a little late, but still has a Twinkle

Happy third week of Advent. Time for a a little Joy. And a little twinkle, too.

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on fire for Christmas!

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How’s your Advent been?

I’ve had one of the calmest, slowest (in a good way), simplest Advents in a very long time. An Advent filled with prayer and holy reading. An Advent that has touched me in moving ways I couldn’t have anticipated. In short, it’s been a month of such peace and quiet in my heart and soul that I hate to see it go.

John and I have been taking turns reading from Lisa Hendey’s O Radiant Dawn and enjoying, so far, 21 candlelit dinners. It’s been a lovely way to slow down in the evenings, especially in a time in our lives when it would have been easier to take dinner in the living room while watching The X-Factor.

I do believe that the discipline of using a prayer resource, together, contributed to the overall simplicity of this season.

Of course, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a little drama in there. I did set fire to the Advent wreath today. We were just having a nice brunch…the usual, some eggs, a little bacon, some tasty home fries.

And then the conversation got a little weird, even for us.

John: Is there water in that vase with the tree cuttings?

Me, pleased with my amazing Pinterest-inspired creativity: Nope, I used those pretty, clear little stones.

John: I think it’s burning.

So, I set fire to the Advent wreath.

Yeah. That.

Don’t worry, all is well. I’m just saying that book should carry a warning label.

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I’m in TWO places this week, well, three

Besides the usual train wreck at Catholic Weekend,

click Tino the Cat
click Tino the Cat

you can read my poetry at CatholicLane.com,

click on the title to read the poem
click on the title to read the poem

and read about my Advent-fail at CatholicMom.com

Click on the candles to read the piece at CatholicMom.com
Click on the candles to read the piece at CatholicMom.com

and so…Advent begins [up-dated]

Hey! Go visit the incredible Advent Wreath Link-Up event at Catholicmom.com. Clickie here.

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One of the things I’ve discovered about the empty nest is that we celebrate things — whether holidays or special events or even the daily non-celebrations — differently. Not better or worse, just — different.

I enjoy it, as one enjoys the different seasons. So this season in our lives is slower, less complicated by hustle and bustle. And, to my amusement (and no doubt my mother’s relief) a lot neater.

I don’t think I would have ever attempted to throw together the clippings from the Christmas tree into a vase, and work around some Advent candles. That’s a fire waiting to happen on that dinner table. That’s why we keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen — you know, this propensity to have a nice quiet dinner go up in flames.

And so, we begin Advent today with joy, and hope, and a little bit of wonder and anticipation.

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in which I ponder adverbs

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A friend of mine gave me a poster at the beginning of Advent that has a list of adverbs on it.

That’s all, just adverbs.

It’s a pretty funny thing. I mean, what do adverbs have to do with Advent? I think if you reflect on these words in light of our yearning for the coming of Christ, you might just get it.

I’ve been pondering the words myself, so I added a few of my own, and created what we boring old English teachers call a Concrete Poem.

You probably call it a Wordle.

What adverbs would you add?

advent, light, and confession

Thanks to Facebook friends Elizabeth Scalia and Tom Clowe posting two unrelated links to things they had read or seen, I ended up with quite a fruitful morning of prayer and reflection. I thought I’d pass them along since that seems to be the real gift of the internet although we’d all like to believe it’s really this.

It seems that confession is a hot topic this week, and I suppose, it should be. I was talking briefly to the gang on Catholic Weekend about it and the opportunity it brings us during Advent, and then I ran across Elizabeth’s recommendation for this beautiful reflection by Heather King, and I was undone by the beauty of it, and the simple simple truth, that what we want is to go home…to be home.

Like many people, I resist[ed] confession, and could list a multitude of rational reasons for it. Upon reflection, they are not rational at all, but mere rationalizations. Discomfort, shame, pride, inconvenience, ignorance, anger, shyness, shame, did I say shame?

In the midst of all the misunderstanding about this sacrament is the fear of rebuke. We are, after all, confessing our failings. Let me put that out there more accurately, our sins. I already feel pretty crappy about the fact that a confession doesn’t go by where I don’t confess some of the same things. Over and over and over again. At some point the priest is going to ask me to knock it off already. Maybe in a stern voice to shake me up a little and make me see the error of my ways.

