Christmas approaches. We are nearly through our Advent waiting. What has this time been for us? As we enter the joyful season of celebration of the Incarnation, we have an opportunity to embrace the humble simplicity of the scene. Only the shepherds were made aware on that night and came to adore. As St. Vincent Pallotti notes, it was as God wanted it to be.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the instructions and signs given to the shepherds, allowed himself to be found as a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger” (OOCC, II, 66).
Eventually, those with faith in him came to know him as Emmanuel, God is with us. We know him. We believe in him. We witness him to others. Christ is with us. May we proclaim him as the angels did to the shepherds!
Please know that the prayers of the Catholic Apostolate Center team are with you at Christmas and always.
May you have a blessed Christmas!
In God, the Infinite Love,
My grandfather, my Grandpa Norm, passed away the day after Thanksgiving. He was ninety-three and had been in failing health for a while, and earlier that week, he decided he was ready to bring in hospice, who kept him comfortable and without pain in his final days. While I miss him terribly, I know that he had a long, happy life, and I pray that he is feasting at the eternal banquet in heaven with my grandma, his parents, siblings, and many friends and family members.
Grandpa Norm was my last grandparent to die. I was so fortunate to have had all four grandparents until I was nineteen. All four grandparents were major parts of my childhood (and with two of them, my adulthood), and the death of each of them holds a unique place in my heart. With the death of my last grandparent, those parts of my heart are being tugged a bit harder right now.
The funny thing about grief is that it hits you in ways you cannot anticipate. My family and I drove from Washington, DC to Michigan for the services for my grandpa, and on our nine-hour drive home, I was making a mental to-do list of all of the holiday tasks I needed to accomplish when we returned home. One included working on our Christmas cards, and the grief came flooding as I realized I would have to remove my grandpa from our Christmas card list and that we would not be sending him a gift. It was something so small, but it hit me in a big way.
Grief is hard. There is no way around it. The beauty of our faith, though, is that we know there is more after this life. We know we will be reunited with those loved ones we miss so dearly, and we must cling to that hope when we are deep in grief. We have to go through the darkness and sadness of Good Friday in order to experience the light and joy of Easter Sunday.
In some ways, I am grateful for the timing of my grandfather’s death to have been at the beginning of Advent. The season of Advent is a time for reflection and preparation. During Advent, we prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus not only at his birth, but also at his Second Coming. For me this year, I am adding another dimension to my time of reflection: remembering my grandparents, my grandfather especially, and being grateful for the gift they were in my life.
There is something about this time of the year that lends itself to grief: the weather where I am is cold and damp, darkness comes sooner than I want it to, and there is a rush of busyness that often distracts me from the importance of this time leading up to Christmas. But in the sadness and darkness of this time—this year in particular for me—I look forward to the light of Christ entering the world on Christmas day and to his glorious return at the end of time.
The Advent and Christmas seasons are some of the most important times in our Church. We are celebrating the arrival and birth of Jesus, our Savior! As we go through these seasons, families have different traditions that they partake in throughout this special time. These traditions help to bring us into a preparatory state for the birth of Jesus. If you want to implement some additional practices into your family's Christmas preparations and traditions, here are some ideas that can get you started.
These small practices not only highlight the importance of the Advent and Christmas seasons for your family, but they can also create lifelong traditions that can be carried on through your family. Some of my fondest memories of Christmastime are from the Vigil Mass, participating in the Christmas pageant, and making cookies with my family. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Advent and Christmas and find time to joyfully anticipate and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In celebrating this feast, we confess that:
“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 491).
That is to say: Mary, in a unique way, was free of original sin, so that, unburdened by the fear, confusion, and selfishness that accompany sin, she could give her “yes” with absolute freedom when asked to bear the Son of God. The Prayer over the Offerings at today’s Mass describes this teaching beautifully by saying, “We profess [Mary], on account of [God’s] prevenient grace, to be untouched by any stain of sin, so, through her intercession, we may be delivered from all our faults.”
