Walking with Faith into an Unknown New Year

December 31, 2020

By Sister Carolyn McWatters

New Year’s Day. For those of us in the States, this day has traditionally been a time for making resolutions—commitments to shake off some bad habits and/or choose some things that will make ourselves or our world better. We make our lists and set our sights. I admit to having a pitiful history of choosing these new year’s resolutions. When I do, I find they are quickly forgotten, and life goes on as usual.

But this year is different. This year begins like no other in our memory. We find ourselves in the middle of a horrifying pandemic that has affected the world community in unparalleled ways. Island nations and seaside areas have been ravaged by unprecedented climate events. Racism has reared its ugly head in an appalling and breath-taking onslaught of hatred and violence. The U.S. has experienced a fractious four years of political turmoil. The global community is in the grips of deep pain and suffering, and has been thrown off balance in so many ways.

What are we to make of all of this upheaval? As people of faith and sisters and brothers of Catherine, what do we hear God saying to us in the midst of all this suffering and confusion and unknown? To what are we called, as individuals and as an Institute?

In the face of all of this, life ought not, will not, cannot simply go on as usual.

Undoubtedly the events of this past year have yielded nuggets of wisdom for us. We have had to reach down deep into our souls and wrestle with meaning and purpose. We have been reminded of that which truly matters: the inherent value of every human life, the interconnectedness of the global community, the power of communal action for justice. 

If not as usual, how must our lives go on?

I am writing this in the middle of Advent. A recurring and comforting theme of our Advent Scriptures is that God has chosen us, possesses us and dwells with us forever. These Scriptures work to re-mind us of our belovedness, to re-center us on the path to Jesus, to re-focus our hearts to see the One who continually dwells in our midst. Coming back to this bedrock faith is what can restore our balance and renew our perspective.

As I begin this new year, I commit myself to reframing the question of resolution, from what I think I need to do to what God might be asking of me. I need to relish the comfort of Emmanuel, indeed, but I cannot simply rest there. Contemplation must move me to action. Centered in God, as Catherine admonished, I must be moving continually forward. The path of transformation depends on my resolute spirit, my desire to cooperate with God’s grace, my willingness to discern how I am called to respond to God’s ongoing invitations to greater love and action for justice.

One of my favorite hymns gives voice to a profound message for me:

My life goes on in endless song,
above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real, though far-off hymn,
that hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

“How Can I Keep from Singing,” based on a hymn by Robert Wadsworth Lowry

Our lives must go on differently. Gifted as we are with Mercy vision, we must be the living signs to others of our belovedness, our being held and sustained by God. Our lives must sing the song of hope and restoration and possibility so that others may be encouraged and emboldened to walk with faith into the unknown. May we embrace our resolution with courage and joy.

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  1. Anna Saltzman

    Thanks so much Carolyn, for this reflection, I resonate with it, and yes, the song,
    “How can I keep from singing…” is one that carries me into the unknown, with hope and courage because I am/we are accompanied by our Mercy community on this transformational journey. How blessed we are, friend!

  2. cynthia sartor

    Beautifully written. Lots to think about. Hopefully this new year will bring us to the understanding of what it means to co-create with God.

  3. Sue Weetenkamp

    One of my resolutions is to read this essay every day into the year until it really sinks in! And playing the song will only helpmate it better.
    Great job, my friend.

  4. Maria Rosario Gaite

    Thanks, Carolyn, for sharing this beautiful and profound reflection as we usher in a new year, that, hopefully, will be a better, more peaceful and less stressful one. Peace and blessings to you!

  5. Pat Kenny

    Beautifully said, Carolyn. We are so loved and capable of loving are called to do so in whatever ways we can. Even we whose singing days are long gone can share our love in words, smiles, thoughtfulness and kindness to one another and all whose lives touch ours.

  6. Rachelle Harper

    Carolyn, I am strengthened by your words and encouragement. Thank you. And I thank this Mercy community in which I belong, for our bonding and inspiration! We walk together. Rachelle Harper

  7. Katie Mindling

    “God has chosen us, possesses us and dwells with us forever” – Thank you for the invitation to unite in our common call and for keeping us focused on the invitations to renew ourselves together, to attend to the call to “greater love and action for justice”
    Our coming together in prayer at key Mercy moments has been such a source of strength and has helped me tap the energy we have together through our commitment to ‘vibrant community life’ – we have not been undone by our quarantine; rather, we have found new ways to celebrate our oneness. How can we keep from singing?

  8. Carole Temming, RSM

    Thank you Carolyn for a wonderful reflection. I need to keep the song’s words in my heart “How can I keep from singing”. That will carry me through the New Year!

  9. Marian Uba

    Thank you for this inspiration!

  10. Rita Valade RSM

    Thanks much Carolyn. I agree with you wholeheartedly… getting my own limited vision “out of the way” and praying into God’s vision of what will be best for all, including me… for this new year.

  11. Rosemary Hudak

    Thank you for your beautiful reflection. We do have something to sing about, love is Lord of heaven and earth. In this new year may there be more loving and singing!

  12. Diane Clyne

    Thanks Carolyn. There is lilt and grit in your reflection. Together, hoe can we keep from singing!

  13. Mary Sheehan


  14. Mary Sheehan

    A hopeful, heart-touching, reflection for the first day of 2021.
    Thank you.

  15. Claudette Schiratti

    Thank you, Carolyn, for the invitation to think of this year in a new way, going on in endless song, being recipients and givers of Mercy. Happy New Year.

  16. Patricia Cook, rsm

    What a stirring and inviting message and thanks for your insights shared here …… so beautifully.

  17. Donna Vaillancourt

    Thank you, Carolyn…a deep reflection…may 2021 hold much hope and healing.

  18. Mary Ann Lally

    Beautiful meditation, Carolyn.

  19. Connie stelzer

    Sr Carolyn, so beautifully written and thought provoking and gently nudging us to spread Our Lord’s loving Mercy to all. How can we keep from singing?

  20. RoseMarie C Knight

    With a song in my heart, how can I keep from singing. And we try in vain to fulfill unmet resolutions, when the answer is in our hearts to be filled with joy with the love of the Lord. Thank you Carolyn.

  21. Ann McGovern

    Thank you Carolyn for sharing your so beautifully voiced wisdom with us.

  22. Sue Ruedy

    Well said, Carolyn! I share many of your sentiments.