A word for the year

January 17, 2010 | 68 comments

When I first heard about the concept of having a “word of the year, “ choosing a single word to meditate on and set your goals around for the whole year, I wasn’t sure it was for me.

“Here’s the problem, ” I told a friend. “Ann Voskamp’s word is YES, Rachel Balducci and Arwen Mosher are both doing JOY…I feel like holy people like that can do this sort of thing, but I’m too much of an overly analytical grouch for it.” I thought that if, say, I were going to try to be more joyful, I would need specific, measurable goals in that department, lest I end up just rolling my eyes at the “JOY!” sign posted on my refrigerator as I shuffle around joylessly.

(Later I emailed that same friend with a wry note saying that I had finally chosen a word, and it was sesquipedalian. Without missing a beat, she replied that hers was floccinaucinihilipilification.)

I thought I’d given up on the concept, but then I came across a passage in the fantastic In Conversation With God book of daily meditations, and it hit me that I need a word, and I knew exactly what it was. The problem wasn’t that the concept didn’t work for me, it was just that I hadn’t found the right word. But I got it when I read:

Fortitude in our ordinary life

We have to [pray] to be strong, not only in difficult circumstances which are out of the ordinary, such as persecution, martyrdom, or a serious and painful illness, but also in the normal events of each day: being constant in our work, smiling when we don’t feel like it, or having an affectionate, pleasing word for everyone.

We need fortitude in order not to give way when we are tired, or feel lazy, or don’t want to be bothered. We need it too, to overcome our fear of fulfilling difficult duties, etc. “By nature man fears danger, discomfort, suffering, ” [John Paul II wrote]. “Therefore it is necessary to seek brave men not only on the battlefield, but also in hospital wards, or by the sick bed of those in pain, ” in the ordinary tasks of everyday life.

An important part of this virtue of fortitude is the interior firmness to overcome more subtle obstacles such as vanity, impatience, diffidence and human respect. Other manifestations of fortitude are self-forgetfulness, and not thinking too much about personal problems…

This virtue has many manifestations in the apostolate — speaking about God without being afraid of what people will say, or what they will think of one; always acting in a Christian way, even though this clashes with a paganized atmosphere; running the risk of taking the initiative to reach more people, and making the effort to put these initiatives into practice.

Mothers frequently have to practice fortitude discreetly and normally in a pleasant, patient way. They will then be the solid rock on which the whole house rests.

And that’s when I knew that I had my word for the year: FORTITUDE.

If you were to choose a word for this year, what would it be?



  1. TaraS

    That's the word I have been looking for!

  2. Fr. D


  3. Kelly

    I too have seen the "word for the year" on several others' blogs. I also thought "not for me". Until I read this. I got down to "We need fortitude in order not to give way when we are tired," and I KNEW my word! Even before I saw it was also your word. I have several things going on this year and that's exactly what I need to get through. A whole lot of Grace and fortitude. Thanks!

  4. rachelclapointe

    Oh dear. I've been trying and trying to come up with a word for this year since I read about it sometime in December. Alas, I have yet to come up with one.

    I've been mulling some over, but I'm waiting for my little sign from God.

  5. Kimberlie

    This is so interesting because FORTITUDE is my word this year! It was a priest who suggested to me that I pick a virtue and focus on it. Since we are in the early stages of our FOURTH adoption in five years, and already I was grumbling at God about all the hoops and such, I knew the minute he said that, my virtue was Fortitude. And frankly, it's always a little scary. Yes, international adoption demands fortitude.

    I look forward to seeing what opportunities God gives you to practice Fortitude. I am sure that some of them will be downright entertaining (as in involving the blessed little ones in your house).

  6. katherine

    as a mom of two wee ones and a wife of a husband who's been looking for a job for almost a year, i think my word would probably be patience.

    and maybe trust.

    just a gut feeling.

  7. Marie


  8. Jennifer G.

    Fortitude. Exactly what I need to focus on. Thank you for your insight, yet again!

  9. Little M

    Funnily enough the word fortitude has been going through my mind a lot lately. So much so that I did a definition search last week!

  10. Elizabeth

    Oh, AMEN to that.
    Fortitude is most likely the word that I need this year as well…
    Blessings, E

  11. Beth (A Mom's Life)

    My word is contentment. I pray every day that I can find it in my life.

    How can someone that has so much feel like she needs so much more? (And how can I continue to feel this way after seeing the people of Haiti?)

  12. sara


  13. 2cats

    Very nice word. I like it.
    My word is organization. I need to get organized. I have many organization projects underway, just none completed. So I have given myself this year to become organized.

  14. Jenny

    My word is Trust. I've blogged about how hard this word is for me to embrace.