While “prevenient grace” is a bit of an unusual term, and not one most of us learn in religious education classes, it gets at the heart of what we celebrate on this our patronal feast day for the United States of America. The “prevenient grace” Mary receives is a grace given in anticipation of the extraordinary role she would play in salvation history as the Mother of God, but it also shows her ordinary human nature. Mary is not divine; like the rest of humanity, she too needs God’s grace and redemption through Christ’s saving actions.
We might consider the following analogy which is often referenced in explanation of this teaching. Suppose a man falls into a deep and muddy pit, and someone reaches down to pull him out. The man has been “saved” from the pit but hasn’t escaped the mud stains he got from falling into it. Now imagine a woman walking along about to tumble into the pit herself, but just as she is about to fall in, someone holds her back and stops her from falling in. She too has been “saved”—not only from falling into the pit, but also from getting stained by the mud in the first place. While we receive God’s grace when we are cleansed of original sin in the waters of Baptism, Mary was kept free from the stain of original sin from the first moment of her existence. We are all saved by the same sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; Mary, however, was given this gift at a different point in time.
The Catechism goes on to describe how this gift of grace was necessary for Mary’s unique vocation:
“To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary ‘was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.’ The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as ‘full of grace.’ In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 490).
Just as Mary had to be given the grace she needed to respond to her vocation, we too must rely on the grace of God to answer God’s unique call for us. It is fitting that we celebrate this feast within the season of Advent. We may well take advantage of this holy season and all it offers to open ourselves evermore to the gifts God wishes to bestow on us, so that we too can bring Christ’s presence to a world very much in need of it.
Mary was able to devote herself to God’s will “wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son…by God's grace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 494). We too can find ourselves more attuned to God’s will after seeking out the forgiveness of our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is offered more frequently during this season of Advent. We can pause during this season of preparation and reflect on the following: How am I responding to my unique God-given vocation? How can I cooperate more freely with God’s will? How am I being called to make Christ present here and now? How can I cultivate a greater reliance on God’s grace?
As we joyfully await the coming of Christ, may Mary, “full of grace,” loving mother, and model of holiness, intercede for us!
We’re well into the first week of Advent, and if you’re like me, you’re probably sick of all the Christmas displays and music and consumerism that has bombarded our senses since November started. As an American, it’s always been easy for me to get pulled into the secular world’s excitement about Christmas, its eagerness to get started with all the partying, eating, gift swapping, caroling, and general Christmas cheer. But as I’ve deepened my faith as a Catholic, I have found that the more focus I put on Advent as a time of preparation for Christmas, the easier it is to block out the unending secular Christmas noise and ready my heart, my home, and my family for the coming of the Christ child.
For most people, the phrase “preparing for Christmas” probably evokes memories of setting up Christmas trees and hanging lights outside, wrapping gifts, or organizing the ideal Christmas classics playlist. And while those things certainly count as preparation for Christmas, won’t we suffer burnout—or what I have seen referred to as “the holiday hangover”—if we spend all of November and December with our house decked out for Christmas and with Christmas music playing all day long? I know I would.
A few years ago, as I was researching Catholic Advent traditions that I could incorporate into my family’s liturgical life, I decided that I ought to shift our emphasis from when to set up the Christmas décor and instead focus on the spiritual longing and the growing excitement for the arrival of the Messiah. Traditionally and liturgically, Christmastide lasts many days—at the very least until the Epiphany, but usually until the Baptism of the Lord. Why not leave the Christmas celebrations until Christmastide and focus on the preparation during Advent? Israel spent countless years in hopeful anticipation of the savior—is it really so difficult for me and my family to spend four weeks emulating that same sense of joyful expectation?
The Catholic Church has so many symbols and traditions from which we can draw to prepare our hearts and homes for Christ. In our house, we not only light the Advent wreath every night, but we darken the dining room lights in order to emphasize the light that Christ brought when he came into the world. We also recently implemented the Jesse Tree—a tradition I did not grow up with, but one that I have come to love because it condenses salvation history into a timeline that is easy even for my children to follow. We don’t listen to Christmas music during Advent, choosing instead to listen to Advent music. We read children’s books that discuss the animals’ preparing the barn before the Nativity, or the journey that Mary and Joseph took before Jesus was born.
