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The Virtue-Focused Year: 12 Habits to Become a More Virtuous You

Want a simple guide to help you grow in virtue over the next year? This is it. Great for personal use, for families, or for ministries (use it in your Sunday school classroom, too!), this printable e-book lays out 12 virtues, each accompanied by short reflections and action items to help you make small steps toward making these virtues “stick” in your life over the coming months.

A helpful and customizable tool for making spiritual progress with simple instructions, this resource may help you grow in areas of your life that matter most.

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How to Prayerfully Examine Your Day

Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Daily Examen continues to be a beautiful practice within the Church’s great tradition of spiritual exercises. The reason why I do it, though? It’s practical, simple, and it works.

tcht_series_medI have a number of different prayer routines throughout the day, but when bedtime approaches, I’m pretty beat. Any prayer that’s too lengthy or structured sometimes puts me to sleep (the Rosary, for example–which I consequently try to pray earlier in the day). Any prayer that’s too free form (just me attempting to listen or talk to God) usually leads to mind-wandering, generally provoked by exhaustion. So Scripture reading followed by the Examen has become my ideal immediately-before-sleep bedtime prayer practice.

The Examen is an excellent, simply structured way to connect with God each day. Approached with an attitude of openness, it allows you to prayerfully review your day in God’s presence, expressing gratitude, recognizing your shortcomings, reflecting on your spiritual victories, and seeing how God’s will is at work in your life. Finally, it allows you to make a hopeful resolution for the day to come.

Here is the simple formula I follow for night prayer based on the Examen. I put it into a printable card format that’s nice for keeping on your nightstand or in your Bible. (Laminating it is even better!)

the EXAMEN printable

My friend, Randy Hain, also has a great post on how to pray the Examen throughout the day, which is another great idea.

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How to Make a Home Altar

Home altar - catholickatieThough many aren’t familiar with it in modern America, a home altar has for a very long time been considered a staple feature in a Catholic home. The home altar is meant to serve as a central place for prayer and religious practice in a Catholic household. Most of us have designated places to eat, sleep, work, exercise, and play at home – why not have a designated, special spot to pray, both individually and together as a family?

Here’s an easy how-to for helping you set up your own home altar or prayer space:

1. altar and bookshelfChoose a place and surface. Find a spot in the home for your prayer space or altar, easily accessible to everyone. Ours is in the family room, in between a bookshelf containing a number of adult and children’s spiritual books, holy water and rosaries (right in picture), and a “prayer chair” below our icon collection (left). (You can also consider having smaller altars and spaces in each of the bedrooms, especially for the kids, which they can design uniquely for themselves.) As far as surfaces go, you can use a shelf, desk, end table, mantle, nook…pretty much anything. We used a medium-sized square end table.

2. (Optional step): Get some linens. I like the idea of having linens on the altar to dress up the table and to coordinate with the liturgical year. (I took pictures of our altar during Lent, so we have a plain white table cloth underneath a purple strip of cloth that I had cut for less than a dollar at a fabric store. I also have a green and a red cloth strip.) This is an optional step because if you are using a shelf or mantle, you may find it preferable to decorate without the linens.

3. Adorn the altar. Collect religious items from around your home to put on the altar. You may also want to consider investing in some of these items if you don’t have them; they make great family gifts on special feast days! You can make the altar as simple or as elaborate as you prefer (we opted for simple with young kiddos). Here are some things you can put in your prayer space or on your altar:

  • altar close upCrucifix
  • Bible (with or without a stand)
  • Prayer books, prayer cards, a missal, or a Catholic book of blessings and prayers
  • Catholic icons and/or art (of Jesus, Mary and the saints; on or above the altar)
  • Statues
  • Rosary(ies)
  • Candles
  • Holy Water
  • Blessed salt
  • Incense burner
  • Seasonal items like pictures of the Stations of the Cross during Lent, Advent wreath or Advent candles, a manger scene during Christmas, a Paschal candle or lamb during Easter, Baptismal candles, palm branches from Palm Sunday, pictures of saints on their feast days, etc.

4. Have your home and altar or prayer space blessed. If you haven’t had your house blessed, have a deacon or priest come bless the whole home, including the altar or prayer space. At least take your crucifix from your altar to Mass with you one Sunday and have that blessed.

altar5. Pray around your home altar! Take time during the day (we like to gather as a family after dinner) to pray around the home altar. This is a great time to light candles, read from the Bible, offer prayers of thanksgiving and intercession, pray a decade of the Rosary or a chaplet, learn about a saint or a feast day you are celebrating, or sign a hymn. Try and take little moments throughout the day to look at the altar or prayer space and offer a quick prayer and turn your mind and heart to Jesus. Just don’t let that special spot go unnoticed and unused!

