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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: January 25, 2020
By Ben Riley
I hate new year’s resolutions. I feel like I am just setting myself up for failure. Every year I come up with some grand ideas to improve my life, and every year inevitably, I eventually give it up.
This new year, however, I have decided to take a different tack. Instead of vowing to go to the gym more or eating less ice cream, I want to make my new year’s resolutions spiritually-based; maybe then I will actually stick to it. It just so happens that my yearly self-evaluation and growth plan were due right before the new year.
The evaluation consists of a long list of questions grouped into the four dimensions of priestly formation: spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human. I am expected to answer three of the questions in each section in paragraph format, two of which must relate to a positive growth I have undergone in the seminary and one that focuses on room for improvement. Later in the semester, I will rework the “room for improvement” section, and it will become my growth plan for the next year.
It is not always easy to be honest with yourself and this process can sometimes be a struggle, but over the past seven years of writing self-evaluations and growth plans for the seminary, I have come to enjoy this time of reflection and appreciate its value.
To begin, I have to ask myself truthful questions and give myself truthful answers as to how I have grown and how I have struggled in my formation at St. Meinrad Seminary over the past year. It is not always easy to be honest with yourself and this process can sometimes be a struggle, but over the past seven years of writing self-evaluations and growth plans for the seminary, I have come to enjoy this time of reflection and appreciate its value.
It has been a beneficial practice to sit down every year and take a hard look at my growth and failings. My journey of faith, like most of ours, does not follow a straight line; it wanders and meanders between prayer and temptation, study and sloth, faith and doubt. This new year, instead of vowing to work out more or eat healthier, I am going to make my growth plan my new year’s resolution.
The most important point on my list of resolutions is to dedicate myself more seriously to personal prayer, especially as I approach holy orders. Seminarians do pray a lot, but I’m not talking about our communal praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, our daily Mass or my night prayers; I am talking about my personal prayer and time with our Lord, a holy hour.
I try to have a holy hour every day, and early in the semester, I am fairly dedicated to it, but after classes ramp up and papers start coming due, my time in the chapel becomes less and less. I usually schedule my holy hour for the afternoon, but the problem is that I always become caught up in some assignment or responsibility as the day goes on.
To remedy this, I resolve to pray my holy hour in the morning before my classes. To do this, I will need some other resolutions. I stay up too late. I am usually working on papers or assignments, but honestly, I watch a lot of YouTube too. If I am going to get up early and pray, I will need to get better about budgeting the time for my assignments, so I can get to bed and don’t have to work on them early in the morning.
I think that if I can keep dedicated to my first two resolutions of a study schedule and getting to bed on time, I will be able to maintain a morning holy hour. Like my dad says, “You can’t find time, you have to make time.” I suppose my takeaway is, I still hate new year’s resolutions, but growth plans are OK.
Ben Riley, a member of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, is a diocesan seminarian, attending St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. This article was originally published in Arkansas Catholic. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.