January 9, 2009

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Addressing the care of our souls in the New Year

Patti LambThe week between Christmas and New Year’s is traditionally the time when we see a slew of self-improvement ads, whether advertisers peddle gym memberships, teeth whitening strips or serums to prevent hair loss.

Within a week, the message the world promotes changes dramatically. One week it is, “Peace on earth; goodwill to men.” The next week becomes less heartwarming and more brutal: “What really matters in the New Year is how you look.”

It is important to take care of our bodies. I don’t think God wants us to neglect them. But when we consider New Year’s resolutions, I think our human tendency is to focus on the body, on our physical selves. We think it is about what everyone can see.

What if this year we started from the inside out? Instead of resolutions that put the body first, we could make ones that put our souls (and the souls of others) first. I imagine that it would make for a better year to come.

There are innumerable ways to do this. Here are just a few suggestions for some soul care.

• Say night prayers together as a family, if only once a week. In addition to gathering as a family with petitions and praise, night prayers can also be a way to keep the family in the loop on things that are happening. “Please bless Rachel as she takes her chemistry test tomorrow. And we ask you to help Uncle Joe, who is having surgery on Thursday.”

• Give blessings to your family in the morning. Commit each child to God’s care that day. It doesn’t have to be anything formal. Maybe a kiss on the forehead and a simple “God be with you today.” That is something I think our children keep in their minds when going about the day’s activities. It sticks with them during that big test or the important ball game after school.

• Acknowledge God. Give credit where it is due. If you are at a restaurant, bow your heads and give thanks to God as a family before a meal. I think you will make more of an impact than you know on those around you.

Another suggestion is to place a crucifix in your home as a reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

And catch yourself giving credit to God at the end of a sentence in which you are relaying good news: “My friend’s prognosis has improved. God is good.” Recognize that we don’t do everything on our own. God provides.

• At least once a year, write or call a friend or family member with whom you have fallen out of touch. I recall recently seeing many of the friends with whom I used to work. “I wish we were meeting under happier circumstances,” I told my friends at the funeral. They agreed. Everyone is busy. But I think it is good for the soul to reconnect with kindred spirits, even if it is not as often as we would like.

I wish we could address the care of our souls with the same level of effort that we address the care of our bodies, especially in the New Year.

If we were more in tune with our Creator, then maybe the maladies of our bodies wouldn’t seem as drastic.

Perhaps we would find that our aches, pains and physical imperfections pale in comparison with matters of the wellness and nourishment of our souls.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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