When we experience Advent in this way, the anticipation for Christmas builds with each passing week. As Christmas Day draws closer, we start baking and freezing the Christmas cookies to be eaten during Christmastide and to be given as gifts at Christmas parties. I take time to plan out special activities for us to do during the twelve days of Christmas, or special meals I know everyone will enjoy during that time. We pray the O Antiphons. We make or buy gifts for our loved ones, and we talk about how giving gifts to our loved ones is a reflection of the great gift of Jesus, who was given to us on Christmas Day.
In this way, when we finally decorate the house on Christmas Eve, we are all practically bouncing with excitement—and not just about presents, but about the miracle of Christ’s birth. Our children’s—and our own—sense of wonder is bolstered and preserved by our not celebrating too early. By steeping ourselves in the history of the first Christmas and by maintaining that same sense of watchful hoping and waiting, we can more fully appreciate the wonder of the arrival of the promised Messiah.
**This post was originally published on 12/3/2019**
Underneath where eyes don't go
A sound that keeps the beat that holds
Alive the song I listen close
Do I follow, do I follow, where it goes
This refrain from the song, Where it Goes, by the Gray Havens provides a beautiful canvas of the human longing to live life most deeply. The human heart desires more than what the human flesh can provide on its own, recognizing that persistent longing (like a “beat that holds”) that exists “underneath where eyes don’t go.” This is, in a nutshell, the religious experience of every human person. The religious person recognizes this persistent desire and seeks to pay attention to it.
I share this on the feast of St. Andrew and in the season of Advent, because the account of Andrew and John in the Gospel reflects this very experience--our experience. It is also an experience that the season of Advent invites us to embrace.
What is this experience? It is our longing for the exceptional. Yes, it sounds cliché and hollow, but that is because many common words have lost their true value and power. Fr. Giussani, in his book Generating Traces, helps us recapture the essence of this word by describing the exceptional as that which corresponds to the deepest desires of one’s heart. So this experience (manifested by the song lyrics above and Andrew in the Gospel) is this longing to encounter that which corresponds to the deepest desires of one’s heart—a longing for the exceptional.
The question in the song, “Do I follow?” is answered affirmatively by Andrew. He follows. But he follows a particular man. Why? What makes this one man worth following? What is it about this man that triggered a response to leave everything behind and follow? What is it about this man that allowed the disciples to have this great affection for Him?
Fr. Giussani beautifully asks these questions and offers that one-word answer that again seems so simple—too simple—yet indeed profound. Fr. Giussani writes that this man, Jesus Christ, generated attraction because He was exceptional. And so Christ was exceptional in the eyes of the apostle Andrew because Christ corresponded to the deepest desires of his heart.
Such reflections may lead us to wonder what this desire actually looks like in our life. Yes, we can, as faithful believers, affirm that Jesus is truly exceptional, but what does my desire for the exceptional look like on a daily basis?
This year’s theme for the 2023 New York Encounter beautifully illustrates our current situation. To paraphrase, the theme highlights that the last few years have strengthened within each of us a desire for authentic community, a community that is truly interdependent. The uncertainty of the past few years (and the feeling of our inadequacy to face said uncertainty) have intensified our desire to be seen, accepted, and affirmed by someone in the flesh. We yearn for the presence of someone in our life who is not scandalized or embarrassed by our brokenness and sins. We desire the presence of someone who understands our life with certainty and accompanies us throughout it. We long for a presence that truly sees us and unconditionally loves us.
This is why Andrew followed Jesus along the road. For the first time, Andrew experienced this presence that saw him, a presence that understood his own life better than he did, a presence that filled this need. This is why Andrew was able to respond with such simplicity and certainty—a simplicity and certainty which would seem absurd to any outsider (think about the absurdity of following someone along the road whom you have barely met!). But the exceptional presence of Christ—the fulfillment of his desire to be seen and loved—draws out this unquestionable attraction and clarity in Andrew.
The season of Advent can draw out this unquestionable attraction and clarity within each one of us. This beautiful yet short liturgical season proposes a time to reawaken this desire and see with renewed eyes the exceptionality of Christ. In our longing to be seen, known, and loved, Advent proposes the coming of the only presence that can fill this need.
