was a special thing that must have been obscure. It seemed so new to me. Yes, I'd heard that "God is love," but Therese is able to help me act on that truth, receive that truth, and share that truth, not just know it intellectually. It turns out that Mother Teresa named herself after Therese of Lisieux. She's a favorite saint of Pope Francis. Gretchen Rubin talked about her in The Happiness Project as being her "spiritual master." Elizabeth Esther blogged about her doing "30 Days of the Little Way." It seems that everyone had heard of this person except for me. Little Therese was hidden in plain sight...until she wasn't.
In my excitement and discovery, I suppose I have talked about Therese a lot. As a result, I have received three books and a DVD about her as gifts this year. I have purchased my own small library of her works. I can't get enough of it. Coming from my background of a performance-based, conditional love, I really need to hear messages about the mercy and love of God. It's the only God I can believe in. I was confirmed on Divine Mercy Sunday, and that's the God I believe in. The Little Way emphasizes God's overwhelming love for us and that we can only do small things for God, but we can do them with great love. Therese teaches that by consecrating our hearts and actions to the love of God, no matter how insignificant those actions seem, we are able to follow God's commandments and change the world. Now that I know about Therese's teachings, it's very evident in the life of Mother Teresa, for example. Here are some quotes from Mother Teresa that reflect the simple spirituality of love:
"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."
"Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."
"Love begins at home. It is not how much we do, but how much love we put into that action."
Similarly, Pope Francis seems to grasp that small actions done in love can have a huge impact. He kisses the face of the deformed man ostracized by society, he allows little children to disrupt a service without reprimand, he gives a mentally challenged friend a ride on the pope-mobile. There are many influences on Pope Francis (St. Francis definitely being one), but the Little Way of love is very evident to me.
It blew me away to see Mother Teresa's bedroom when watching the Catholicism series by Father Robert Barron. It was a tiny room. A cubicle, really. It contained a bed, a small desk, very few decorations or furnishings, but one of the few things in the room was a picture of St. Therese with the words "my vocation is to love." To think that little Mother Teresa changed the world with her life, and lived that life out of such humble conditions was so amazing and inspiring. It was the Little Way in action.
(You can see St. Therese on the left of this picture of Mother Teresa's room.)
So, for the new year, I have decided to follow love. I am going to use I Corinthians 13 as my basis and be intentional about how I transform my life through love. It might seem overly sentimental or cheesy to dedicate a year to love, but I think it's actually quite powerful and profound. It's also the year I will be getting married. The love I speak about is not a romantic love, but a universal love for all humankind. I'm looking forward to finding ways of applying this love to myself also.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres...Love never fails." - from I Corinthians
I am going to focus on one aspect of love each month of the year as follows. I will blog about my experiment and experience.
January - love is patient
February - love is kind
March - love does not envy
April - love does not boast
May - love is not proud
June - love does not dishonor others
July - love is not self-seeking
August - love is not easily angered
September - love keeps no record of wrongs
October - love does not delight in evil
November - love rejoices with the truth
December - love always protects, love always trusts, love always hopes, love always perseveres