For some home altar inspiration and ideas beside my own pictures here, check out Pinterest and these prayer space pictures from CatholicMom. Having a home altar or prayer space is a great way to make your home more of a domestic church!

One last thing…Recently, during Ordinary Time, I added a small altar/prayer table to my home-altar-catholickatie-comtoddler son’s room so he has a special place in his own room where he (and we together) could pray when he gets up in the morning, before nap/rest time, and before bed time. (Obviously a good habit for your children to form even if you don’t put a prayer table in their room!) Anyway, he loves it! I kept it pretty simple, and his favorite element is the statue of the Good Shepherd. I added a prayer card with a simple Scripture verse next to it, which he memorizes, that I will rotate every month. I’m enjoying the mini altar in his room as much as he is!

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How to Get Out of a Spiritual Slump

If only our spiritual lives were always as animated and forward moving as we’d like them to be. But most of us find ourselves repetitively moving in and out of spiritual slumps, riding tcht_series_medthe highs and lows of following Christ amidst the trials of the present world.

So how do we get out of those trying spiritual ruts? Here’s a quick list of hacks to get your spiritual life moving again:

  1. Pray. Prayer is, of course, the first and best answer to just about every problem we have – first and foremost the spiritual ones. Pray to God to help you out of your spiritual slump, to increase fervor and persistence in your spiritual life, His grace working along with your cooperation. Start your day or prayer times with simple, pleading words such as “Lord, change me” or to mimic St. Peter, “Lord, save me.” Jesus loves to shake people out of their spiritual ruts and normal grooves. He does this all throughout the Scriptures; remember the woman caught in adultery? I’m thinking she had a pretty different spiritual life after allowing Christ to turn her in another direction. Jesus has no less desire to come into our spiritual lives and do some tune-up work, too.
  1. Seek guidance. Don’t feel like you have to tackle a phase of spiritual dryness alone. Seek counsel from a spiritual director, a priest at your parish, a trusted and wise friend, or even from a good spiritual book (for example, Dan Burke’s Navigating the Interior Life). Fr. Jacques Philippe’s beautiful book, Thirsting for Prayer, has lifted me out of many a prayer slump.
  1. Act. This is such an important step in climbing out of a spiritual rut and, sadly, a step that is so often forgotten or not given priority. If you want to move forward in your spiritual life, praying about it, talking about it, and planning to grow all have their proper roles in the process, but you must actually do something! Choose a devotional and commit to it. Don’t start next week or at the beginning of the month; start now. If you are going to read Scripture more, set a reminder to pick up your Bible first thing when you wake up in the morning. Want to take advantage of the Hour of Mercy? Pray the Divine Mercy chaplet today in the 3 p.m. hour. If you are going to practice charity so you can see Christ more easily in others, do a work of mercy right now. Instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish a sinner, bear a wrong patiently, forgive willingly, comfort the afflicted, or pray for the living and the dead today. Then repeat. But, whatever you do, don’t overdo it. If you make too many spiritual commitments at the onset of your journey toward improvement, you’ll likely follow through with very few (if any) of them. Start small and focus on moving forward in baby steps, rather than giant leaps.
  1. Change things up. When it comes to physical fitness, doing the same form of man on mountainexercise every day can eventually put you at a physical standstill. The same thing happens in our spiritual lives. So mix things up a bit. For example, go outside to pray in nature or go out of your way to pray in the adoration chapel if those aren’t traditional prayer spots for you. Count your blessings at the beginning of your prayer time, as opposed to skipping straight to petitioning God for your needs.
  1. Have patience and trust. Look for lessons in the “dark night” or spiritual dryness that you are experiencing. How is God trying to work through this difficulty rather than solely in spite of it? Many were surprised to learn after her death that Mother Teresa experienced years of spiritual dryness…and yet look at the great devotion she had in the midst her own “dark night”! Have patience that God is working in your life, and trust Him. Do not lose faith, even amidst confusion, trusting that faith in Jesus is even more important than understanding His methods.

