Word of the Year

Cassie Schutzer
Tuesday, December 19, 2023

After graduating from college in 2015, my best friend and I used to come up with catchphrases for our year’s adventures. 

 "Live your best life."

 "Reclaim your sparkle." 

They were feel-good and a little bit silly, born of a desire to live a more adventurous and exciting life. But they encouraged me to venture outside my comfort zone, to experience new things, to grow, to embrace the fullness of life. 

 That is, until they didn’t. 

 "When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child;  when I became a man, I put aside childish things." 1 Corinthians 13:11 

As I grew stronger in my faith and closer to the Lord, my word of the year began to change. It turned from a catchphrase or motto that I chose for myself into one simple word that the Lord put on my heart. 





 And now, "Home." 

These words have been transformational in my walk with the Lord, and the practice of choosing a new word has become a tradition as I prepare for each new year! 


What is a Word of the Year? 

Let’s start with what it is not. A word of the year is not a New Year’s resolution. It’s not a goal you need to meet or a bar you need to reach or a task you need to check off a list.  

A word of the year is a way we can focus our prayer or hone in on an area of growth in our lives. I love seeing how my word unfolds throughout the year and draws me deeper into the life of Christ. 

Through a word of the year, we can become more attuned to God’s voice in Scripture or in our prayer. Oftentimes, when my word shows up in the Liturgy of the Hours or I hear it proclaimed in the Sunday readings, it captures my attention and refocuses me on what the Lord is speaking to my heart. 

A word of the year can deepen our practice of self-reflection. When we have a word to return to, it can provide both a starting point for reflecting on our day and a measuring stick by which to see growth throughout the year. 

In short, a word of the year is a way to turn our year over to God. Instead of making – and let’s be honest, breaking – a bunch of resolutions or promises to ourselves, we can try entering more deeply into our spiritual journey by paying attention to where God is drawing us. It releases the burden of productivity or perfection we so often put on our own shoulders. It gives us a homing beacon, a vision for our year, rather than a list of boxes to tick.  


How do we choose a Word of the Year? 

There is certainly no algorithm for this, though there are some online generators if you don’t know where to begin. 

Here are a few suggestions for choosing a Word of the Year: 

Pray. Always, always, and again I will say, always begin with prayer. If you don’t have an active prayer life currently, that is the place to begin. Pray for the desire to pray, pray for God’s grace to move you to prayer. Listen for God’s voice. He speaks to us in quiet and ordinary ways, through gentle tugs on our heart and words spoken by others and through His steadfast presence in the Eucharist. Spend some time with the Lord and ask Him to bring forward a Word of the Year. 

Reflect on the past year. Take some time to reflect on 2023. What fulfilled or excited you this year? What challenged you? In what ways did you grow? In what ways would you like to grow in the year ahead? Where was the Lord in all of this? By reflecting on the last year, we can enter 2024 with both feet planted firmly beneath us. Reflection helps integrate our thoughts, words, actions, and our being. It reveals deeper truths about why we believe, say, or do things. Reflection should point to the Lord’s underlying action in our lives, and it could be a great starting point for a Word of the Year. 

Listen to the movements of your heart. After you pray and reflect on the past year, try to be still and notice what is going on in your heart. What is rising to the surface? What are you feeling? What is bringing you peace? Is there a word that keeps returning to you? 

Don’t overcomplicate it! I think we tend to overcomplicate the Lord’s action in our lives – I know I do. At times I question whether I hear Him correctly or what His plan is for me. The good news about a Word of the Year is that there is no right or wrong answer. There is only the Lord working through whatever word we end up choosing. Some years, I didn’t spend much time at all picking a word, and it still had a profound effect on my year. The Lord can – and will – work through it all. 


A final thought 

I believe very strongly in the power of words. There is a reason why Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word. Words are how we tell our story, how we invite and proclaim and praise. Words have the power to hurt and to heal. Words capture moments in time and allow truths to be passed from one generation to the next. My experience choosing a Word of the Year has had a profound effect on my prayer life and has drawn me deeper into the mystery of God. 

That being said, a Word of the Year is not the best or only way to grow in faith this year! It is just the way that works for me. Whatever you decide for your year, incorporating prayer, silence, and reflection will give the Holy Spirit plenty of room to work in your life. 

I wish you a blessed Christmas season and a Happy New Year!