Every time a new year begins, articles and ads about those dreaded resolutions seem to pop up everywhere, encouraging us to:

---start fresh…

---begin anew…

---make resolutions you will stick with…

---create realistic goals…

---set your intentions now…

---and on and on.

Some heed this advice every year, determined that this time they really will exercise daily, or learn to play tennis, or save more money, or be kinder to a sibling, or lose weight … and on and on.

Others have given up on New Year’s resolutions, knowing from past experience that most of the good intentions fall by the wayside just a couple of weeks into the New Year.

With or without New Year’s resolutions, I believe that we all want to be better people. And we really do have good intentions! So I am going to suggest something a little different as we head into 2014.

What if every Catholic set the intention of being more joyful this year? Have more fun, laugh a lot, take time to play? What would the world be like if millions of Catholics radiated happiness?

St. Hildegard said: “All living creatures are sparks from the radiation of God’s brilliance, and these sparks emerge from God like the rays of the sun.”

Could we set an intention to be sparks of God’s brilliance in the world?

How about this from St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Could we set an intention to set the world on fire with God’s joy and love?

Ah, but Catherine says, “Be who God meant you to be” --- and there’s the tricky part. Who did God mean me to be? Who am I supposed to be? How do I figure it out?

Richard Bolles, author of the powerful little book, “How to Find Your Mission in Life,” talks about this very thing as he outlines Three Stages of Mission. The first two Missions are common to all of us as Catholic Christians: 1) to know God, enjoy Him forever, and see His hand in all His works, and 2) to do what you can ... to make this world a better place.

But, he declares, “Your third Mission here on Earth is one that is uniquely yours and that is to exercise that Talent which you particularly came to Earth to use — your greatest gift, which you most delight to use --- in the places or settings which God has caused to appeal to you the most, and for those purposes which God most needs to have done in the world.”

So there it is. To put it simply: What are you good at, what do you love, and where does God need you?

Sadly, too many adults have forgotten what their talents are and what they love to do — the things that fill them with joy and fulfillment. This process of forgetting begins in childhood, when talents and interests and personality styles are not acknowledged and honored by the adults in children’s lives:

---“You’ll never get anywhere doing that.”

---“You’re not smart enough to do that.”

---“Don’t be so … (fill in the blank: noisy, quiet, excited, messy, laid back, organized, chatty, active).”

The first step, then, to radiating God’s love and joy is to remember who you are, who God meant you to be. Take an inventory of yourself: What are your talents? What do you love to do? What do people love about you?

Now, what can you do more of that will make you so happy you can’t help but be a spark of God’s brilliance? What might you need to change in order to set your world on fire?

In “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic,” Matthew Kelly says, “Every time you become a-better-version-of-yourself, the consequences of your transformation echo through your marriage, family, parish, nation and beyond to people and places in the future. It is God who does the transforming…. Are you willing to let God transform you?”

It is said that in many shamanic societies, if you went to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened or depressed, you would be asked one of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

What about you? Have you forgotten to laugh, dance, play? Have you forgotten who you are? Take some time to meet God in “the sweet territory of silence” so that He can speak to you about who you are meant to be and how He wants to transform you.

Imagine yourself: a joyful, loving, sparking, on-fire Catholic in 2014! If this is your intention then whatever else you want to achieve — weight loss, better job, more savings, better relationships — will just fall into place because, as Matthew Kelly says, you will become “a-better-version-of-yourself.”

©2014 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis

Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis is a California credentialed teacher and holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She is co-author of “Discover Your Child’s Learning Style” and “Midlife Crisis Begins in Kindergarten.” For many years she was a master catechist for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. [email protected]