God willing and the creek don’t rise, another year will soon be in the books. Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, talk of New Year’s resolutions again descends upon us. I’ve learned to avoid those, finding that making them is usually a lose-lose game.

I also try to avoid dwelling too much on the past, and sometimes I even succeed. Focusing on all the ways I have been blessed (in the place of bemoaning things that I cannot change) is a technique that has served me well. This is not an advice column, but it’s a practice I highly recommend to anyone.

The end of one year and the beginning of another can tend to make us wonder if we are like a hamster on a wheel. This is especially true after a year of chronicling the absurdities and foibles of monitoring popular culture.

That same culture seems to like to refer to the “circle of life,” and I am truly thankful that Jesus took that circle and drove a vertical line pointing upward right through it. We still need directional finders sometimes, and the end of the year is always a suitable time to assess how well or poorly we have recalibrated our personal compasses to the coordinates Jesus has provided, through his Church and Scripture. It is easy to lose our way when we spend too much time counting our disappointments and not itemizing our blessings.

No one is immune. Some things that have happened in our lives this year did not look like blessings at first blush. Still, as Jesus’ ministry has been reminding us for two millennia, things do not always happen on our timetable. When something hurts, it can be transformed into a source of good when enlightened by his cross. I know this and believe it. But I also know I’m supposed to keep my head down when I swing a golf club, but I forget that from time to time.

So, what am I grateful for?

First of all, I am grateful for the internet. Yes, the internet. This blessing does require several caveats, disclaimers, and warnings, but I’ve come to appreciate more deeply the accessibility of solid and reliable information in our digital age. Certainly, I could do without the false claims of the passings of celebrities who are still with us. And any information taken from the web should be screened with a dose of scrutiny.

Thanks to the internet, I should add, I can easily access official Vatican documents and scholarly papers that make me look like a more profound thinker than I actually am. It also allows me to check my facts in the seconds it takes to type on a keyboard.

I am also grateful for my DVD library (yes, I still have a DVD player and a library of films from the Silent Era to the modern era, up to 1968). When the time is right or if I need a “fix” of escape from the harsher realities of life in A.D. 2022, I can slide a disk into a machine and go back into a time machine.

I would not only be exposed as the thin thinker I am but would have fewer interesting things to say if not for constant inspiration that comes from visiting and revisiting the works of giants of Catholic thinking. Thank you, Ven. Fulton Sheen, G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, Malcom Muggeridge, Peter Kreeft, and many other brilliant minds who put me in my place and inspire me to be better at the same time.

Speaking of giants, I am grateful this year and every year for the greatest theologians I ever encountered on a personal level: my father and mother. One was a failed businessman who never went to college and worked as a grocer. The other was “just” a wife and mother to 10 children. They struggled, they suffered, they rejoiced, and they persevered.

Apart from those blessings (and, of course, his eternal patience with me), I am grateful beyond expression to the Almighty for placing my wife and children and grandson in my crooked path. They are a constant source of inspiration and love, even if they drive me nuts sometimes.

As we face the temptation of glancing into the rearview mirror of the year that was, it’s a good time to keep our eyes forward. Even if it is a journey of two steps forward and one step back, blessed with enough time, we will eventually get to where we are going.

Happy New Year.