Baking bread can be a profound spiritual lesson.
I have a new living organism—for lack of a better term—to feed in my house. It is my sourdough starter, a beige and pasty mix of wheat flour, water, and yeast that lives in a glass jar in the back of the refrigerator. Once a week it visits the kitchen counter, where it is replenished with water, flour, and oxygen. I sometimes divide it and use half for sourdough crackers or flatbread.
Advent can help us draw out the God-with-us moments from our regular traditions.
Keeping Christ in Christmas doesn’t need to be one more “to do” on a family’s already packed December calendar. Jesus was born to bring peace, not stress. The word Emmanuel means God-with-us, and the antiphon of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” that defines Advent can help us draw out the God-with-us moments from our regular traditions.
Write Christmas cards
Although some people dread the annual stack of cards, envelopes, and stamps, for Elizabeth and Franc the cards provide time for Advent reflection.
Tell people you're thankful for them.
During this month that nudges us to give thanks, let me give a shout-out to people over the past year who’ve given me moments of joy and hope.
How to find God in a feuding family.
The visiting priest spoke fondly in his homily about his growing up. Then he said, “Aren’t we all so lucky to have such great, loving families?” My husband and I glanced at each other quizzically. Our parish domestic violence ministry is growing steadily; the divorce group is growing strong, as is the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
That makes us just like any other parish. Many in the pews were doubtless thinking, “I’m happy for you, Father, but that’s not quite my experience.”
Our baptism commits us to be brothers and sisters to all the children of God.
Three real-life events from the past several months:
Instead of protecting kids from death and sadness, teach them the value of mourning well.
As we honor our dead in this month of all Souls—November 2, so you can mark it at home with your children—let me say that I think we are too afraid of death, and that this is not good for our kids or for us.
My son and daughter complain that my husband and I brought them to more wakes than any kid in town. They are probably right. We still live in the city of our birth, and people, as usual, tend to keep dying: friends’ parents, fellow parishioners, neighbors. This year it was our friends’ son, only in his 20s.
Using the prayer in your family’s day-to-day life will make it come alive when kids recite it in church.
We say it every week in church, and it’s the prayer that most unifies Christians of every denomination. For children, though, the Our Father can be one long line of seldom-used and difficult to understand words and phrases. Helping kids to break down the prayer into smaller, more understandable bits at home will give them a better sense of its meaning. Using parts of the prayer in your family’s day-to-day life will make it come alive when kids recite it in church.
There are spiritual benefits to spending time in nature.
Some of the stones skipped like children across the surface of the lake. A few landed with a single, splashy plop. Others cut smoothly right through with barely a sound or splash.
Three children—my 5-year-old and my friends’ two kids, 7 and 10—waded up to their shins in a small clearing on the banks of the bay, tossing rocks and laughing, challenging each other to farther throws, bigger rocks, more skips. Gentle waves lapped at their skinny, mosquito-bitten legs.
Sometimes, the best way to counsel the doubtful is to speak from a place of experience.
When Lisa Marie, now in her 40s, was a teenager, she began to experience doubts about God. Raised in a faithful, churchgoing Catholic family and attending a Catholic high school, Lisa Marie found these doubts unsettling. “I wasn’t sure if all this I was learning about God was real,” she explains. “So I asked God to give me faith the size of a mustard seed. I basically prayed that God would give me the faith that I didn’t have.”
For parents, it is a challenge to listen when Jesus tells us to put down our work.
I would be a much more spiritual person if I didn’t need to do the laundry.
Our parish offers excellent adult education programs in matters of faith and also has various types of prayer groups. The programs are offered in the evening on just about every day of the week, every church season of the year.
And Bill and I hardly go to anything.
We haven’t always been like this. As young adults, Bill and I attended Theology on tap (Catholic speakers with beer to follow) religiously. We stayed after church for the Advent and Lenten series. We were involved.