Advent gives us, if you will, a space “underneath” in which we can listen close to the song of our heart.
And like Andrew, we can follow.
With the new liturgical year beginning this first Sunday of Advent, I am making a resolution to approach each liturgical season and day with more intentionality. In my collaboration with religious communities, I have come to admire the way they commemorate the life of their particular community within the rhythm of liturgical feasts and seasons. Their communal prayer is often guided by an ordo, a list specific to each community and/or diocese that organizes the dates of feasts (particularly those special to the community, such as patronal feasts or local saints), readings, and a necrology (the anniversaries of the deaths of members of the community) for each day. They also celebrate milestones and anniversaries of the profession of final vows and ordinations.
Why not approach the liturgical year in a similar way in our own family, our domestic Church? We too can strive to be more mindful about preparing for and celebrating special days within our Church and our family, taking time beforehand to plan which Mass to attend or finding other creative ways to observe a feast or special occasion. As we approach this new liturgical year, it may be a good time to look ahead and make plans to mark not only the big celebrations, like Christmas and Easter, but also every feast day your family may want to celebrate.
Certainly this includes birthdays and anniversaries, but it also means making note of
To find some of these dates, you may need to refer to sacramental records, such as a Baptismal Certificate, or consult family members. Personal planner templates available online can be customized to mark these dates, and once you’ve compiled a basic list, you can continue to add to it year after year. You may also wish to set aside a few special items for these celebrations, such as a bottle of holy water, a baptismal candle or baptismal garment, pictures from the event observed, holy cards, or images of the saints or family members commemorated. Children may particularly enjoy setting up a prayer space to reflect the occasion.
One helpful resource for planning is the Catholic Apostolate Center’s feast day website, which has information about the saints organized by feast day, region, time period, and more. Another useful resource is a book entitled Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It contains special blessings for birthdays, name days, and baptismal anniversaries as well as short daily prayers; seasonal blessings and prayers; blessings for life events such as graduations, birthdays, engagements, pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, and moving into a new home; and prayers for times of sickness and difficulty.
You can even make it a practice to have a special meal on these days, choosing a menu related to the feast being observed or simply enjoying the favorite foods of the person being celebrated. Not only can you take the opportunity to share about your faith, but you can also share a bit of family history and bring the liturgical year to life in a more personal way.
By doing these things, we learn more about the mysteries and people of faith commemorated, even as we strive to emulate them. We also join in the age-old tradition of the “People of God [who] have observed fixed feasts, beginning with Passover, to commemorate the astonishing actions of the Savior God, to give him thanks for them, to perpetuate their remembrance, and to teach new generations to conform their conduct to them” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1164).
This approach of gratitude, remembrance, and faithfulness may help us live the liturgical seasons more fruitfully, as we unfold throughout the course of the year the various aspects of “the whole mystery of Christ from his Incarnation and Nativity through his Ascension, to Pentecost and the expectation of the blessed hope of the coming of the Lord” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 102 §2). May this new liturgical year truly be a “year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk 4:19)!
Advent offers us a time of waiting, but we sometime do not accept this offer. We are busy with preparations for Christmas and with other things. The time moves by with maybe a few fleeting Advent thoughts and aspirations. Yet, interestingly, one of the most popular resources pages that we at Catholic Apostolate Center created is the one on Advent. We find there is a desire to enter into this season in an authentic and prayerful way. As you will see below, we have some new Advent resources to share.
What would you like to do during the soon to arrive Advent season? Here are a few suggestions:
Live in hope
Live in joy
Live in peace
Live in love
Hope, joy, peace, and love are not greeting card sentiments. They are rooted in life in Christ and our living for him. When we live them, we live Advent. Each of us will have our own way of living them. May Advent be a time to live them more deeply and fully.
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
In God, the Infinite Love,
“Each of us – let’s not forget this – has a mission to accomplish. So, let’s not be afraid to ask the Lord: what should I do? Let us ask him this question repeatedly.” – Pope Francis, Angelus, December 12, 2021
What is our mission in life? As Christians, it is obvious, we share in the mission of Christ. That is easy to say, but a challenge to do. What Pope Francis proposes is important, especially about asking the question “repeatedly.” Sometimes we might think that discernment of how we live the mission is something done once or occasionally. Instead, it is a day-to-day discernment and sometimes even moment by moment.
