Taking a mid-January rain-check on our New Year Resolutions

Bishop Fintan Monahan
Bishop Fintan Monahan

At this point in the middle of January it may be the case that our new year resolutions have receded into the mists of time or perhaps not. It is hard to believe it is nearly a month since we heralded in the new year of 2019 and January is nearly done. For some the month of January can be a difficult and challenging time in many ways after the excitement and nostalgia of the Christmas season. 

The month of January we know from ancient Roman myth is named after the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, one to look back on the past and the other to look forward to the future. In the month of January, in the starkness and bleakness of these long winter days it is a good opportunity to look back and plan for the future. 

In the month of January, in the starkness and bleakness of these long Winter days, it is a good opportunity to look back and plan for the future.

On new years day, some companions and I from the Clare Crusaders in Ennis were on the streets of the Claddagh, Galway and Salthill for the annual Resolution Run. A reporter from TG4 was doing a vox pop from participants as to what their new year resolutions were. The answers were interesting and as diverse as the number of people there. At this point it is good to take stock and see how we might be measuring up to what was planned just under a month ago. 

At the back of my mind on that day was a comment made by a young priest colleague who died suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago while still in his 30s. He was always full of life, joyful and certainly lived life to the full. A short time before he died he organised a cycle on The Greenway for some colleagues and when the post-cycle meal was over as he was departing his comment was “we should do this sort of thing more often”. On this new years day, I thought of his comment and the missed opportunities for enjoyment, making time to be with the people we love, doing things we like. I was full of resolve to do more of what we were doing on that glorious sunny day on the streets of Galway.

It is certainly true to say that for most of us we are creatures of habit. We get used to our routines and get into comfort zones with what is familiar and comfortable. However, it is good from time to time to stir things up, to look at things anew, to look at life afresh and to make and keep some resolutions. 

One of my favourite spiritual writers, John Henry Newman reminds us that “to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often”. Ongoing change and openess to things new and different are hallmarks of what it is to flourish as a human being.

What can we do anew, to make ourselves and the world a better place? A simple smile, a kind gesture, offering a prayer, lighting a candle in Church, a visit to an elderly neighbour, calling to someone in hospital, an encouraging text, going for a walk, developing a hobby, learning a new skill? The options are many. 

At this point the long and challenging month of January is almost through. Spring is just around the corner. The feasts of the Church in February give us food for thought to lift the spirits: The celebration of spring with the feast of St. Bridget, the celebration of light out of darkness with Candlemas on February 2 and the following day healing through faith with St. Blaize. 

The words of Antoine Ó Raifteirí from the early 1800s are as fresh and inspiring today as they were back then when he says: Anois teacht an Earraigh, beidh an lá ag dul chun síneadh. Is tar éis na féile Bríde ardóigh mé mo sheol. Every good wish and blessing to you as you lift your sails in hope of finding freshness and newness this spring and always.

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Fintan Monahan is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Killaloe, who previously served as a priest in the Tuam Diocese and worked as a teacher in St. Jarlath's College, Galway. He began studies for the priesthood at Maynooth College in 1984. He completed a B.Sc. (NUI) in 1987, a B.D. (Maynooth Pontifical University) in 1990, an S.T.L. in Biblical Theology in 1992 and an H.Dip. in Education (NUI Galway) in 1993. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1991 and served as a curate in Connemara, County Galway, before beginning a teaching and chaplaincy post at St. Jarlath's College, Tuam, Co. Galway. Whilst at St. Jarlath's College he taught science, religion and Irish in addition to coaching basketball and hurling. He also served as Secretary of the Tuam Diocese. The Holy See announced Fr. Monahan's appointment as Bishop of Killaloe in July 2016 and he was consecrated in Ennis Cathedral on 25 September 2016.

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