  15. mil

    Funny, Jen, I didn't even know there was a "word of the year" but had decided on January 1st to use "discipline" as my goal to work on for the year. I have to discipline myself to pray, to offer up, to fast. I am so weak. Hearing the word discipline in my head helps me put my shoulders back, my head up and my resolve in the right direction. I fall constantly, but I continue.

  16. Arwen Mosher

    I totally laughed out loud at "holy people like that." Pffffft. The reason I have to have a one-word resolution is because I'm a frustrated perfectionist, and if I set a concrete goal, I'll give up on it way too easily. With JOY as my resolution, I can't actually fail! A less joyful day just means trying harder tomorrow!

    I like the idea of fortitude. Maybe if I make that my one-word resolution NEXT year, then by 2012 I'll be able to make actual specific resolutions. Heh.


    "AGGIORNMAENTO" — Pope John XXIII's famous word at the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

  18. That Married Couple

    Humility. As the Holy Spirit has made clear, that needs to be my goal for the year!

  19. Meredith

    Fortitude is a great word for the situation!

    This year my word is humble. I won't be making a scrapbook paper banner of it for my fireplace or anything, but I do hope to remember humility in all I do this year.

  20. Marian

    Laughing at your initial responses to the idea– you sound exactly like me in that! Awesome idea, but one word?! Just one word? Too much pressure! (BUT, you know, I can't go too wrong with "love", especially with that expansive list of "Love is…" and "Love is not…" statements all spelled out for me… )

  21. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings

    First word to pop in my head: "discipline".

  22. Khaili Bowen

    I have not heard of this until today, yet a word seemed to come to me pretty quickly

    Peace – Not leaving "in search" of peace, but being able to sit amongst the Chaos that surrounds us and yet find and experience peace.

  23. Maygy

    Trust. We're in the process of pursuing a second adoption – and I very often fall short in believing and trusting that it is all in God's hands. Thanks for the great post – definitely made me think. 🙂

  24. Lisa V.

    This is the first I'm hearing of this, and I love the idea. I reflected on what I wanted to resolve to do this year and the word that I came up with is Devotion. Devotion to God, Devotion to my husband. Maybe just one word will help me feel it's possible and not forget.

    Yes, Devotion.

  25. Em the luddite

    Funny to read this post… I've never had a word for the year until this year, when the word was given to me (quite literally, via an Epiphany card from a house of lay sisters): CONTEMPLATION. It's a hard posture for an academic like me (people always assume intellectuals are contemplative because we think a lot, but quite the contrary!). I appreciate this post, just a small sign to confirm that it is indeed a word for the year.

  26. Katie

    I'm planning to enter the Orthodox Catholic Church as soon as I am ready, so my word for the year is prayer (as in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – pray without ceasing).

  27. Cecelia

    When I started reading this post, I also thought great idea, but probably not for me. But honestly the word fortitude is so completely accurate. I can have joy and peace and even yes for a time but without fortitude they will not last. Thanks again Jen.

  28. Susanna


  29. Anonymous

    My word is:

  30. Domestic Accident

    Last year my word was surrender. I kept fighting what was, instead of embracing what is, what is needed of me.

    This year, it's discipline. I feel like I've let myself get lazy in so many aspects of my life. Time to step up and not take the easy way out.

  31. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    I love the concept of a word for the year. Last year, my word was "surrender." This year, it is "rejoice" – I wrote about it here.

  32. Colleen


  33. Lacey

    Joy for me!

  34. JaneC Duquette

    Argh! You would write about this when I am reading your blog rather than getting stuff together for taxes and paying bills. The ordinary things that I don't want to do. Fortitude. Grump. Ok, maybe….all right, possibly. It may be a long year.

  35. nicole

    My word is hope. I'm reclaiming it from those who have taken it and made it mean something it is not. And I think living with hope is a pretty good idea.

  36. Andrea


  37. Robinsonpack

    I think my "word" will be "Joyful- acceptance". This is what I need to ficus on this year, accepting all that comes joyfully with acceptance.

  38. Sarah

    I'm with you, I'm not sure it's for me, but I keep thinking anyway.

  39. Karyn

    What a neat idea. Since most of my prayers seem to be me asking God for patience, I'll go with PATIENCE. It should be particularly helpful in these last two months of pregnancy! Also, the patience to trust in God to move at His own pace – not mine.

  40. Jenn@Spejory

    I always do a word each year. This year it's "steadfast."

  41. 4ddintx

    I love this idea. I've been mulling it around since I read this and during my nap today it was confirmed.


    We've already had some rough patches this year (8 people with stomach flu, burst pipe, etc) and I can't run away. I need to accept what God allows to come to my way and let Him use it ALL in me.