“What should I do, Lord?”
Consider the question now, then ask it again and again. This deeper portion of Advent, on the cusp of Christmas, provides a perfect time to reflect on what we should do for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ to accomplish well our particular mission.
We are not alone in this mission, we might have a unique way to go about it, but the mission is Christ’s. Our sisters and brothers in the community of faith that we call the Church live this mission as well. Let us pray for and support one another as we discern and then live what we should do for the Lord each day.
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
May you have a blessed Christmas. Our prayers are with you.
In God, the Infinite Love,
This Advent is very special for three reasons. First, my son, who will be two in January, will be experiencing the lights, the beauty, and the gift of Advent in a brand new way this season and I’m so happy to share that with him. The second is because every year I teach about Advent to my class of PreK students, but because I’m really looking forward to it, I think I’ll be able to bring that joy into the classroom with me more than ever. Finally, this year in Advent I will be trying to intentionally do work in the service of others and helping where there is an imperative need. This year, I’m hoping to get caught up in the magic and in the giving and also appreciate the beauty of the season rather than waiting impatiently.
On the first Sunday of Advent, I went to Mass with my son and husband, along with another family with two young children. For the first half, my toddler was overwhelmed with excitement about the tree in the back filled with tags for people who need wrapped gifts for Christmas. He kept taking the tags off and swapping out one for another, screaming in joy about the whole thing while the congregation listened to the readings. After some quieting down, we went back into the pew with his little friends. As we knelt in prayer, I was overcome with emotion and gratitude between my husband and son. But the moment that really helped me see through the eyes of a child was when we walked up for Eucharist and my son noticed the purple at the altar, and the four candles with one purple one lit. He pointed and said, “Candle!” and in that moment I knew we would have such a joyful season of Advent. I invite you to notice something brand new about the lights, beauty, and hope that Advent brings to us all. Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are the four weeks that bring us closer to Christ and prepare us for His coming. We can use this time to reawaken our hearts and see Advent all fresh and new, especially through the gentle ways of children!
In my PreK classroom, the children love holidays and especially look forward to Christmas. So many learn about Christmas and Advent for the first time in my class, and that is a really special opportunity for me as their teacher. Already this year, one student shouted, “Presents!” as we were talking about Thanksgiving, and I had to clarify the confusion between the holidays. Then, it struck me, isn’t that how it works sometimes? We want to skip right to something fun that might be in the more distant future instead of appreciating the celebration that might be happening right in front of us. Advent is this same phenomenon. We’re worried, anticipating, and anxious about one day every year, but if you consider that every day in Advent can be a celebration of the Season, it’s really like we have a whole month of Christmas!
There is so much we can do for others in this challenging world right now and there are many in need of our help. Winter is cold and this year has already been chilly: there is a lot we can do for our Sisters and Brothers in Christ during Advent by sharing in joy, distributing resources, praying for those sick or in need, or offering kindness. In 2018, Pope Francis said, “Advent invites us to a commitment to vigilance, looking beyond ourselves, expanding our mind and heart in order to open ourselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world." Advent is a time for service, here are some examples of helping others during this time of giving:
Whether you look at Advent through a child-like perspective, find joy in the daily celebration, or assist those less fortunate this Season, do it all with intentional preparation for Christ’s coming on Christmas. I’ll be busy getting caught up in the magic and beauty too! Happy Advent!
Click here for more resources on Advent.
Click here for more resources on the Works of Mercy.
We have entered the season of Advent and a new liturgical year. Advent offers us an important time to watch, wait, and reflect on the coming of Jesus Christ and on our encounter with him. He is encountered in the mystery of the Incarnation, which we represent by Nativity scenes placed in our churches, chapels, and homes. We could limit ourselves to only looking at the beauty of the artistic scene and not move into deeper reflection on the fact that God, who is infinite love and mercy, sent his only begotten Son to save us.
