The First Week of Advent: HOPE
The first week, the single candle seems feeble and lonely. It reminds us of the faithful all over the world who are living in isolation or hostility.
Advent Wreath Blessing:
With hands joined the prayer of blessing is said:
Lord our God,
We praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is the Savior of every nation.
Let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light
be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The first candle is then lighted
Source: Book of Blessings #1540
Advent Reflection From Our Pastor
Advent Begins: Prepare For Jesus’ Coming
I would like to wish you all a happy new year! Today is the first day of a new liturgical year in the Catholic Church, and in today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about His second coming, when He will judge the works of man.
There are many movies, books, articles, and shows that talk about the end times or guess when the world will end. Yet, for we who believe in Jesus Christ, knowing the precise day or year or way in which the world will end is not important. For us the most important is to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ coming. What does this mean?
First, it means that we should not be afraid. We should be at peace because our encounter with Jesus is an encounter with Someone Who loves us. Second, it means that we should strive to perceive God’s Love in our lives and respond to His Love by living in a state of grace, following the Commandments, and performing good works. We must strive to participate regularly in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, which are sources of unfathomable grace that will help us remain faithful to our resolutions, grow in a deeper relationship with Christ, and foster a firmer commitment to charitable works.
On this Sunday and throughout this Advent, I would like to invite you to take some time each day to spend with Jesus in prayer, in performing small sacrifices, and in loving others, particularly your loved ones. It is winter now. The days are shorter and the nights are longer. Many of you find yourselves at home in the evening with your families even more now due to the restrictions on socializing. This is a wonderful opportunity to seek the face of Jesus in your children, your spouse, or your parents. This is an opportunity to grow in stillness and silence. Such is the sense of awaiting Christ’s coming with trust and in simplicity and peace.
Yours in Christ,
Readings for the First Sunday of Advent: Lectionary 2
Week 1 of Advent: Hope
By Alec Torigian – Alliance for Catholic Education
The Body of Christ is filled with stories of hope. Stepping back to reflect on a list of hope-filled experiences I’ve witnessed in education left me humbled… the list is nice and long, but here are just a few examples:
- Hope is found on the back of a student who sits up nice and straight with her friends on the carpool bench at the end of the day. Less than a year prior, her auntie was told that she could never make it in “regular school” because she is living with severe autism and daily would lie on her back on the hallway floor, moaning until she would be sent home early.
- Hope is in the strong arms of a father, embracing his daughter’s teacher with a hug at eighth-grade graduation after the announcement that her hard work had earned her a full ride to the best Catholic high school in town. Earlier that year, those arms were tossed in the air with uncertainty, not knowing how he’d navigate his unemployment and his daughter’s desire for the school of her dreams.
- Hope is on the lips of a middle schooler who is smiling for the first time in what feels like weeks as he walks toward a living arrangement in which he feels safe and cared for. Earlier that day, those lips shared with a trusted staff member that his recent home situation had been abusive.
Truly, the list goes on and on. However, the stories of those members of the Body of Christ don’t stop there. Whether it’s the challenges of growing up, moving to a new school, the bad luck of a lay-off, or all-too-prevalent racism and marginalization, we know that the folks I just mentioned are likely to come across struggle again and again.
In fact, we all are likely to incur an ebb and flow of struggle to some degree throughout our lives. Jesus doesn’t promise that we’ll be free from struggle – in fact, His death on a cross should probably be a reminder to us that struggle is in many ways woven into the fabric of our humanity.
Frederick Douglass, no stranger to struggle, wisely stated, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
I am not optimistic that tomorrow we will wake up and avoid struggle, but I am HOPEFUL that this struggle and our fighting for those who struggle will bring about some step of progress.
When thinking about the footsteps of the members of the Body of Christ I’ve had the privilege of walking with, I cannot help but think about this reflection from the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross: “The footsteps of those who called us to walk in their company left deep prints, as of people carrying heavy burdens. But they did not trudge; they strode. For they had the hope.”
May we all use this Advent season as a time to reflect on those who carry crosses we could not imagine, and may that reflection animate us to fight and stride on with a hope that reminds us that The Best Is Yet To Come.
Virtual Advent Retreat: Unshakable Joy!
A joyous Christmas often begins with a reflective and prayerful Advent. To this end, consider attending (virtually) “Unshakable Joy.”
- A free, 26-day, joy-filled digital retreat led by Cardinal-elect Cantalamessa & Chris Stefanick
- Begins Sunday, November 29th
- Daily videos and reflections that fit into your busy day
- Access the retreat anywhere – on mobile, desktop or tablet
- Learn how to have joy, no matter the circumstances of life
To register click here: https://coaching.reallifecatholic.com/unshakeable-joy
Real Life Catholic
Advent Resources From The Archdiocese of Chicago
With the approach of Advent and a new liturgical year, there are many resources available across the Archdiocese in which to engage and deepen our relationship with God. Our Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship team has curated a host of ways to journey through the Advent season. Among the calendars, reflections, activities and more you are bound to find something to enrich your experience of Advent. There are sections specific to Catholic educators, as well as ideas for young people.
Mundelein Seminary invites all to kick off the Advent season with the annual “Sounds of the Season” Christmas Concert featuring our seminarian choir under the direction of Linda M. Cerabona on Sunday, December 6 at 2 p.m. CT. Even though current conditions prevent us from gathering in person, the seminarians hope you will join them virtually during this special time of year. The online concert is completely free and will be available to watch at any time afterward. You are also welcome to prepare your heart for Christmas by signing up to receive a weekly Gospel reflection throughout Advent written by seminarians.
Loyola University’s Institute for Pastoral Studies is offering a free virtual Advent Retreat Series, “When They Saw the Star.” IPS’ retreat series will explain and “explore the beauty and message of Christ’s birth within the context of our new 2020 reality.” Learn more about the series and how to register.
The Archdiocesan Commission on Mental Illness is hosting an Advent evening of prayer and reflection. All are invited to join, especially anyone living with a mental health concern and their loved ones. To register and receive the link, please email Deacon Tom Lambert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And the St. Agatha Gospel Choir is pleased to share that in 2019 it recorded a live CD of contemporary Gospel Music that contains some uplifting hymns, nine of which were written by the St. Agatha Music Director, Mr. Dennis Smith. The CD, titled, “It’s Over, It’s Alright,” is on sale through St. Agatha for $12 plus $1 mailing and is also available on major music platforms, iTunes, Spotify, etc. Contact Cynthia Smith, Director of Operations at 773.522.3050. Fr. Larry Dowling is on the CD, reciting an original prose piece – he assures everyone not to worry, he doesn’t sing on the CD! Proceeds go toward the ongoing community outreach programs at St. Agatha.
Additional Advent Resources:
Click here for additional resources you might wish to review and use as you prepare for the coming joy of Christmas.
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