The dawn of a new year gives one a feeling of hopeful new beginnings — new spiritual exercises, healthier habits and more consistent prayer practices. A master of developing guidelines for the “devout life,” St. Francis de Sales says, “Begin again every day. There is no better way to complete the spiritual life than to be ever beginning it over again.” As you’re prayerfully considering what new practices and habits to “begin again” with, consider some of the best advice from Unleash the Gospel missionary disciples to inspire or jumpstart your discernment.
Pray the Angelus with your family
“Our days naturally yearn for form…thankfully, the Church, in her wisdom, knows that we crave this form and provides us with many devotions around which we can structure our day. God created us to desire rhythms and routines — after all, he rightly created our earth with the natural rhythms of days, nights and seasons.
My family started the devotion of praying the Angelus together in the morning, at lunchtime and at dinnertime. It is simple enough that even my smallest children learned the words and rhythms of the prayer, and I can truly tell you that it provided our family with tremendous graces.” — Adele Paz Collins, mother of seven, freelance writer, and a graduate of Harvard Divinity School.
Read more of Adele’s ideas for families to “keep the faith”
Date your spouse
“So we try to keep it simple… Once a month, we go on a date. We pray together before bed even if it’s just a quick ‘Hail Mary.’ We try to pick a show and watch it only with one another, even if it means waiting to turn it on till the other one gets home (a sacrifice, to be sure)…we learned our top priority always needed to be one another, because only then would we actually be able to pour into our children the way we needed.
We married each other because we actually like each other. We’re friends. We enjoy one another’s company. We can laugh together, unpack big ideas together, debate with one another, disagree, come to reasonable conclusions. And we’re the best mom and dad we can be when we take the time to tend to and grow the friendship that anchors our marriage.” — Katie Prejean McGrady, Catholic speaker, author and podcaster
Read more reflections from Katie and her husband Tommy
Weekly Holy Hour
“I have a weekly holy hour written into my calendar. My husband knows about it; my kids know about it; my babysitter knows about it; my co-workers know about it. It is not a questionable date on my calendar, it is a certain one, where I get help to be able to make it there…The one weekly holy hour is my saving grace from which all else flows. ” — Jenna Guizar, founder of a Catholic women’s ministry
Early wake-up for prayer
“Being a loving and present mother starts with filling my own cup first (think of the airplane mask metaphor). A life-altering practice for me has been waking up 30 minutes before my daughter in order to sit in silence and pray. I begin with a meditation from Divine Intimacy. I close my eyes and ask God to enter into that space, to heal my heart and be present with me in whatever hurt I’m facing and to grant me the patience to handle the day’s tasks ahead.” — Alexa Hyman
Read more of the ways Alexa makes space for God
Break up the work day with afternoon prayer
“In the afternoon, I take five minutes to sit in silence, usually in front of my makeshift sanctuary (which includes a Bible, a small candles and a crucifix on a small table) and read an excerpt or two from a devotional and take a moment to pray to God for the strength to get through the day, the courage to be a missionary disciple and the wisdom to positively touch people who are searching for Jesus!” — Curtis Simpson Jr., Christian Service Coordinator at Corpus Christi Parish
Take ten for evening prayer with the family
“Every evening in our living room my wife and I (along with our four sons) take time to pray together as a family. We do this in two phases. The first phase is personal prayer time for the boys. We set a timer for 10 minutes and the boys (and mom and dad) can choose to read something from the Bible or the “Lives of the Saints” or, if they are in a creative mood, use a Bible coloring book or journal. After the 10 minutes are over, we pray night prayer together from the Liturgy of the Hours. Each of the boys has a part to play as we recite the prayer of the Church. This two-fold approach has helped establish prayer as a priority for each of the boys, while also helping them learn how to do it. In fact, it’s often in the midst of these 10 minutes that some of the best conversations about faith arise.” —Curtis Simpson Jr., Christian Service Coordinator at Corpus Christi Parish
Make your day a prayer
“You can glorify God in everything you do. That means your whole day can be part of one long prayer, whether you’re at work, out with friends or at the gym. Invite God into the things you do every day. You can say a quick prayer as soon as you wake up that you accomplish all God wants you to do that day. And no matter what you do for work, before you begin, ask God to bless your labor. If we simply invite God into our lives every day and are conscious of his presence, our time will become his and not ours. We all have different gifts that were given to us by God, and no matter how big or small they seem, they all contribute to the building of the kingdom.” — Dominick Tecson, Director of Execution at Embark
Read more about how Dominick lives “life on God’s time.”
Read the Gospel before Mass
“It has never been easier to access the Word of God. You can get daily and Sunday readings from any number of apps, podcasts, print media and websites (The U.S. Bishops’ website, usccb.org, is always a great place to start). Read the Sunday Gospel ahead for the following Sunday early in the week. Name a certain grace you hope to receive as you read the word. Avoid the urge to gloss over a reading that is familiar. God always has something more to say to us each time. The Gospel is the living, dynamic word — not dead, static letters on a page. From year to year as the Scriptures are read, the word does not change, but the word changes us, if only we allow it to!” — Father Brian Meldrum, priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit studying sacred Scripture at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C..