  42. Stefanie

    It was one that our parishioners kept saying to me throughout the Advent — our Catholic New Year– and Christmas season — how generous we were with them at a time when everyone else was cutting back…they were grateful.
    I was reminded of this again during the weekend. Our area suffered severe fires in August — and now we have more than ten days of rain ahead of us. 80 of our parishioners have opened their homes to anyone in the neighborhoods who may be displaced due to the mudflows.

  43. Anne

    Great idea! Without knowing that there was such a thing as a word of the year, I had focused on "surrender" last year. This year I choose "accept". As in accept myself as I am and accept God's will for me without complaint.

  44. Anonymous

    My word is Faith. All my fears and problems at their root stem from a lack of faith. I struggle to believe that God is the God of Providence. That he is guiding me and acting in very concrete ways in my messy life.

  45. Dawn

    Mine is steadfast.

  46. Judith

    Fortitude it is for me, too.
    Thank you.

  47. Anonymous

    I had already chosen a word; the first time I've ever done such a thing, following Ann Voskamp's lead. My word is "Fiat".

    As I clicked on comments to leave that pithy yet profound choice, I saw that Fr. D had beat me by one day and some 46 posts.

    Am now considering instead the word "humility"…

  48. Yours hopefully thriving

    Hi Jen
    Long-time lurker, first-time commenter. Really enjoy reading your insights.
    Haven't gotten around to posting on it yet but my word of the year is PEACE as I deal with the everyday mundane and the grief of losing a sister (emotionally) and being a newly-wed etc etc. I've linked to this post from my blog (http://thirty-onethriftyandthriving.blogspot.com/2010/01/links-i-lovebeing-me.html).

  49. Wendy J

    My word is gratitude. I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of person, and I tend to wallow in my problems. I need to remember how much I have to be grateful for!

  50. Fr Christian Mathis


  51. deanna


  52. Elisia

    My word for the year is "open". Actually it was a phrase that came to me at mass on Jan 1. The priest was talking about "opening your heart to God". Something I really need to focus on.

  53. Cathlen

    I've been thinking about his post for a few days, and the word that jumps out for me is "Action." I think a lot, I talk a lot, but I need to follow up with ACTION! This applies to my life across the board; my faith, my health, my family…

  54. brian


  55. Annie@SisterWisdom

    to accept myself, as I am, all my flaws, all my quirks, who I am, what I am, even as I work to grow and change.
    to accept the people in my life as they are, to love them for who they are, to quit trying to change/control them.
    to accept what life is and what God brings: the joyful, the painful, the all of it.
    Acceptance. for me, it opens the door to a whole host of other things I need more of – peace, rest, joy, gratitude.

  56. Jenifer

    Trust. Trust God, trust my gut instincts, trust the prayers of the church will bind me tightly against the evil of the world.

  57. EverErin

    I, too, have been a long time lurker, but this I had to comment on. This really hit me. I am starting a new position Monday that requires national travel 5-6 days a week, and am patiently waiting to start a family until my husband has completed school and secured a job. It will be a demanding year emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually. And I have almost resigned to give way when I a tired and let my husband take care of me, but now I won't have that option. I either have to keep going gracefully, by His grace, or on my own, which can be ugly. Fortitude, it is!

  58. Elizabeth K.

    Your post is (literally) an answer to a prayer. I have been going through severe anxiety, and God has been helping me along in my pitiful attempts to be rational and strong. I so needed these words–so thank you! I have copied them, and made fortitude my own word as well.

  59. Karen E.


    But then, that's my word every year.

    I'm thinking of changing it to Merlot, but not first thing in the morning.

  60. Janelle

    Ever since I read this I've been thinking and praying about it (SUCH a great idea), and my word finally came to me a couple days ago…


    To my delight I discovered that simplicity is in fact a spiritual discipline, and it's certainly something I am in deep need of practicing (little miss ADD, right here). Thanks for the inspiration!

  61. Anonymous

    I chuckled at the first person to choose "fiat" because it immediately brought to mind a mental image of a sporty little car. But, by the time the third commenter had chosen it, I had to look it up on dictionary.com. Perhaps it's a common term used among Catholics and that's why it was new to me, but I thought others might like to know that one meaning is: (from Medieval Latin, from Latin) "let it be done."

  62. Anonymous

    from The Martyr of the Catacombs

    "You have need to be cautious"
    "They cannot kill me more than once"
    "Ah, you Chrisians have wonderful fortitude. I admire your bravery…Why should you rush so madly upon death?"
    "Our Redeemer died for us. We are ready to die for Him. And since He died for His people, we also are willing to imitate Him and lay down our lives for our brethren."
    (the root and foundation of our fortitude) – found you through comment on mommylife – enjoying – would like to know more about your newfound elderly friend.

  63. miller_schloss

    Drudgery. I read a quote from Oswald Chambers a couple weeks ago that has been much on my mind: "Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. Drudgery is work that is far removed from anything we think of as ideal work. It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome, and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine."


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