Christ is also encountered in the Eucharist, most significantly during the celebration of the Mass. Pope Francis describes this coming of Jesus:
“Mass is prayer; rather, it is prayer par excellence, the loftiest, the most sublime, and at the same time the most ‘concrete’. In fact, it is the loving encounter with God through his Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is an encounter with the Lord.” (General Audience, November 15, 2017).
And Christ will come again in all his glory at the end of time. We need to be prepared for this time not simply through passive waiting, but by active watching for the Lord and encountering him in our brothers and sisters who are most in need, especially the poor, the vulnerable, and the voiceless (Mt. 25:31-46). As baptized members of the Body of Christ, we are co-responsible for the mission that he left us until he comes again – for the salvation of souls – not only focusing on eternal life with God, but also on how we are collaborating with the Most Holy Trinity to build the Kingdom of God on this side of life.
Pope Francis also reminds us of the connection of the Immaculate Conception to the salvific plan of God.
“In the Immaculate Conception of Mary we are invited to recognize the dawn of the new world, transformed by the salvific work of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The dawn of the new creation brought about by divine mercy. For this reason, the Virgin Mary, never infected by sin and always full of God, is the mother of a new humanity. She is the mother of the recreated world.” (Homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 2015)
We have not been conceived without sin, but we have been washed clean of Original Sin at Baptism (and all prior sin, if one was baptized as an adult). While we have all sinned since that time, our Baptism offers us a share in the mission of Jesus Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King. Though followers or disciples, he also sends us as apostles, or as missionary disciples, out into our challenging world to witness to him by what we say and do. That is why we are told at the end of each Mass to “Go”. We are sent on mission by Christ and the Church as joyful witnesses of God’s love and mercy.
Our best example of how to be a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She followed Jesus as his disciple unfailingly during her life and continues from her heavenly home as Queen of Apostles to invite us to encounter her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord.
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
**This post was originally published on 12/7/2017.
“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” – St. Gianna Beretta Molla
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of my time thinking about the things that I don’t have. It’s not like I am constantly sitting in self-pity and comparison, but in the back of my head is a pretty consistent “why?” Why don’t I have this when so and so has this? I deserve this, why hasn’t God given it to me? Why why why? These thoughts certainly don’t make me happy, and they most certainly are not of God. So why is it so easy for me to live in a state of unease and ingratitude?
The evil one does not want us to count our blessings. He uses the good fortune of others to distract us from our own good fortune. He does not want us to live in the moment and bask in the glory of God’s creation. He wants us to see what everyone has, and for us to ask God, why don’t I have that? Why haven’t you chosen to give that thing to me?
The quote above from St. Gianna is such a perfect example for us to meditate on how to live each day praying in thanks to our God rather than letting ourselves sink into ingratitude. St. Gianna suffered from chronic illness in her life, and it would have been very easy for her to complain and sink into bitterness because of it. Instead, she chose to “live moment by moment” in gratitude for the gift of a life being lived for God.
Maybe an exercise we can try to practice this advent is any time we are tempted to compare, any time we are tempted to sit in self-pity instead of living in the moment, we instead offer a prayer for the people who seem to be more blessed than us. God knows their crosses as well as their joys, just as He knows ours.
And as we move forward into this new year in the Church, let’s make a resolution together. Let us follow the example of St. Gianna and the many saints in Heaven who lived singing songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for our blessings and for the blessings God has given to our fellow man. Let us not live in comparison and unease. Let us be grateful for every single moment!
Click here for more resources on Advent.
Click here for more resources about St. Gianna Molla.
Many years ago, when we were settling our firstborn son in for bed, my husband would cradle him in his arms and swing him vigorously back and forth while singing “Go forth among the people, people of every nation. Tell them how Christ came to save. Tell them how he came to bring salvation.” I believe that took root in my son’s life and was nourished over the years to equip him to be a forthright disciple of Christ as an adult today. My husband and I were raised in the security of a culture of Christendom of the 1950’s and 60’s. What did this look like? Our culture, all aspects of society were steeped in Christian principles. Our laws and basic moral understanding were rooted in Judeo-Christian truth that made it relatively easy to adhere to a Christ centered life.