Read more about the “Gift of the Gospel”
A daily prayer recipient
“Set an alarm each morning to remind yourself which special child will receive your prayers and sacrifices for them that day. Every morning, pray for him or her with simple words, bits of Scripture, a song or decades of the rosary woven throughout the day. As you pray for your child on his given day, tell them, ‘We never stop giving thanks for you, we love you and are lifting you in prayer today,’ reminding them of God’s personal love and attention as his beloved son or daughter.” — Kathleen McNulty Wilson, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit
Make a prayer space at home
“If you walk through our home, you’ll see many pieces of religious art. Having something we can see and even touch helps engage us with our faith. Transform a table with the simple addition of a beautiful tablecloth. Adding your family’s favorite books about the faith will draw everyone in and make spiritual reading easy to choose. Make prayer accessible by hanging your rosaries on hooks or putting them out in a bowl. Find a simple print or statue of Our Lady that you love to hang in your home. Let the sight of it remind you to stop and chat with her throughout your day.
Let your children carve out their own prayer spaces. In our home, each child has a little cubby corner in our library that they call their own. They have each chosen an image of Jesus or Mary along with a few faith-based books and holy cards. When I have my morning prayer time, they are most often found in their own prayer spaces looking at books and chatting with Jesus and Mary.” — Colleen Pressprich, Mother of four, Catholic author
Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
“Someone in my life recently taught me this practice as another way to love and pray for people and situations in a hidden way. At the point of the Chaplet when you pray, ‘Have mercy on us and on the whole world,’ you instead offer a different petition each time. I am all about ways I can pray for and love people I may never meet or encounter. It helps remind me there is a much bigger world outside my tiny human realm that needs to experience the grace and compassion of Jesus Christ. We may not be able to tangibly change every situation around the world, but we can always pray. This is one way you and I can do that. Already this practice is helping me more thoughtfully pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, while reminding me of people and situations God wants on my radar.” — Patty Breen works in lay ministry and writes for Blessed is She and Verily
Read the rest of Patty’s ideas for loving “first and always.”
Take a walk with your spouse
“Going for walks together, just the two of us, has given us an almost daily opportunity to get out of the house and talk about the big and small things in life. It’s on those walks when we are able to offer each other support and work through the logistics of family life. Often our biggest decisions have to wait until we can find the time to get out and walk together.” — Paul Propson, CEO of Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan
Read more marital tips from Paul and his wife Jennifer
Schedule priorities for work/life balance
“I am a recovering workaholic…At one point in my life, I was juggling so many jobs and other commitments that I was only getting three to four hours of sleep a night. This was not selfless, it was selfish. I needed to be needed, and this ego-driven need led to numerous burnouts, negative health effects, subpar work and ironically viewing the value of others by what they do, what they have and how they can benefit me on my insatiable quest to prove that I’m worth it.
It took all of that to help me release my grip on the idea that I just wasn’t good enough. Slowly but surely, I began to believe that no amount of work or achievement could add to the masterpiece God had already created in me.
In approaching balance between work and life now, I try not to prioritize my schedule, but to schedule my priorities. There are a handful of practices and rituals that keep me operating at my best, and I work hard to prioritize them. Some of these include prayer, journaling, goal setting, exercise, making time for relationships and intentionally nonproductive play.” — Joe Kim, Founder of PAL Campaign
Learn more about how Joe lives his vocation“to love and be loved.”
Make Mass a priority this year
“Regardless of the busyness of schedules, our kids know attending Mass is non-negotiable. They may not always loudly and proudly participate or listen with 100% attentiveness to each word of the homily, but they are there. We lean heavily on God and trust that he can work in the hearts and minds of even the very sleep-deprived, bored, and sometimes grumpy teen who is at Mass maybe/mostly because this is expected of her. As our oldest daughters have left for college, we gently “incentivize” Mass attendance, by offering to treat them and any of their friends to a meal after Mass if they send us a selfie of them outside the Church.” — Mary Murray, High School Religion teacher
Read more about Mary and her husband, Tom’s home full of Gen-Z.
Find some silence
“Everyone’s life situation is different, but too often we don’t look or work hard enough to find the time to be alone with God in prayer. For my time of silent prayer, does it mean I need to wake up earlier? Do I need to give up part of my lunch break or forgo something else? It can be tempting to think that I need to fit my spiritual life into the other parts of my life, giving my relationship with God the leftovers or the crumbs of my life. If I do not make prayer a priority, I know it will slip away, and the other demands of my life will push it out.” — Father Stephen Pullis, Director of Graduate Pastoral Formation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Read more about spiritual decluttering.