December 2, 2012

December 2, 2012 Column Father De Celles

Advent. Today we begin the Season of Advent, 4 weeks preparing for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Many people tend to forget that this season is about preparing for Christmas and instead spend these weeks pre-maturely celebrating Christmas. And then when the actual 3 week Christmas Season begins on Christmas Day, they put all the Christmas things away and go on with life!

As I mentioned last week, this pre-mature celebration isn’t a bad thing, if we see it as part of the strong influence of Christianity on our culture. For many Catholics this is largely what is going on—people around them start celebrating Christmas, and it’s such a wonderful feast they (Catholics) get all caught up in it.

But this phenomena is not completely harmless. First of all, much of this pre-mature celebration is driven not by a culture influenced by Christianity, but by commercial interests taking advantage of that culture. Whereas, not too many years ago we might see a gradual movement toward celebrating Christmas in the first weeks of December, nowadays Christmas is everywhere the day after Thanksgiving. Sadly, much of this is nothing more than retailers playing on our emotional attachment to Christmas, in order to increase sales. Increasing sales is not a bad thing, but the reduction of Advent to a period of rampant commercialism/materialism and emotionalism is. All but forgotten is the spiritual/faith preparation to celebrate the wonder of the birth of the Baby Jesus, our Creator come to redeem us from our sins.

As your spiritual father, I beg you, don’t let this happen to you and yours this Advent. This is not to say you can’t, to some extent, take part in the cultural celebrations, as long as you make sure to also spend time preparing for the celebration of the Day that changed the world forever. Here are some suggestions:
• Christians always prepare for Holy Days by doing penance. In Advent this shouldn’t take on anything near the severity of Lent, but we should do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him.
• Add extra prayers to your daily routine. The Rosary is an excellent addition to our prayers, especially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries, or at least praying one decade every day, meditating on one of the Joyful Mysteries.
• Reading Scripture is an excellent way to renew your faith in Christ. Perhaps challenge yourself to choose one of the Gospels and read at least one chapter a day throughout Advent.
• Of course, charitable giving is a great way to prepare for the gift of the Baby Jesus. While it is a fine practice to give presents to people we love, it is an even better practice to give to those who do not know us and cannot give anything back to us. So make sure you make generous charitable gifts—either directly to those in need or to worthy charitable projects/institutions. The parish Giving Tree is one good way to do this, as are some of the special collections.
• Receiving the sacraments is one of the most important things you can do in Advent. Consider coming to Mass and Adoration during the week, and make sure you go to Confession. Unfortunately, due to the reduced number of priests this year, we cannot schedule a 7pm Mass every weekday, but we will have confessions every weekday evening during Advent.
• Most importantly, live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Follow the 10 Commandments, live out the Beatitudes. Forgive others, and be kind, patient, generous, and encouraging.
• Also: take part in the many special events and liturgies scheduled in the parish this Advent. Please find the insert of the Schedule of “Advent & Christmas 2012 Events” in this bulletin, look it over carefully and keep in somewhere central in your house (on the fridge door?).

Two parish “special events” I’d like to call your attention to in particular are:
Lessons and Carols. On Sunday, December 16, I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir at 6:30pm for a program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings, called “Lessons and Carols.” Weaving together prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, the readers lay out God’s breathtaking plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular hymns and stretching their vocal wings in a few more complicated choral pieces. We started this Advent tradition 2 years ago, with a good-sized crowd the first year, and easily doubled attendance last year. Please come, because if you don’t, you’ll be missing something truly special.
Advent Series. I invite you all to attend the Advent Series I will be presenting on the 3 Thursday evenings of Advent: “The Word Became Flesh: Coming to Know God.” In this “Year of Faith” this will be sort of a re-introductory course to Faith in Christ and His Revelation. The first “class” this Thursday will look at the basic ways we come to know God, beginning with simple human reason and observation, moving to an overview discussion of Scripture and Tradition. This should not be just some dry theoretical discussion, but can help you to really grow in your understanding of God and our Catholic Faith. Please see the box on the next page and the bulletin insert for further info.

NOTE: Some of you may never go to special events like these, and feel awkward or hesitant attending anything but Mass. Some may feel you don’t “know enough” to come to, for example, a lecture series. You are exactly the people I am particularly hoping will come and take part in these and all the special Advent (and Christmas) events in the parish. I look forward to seeing you–all of you!

Family Assistance. Our parishioners have been very generous in contributing to our parish fund to help those who are in need of financial assistance, and I am pleased to say that we have been able to help many people with this fund. If you are aware of a family or person that is need of assistance this Advent, especially a parishioner, please do not hesitate to bring this to my attention. You can contact me directly, or contact the parish office. (Note: We also work with “institutions” that are giving direct aid to those in need; for example, a few weeks back we helped “House of Mercy” in their efforts to get emergency relief to the victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey).

Oremus pro invicem, et pro patria. Fr. De Celles