“Go forth and tell! O Church of God, awake! God’s saving news to all the nations
take. Proclaim Christ Jesus, Savior, Lord and King, that all the world His worthy
praise may sing.”
Over the last several decades we’ve witnessed our culture radically change. The world view of our dominant culture no longer ascribes to fundamental biblical principles, and we have shifted from the age of Christendom into an Apostolic age. Our basic mode of operation needs to change to continue to be effective bearers of Christ’s love to one another. Many Christians have become fearful and overwhelmed and even despaired because of this cultural shift. It is essential that we remain encouraged and adjust how we live so we can be bold missionaries for the kingdom of God in our world today. As far back as 1974, Bishop Fulton Sheen was a prophetic voice to help us recognize our call as Christians in a time of change. He said: “We are at the end of Christendom. Not of Christianity, not of the Church. The economic, political, and social life inspired by Christian principles has ended. But these are great and wonderful days in which to be alive. Therefore, live your lives in the full consciousness of this hour of testing and rally close to the heart of Christ.”
“Go forth and tell! God offers life to all; The Lord makes rich all who on Him
shall call. How shall they call if they have never heard the gracious invitation
of his word?”
I believe the activities and traditions my husband and I learned and practiced as we parented our six children have been instrumental in equipping them to be ambassadors of Christ in this new age of evangelization. I am forever grateful for my “upbringing,’ for the solid passing on of faith from my family, my parish, my schools, and my neighbors. The blessing of being nurtured in the age of Christendom caught me – body, mind, and spirit. Through pure grace, I continue to grow in who I am, what I am purposed to do and rely on my relationship with Jesus, the reception of the sacraments, and strive to live the Beatitudes as I journey into this current era. I am aware of the difficulties people are facing today remaining rooted in Jesus and how easy it is to fall prey to some current views that are contrary to Christianity.
“Go forth and tell! Men still in darkness lie; in wealth or want, in sin they live
and die. Give us, O Lord, concern of heart and mind – a love like Yours which
cares for all mankind.”
I recall Cardinal Wojtyla in 1976 speaking in Philadelphia to Americans, calling us forth out of our comfort into this age of evangelization to minister to the people around us in a radical new way. “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. We are facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.” He was clearly prophesying to awaken us to adopt a new approach to live the Christian life and to reach the people lost and on the fringes. Later, as Pope John Paul II, he pastored us in how to counter the culture of death. God has been preparing us through prophetic voices throughout history to be aware of the days of tribulation and darkness so that the Holy Spirit can be with us to be vibrant witnesses in those times. Jeremiah reminds us in 15:21 “I will rescue you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the ruthless.” Many of David’s psalms emphasize God’s constant care for us and that He will never abandon us.
“Go forth and tell! Christ charges us to go. All power is His; from Him the
blessings flow. Live out your life as Christ your Lord shall choose; Your ransomed
powers for His sole glory use.”
In this apostolic age we are called to be intentionally evangelistic in a manner far different than ever before. We have to look back to the life of the 12 Apostles and the culture they lived in for our example. They were not theologians, had very few followers, had no church buildings, no foreign mission’s expertise, next to no monetary resources, no written gospels to preach from, and society was hostile or apathetic towards them. Yet they were ecstatic to go out to all the nations and share the perfect love of Jesus to all. What was it that propelled them so enthusiastically? They had the Holy Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit we have that empowers us today and fires us up with unrestrained joy to bring life giving support to those we encounter. Just as the Apostles and early Christians – we are commissioned by Jesus through His blood shed for us and are confirmed in the Spirit to operate in His gifts. We do not have the right or luxury to say these gifts are only for some and not for me. Each of us is accountable to the call. We cannot say “I can’t,” “I won’t,” or “It’s not my gift.” Jesus calls us forth to offer words of knowledge, laying on hands for healing, saying deliverance prayers, giving encouragement, discerning spirits and to love intensely. The book of Acts is our roadmap.
“Go forth and tell! O Church of God, arise! Go in the strength which Christ
your Lord supplies. Go ‘til all nations His great name adore, and serve Him
Lord and King forevermore.”
