hopperHappy and Blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

What, you may ask, does this Grace Hopper quotation have to do with the Feast of the Annunciation?

I do not know why this struck me this morning, but it did. Today’s Google Doodle is for Grace Hopper, and it derailed my original post, which was almost complete and ready to go. That post was about interruption and grace… so I will take this interruption and redirect as a gift of grace as well.

The thing that hit me when I saw the Google Doodle was this – Mary, because of her nature, understood inner authority and the authority of God. She never paused to consider that she might want to talk to her parents about this or bring them in. Yes, that is a contemporary cultural overlay, but aren’t we called to understand catechesis in that context?

945252714b44f4eeb0cdf58b16d9b4b2Anyway, Mary says yes, without apology. Mary did not ask permission from her parents, she may have been startled, but in the end she simply said yes.

In today’s readings today’s readings, we can take note that Adam and Eve did not understand inner authority nor hearing the voice of God as well as Mary did. My hope and prayer is that we can get ourselves to a different place in regard to the long-standing exegesis that makes all of this about sex alone. This day is about the deeper, wiser, understanding of how God interacts with us, and about who we are in responding to God. Saying yes isn’t the thing alone, it is knowing who to say yes to and when to do so.


Advent is too hard – A guest post from Kristine Rooney

996666_10201964235281177_928651135_nI’m going to be honest…I’m not that wild about Advent this year. Advent is an impossible task. I am trying not to listen to the Christmas carols, and I’m not getting stressed over the holiday rush of what gift to buy which relative. Still, there is a lot to do. Presents don’t buy themselves, trees don’t magically appear in the living room and all of the normal stuff of life still happens whether there are Christmas preparations or not. Leaving the Christmas to-do list aside, Advent itself has its own expectations. I feel like I’m being bombarded with prayers, reflections and ideas on what I SHOULD be doing this Advent. I actually have a little Advent reflection book that starts out asking me to sketch out what my plans for Advent are. I have no plans! Am I supposed to have plans? Now I’m stressing over my lack of plans. Is this what Advent is supposed to be like? Feeling overwhelmed and guilty?

Nope, I’m not going there. Whatever is not life-giving is not God-giving. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if God is anywhere in the “SHOULDs”. Doesn’t that feel freeing? Maybe it’s not that there is so much to do…there’s just so much that we feel we SHOULD do. And Advent is here to say no to that. Stop. Pray about the “shoulds”. Do I feel called to do this? Does it help others? Do I feel a “yes” inside when I think about it? These questions will help make the choice of whether something is a “should” or a life-giving action. And through prayer, God will be part of that choice. Advent is all about prayer, reflection and anticipated life, right? Maybe this Advent stuff isn’t so bad after all.

Richard Rohr and John Bookser Feister explained this idea so much better than I am in a December 1989 Catholic Update entitled “Christmas Watch: What Are We Waiting For?” They said, “‘Come Lord Jesus’ means that all of Christian history has to live with an expectation – to live out of an inner longing or emptiness, a kind of chosen non-fulfillment. For the fulfillment we await is always to come.” Many of the expectations we have will never be met. We are not supposed to have everything figured out. We don’t have to have a plan. What we can do is live a life of prayer. And hope. Because no matter what we do, or feel we SHOULD be doing, Lord Jesus is coming.
-Kristine Rooney

(It is an honor and a pleasure to be able to share this post from Kris Rooney. Kris oversees Adult Faith Enrichment and Evangilization at St. Kateri Parish in Niskayuna.)

Advent in Song

Night_Sky_Stars_Trees_02You may be reading this early in the morning. If so, you might be able to go outside and gaze up at the sky.

Is there anything more prayerful than the night sky? Inky blue or almost black, clusters of stars, bursts of light, the faint glow of distant nebulas, the steady glow of what must be a planet, versus the twinkle of the stars. I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to fall to my knees in prayer. It is so peaceful.

Even if you read this in the full light of day, you know those stars are out there; you just can’t see them. (Just like you cannot see the sun when the stars are out!)

