Advent: A Time to “Fast and Feast”

In a few months, our parish will welcome a dynamic and inspiring singer/songwriter to share her faith-filled personal journey with us. Her name is Renee Bondi and I encourage you to visit her website at ReneeBondi.com to become familiar with her story. We can all learn something from her (and everyone else we encounter). I have chosen to share a story that Renee wrote in a blog several years ago.

Here we are in the season of Advent which encompasses the four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin “ad venire” or “to come to.” As a child in church I always heard, “Come Lord Jesus, come Lord Jesus” to which I’d think, “Well, hasn’t he already come? He’s already been born and walked the earth otherwise we wouldn’t be celebrating his birthday, right?” I confess it was always a bit confusing to me.

It wasn’t until later that I learned that Advent is a season of preparation directing our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time, in addition to preparing for the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on the day we celebrate as Christmas.

Directing our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time…hmm…now that’s a bigger directive than just decorating your local church in purple and making sure we have enough ushers for Christmas masses or services. We’re talking eternity here. Admittedly, as a wife, mom, in-law, sister, aunt, godmother and friend, it’s easy for me to forget to direct my heart and mind to Christ’s second coming. After all, there’s a lot to do to prepare for the parties and presents!

But here are some great, practical ideas from American author, teacher and pastor William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) on how we can prepare for Christ’s second coming as well as for the anniversary of his birth

Fast from emphasis on differences – Feast on the unity of life.

Fast from apparent darkness – Feast on the reality of light.

Fast from thoughts of illness – Feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute – Feast on phrases that purify. 

Fast from discontent – Feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger – Feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism – Feast on optimism.

Fast from worry – Feast on divine order.

Fast from judging others – Feast on the Christ dwelling in them.

Fast from complaining – Feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives – Feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures – Feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility – Feast on non-resistance.

Fast from bitterness – Feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern – Feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety – Feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragements – Feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress – Feast on verities that uplift 

Fast from lethargy – Feast on enthusiasm. 

Fast from thoughts that weaken – Feast on promises that inspire. 

Fast from shadows of sorrow – Feast on the sunlight of serenity.

Fast from idle gossip – Feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm – Feast on prayer that strengthens.

SIX-MINUTE DAILY DEVOTIONAL “Little Blue Book for Advent”
Last week, the Stewardship Team handed out Advent Daily Devotionals (free of charge) for any parishioner who wants to have a mentor on their journey this Advent. There are still some available in the vestibule. Please take one for yourself; you’re welcome to take another to share with a friend.

“BEST ADVENT EVER”
During Lent this year, you were invited to Join Matthew Kelly, America’s bestselling Catholic author, and other leading Catholic voices of our time on a life-changing journey with “The Best Lent Ever”.

Dynamic Catholic is offering “Best Advent Ever” Rediscover Mercy. All you need to do is visit the website at DynamicCatholic.com and sign up. It’s free. You will receive daily inspirational emails with short videos, encouragement, and coaching for Advent.

ADVENT WREATHS AND CANDLES
This holy time of preparation is upon us! One of our beautiful Catholic traditions is the daily lighting of the Advent wreath. All families are encouraged to have a wreath in their home and spend a few minutes every day during Advent to light a candle and say a short prayer. It can be as short or as involved as you want it to be.

Advent candles ($5) and Advent wreaths ($10) are on sale this weekend before all Masses. This is not a fundraiser but a convenience that we offer to you in hopes of making the season all that it is meant to be. We also have copies of Advent prayers to accompany the wreaths and candles

In the Footsteps of Pope Francis

About a month ago, seven members of our parish Stewardship Team traveled to Chicago to absorb all they could about Stewardship as a Way of Life at the 53rd annual International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) Conference. The theme was “In the Footsteps of Pope Francis” and it followed on the heels of the Pontiff’s historic visit to the United States.

Like many, I was impacted by actions and comments of the Holy Father. There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit was holding him up as he invested so much of his time and energy in us. Many of us want to walk in his footsteps because he walks with Jesus.

To me one of the most memorable statements was one given to Congress. Pope Francis said: When you dream dreams for your own children, dream them for other children as well. What an incredible request so lovingly and authentically spoken. Through the secular ear, we heard “do what is right for all the people in your care.” From the faith perspective, we heard love at a level that transcends something that is self-centered and finite.

When you consider it through the lens of stewardship, you can hear Jesus saying “stay close to me, be grateful for your abundance, nurture your gifts and dream big, but remember they are not just for you.

Share your abundance and help me to build the joy that is my kingdom.”

I believe this is one of the foundational blessings of living a stewardship way of life. As ministerial leaders—even if you don’t have a formal role in a parish ministry, we are all ministerial leaders—have the opportunity to understand, live and share the Gospel in such a way that goes beyond setting goals and checking things off our bucket list. When people of faith dream dreams, we dream with God and the fruit of the dreaming becomes so much more than we could have ever imagined.

As ministerial leaders, we are all called to evangelize. We all lead by example every day by acting on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Don’t be afraid to live your faith out loud. Live it proudly. Don’t make people wonder if you are a Catholic. Make them want to be part of something so wonderful.

Live gratefully for the many blessings God has bestowed on you and your family. Take a few minutes on Thursday before you pick up your forks to say a heartfelt Prayer of Thanksgiving.
(You can never say Thank You too often.) May God bless you as you continue on your faith journey.

There are still copies of “The Words of Pope Francis” that was compiled by Patty Mann. They are available for $3 in the parish office.

November: A Month to Focus on Gratitude

November brings raking leaves, mid-term exams, plenty of football, and the beginning of our Christmas plans. But for those of us in the U.S., November’s highlight is that great national holiday, Thanksgiving. It’s wonderful to have a day to call attention to the need for gratitude, but this holiday also reminds the Christian steward that every day should include thanksgiving because gratitude is essential to discipleship.

One year when I was the family’s host for Thanksgiving, I found short scripture passages on gratitude. I made place cards for each family member and on the inside of the “tent”, wrote one of the passages. Instead of formal grace, each person read their passage and then said one thing for which they were grateful. I was worried about doing this, because, although everyone in the family was born and raised Catholic, not everyone in my family was still practicing their faith.

I also knew that it would take a lot longer than saying grace, but in the end, everyone was openly moved by the experience. Don’t be afraid to evangelize when you have an opportunity. You never know who is ready to hear the Good News.

Feeling a deep appreciation for the giftedness of our lives can’t be con¬fined to one holiday when we spend a few minutes around a laden table remembering our many blessings. Neither can gratitude become a rote response.

Gratitude is good for our spiritual lives in so many ways. It reminds us of our neediness before the Lord, without whom we have nothing. The mere daily act of focusing on our blessings makes us more mindful, more present to God’s mystery and gifts, and more aware of the needs of others around us. Gratitude is best achieved by daily, focused attention. So perhaps a good exercise for November would be to write down, each day, some things for which we are truly grateful. Your list will no doubt include people – a teacher who inspired you, a coach who believed in you, an aunt who made you feel special, an employer who mentored you. Your notes might include simple things – the aroma of freshly ground coffee, a lunch invitation that brightened your day, a phone call that brought a smile. Focus on things you sometimes take for granted – the warm home in which you live, the sunshine that peeked through a cloudy day, the bright redness of a leaf on the lawn, the faithful presence of your spouse.

And during this month of thanks, remember to give thanks to the risen Lord:

Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one an¬other, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:15-17).