As we prepare to celebrate Our Savior’s birth, Advent offers Catholic families a new season of anticipation, gratitude, and love.
Even with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, or perhaps now more than ever before, Advent prayers, activities, and contemplation provide peace and foster joy in the hectic weeks marching toward Christmas Day.
“Advent is a time when we can step back from the hectic routine, slow down and contemplate the Mystery of the Incarnation,” writes Maria Alejandra Rivas in her guide to Advent at catholic-link.org. “It marks the beginning of a new liturgical year in the Church that slowly builds momentum towards Christmas as the weeks go by.”
Rivas lists some ways we can prepare our spirits to receive Jesus, beginning with preparing our hearts through prayer. “Offer your heart as a dwelling place for the Holy family to live in,” she suggests. “Ask Jesus, Joseph and Mary to help you live out Advent as a time to prepare and wait for the coming of Jesus’ birth.”
Some of her ideas include:
- Learn about Advent and why we celebrate different seasons in the Church.
- Make a plan of action, including a list of things that need to get done to free up time and avoid distractions.
- Set up a space for prayer.
- Create a simple Advent wreath. Explanations and resources are available at Catholic websites.
- Develop a simple family Advent calendar to count down to Christmas Day with special quotes or Bible verses about faith, hope, and love.
- Don’t forget those in need. “Jesus came to serve,” Rivas reminds us, “so following in his footsteps we should consider how we could serve our brothers and sisters in need.”
Other ideas for meaningful prayer and activities for Catholic families abound online. Printable prayers and useful explanations can be found at sadlier.com. At catholicicing.com, there’s a list of 10 Advent traditions for Catholic families that require little to no preparation.
In addition to the Advent wreath, which provides a prayerful means of counting down to Christmas, there are several key opportunities for families to celebrate the season.
- On St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, it’s a tradition to tell children the story of St. Nick and fill their shoes with goodies overnight.
- Attending Mass as a family on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, offers the chance to explain what the feast day means.
- Singing religious Christmas carols like “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” as you go about chores and errands can help you and the kids home in on the reason for the season.
- Consider driving around to look at Christmas lights on St. Lucia’s feast day, Dec. 13, a fitting tradition because her name means ‘light.’
- Cook a Mexican dinner to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.
- Display a nativity scene in your home; if you don’t have a permanent one, printable sets are available online.
As you prepare to mark Advent, set aside a time for daily prayer as a family, Rivas recommends. Wake up a few minutes early or assign another time during the day or in the evening. “By doing this, you’ll have dedicated time on your schedule for prayer and reflection, and you’ll begin to grow in discipline.”