Who wants that?

Well. I do. I want it very much. And I want the penance that goes with it.

But Tom’s post of this lovely video inspired by Newman’s poem, Pillar of the Cloud, reminded me of a different confession. One that I surmise was a good confession but yielded, not an intense penance, but a parting gift of this poem, straight from the priest’s own prayer book. He didn’t direct me to reflect on it or even read it. He just looked at me kindly and gave it to me. I guess we both left it up to Jesus to do His work in my heart.

I can’t come across this poem or the hymn without revisiting that day and the overwhelming sense of having been heard. Understood.

Loved.

I understood, in a different way, in a way meaningful to me, what Heather meant by “a complete and utter miracle.”

are you ready? [redux]

The following post was originally published in 2010. I thought I’d bring it back for Advent!

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For every perceived betrayal that my body delivers to me as I age, I am consoled by the graces that come with aging – the most important and appreciated is wisdom. I’m still nowhere near that place where the patience to be quiet and wait comes naturally, but I’m working on it. At least on an intellectual level I understand it. That knowledge, however, doesn’t make the exercise any easier.

It seems that impatience and wanting it now is a condition of the times in which we live. If we can’t access that website in a click, we get frustrated. If there are two cars ahead of us at the drive-thru, we feel put out.

If God doesn’t answer our prayers on the spot, we are quick to accuse Him of not listening.

Once, I fervently asked God to give me patience. He accommodated me rather nicely. By providing seemingly endless opportunities to practice being patient! I’m not bitter; I got what I asked for. I learned that I cannot control the clock – but I can use it.

It wasn’t an easy lesson to grasp, but once I understood it, the peace that came to me was almost overwhelming. Letting go of that need for control (and by the way, a control I never had) was not just liberating, but empowering.

I’d love to say that I have a singular purpose in my faith that allows me to live my life in perfect concert with what God wants for me. Unfortunately, I regularly fall short of my potential. The human propensity to sin, whether through commission or omission, is alive and well in my heart. The thought would ordinarily depress me except that I have finally understood that God has given us a powerful gift in the sacraments of Holy Communion and Reconciliation. One nourishes our spirit, and the other heals it.

Advent, as a time for preparation, capitalizes on the graces of those two sacraments in such a profound way, that the effect is to slow us down rather than agitate us. If only we’d stop and see it.

I have wasted innumerable opportunities for peace over the years because of my impatience and failure to see the opportunity in the Advent Season. As a child, Advent didn’t even exist for me! There was Thanksgiving, and then a countdown to Christmas morning. Oh, and there was Baby Jesus in there somewhere. Sort of.

That attitude continued as I became an adult, only the problem was in reverse. I was counting the days because I had so much to do that the days would not be enough. I had gifts to buy. Food to cook. Parties to attend (obligations, not fun). A house to decorate. Oh. And Jesus was in there somewhere. Sort of. Maybe at the Christmas pageant where I had to dress up a kid as a shepherd.

I forgot – or perhaps better stated – I failed to realize the gift of Advent. Christmas morning was coming, whether or not I had picked out the right tinsel. In the end, the only thing that mattered was whether or not I was ready for the real Christmas, not just the celebration of the birth of Our Lord, but ready for his return.

The Catechism states, “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ “ (524).

Advent is a time for quiet prayer and public prayer. That’s why traditions such as a family Advent wreath are powerful. We pray and reflect and get ready for Our Lord.

That’s why parish missions are popular at this time of year. We gather as a community, united in our powerful need to seek the Lord, just as the Magi did.

And that’s why we are shrouded in purple – a majestic color often misunderstood as a symbol of kingly splendor, but also used as a symbol for penance. Most of us are quick to clean the house and make it presentable for the celebration…let’s also clean house in our souls and embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I urge you to slow down during this Season of Advent, and embrace the opportunity for preparation. We can still prepare for Christmas with our shopping sprees and decorating sessions, but we should also keep in mind that these physical acts of preparation for Christmas day are not enough. We must also seek the greater spiritual preparation for the coming of Our Lord.

Get ready. You have time.

This blog posts appears as part of the Catholic New Media Advent Calendar. Follow the link to see what else is going on over at CatholicRoundup.com