Song: Go Forth and Tell by James Seddon
As we enter this Advent 2021 season, we are afforded a time to renew our identity in Christ, examine our mission call, and move forward as joyous disciples proclaiming the kingdom of God in everything we do. The simple truth is that God lives inside each of us. We are expected to be aware of His presence and to allow Him to do whatever He chooses through us. What a beautiful privilege! It is truly a blessed and anointed time to be alive! Let this be our great adventure together as committed Christians.
Advent offers a time of waiting and renewal rooted in Christ. We are waiting for the celebration of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh, which we celebrate at Christmas. We are also waiting for the second coming of Christ at the end of time. It is an expectant waiting which calls us to renewal in our hearts and minds. Yet, even in the waiting we are not alone. Christ is with us. Pope Francis offers us this consideration:
“Advent is a continuous call to hope… God walks beside us to support us. The Lord does not abandon us; He accompanies us through the events of our lives to help us discover the meaning of the journey, the meaning of everyday life, to give us courage when we are under duress or suffering” (Angelus, November 29, 2020).
Sometimes amid times of difficulty, we simply try to move forward, but may lack hope, and find it challenging to advance. Advent provides time to recognize more fully that we are accompanied by Christ and that our hope is found in him and him alone. There are many who offer messages of hope that is fleeting. The hope offered by Christ is eternal. It challenges us to greater renewal in him. As Pope Francis notes, it takes courage to journey forth, courage that comes from Jesus Christ.
As we enter the Advent season, may this time of waiting truly be one of renewal, lived in hope that has a name, Jesus Christ.
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
In God, the Infinite Love,
During our marriage preparation, my husband and I made a mission, vision, and values spreadsheet for our marriage goals (nerdy, we know!). Part of our goals include living an authentic Catholic lifestyle, which we believe integrates the liturgical season into our new family unit. Some of my favorite memories from childhood include cooking and baking with my mom and having meaningful discussions with my parents about our Catholic faith. Traditions like these are important to my husband and me, and we look forward to continuing to build off of our parents’ traditions while adding our own.
To build traditions within our family, we’ve started with the idea of liturgical living. Liturgical living brings the life and breadth of the Church into our own homes and can be accomplished through certain prayers, celebrations, meals, crafts, and other traditions. This can also be described as building up the domestic church – which may be even more important than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic. As newlyweds, we have slowly added liturgical season traditions into our daily lives, such as celebrating saint feast days and preparing our house for Advent and Christmas. A New Year’s resolution we’ve set for ourselves in 2021 is trying to incorporate more of the Church’s liturgical seasons into our home to better appreciate the richness of our Catholic faith.
One of our favorite wedding gifts to help us implement our goal of liturgical living is The Catholic All Year Compendium by Kendra Tierney. Tierney shares how her family celebrates the Church’s liturgical season 365 days a year. She starts off the book by encouraging families to begin celebrating what makes the Catholic faith most approachable to each family member – saint namesake feast days and Baptism anniversaries. Special meals and desserts, prayer, stories, activities, and conversations are different ways to make the celebrations meaningful.
After noting namesake feast days and baptisms, Tierney recommends starting slowly and gradually, adding in other feast days important to each family and doing things that already fit into existing daily routines. The free calendars given out at church for the new year have these dates with the liturgical year, such as Ordinary Time, Lent, etc. A fabulous Christmas present I also received last month is the Blessed Is She planner that incorporates feast days and the liturgical year. This is all a process that takes time and can be added upon each year or changed. It shouldn’t be meant to overwhelm.
In our annual family planning meeting for 2021, my husband and I went through each month and picked which feasts we’d celebrate after our saint name days and baptisms. Our church even made our first feast day celebration easy by providing us blessed chalk and a prayer to say while marking 20 + C + M + B + 21 above our front door mantle for Epiphany on January 6! We’ve also added making “king cake” cinnamon rolls for dessert as part of the tradition.
How do you plan to incorporate Catholic liturgical living into your family’s routine this year? What are some of your favorite liturgical living traditions? If you practice liturgical living already, how has this helped your family learn about the Catholic faith?
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