This hymn is a powerful invitation to Advent prayer for me. Creator of the Stars of Night, also known as Conditor Alme Siderum. I hope that you can stop for just a few moments to listen – and to pray. This is the simple waiting and the simple hope of Advent. May this peace find you today.

Waiting in Hope

elsalvador“The Peace Corps left today and my heart sank low. The danger is extreme and they were right to leave… Now I must assess my own position, because I am not up for suicide. Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could, except for the children, the poor, bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose heart could be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and loneliness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.” – Jean Donovan

On this day in 1980, those known as the Four Church Women of El Salvador were martyred. Ursuline Sister, Dorothy Kazel, Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, and lay missioner, Jean Donovan ministered to the poor in El Salvador, during a most treacherous time in that land. For their efforts, uniting with the very least of God’s people, who were apparently a threat to those in power. For this they were summarily executed.

The opening quotation, from Jean Donovan, sums up a powerful theme of Advent. Patience and hope in the face of the worst times. We tend to associate this kind of thing more with Lent, but make no mistake, this what Advent calls us to.

Following Christ is often the most unreasonable thing we can do, yet we are called to follow him. Perhaps you will reflect on the words that Donovan left for us, reminding us to look at our conscience before we turn away from the challenging, the uncomfortable, and other difficult moments we face.

Today, let our Advent prayers root us in prayerful hope, patience, and witness, a time of Holy Waiting in the darkness, knowing that the Light will come.


The First Sunday of Advent – Wake up!

7ha241Many years ago, I had an alarm clock that offered the gift of 10 minutes of additional sleep every time you hit the snooze button. Let me tell you, I loved that button! Zzzzzzz -more sleep, so good! Now my clock only offers me 5 minute intervals, which is much less appealing. As a result, I have come to know that I hit the snooze alarm far less frequently than I did in the past.

That is not the only reason… as a woman who was single late into life, my recurrent alarm disturbed no one. As a married woman today, this would drive my spouse insane!

Today’s second reading from St. Paul to the Romans tells us this:

You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.

You can forget about that snooze button. It is time to awaken from our slumber.

Holy Waiting and Holy Waking

Advent1Holy Waiting – that is how I have been walking and praying with Advent thus far. As a writer, like it or not, I don’t always get to live in the “present moment.” My thoughts, due to published works such as these books, or this prayer guide (coming in May 2014), not to mention the blogs, are often on liturgical seasons and days that we are not living – in just yet. So, I have had Advent on my mind for some time now.

This year I feel Advent, with a different depth than in the past, as Holy Waiting. It is a time that we keep watch for the dawn, like sentinels! And what happens when we are on overnight watch duty? We get sleepy… very, very sleepy. We are called to wait, and we are called to be awake. Holy Waiting and Holy Waking! As someone who can fall asleep just about anywhere, at any time, this is a real challenge for me.

10100258077472562Today is a bridge of sorts, as we cross out of the territory of Thanksgiving, and into the days of Advent. We are in a liminal space, a passage. I remember when I walked from Israel into Jordan. There is a buffered border between the countries, with a fence on either side of a pathway. You are neither here nor there as you cross, having left one place before you arrive at the next. It is an odd feeling, as you glance back to where you were, and you look ahead to where you will be.

That is where we are today, this liminal space, of neither here nor there. Yes, we are still in Ordinary time, true enough, but somehow it feels different already. I think that I am in need of some Holy Patience today, until the sun begins to set and Advent is upon us.

My prayer is that we all journey well, and that we find ourselves waiting and waking up. For now, we simply make our way, fellow pilgrims on the journey.

Holy Waiting – An Advent calendar twist

Not too long ago, I posted two Advent resource book reviews, that you may read here, and here. If you have not already found an Advent prayer resource, it is not too late. (If you decided to order from from Ave Maria Press, you may be eligible for a discount that expires on 11/27/13 by using the promo code 2013ADVENT during checkout.)

