Since New Year’s Day I have thought, like many people, that I should make a new list of resolutions, goals, objectives, or whatever you want to call them, to begin 2015 on the right foot. All the usual ideas have come to mind: lose weight, get more exercise, get organized, spend more quality time with my family, become a better husband, father and friend, and various other things, all of which are supposed to bring happiness in life.
Then I remembered the feelings of defeat from last year, and years prior, as I failed to meet the expectations of my resolutions, and I began to feel depressed.
Yesterday as I was mulling over ways to do better, my mind wandered and I began thinking about how I’ve been celebrating the days of Christmas, or, more accurately, how I haven’t been celebrating them as I had resolved to do during Advent. I counted the days since Christmas Day and realized we were at Day 9. Nine Ladies Dancing as the song goes.
I recollected reading about the mystery and lore surrounding the carol, The 12 Days of Christmas. Googling the song to learn more, I found that it was written sometime during the mid-1500s to mid-1800s, when Roman Catholics in England were forbidden to practice their faith, as a catechism song for young Catholics; and that each daily “gift” was secret code for a religious belief. For example, “My True Love” is God, a “Partridge in a Pear Tree” is Jesus Christ, and the “Four Calling Birds” are the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
And then there are the “Nine Ladies Dancing” which are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit according to St. Paul, (Galatians 5:22-23): Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control (the Catholic Catechism, CCC 1832, adds Suffering, Modesty and Chastity to make the traditional 12 fruits).
It occurred to me that the truly successful person is one who exhibits the fullness of these nine fruits through resolutely practicing them in his or her life. And, it seemed that focusing on them ought to enable one to indirectly realize success with just about any of the other typical, and usually secular, resolutions with which we struggle every year.
For example, by practicing Self-Control, I will eat healthier and exercise regularly, thus losing those extra pounds which have accumulated around my middle.
Living life daily with more Love, Joy, Kindness, Generosity, and Gentleness will improve the moments I have with my family and friends.
Having Patience and Self-Control will help me become more organized.
Focusing on Peace, Love, Patience and Kindness will help me to become a better servant-leader at work with my employees.
And Faithfulness, along with actions employing the other eight fruits, will help me become a better disciple of Christ.
Today, as I’ve thought more about these, I think I’ll add the four cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance, and the remaining theological virtue of Hope (Faith and Love are already covered), to the nine fruits upon which to build my personal and detailed list of “resolutions” for this year.
I believe if I focus on being more loving and charitable; on opening my heart to the joy I receive from God’s gifts to me; seeking peace and justice for all; being prudent and patient, kinder, gentler, and more generous; having a deeper faith based on the hope of eternal life, and trust in God; improving my self-control through moderation and self-denial; and developing strength and courage in times of temptation, I will look back at the year 2015 and consider it a success.
Won’t you join me and consider writing your New Year’s resolutions this year by focusing on the processes, the fruits, rather than the end goals?
“Heavenly Father, thank you for the instructions you provided to us through your Son, Jesus, that show us the way to You. I pray that You will help me navigate and follow the Light. And, I pray that You will lead me back when, through my own faults, I get side-tracked or drift off course. Amen.”
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