Years ago Elizabeth O’Connor developed some questions to help the members of her church reflect on the year that was concluding. If you’re willing to spend a few minutes, her questions can help you prepare for the new year by reviewing the old one.
How did the year begin? What were the events of winter? of spring? of summer? of fall?
What took place in your home relations? your church relations? What events in the larger community of city, country and world most captured your attention?
Who were the significant people in your life? What books and art instructed your mind and heart?
Did you create anything this year? Did you make any new discoveries about yourself? How were you gift last year to a person, a community or an institution?
What was your greatest joy in this year gone? What was your greatest sorrow? What caused you the most disappointment? What caused you the most sadness?
In what areas of your life did you grow? Were these areas related to your joy or your pain?
What are your regrets? How would you do things differently, if you could live the year again? What did you learn?
Did you have a recurring dream? What theme or themes ran through the year?
Did you grow in your capacity to be a person in community—to bear your own burdens, to let others bear theirs? Did you have sufficient time apart with yourself?
Did you root your life more firmly in Scripture? Did you grow in your understanding of yourself? What was your most important insight? Did God seem near or far off?
What do you feel is the message of the year? What do you think and feel God might be saying to you?
When Father Alfred Delp was in a Nazi prison the mock trial that announced his execution, he wrote in his journal: “…This year now ending leaves behind us a rich legacy of tasks, and we must seriously consider how to tackle them. Above all else, one thing is necessary—religious-minded people must become more devout; their dedication must be extended and intensified.” What are the tasks that the old year leaves to you? How can you increase your devotion and dedication?
How do you want to create the new year? What kind of commitment do you want to make to yourself? Your community? To the oppressed people of the world? How do the questions about commitment make you feel? Angry? Challenged? Hopeful? What are your feelings?
Who are the people with whom you would like to deepen your relationships in the year to come? Do you have relationships that need to be healed? What can you do to heal your own heart? What can others do to assist in your healing? In Scripture it is written, “Ask and you shall receive.” How can you ask God for what you need? How can you ask God’s people for what you need?
Is there a special piece of inward work that you would like to accomplish? Is there a special outward work? What are the goals that seem important to you? What are your hopes? What are your fears? What are the immediate first steps that you can take toward the goals that seem important to you?
[After journaling your reflections, you] might have a time of prayer in which to give thanks for all the events of the year gone, and to ask that the God through whose fingers they were filtered will continue to bless them to [y]our use. They are now the bread of our life—part of all that we have to share with another when we share what is ours to give away. Our journal writing can help us to ring out the old year with our tears and gratitude, and to ring in the new year with praise and prayers of petition.
(From Elizabeth O’Connor’s Letters to Scattered Pilgrims, 61-62.)