St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote, “In times of dryness and desolation we must be patient . . . putting our trust in the goodness of God. We must animate ourselves by the thought that God is always with us, that He only allows this trial for our greater good, and that we have not necessarily lost His grace because we have lost the taste and feeling of it.” So pray, ask for help, do something (even something different than you’re used to), and never lose hope that God is always with you, in times of spiritual fruitfulness and in those slumps, too.

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How to Celebrate a Feast Day

In their book, The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us As Catholics, Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina write, “Christian life revolves around the calendar that Christians share. The calendar and its feasts remind us who we are. If we want to know ourselves, it tcht_series_medis important for us to imagine how this works – how feasts form us, what they teach us, how they guide and direct our emotions, our thoughts, and our spiritual growth.”

Sadly, most Catholics today don’t even celebrate solemnities and feast days at home throughout the liturgical year (Christmas and Easter usually excepted). But why not? Celebrating the feast days of the Church not only “directs our spiritual growth,” but it’s just plain FUN. Being Catholic offers us opportunities for penance and reflection, for certain, but it also gives us lots of reasons to party…and that’s where solemnity and feast day celebrations come in.

So, if you aren’t already celebrating feast days on your own or at home with your family, here are some quick hacks and tips to get you started:

  1. Decide which feasts that you’ll make a special effort to celebrate at home. There are a lot of feasts days in the Church, so I recommend you first focus on celebrating solemnities, feasts days of the highest rank in the liturgical calendar. This means a rough average of a couple celebrations per month, which is doable for most of us! You can also add in a few feast days that may be particularly meaningful to your family. For example, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at our house, since she’s always been a special intercessor for us.
  1. Put them on the calendar and plan ahead. Take note of when the feast or solemnity will occur (some dates fluctuate a little from year to year) and set a digital planneror written reminder a few days before the feast to get your celebration activity, food, prayers, songs, and so forth in order. I strongly recommend you sign up for these feast day reminder emails, which will alert you to an approaching solemnity AND give you resources for learning more about the feast and celebrating it at home.
  1. Learn about the solemnity or feast you’ll be celebrating. It is pretty crucial that you know a decent bit of information (at least the basics) about the feast day you’re planning to commemorate. Read some articles about the history of the feast day, ways that the Church celebrates it, and ideas for bringing the feast day to life in your home in a memorable way. Share what you’ve learned about the feast day or solemnity with your family. (Again, CelebrateTheFeasts.com directs you to great articles and resources to learn about the solemnities on the Church calendar.)
  1. Prepare your feast day celebration(s). Put your grocery list (for a meal that corresponds to the feast day; for example, you may make a meal with all white foods representing purity for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) or craft supply list together a few days ahead and shop for what you need. Select any prayers or songs celebrate-the-feastsyou might pray/sing on that day and print out copies of the prayer or lyrics for the family. You can browse Catholic blogs and Pinterest for fun ideas to celebrate (or, as I mentioned, make it easy on yourself by using the CelebrateTheFeasts.com reminders and ideas).
  1. Now, celebrate the feast! Make a big deal about it on the feast day or solemnity that you’ve prepared for! Get the family excited for the planned festivities and try and be in good moods as you celebrate throughout the day! Treat it like the holiday (holy day) it is, enjoying the celebrations, however complex or simple they may be.

Sometimes, though, even the best laid plans to celebrate a feast day are hard to execute amidst the unexpected twists and turns of daily family life. I recommend that as a backup plan, you do at least one small thing to acknowledge the feast day at home. If it’s a Marian feast day, pray a decade of the Rosary. If it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation, go to Mass anyway. These simple ways to celebrate don’t take any preparation, but help turn your focus to the importance of this day on the Church calendar, and bring your family one step closer to living a vibrant, liturgical, and fun Catholic life at home.

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How to Become a More Grateful Person

There is a running joke in my family about asking God for help in parking the car. My nana initiated the practice of imploring God when encountering difficulty in finding an open parking space: “Jesus, please help me find a parking spot.” Well, my dad repeats this tcht_series_medprayer, adding his own twist at the end. As he drives around a busy lot looking for a space, he, following the wit and wisdom of his mother, prays, “Dear Jesus, please help me find a parking spot.” When a space almost miraculously appears in the near vicinity, he looks up, signaling his conversation with God, and jokes, “Never mind, Jesus. I found one.”

We do a lot of praying and asking God for help, but we often forget to thank him for our answered prayers. Maybe you can think of times in your family life when you asked God to heal your little one of an illness or to make it clear to you whether or not your family should relocate to begin a new career. Yet when the illness was gone (or acceptance granted in its place) or the decision to move made, somehow God evaporates from the process, and you move forward without acknowledging God’s guiding hand in the situation. There is a better way: intentional gratitude.

