By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
As we come into a new year, many of us are contemplating how we’ll live in this new year. Many of us have made — or are still making — new year’s resolutions. As we all contemplate what our resolutions will be, let’s remember to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in making our resolutions, and then to help us keep them. Make your new resolutions a point of prayer.
As you think of your resolutions, I want to strongly encourage you to also create a spiritual resolution or two — how will your spiritual life be different this year? I particularly want to encourage all parents to include a spiritual resolution for their families this year. Parents, you must remember that you are the spiritual leaders of your families, and you must take spiritual ownership and act as spiritual leaders. Parents have several important leadership roles in the family, but one of the most neglected is that of a spiritual leader. In fact, the parents are the first spiritual leaders of the family; priests, pastors and other church ministers are only supporting casts. Unfortunately, many parents think it’s the reverse!
In the family, the responsibility of spiritual leadership should not be that of the father alone or the mother alone. Do not abandon the spiritual leadership of the family to one partner; it should be the responsibility of both parents. This may appear to be a daunting responsibility for those who don’t consider themselves “spiritual enough,” but make no mistake about it — it’s an important and necessary responsibility for every head of household. You don’t have to go to school or take lessons in spirituality to be the spiritual leader of your family; you only need to have a disposition that allows the Holy Spirit to guide you.
In my book “A Spiritual Plan for Families,” I recommend that every family create a family spiritual plan. This is a task that must be spearheaded by the family spiritual leader — in this case, the parent. And as we move into this new year, I suggest to all family spiritual leaders that they make resolutions in their homes that include spiritual plans that lay out how they will exercise spiritual leadership and be true spiritual leaders of their families.
I recommend to all family spiritual leaders that, as part of your new year’s resolutions, you consider planning how you can carry out spiritual activities in your home this year. Be specific — outline what these spiritual activities will be. These activities may include praying together, reading the scriptures together, and allowing for family sharing of reflections. Other spiritual resolutions you might consider making are to decide not to sweep bad behavior under the carpet, to be more present to your family, to watch your language and word choices around your children, to choose friends carefully, to be respectful of your partner, and to speak words of blessing and encouragement to your children.
Here are some other spiritual resolutions you may want to consider. Don’t miss Sunday Mass without a significant reason. Let your children know about your stewardship efforts toward your church (including how you support your church financially, and how you participate in church ministries). Most importantly, be especially conscious of how your life is a model for your children and remember that it should point them toward a life of virtue.
As we move through the year, let’s hold ourselves accountable for the progress we make (or don’t make) in fulfilling our God-given responsibility as spiritual leaders. If you’re husband and wife, you can serve as accountability partners for each other. As a single parent, you may want to look for a trusted friend or family member to serve as your accountability partner.
Most importantly, in all these efforts we must remember that the task of family spiritual leadership is not achievable by our own strength alone. We must invite the Holy Spirit to help us in this process and to keep us true to our commitments.
After all, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate spiritual leader.
Father Jacob Dankasa is the pastor of Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church in Irving.