The Catholic Commentator 

Given the natural and manmade chaos that appears to be running rampant in the world, like the people of Jesus’ time, Catholics may be looking for “the big wrap up” when God cleans out evil and brings his faithful to heaven. But as the new liturgical year begins with Advent on Dec. 3, the church teaches Catholics that their long awaited savior entered the world in a manger in a small town in Bethlehem and still looks for people to make a place for him “in the inn” of their souls, according to leaders in the diocese. 

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Lighting of an Advent wreath is a popular way to celebrate the season. CNS photo 

 

“It was in the quiet of the night, it wasn’t a giant rebellious event; the people who knew him were shepherds,” said Dina Dow, director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. She notes that Jesus is proclaimed as the “Good Shepherd.”

Through a good preparation for Advent, people come to understand that the child whose birth they wait for will carry them as the paschal lamb through his passion, death and resurrection to new life, according to Dow. 

There are many good ways for families to embrace the fullness of Advent, according to Dow. Parents can bring their children to live nativity scenes, have their children keep an Advent calendar and earn straw to put in baby Jesus’ manger in a Nativity scene through good deeds. 

To further make the point to her children that Christ is the true gift given by God to the world at Christmas, one year Dow decided to not put the baby Jesus in the Nativity scene during Advent. 

“I remember the girls asking, ‘Where is Jesus?’ ” Dow said. 

On Christmas morning, the baby Jesus was under the tree wrapped in a shiny, gold box. 

“Now they are in their 20s, but it’s still the first gift they open,” smiled Dow. 

As one prepares for this special gifts of God becoming man and begins a new liturgical year, it’s a good time to reflect and spend time with Scripture. 

James Vu, seminarian for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, said he spends time reflecting on the daily readings, which show the events leading up to the birth of Christ, in the adoration chapel at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict. He also likes to reflect on Advent’s emphasis on looking forward to the second coming of Christ. 

“I get a sense of clarity. Sometimes I’ll leave adoration and get the urgent sense that I can’t wait for the Christmas season to start,” said Vu, noting that the celebration is just beginning with the birth of Christ. 

Making time to be with the Lord is also important, Vu noted. He said this doesn’t have to necessarily be done with a big chunk of time, but through the practice of mindfulness or “living in the present moment.” 

“You still have that empty period when you are walking or driving somewhere. You can reflect in that small fraction of a time you have,” said Vu. 

Thinking of Advent as a “fresh start” is also a good way to prepare for Christ’s coming, said Father Eddie Martin, parochial vicar at St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge. 

“I reset my spiritual clock at the beginning of the liturgical year,” said Father Martin. “I like to think about things that I may want to change.” 

He added, “If you’ve had a bad year and you felt like you tested God and God tested you, it’s time to restart.” 

Participating in the sacrament of reconciliation is a good way to re-establish a relationship with God, according to Father Martin. 

He said he had a memorable experience during one of the first sacraments of reconciliation he received.

“I don’t remember what I had done, but after the priest said, ‘It’s time to start fresh’ I was flying out of there (the confessional),” said Father Martin. 

He said the feeling of freshness and being forgiven brings joy that should be shared with the world. 

“There’s a lot of brokenness in the world – it needs a lot of joy,” said Father Martin. “It’s a great time to bring Christ into the world, shine the light.” 

Remembering that Advent is more than four weeks but a spiritual journey and way of life looking for Christ coming into one’s life is also important, said Father Charlie Landry, pastor of St. Gabriel Church in St. Gabriel and Sacred Heart Chapel in Carville. 

“For me, Advent is the continual getting ready for the Lord and serving the Lord,” said Father Landry. 

An Advent well spent results being ready not only for Christ as the child, but him as the redeemer of their lives. 

“You are growing in faith and developing a personal relationship with Christ,” said Vu. “Some Catholics don’t understand that you can develop a personal relationship with God and follow his will.” 

Dow remembers when the message of Advent hit her powerfully when she served as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist at a Christmas Mass distributing the precious blood of Christ. 

She went back to the sacristy with the cup containing the remaining precious blood and the choir sang “Away in a Manger.” She made the connection that the Christ child whose birthday was being celebrated would become the man who went to his death on the cross to redeem man. 

“It was a beautiful song and I’m looking at the blood of Christ. It was very powerful. I was thinking, ‘That’s his blood, he’s given his blood to save us.’ I was crying,” said Dow, with gratitude in her voice. 

Father Landry’s said a secular song which also sum ups Advent well comes from the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, “Carry On, Love is Coming”: 

“The sky is clearing and the night has cried enough 

The sun, he comes, the world to soften up

Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice but to carry on 

The fortunes of fables are able to sing the song 

Now witness the quickness with which we get along 

To sing the blues you’ve got to live the dues and carry on 

Carry on, love is coming, love is coming to us all”