Have yourself a merry little Christmas--but don't let Advent pass you by.
Advent is here, and the countdown to Christmas is on. But don't get too hung up on planning for December 25--the four weeks leading up to Christ's birth (and the days after it) are just as important. If you're having some trouble blocking out the holiday madness and settling down for some Advent reflection, here are some essays, blogs, and other resources to help you get in the spirit.
Nothing can compel us to practice hope, that most fragile of virtues. We can only be inspired.
A table in my living room has become a kind of shrine. On it rest photos of people special to me: my grandmother, my parents, my best friend. All have passed away. My grandmother passed away after 84 full years of life. The others died far too soon in my reckoning: my mother at age 64, my dear friend at only 59. Their deaths leave an emptiness that fits this season of longer nights and colder days. And yet their images bear a fullness as well. The memories they trigger also contain a yearning expressed in the hope that their absence is not the final word.
Many years ago, in a period of my life when I was feeling particularly lonely, dissatisfied with my work, and uncertain about the future, I found myself thinking a great deal about the story of Lazarus. Instead of drawing hope from Lazarus’ triumphant rise from the dead, I felt no great solace. In fact, much the opposite.
Planes, trains, and automobiles may come in handy while seeking God in far-off places, or even close to home. Here are five spiritual detours to satisfy a restless heart.
Millennials are obsessed with authenticity. We have been raised to explore who we are and to be that person. That might be why we can’t pass up the latest Buzzfeed quiz, whether it will tell us where we should live, what career we should have, or which Christian saint or pretty little liar we most resemble. And if authenticity is the cardinal virtue of the millennial generation, hypocrisy might be the considered the ugliest vice.
As pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington, Msgr. Ray East knows what it takes to create a welcoming, enthusiastic parish. And, as the parish has a large African American membership, East also knows how much black spirituality can contribute to the life of the community.
In these excerpts from an interview we conducted with him for our March 2014 issue, East discusses the life of the black Catholic Church and what we all can gain from it.
Students of Pope Francis summarize his agenda with the phrase “pastoral conversion.” Lent is an especially suitable time to think and pray about conversion. But what is pastoral conversion?
An important lesson that I learned about Lent actually came from a Jewish friend. While working at Purdue University, I served under Dr. Robert Ringel, a devout man who approached his religious observances with deep care. In the first year that I worked for him, he came into my office to seek forgiveness for any wrong he may have done me. This was part of his preparation for Yom Kippur, a high holy day for the Jewish people and a day of atonement for sins against God and his people.
Prayer can be mysterious—in particular, other people’s prayer can be mysterious. In our November issue, we went ahead and asked six brave souls to reveal the benefits they reap and the struggles they have when they pray ("Private practices: The real prayer lives of Catholics," pages 12-17).
Here are a few additional Catholics who were willing to give us a glimpse into their day-to-day prayer lives:
Just give God 20 minutes.
When Father William Meninger left his post in the Diocese of Yakima, Washington in 1963 to join the Trappists at St. Joseph Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, he told his mother, “That’s it, Mom. I’ll never be outside again.”
It didn’t quite turn out that way. One day in 1974 Meninger dusted off an old book in the monastery library, a book that would set him and some of his fellow monks on a whole new path. The book was The Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous 14th-century manual on contemplative meditation. Meninger says, “I was amazed at the practicality of it.”