Since late September, many stores here in the Chicago area and throughout the USA have been telling us that Christmas will soon be here. This weekend, the Church begins our journey to the Christmas season. The Advent Season that we celebrate is a reminder to us, in the midst of the busyness around us in our society, to try and quiet our heart and recall the many centuries our ancestors in faith waited for the coming of the Messiah. As we light the first candle on our Advent wreath, I encourage you to find some time in these next four weeks to listen to the voice of God. Listen as God speaks to you in the depth and richness of the scripture passages we will hear in the Mass. Listen as God moves your heart with the beauty of the carols of this, ”most wonderful time of the year.”
Though the weeks leading up to Christmas can at times seem quite frantic, I encourage you to take time to reflect upon the mysteries we celebrate in Christmas. I have listed below some suggested books that you might want to use as you prepare for Christmas.
What Are We Waiting For? Finding Meaning in Advent and Christmas by Richard Leonard, SJ, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, O Come Emmanuel by Gordon Giles, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, Faith, Jimmy Carter, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI, Advent Reflections by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Prepare-Don't Wait by Alonso de Blas, OFM, An Adult Christ at Christmas by Raymond Brown, A Franciscan Christmas by Kathleen M. Carroll, Why the Nativity by David Jeremiah and The Law of Love by Richard Leonard, SJ. Books by Timothy Radcliffe, OP, Kathleen Norris, James Martin, SJ and Henri Nouwen as well as the Infancy narratives in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1-2:1-20) and Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 1-2) all provide important insights into the life of Christ.
During this Advent Season listen and hear the voice of God who offers you forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confessions are scheduled Monday through Friday from 10:30 am-3:00 pm and on Saturdays from 12 noon-4:30 pm. We will have two confessors available the week of Dec. 12-17 and Dec. 19-23. Remember that NO confessions are scheduled on December 24-25.
You might wish to make your own Advent Wreath for use at home before your evening meal. You can purchase Advent wreaths from our gift shop or you can make your own wreath. You can find many suggestions on making an Advent wreath on the internet. Traditionally, the wreath has evergreen boughs and 3 purple candles and one rose colored candle. The candles represent the four weeks of Advent. The number of candles lighted each week corresponds to the current week of Advent with the rose candle lighted on the third week. On the first day of lighting the wreath the following prayer is prayed.
ADVENT WREATH PRAYER
Lord God, your Church joyfully awaits the coming of its Savior, who enlightens our hearts and dispels the darkness of ignorance and sin. As we gather around this wreath we pray that you will pour forth your blessings upon us. As we light the candles of this wreath; may their light reflect the splendor of Christ, who is Lord forever and ever. Amen. (from the USCCB, Book of Blessings)
You also might want to spend some time as a family praying the rosary or a decade of the rosary each evening before or after dinner. You might together spend some time reading and talking about various stories of the birth of Jesus that will be found in the Bible.
Advent has two important feasts of Mary, the Mother of God. On Thursday, December 8 we celebrate the holyday of the Immaculate Conception. We will celebrate this Solemnity of Mary with a vigil Mass for the Holyday on Wednesday, December 7 at 5:00 pm. On Thursday, December 8 we have Mass at 7:30 am 11:40 am and 1:15 pm. One of early proponents of the Immaculate Conception of the Church was the Franciscan John Duns Scotus (1266-1308). Pope Pius IX utilized the scholarship of John Duns Scotus when he proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.
On December 12, the Church honors Mary with the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Under this name, Mary is the patroness of all the Americas. Masses for the Feast are at 7:30 am, 11:40 am Mass and at 1:15 pm.
It was in 1531 that Mary appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill outside Mexico City. Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe is patroness of the Americas. For more information I encourage you to read the book, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love by Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chávez. Mr. Anderson is the former chairman of the Knights of Columbus and Msgr. Chávez is a priest of the Archdiocese of México.
On the table at the back of church this weekend you will find an Advent insert. On the remaining three Sundays of Advent you will find a new insert offering a short reflection about the Advent Season for that week.
Recent reports from local and state health departments note that with winter weather and more people inside they are noticing an increasing rise in COVID, FLU and RSV viruses. Don't forget to wash your hands frequently and maintain a safe and healthy distance from others. If you have not already received the COVID vaccine or FLU vaccine, I highly encourage you to do so. The present vaccines have all received approval from various health agencies and have been tested for their safety and effectiveness, Please keep in your prayers those who continue to suffer because of these viruses, especially young children. Say some extra prayers for our health care workers and all who work in hospitals and nursing homes or those taking care of their loved ones at home.
World Aids Day is Thursday, December 1 this year. While in the past couple of years we have concentrated on COVID, AIDS continues to affect many throughout the world, especially in developing nations and among the poor. The following Prayer for World Aids Day is from the U.S. Catholic Health Association.
God of Promise, today we are mindful of our sisters and brothers suffering with HIV and AIDS. We ask your healing presence on millions of people living with the disease today; particularly the children who are infected or who have been orphaned by the disease. Make of us a safe haven for those who are abandoned, discriminated against and rejected on account of their illness. Inspire us to speak out for a just distribution of health care and medical aid in this country and for generosity in sharing our resources with those struggling under the weight of this epidemic overseas.
As we begin our Advent celebration of waiting in hope for the birth of your Son, let us remember those across the world who wait in hope for a cure. Amen.
Elderly Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests now in retirement are often experiencing difficulty in meeting their health care expenses. Many served for years in Catholic schools, hospitals, and parishes, often for little or no pay. Now there is a shortage in retirement savings to care for these elderly religious. Each year every church in the USA takes up a collection to help care for these men and women who for many years dedicated their lives to the service of others. Your gift to the Retirement Fund for Religious provides funding for medications, nursing care and more. In the Archdiocese of Chicago this collection will be taken up December 10-11.