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Jan 01, 2022 760 Ellen Hogarty, USA
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A Word for the New Year

Here’s a simple technique to stay focused on God’s plan for your life

A few years ago, at a New Year’s Day Mass celebrating the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, the priest encouraged us to ask the Blessed Mother for a “word” for the coming year. Maybe this would be a special grace that she wanted to give us, or a re-focusing word for our mission in life, or a virtue that she wanted to help us grow in. The choice of the word was up to her—our role was to pray and receive that word, and then let her unpack its meaning for us throughout the coming year. The priest paused and gave us all some time to pray. I asked Our Lady for the ‘word’ she had for me and the word “humility” came clearly to mind. As that year unfolded, I learned a lot from Mary about humility, and I know she helped me to grow in this virtue that she lived so beautifully in her life. 

The following year, the word I received was “contentment.” In the subsequent months, Mary helped me learn what St. Paul talks about in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.” Asking the Blessed Mother for this annual theme word has proved a fruitful practice for me in my spiritual life. So at the start of each New Year, I pray and ask Our Lady to give me her special “word” for the year ahead. 

For this past year of 2021, my word has been “intercession.” In retrospect, I can see how appropriate this theme was for me as I am in a season of being the primary caregiver for my elderly mother. My life now revolves around caring for her, which is a privilege and honor, but it has also required me to shrink my outside involvement with people and ministries that I used to be a part of. Sometimes it can feel isolating and lonely. As my mom ages, we go to more doctor’s appointments, physical therapy sessions, wellness checkups, etc. and her emotional needs require delicate handling and reassurances. At the end of the day, I don’t have much reserve or inner bandwidth left.

But in quiet moments during car rides, or in examination rooms waiting on the doctors, I can intercede for people. I let the Lord bring to mind those He wants me to pray for — friends, family members, ministry leaders in our non-profit organization, the people we serve, etc. I pray for each person as they float through my thoughts. I feel the Lord’s tender love for them, His desire to bless and heal and help them. It comforts my heart to tap into the wellsprings of love and mercy that the Good Shepherd has for His sheep. 

And somehow, I feel more connected to people as I cooperate with Mary in this mission that she brought into focus by giving me my “word” for this year. Instead of feeling isolated or on the fringe, a deep sense of our inner connectedness in the Body of Christ fills my heart. As we near the close of this year and the beginning of 2022, I encourage you to adopt this practice that the priest recommended. Take some time in quiet prayer and ask Our Lady to give you her “word” for you for this New Year. Receive it, and then ask her to help you understand what she means by it, how it will help you better live out God’s plan for your life, and how you can bless other people by embracing it. You may find that this simple prayer and practice will bring deep fruitfulness to your spiritual life, just as I have.

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Ellen Hogarty

Ellen Hogarty is a spiritual director, writer and full-time missionary with the Lord’s Ranch Community in New Mexico. She blogs at cacklescorner.com.

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