So how do we grow in gratitude? Here’s a quick list of gratitude hacks:

  1. Count your blessings daily. Do this in some tangible way – by writing in a gratitude journal, by setting aside time in prayer to list the things you are grateful to God for that day, or by sharing them with the family at the dinner table each evening. If you only decide to count your blessings in theory but don’t come up with a tangible way to do this in practice, then you’re not very likely to become a more grateful person anytime soon. Gratitude takes conscious practice.
  1. Shift from negative to positive thinking in the moment. When a frustrating situation arises or a negative thought comes your way, instead of dwelling on it or letting it fester to the point of altering your mood, make a deliberate shift to think positively. One evening, when exhaustion had already totally overcome me, I was attempting to put my sleep-protesting toddler to bed and became instantly overwhelmed with frustration with the situation. The litany of thoughts like, “Why can’t you make this easier on me, little man?” and “Gosh, if I weren’t so tired from doing so many chores today I wouldn’t feel so miserable right now” began running through my mind. In that moment I had a choice to continue to let the scroll of negative thinking and emotions continue or to opt for positivity – and gratitude. Taking a turn for the better, I could have adjusted my thinking to: “I’m so thankful I have a toddler to put to sleep right now, even if he is a bit spirited or challenging at bed time” or “I sure am tired, but I’m pretty glad I got so much accomplished today around the house.”
  1. Balance petitions with thanksgiving in prayer. Often times, our prayer time canprayer become a litany of requests. Petitions take the driver seat, and offering gratitude to God takes a relatively minor role—if we even bring our words of gratitude to our personal prayer time at all. If we only knew how valuable our spiritual lives could become if we stopped praying backward, if we modeled our personal prayer according to the prayer of the Church. This means spending the majority of our time listening to God speak to us in His Word, like in the Liturgy of the Word, and giving Him thanks, as we do in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. When we look at the prayer of the Church, we see that the Prayers of the Faithful—the petitions—make up a noticeably smaller fraction of the liturgy than petitions usually do in our personal prayer. Of course it is not a bad thing to petition God. Petitions are indeed very good (after all, St. Teresa of Avila said that we pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him), but they are never meant to dominate our prayer. If we are talking the whole time we are praying, how can God get a word in edgewise? And if we aren’t in the practice of thanking Him, how can we ever stop to notice how He always answers our prayers? Become a true disciple of the Eucharist (a term meaning “thanksgiving”). Give thanks.
  1. Don’t forget to thank God for suffering. It’s often through suffering that we are sanctified – made holy – and draw closer to Christ. Yet it is so easy to forget to offer gratitude for times of suffering that we would much rather forget or, instead, complain about. When a friend of mine was battling cancer, she told me “I don’t want to let one day go by that we don’t stop and genuinely enjoy it. In some way, it is a blessing to have cancer, because it has helped me to slow down and cherish each day.” I hope I can cultivate gratitude to the point of having that kind of thankful attitude even in the midst of intense suffering.
  1. Express gratitude to/for others. The previous gratitude “hacks” were focused a bit more on cultivating personal, inward gratitude, but to become a more grateful thank you noteperson, it’s essential to outwardly express gratitude to and for others. Every day, make a deliberate effort to thank someone for who he or she is in your life, something kind that person has done for you…anything about that person which makes you grateful. Express appreciation for a family member, coworker, friend, priest, service man or woman, a great waiter or waitress, a teacher. You’ll be practicing gratitude by verbalizing (or writing) your thankfulness for someone, and perhaps even inspire them to become a more grateful person, too.

When we practice gratitude, grace will flood into our everyday lives. (It’s no coincidence that the words gratitude and grace come from the same root, gratus) Cicero taught, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Imagine the grace that God can bestow on your ability to spiritually lead your family if you begin excelling in the “parent” of so many other virtues that will bless your marriage and family.

Know that the Lord is good! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name! –Psalm 100:2-3

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The More Margin for Peace Challenge: How to Focus More on Being vs. Doing

tcht_series_medCulture tells us that we are valuable because of what we do. It speaks to our senses, every moment of every day, telling us we need to do more. Our worth is based on what we accomplish, how we achieve, the number of hours we put in at the office, how much we make and how much we spend, and what we cross off our life’s to-do lists.
God tells us we are valuable because of who we are. He whispers in our hearts, every moment of every day, that he loves us because we are his. We are valuable because we are man, created in his image. Our worth is based on who we become—how conformed we can be to his will and the person he created us to be, the time we spend just being with him in prayer, how we love, what we cross off our life’s to-be list.

