Since one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more authentic, I admit that the fun title for this post came from a little framed art piece I spotted in the aisles of JoAnn Fabrics. While I would prefer to confess my inspiration springs from all that Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare I’ve been poring over lately (NOT!) or the endless
hours minutes spent in daily prayer and reflection… I’m certain God continues to seek this undeserving soul’s attention. And He will undoubtedly work with what He has. Sometimes that’s the clearance section of a big-box fabric store.
The pithy little saying painted on a rustic white-washed backdrop gave me a chuckle, not simply because they expected some schmuck to shell out $10 for a farmhouse chic clearance item, but because it struck a chord. I tend towards a contradictory mindset at this time of year since I have never been much of an exercise enthusiast. I’ve paid for gym memberships that seemed reasonably priced, but when the cost is tallied against the number of times frequented—$260 divided by three?—not such a screaming deal after all. Naturally, my sensibilities bristle against the constant barrage of media messaging: Commit to this life-altering exercise routine! Eat according to that breakthrough diet! Apply our winning strategy and corporate domination will be yours! Who says? I laughed because the annual ceremonial calendar change signals a worldly lesson on self-improvement—and we are all expected to sit up and take note. Yes, O sage 21st-century pop culture guru, speak the truth that we may all absorb it and comply. As if rock-hard abs, perfectly exfoliated skin, and a lucrative promotion are the only noble goals out there. Deep down in my soul I know that’s not true. Besides, wasn’t it St. Athanasius who said extra fries are always an inherent good? Or it could’ve been Jim Gaffigan…
This New Year’s Eve, our family attended the anticipatory Mass for the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary. The priest remarked that everyone puts an emphasis on making New Year’s resolutions to get physically fit. Yet, we Christians should know we are much more than flesh and blood. We are also mind, spirit, and soul. He wisely advised that we do something for those other aspects of our being. That doesn’t mean we neglect our bodies. Taking care of the tabernacle that houses His spirit is important. But our lives should not be ordered to that single goal which is so fleeting. We must branch out and seek what stirs our minds and souls. We must be directed to wholeness as humans. Last time I checked, having a hot bod was not a requirement for holiness.
Our sincere, thoughtful priest challenged us to make a better New Year’s resolution. He suggested we turn to Mary who we rightly celebrate as the mother of our Lord. She will always point us to Christ. Some years ago, before my faith had been rekindled, I was invited to participate in a mom’s rosary group, but I had an actual aversion to the rosary. “It’s soooooo boring!” Those mumbling old biddies in the back of the church who frankly scared the crap out of me were always grasping beads. The last time I had prayed the rosary I was in the sixth grade. Did I even know how? I also had a deep desire to connect with other moms who were losing their minds nursing babies and chasing after toddlers, so I reluctantly showed up. I was completely caught by surprise, but I shouldn’t have been. Maternal love is dynamic, ardent, and overcomes insurmountable obstacles. The Blessed Mother, in her own quiet and steadfast way, lovingly led me by a string of beads into the arms of her Son. Through Mary, I finally met Jesus. No turning back. And that should be the primary goal as we forge ahead. To work to change our hearts and our perspectives in order to continually meet Christ. That we might meet Him and journey with Him each hour of each day. My conversion years ago has led to many more conversions since—thanks be to God! I pray that He may provide the grace for many many more.
Maybe St. Athanasius didn’t actually take a stand on the extra fries vs. exercise debate, but he did spend a lifetime defending and proving Jesus is God. Not coincidentally, this same second-century saint, and doctor of the church is also credited with writing a beautiful prayer to Mary which I plan to memorize over the coming months of the New Year.
Prayer to Mary
It becomes you to be mindful of us,
as you stand near Him who granted you all graces,
for you are the Mother of God and our Queen.
Help us for the sake of the King,
the Lord God and Master who was born of you.
For this reason,
you are called full of grace.
Remember us, most holy Virgin,
and bestow on us gifts
from the riches of your graces,
Virgin full of graces.
I’m confident Antanatius would gladly get behind a resolution that involved more reflection and devotion to the Mother of God. A grace-filled 2020 to all! It’s up to you how much exercise and or extra fries it includes. I’m opting for the latter. It’ll be Lent before we know it.
*photo credit: photos.icons8.com