As Daughters of St. Paul, we celebrate New Year’s Eve and Day differently from most people! On New Year’s Eve, we begin retreat with an hour of adoration, and each sister is free to continue her adoration till midnight. The following morning, we continue retreat and conclude it at noon on New Year’s Day. (It’s an awesome way to start the New Year: if you don’t believe me, you should try it!)
We sisters “pray out” the old year in a spirit of thanksgiving and reparation, and we “pray in” the new year in a spirit of trust and offering. This year, my prayer has been focused on the fast-developing digital and social media–both that our own sisters’ efforts will bear fruit in people’s lives, and also that the many applications of this new technology will be used in ways that build up the civilization of love.
For Daughters of St. Paul, New Year’s Eve is a very special anniversary for us: 113 years ago on December 31, 1900, a young seminarian, James Alberione, went to midnight Mass and then prayed for four hours before the Eucharist. This is how he described it fifty years later (he humbly speaks of himself in the third person):
Particular enlightenment came from the Host and a greater understanding of that invitation of Jesus, “come to me, all of you” (Mt. 11:28). He seemed to fathom the heart of the great Pope, the Church’s call [for help], and the priest’s true mission… He felt deeply obliged to prepare himself to do something for the Lord and for the women and men of the new century with whom he would spend his life.
This special Eucharistic prayer inspired Blessed James Alberione to begin the Pauline Family over a decade later, in 1914. Although each year we usher in the new year with our own special Eucharistic prayer and retreat, 2014 is extra-special: the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Pauline Family. While I am sure that Blessed James Alberione is delighted to see the progress of the Church and specifically the Daughters of St. Paul in delving into the new media (with our apps, digital e-books, and social media pages), I am also sure that he urges us on, so that we can touch always more people with the hope of the Gospel.
Any retreat, but especially a Eucharistic retreat that begins the New Year, gives us the opportunity to step back from our daily preoccupations and listen to what’s going on in our hearts below the surface. What are our deepest concerns? What do we truly, deeply long for? Many times, God places these yearnings in the depths of our hearts to guide us closer to himself and to fulfilling our personal vocation. Each new year, we have the opportunity to focus our lives on what is truly important: our relationships with God, with others, and with ourselves. Our New Year resolutions arise from the insights we gain. I’m still praying with the insights from my retreat, coming up with my 2014 resolutions. If you’re making New Year’s resolutions this year, I hope that you can focus at least one resolution on your relationship with God.
This New Year is God’s gift to us. Perhaps making a mini-retreat—whether 10 minutes or several hours—can help us to “pray in” the New Year, inviting Jesus to orient our new year in the direction he wants for us.
Wondering what to read on a mini-retreat for the new year?
These may help: