The editorial of the month

Father Sebastian White, o.p.

by Father Sebastian White, o.p.

Being more of a morning person, I’m generally asleep well before the clock strikes midnight. The 31st of December is rarely an exception and, even though it would require only a short walk, I have never been tempted in the slightest to cram my way into the crowd of freezing revelers in Times Square to watch the ball drop.

I plead guilty, then, to being a spoilsport when it comes to the typical New Year’s observances (in my defense, there’s hardly an element of surprise to the evening). Still, the beginning of a new calendar year is a significant occasion. After all, there’s a new number to remember when writing the date, new trips or family events to plan, new projects at work, new semesters to begin, new resolutions to be made. And who isn’t given to wonder at this moment: What will the next year contain? What will happen in the world, in my family? What blessings might God have in store for me? What challenges or sufferings might lie ahead?

Getting off on the right foot

The Church escorts us into the new year with a thrilling assurance: God has intervened in our world.

Brothers and sisters: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…so that we might receive adoption as sons. As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Gal 4:4-6).

Hearing those beautiful words at Mass the very first day of every year, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, reminds us we are situated within much more than just another one of earth’s predictable revolutions around the sun. God has not left us to settle with being merely created subjects who wonder about the meaning and purpose of our lives. You are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir (Gal 4:7). In truth, we become by grace what Jesus is by nature—the Child of God.

Yet, “he who has not Mary for his Mother,” Saint Louis de Montfort teaches, “has not God for his Father.” Why? Because, as the day’s collect says, it was only through Mary’s “fruitful virginity” that God bestowed on us “the grace of eternal salvation,” making us “worthy to receive the author of life.” And of course, both the shepherds and the Magi do not find Jesus alone, but with Mary.

“A small mistake in the beginning,” Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us, “is a big one in the end.” A few decimals off at the start of a math problem means the final calculation will be way off; start a journey just a few degrees off-kilter and, no matter how efficient the transport, a pilgrim ends up miles from the intended destination.

Launching the civil year, then, with this special Marian feast, sets us squarely on point. It’s the Church’s way of ensuring we remain under the watchful and protective gaze of Mary, our Mother, so that we make “devotion to this sweet Mother, not something superficial or intermittent, consisting in isolated practices with a special place and hour in our day, but constant and essential, reaching to the very depths of our heart and filling our whole being and all our life like a heavenly perfume” (Archbishop Luis Martínez).

A New Year’s Resolution

There is an old Catholic practice of offering a prayer at the beginning of each new day—the “Morning Offering.” I think of it as a preemptive strike against the devil and his temptations to fixate on only the pleasures or discouragements of our natural existence, a quick jab at the principalities and powers who would love nothing more than to distract us, even for the briefest moment, from our supernatural vocation: to for ever glorify and praise God for all we have heard and seen (cf. Lk 2:20).

But it’s not only a defensive measure. Since every prayer is in some way a conforming of our will to God’s will, the morning offering is a positive consecration of the day, in union with Mary, our most powerful intercessor, to the Lord’s providential purposes.

I think the morning offering could be adapted as the perfect year offering this January:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this year for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.

Come to think of it, praying just as the new year rolls in? That’s something I’m up for.