Advent is here!
Yes, hard to believe, I know. Sometimes it seems that every year we skip Ordinary Time altogether and go directly from Lent to Advent. Ou sont les dimanches d’antan? Before every Advent, I tell myself that this year will be different. This year, I say, will truly be a season of deeper prayer, increased penance, and joyful good works, to spiritually prepare myself for the coming of Christ in a new way into my life. This year I will really get ready. And every year I seem to fall short. Perhaps you have the same feeling...
With that in mind, let me offer you some fine resources to help you and your family meditate on this remarkable liturgical season.
The first is a new book that you should order right away (since we're approaching the second Sunday of Advent): Advent and Christmas Reflections : Ideas for Teaching the Catholic Faith in the Home, School, and Parish. Published by the National Catholic Education Association, it's a compendium of reflections, practices and prayers presented in a most inviting format, which will help homes and schools enter more deeply into the real spirit of Christmas. “This book of reflections and teaching tips provides an opportunity for you to enjoy the beautiful and life-giving truths of the Catholic faith and share them with children, young people and peers,” says the author in his introduction. Full disclosure: I'm biased since the book was written by a friend, Tom Simonds, S.J., an assistant professor of education at Creighton University, but I’ll bet that you’ll be biased too after you read it: You’ll love it!
For some reason I always associate Advent prayer with Liguori Publications, which has long provided Catholic readers with attractive Advent and Christmas booklets. The short books in their “Advent and Christmas Wisdom ” series, are essentially collections of prayers and essays by people like Bishop Fulton Sheen, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Pope John Paul II, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Pio of Pietrelcina (boy, I wish Padre Pio lived a town that was easier to pronounce) and G.K. Chesterton. They are easy invitations to prayer, and make you wonder why we don't have Advent year-round. (And next year maybe we can hope for a woman author in the mix!)
And these days there are plenty of Advent and Christmas resources on the web. The Jesuit Collaborative is offering a terrific website filled with recommendations for prayer as well as with podcasts from New England Jesuits. Dotmagis, the always-helpful Ignatian website run by Loyola Press, is offering an online Advent retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. And the Sisters of the Holy Child have produced an inviting (and very thorough) Advent meditation website  with not only beautiful reflections but...music! The pages are also printable, in case you need them for a group. It takes a while to load, but your patience will be rewarded. Besides, Advent is a time of waiting, right?
And of course don't miss America's Advent series, on our website. We're offering video reflections on works of art, poetry and books appropriate for the season. The first one is by Drew Christiansen, S.J., on a poem that I bet you don't know but that I'll also bet you'll love, once you hear it.
So I pray that your Advent—and mine!—may this year be a prayerful one, full of expection and hope in Christ.