Peace builder: Focus more on being than doingSome strategies for focusing more on being than doing as a way to make more margin for peace:

  • Sit – just sit – in God’s presence: Sometime this week, go to the adoration chapel, your parish’s sanctuary, or a quiet place in your home and just sit and “be” with God. You can read or do other “action-oriented” things in prayer later, but to start, just spend time in silence with God.
  • Pick a virtue to grow in this week: Virtues help us become the people God desires us to be, the kind of people that will make us truly content and at peace with ourselves. Pick a virtue (charity, generosity, patience, trust, faith, hope, prudence, fortitude…) that you will focus on this week to help you take one step closer to being a saintly person.
  • Cross off an item on your to-do list: Look at your likely expansive list of things to do this week and determine if there is anything that can wait, making a little more margin for rest this week.

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33

***Don’t forget to post a note or set a reminder on your phone to follow through with your plan to focus more on being than on doing this week!***

If you missed the past weekly challenges to make more margin for peace, you can find them here.

How to “Downsize and Simplify”: The More Margin for Peace Challenge

tcht_series_medThe term “downsize and simplify” comes from my dad. When I was a little girl, he went on a retreat that changed his life. In front of the Eucharist, he heard the Lord speaking to his heart to “downsize and simplify,” leading my dad to leave his lucrative advertising year and begin working in ministry, first by founding the pro-life media apostolate VirtueMedia, and later by founding the evangelization media apostolate, Catholics Come Home.

Those of us looking for more peace in our lives and homes could always benefit from downsizing and simplifying in some way. Here are a few ideas on how to downsize and simplify and thus make more margin for peace in your life.

Downsize and simplify…

Downsize and Simplify to Find More Peace in Your Life

  • Your material goods: Maybe you could benefit from clearing out your closet and donating some of the clothes you don’t need to people who do need them, or maybe you can look around your home or office for other material possessions that you have in excess.
  • Your calendar: Perhaps your schedule needs some downsizing and simplifying to make more time for your family, for prayer, or for hobbies you would like to pursue.
  • Your meals: Have you considered downsizing or simplifying your meals from time to time, either in an effort to become healthier or to fast for someone who needs your spiritual support right now?

What are some other ways you can downsize and simplify in your life right now? Pick one strategy for downsizing and simplifying this week and follow through with it.

“For peace is a good so great, that even in this earthly and mortal life there is no word we hear with such pleasure, nothing we desire with such zest, or find to be more thoroughly gratifying.”—St. Augustine, City of God

***Don’t forget to post a note or set a reminder on your phone to follow through with your plan to downsize and simplify each day this week!***

If you aren’t getting these weekly challenges sent to your email inbox, you can sign up to have them sent to you each week by signing up here (and you’ll get a free resource guide, too!).

Sign up today for the “More Margin for Peace” Leadership Challenge

As the Synod on the Family began last October, I realized how much I could use some easy tips – marriage and family life “hacks” – to help give me that boost I sometimes need in certain categories of my spiritual leadership. And now, with Lent and Easter having just ended, I am hoping to keep the spiritual momentum going with a practical and very doable way to stay focused on maintaining more peace in my life and at home.

More Margin for Peace ChallengeSo, the “More Margin for Peace” series, an email-based Spiritual Leadership Challenge, continues our efforts to grow together, through short how-to tutorials and quick ideas sent straight to your inbox, in living in a more focused way on our impactful roles as spiritual leaders within our marriages and families. For this Leadership Challenge, over the next few weeks, you will receive a few brief email reminders with simple but effective tips and strategies for making more margin for peace in your life and home. My husband and I will be joining you on this challenge also! Please pray for us, as we will be praying for you, and invite your friends to join in, too!

Sign up for the Spiritual Leadership Challenge below!

I’ll also send you very occasional emails with Catholic tips and musings I think you’ll be interested in.

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More Margin for Peace Leadership ChallengeSometimes it can be hard to believe that peace of mind, heart, and home is still capable of being grasped in today’s fast-paced culture, where we constantly listen to background noise, sit in traffic, pack our calendars to the brim, and question whether our smartphones are an additional appendage to our bodies. But there are simple and powerful things we can do to create more room for peace in our lives. Let’s practice some of those strategies together.

In my recent book Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family, I discuss seven characteristics for becoming a stronger spiritual “head” or spiritual “heart” of your family, intending that this book will be an ideal resource in helping you (and my husband and I!) become a more intentional Catholic family man or woman at home. Whether or not you’ve read the book, though, this Leadership Challenge is a great and easy way to start more intentionally focusing (or improve your focus) on your spiritual life at home!

How to Make This Year More Meaningful for Your Family: 7 Ideas

This article is originally published at the IntegratedCatholicLife.org.

Perhaps you’ve made a number of resolutions already to make this year a personal best. tcht_series_medHere’s a list of some doable ways that you can experience more growth and fulfillment as a family this year.

1. Develop a mission for your family.

To avoid aimlessly wandering through another year, set aside time to come up with a central focus, a guiding mission or purpose for your family, that will help you live this year (and the years to come) more intentionally. There is a step-by-step how-to exercise in this book to help you come up with a mission unique to your family, or, in more free-form style, you can discuss your family’s gifts, spiritual goals, and desired relationship outcomes for the year and write them down in a brief, clear way, so that you can all refer to it and make decisions according to it throughout the year. (This idea is immensely helpful in keeping your family “on track” spiritually as the weeks and months go by. Examine your mission, strategies, or defined priorities regularly, and adjust your lifestyle and habits accordingly.

2. Hold family meetings.

Meetings seem to be way more common in the business world than in family life, but they can be extremely beneficial in helping your family have a more meaningful year, individually and as a unit. Here are some simple tips for how to hold a family meeting.  Regular family meetings, whether weekly or monthly, have so many tangible benefits, allowing you to resolutionsstrengthen your spiritual leadership, sharpen communication skills in your family, intentionally pray together, inculcate essential family values, and reduce stress.

3. Live the liturgical calendar.

Make an effort to celebrate feast days—at least solemnities, the highest ranking of feast days in the liturgical calendar—at home this year with your family. Here is a helpful feast day email reminder service, with occasional feast day email alerts, articles to learn a little about each feast, and simple ideas to celebrate the solemnity at home. Living the liturgical calendar at home will help your family feel more connected to the celebrations and life of the Church throughout the year.

4. Pick a patron saint and a spotlight virtue.

Select a saint to be a special intercessor for your family this year. This saint name generator can randomly select a saint for you, if you don’t already have one in mind. Include this saint regularly in your prayers and learn about the life of this special saint as a family this year. Additionally, consider picking a “spotlight virtue,” a virtue that you will focus on growing in as a family this year (examples include generosity, patience, charity, hope, etc.). Consider displaying your saint and your virtue in a prominent place so as to serve as a reminder to pray for the saint’s intercession and to practice the particular chosen virtue on a regular basis.

5. Rejuvenate your marriage.

holding-hands-1031665_960_720Make a commitment to liven up your marriage this year in some way. Consider setting aside time for a planned regular date night or a dedicated time interval every evening after the kids go to bed to chat and reconnect—even if only for 15 minutes—before you complete the remaining frenzy of tasks that the evening holds. The sky is the limit with this hack; think of some way you want to commit to marital improvement this year (maybe even by reading a marriage-building book together) and make it happen.

6. Refocus on keeping Sundays holy/peaceful.

Sundays are the key to personal and family peace. Check out these simple ways to “keep holy the Sabbath” and commit to at least a few of them in your home this year. It will really change the way you live and relate to one another and to God, not only on Sunday, but throughout the rest of the week as well.

7. Prioritize prayer and sacraments.

Start every day with prayer this year, even if it’s short. Pray as a family before you begin the hectic activities of the day (for example, an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be or The Morning Offering). Set aside at least 15 minutes a day for private, silent, reflective prayer; bring along your Bible to this prayer time for words on which to reflect! Consider having a short family prayer time after dinner, when everyone is already gathered together (a decade of the Rosary is usually a doable length of time, even for little ones). Finally, make sure to get to Mass every Sunday. Plan your whole week around it. Confession once a month will also have a drastically positive impact on your spiritual growth this year.

Looking for more Catholic family life tips and how-tos this year? Make sure to subscribe to get more articles like this sent to your inbox (and get a free resource guide, too)! For a more in-depth look at how you can make your Catholic family life more vibrant and meaningful, read this book, which unpacks these 7 ideas (and more), offering practical strategies for implementing spiritual leadership principles at home.