When I first mentioned this time of Holy Waiting, I also asked if anyone would be willing to share any Advent ideas or practices. Reader Sasha came forth with this amazing adventure of an idea! She has graciously shared this “calendar” of intentional practices that she does with her family.

Here are a few words from Sasha herself:

Thanks for the encouragement to put this together. As I did it I realized that we really do more than I had thought and I may not try to do the Jesse tree this year – quality not quantity! In addition to the activities here, my 9 year old son and I attend Mass every weekday (he serves) so we will hear all the Advent readings there.

If anyone else is interested in this idea, I made a spreadsheet in Excel and put all the dates and feasts in it, along with the liturgical colors. Once I had that done it kind of gave me a road map of where to insert which of the activities we already do as a family. From there I could fill in with new activities on the empty days. Once that was done I merged it in Word as mailing labels. My son will cut the strips of paper (I’ll let him know how many of each color to make) and then I’ll put the labels on and give them to him to make into a chain without looking at the labels. That way each day is a surprise when he opens the link.

As I put this calendar together, I tried to keep all the ‘busyness’ to the first half of Advent. After Gaudete Sunday we will slow way down and pray a Christmas Novena each day.

Sasha also sent a photo of the “chain” that she her family made for Lent, but other than the length, it would be the same for Advent.

-3I think that this is all very beautiful. I can see this being done and adapted in many ways. Thank you to Sasha for sharing this all so generously with us. The “calendar” is below, for your use.

It is not too late to send in some thoughts of your own. Please let me know if you would like to contribute to, or write your own post!

Blessings to all as we prepare for Advent, the season of Holy Waiting. And thank you again to Sasha!

Sunday, December 1   (Violet)

First Sunday in Advent

Light first Advent candle; what does it mean to be a season of stillness and waiting?


Monday, December 2   (Violet)

Shop for Giving Tree gift


Tuesday, December 3   (White)

Feast of St. Francis Xavier

Adopt a Missionary; decorate Mission Can

Wednesday, December 4   (Violet)

Select handmade Christmas gift project; cookies with Cub Scouts


Thursday, December 5   (Violet)

School Christmas Play;

put out shoes for St Nicholas


Friday, December 6   (White)

Feast of St. Nicholas

Get Christmas Tree

Saturday, December 7   (White)

Feast of St. Ambrose

Bake gingerbread people (with honey!)


Sunday, December 8   (Violet)

Second Sunday in Advent

Light second Advent candle; decorate & package gingerbread people


Monday, December 9   (White)

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

All-White Dinner; deliver gingerbread people

Tuesday, December 10   (Violet)

Random Acts of Kindness day


Wednesday, December 11   (Violet)

Shop for family gifts at school Santa’s Workshop


Thursday, December 12   (White)

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Mexican food for dinner

Friday, December 13   (Red)

Feast of St. Lucy

Breakfast by candlelight;

visit Christkindlmarkt


Saturday, December 14   (White)

Feast of St. John of the Cross

Christkindlmarkt closing


Sunday, December 15   (Rose)

Gaudete Sunday

Light third Advent candle

Monday, December 16   (Violet)

Day 1 Christmas Novena


Tuesday, December 17   (Violet)

Day 2 Christmas Novena


Wednesday, December 18   (Violet)

Day 3 Christmas Novena

Thursday, December 19   (Violet)

Day 4 Christmas Novena


Friday, December 20   (Violet)

Day 5 Christmas Novena


Saturday, December 21   (Violet)

Day 6 Christmas Novena

Sunday, December 22   (Purple)

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Light fourth Advent candle,

Day 7 Christmas Novena


Monday, December 23   (Violet)

Day 8 Christmas Novena


Tuesday, December 24   (White)

Christmas Eve

Day 9 Christmas Novena; decorate the Christmas Tree; attend Christmas Eve Mass

Books of Holy Waiting, Part 2

(This two-part post began yesterday, with part 1 of my preview of Advent resources. Read that one and this, and perhaps you will find things to help you enter more deeply into this season. Blessings to all! And if you have any books, practices, or rituals of Advent that you would like to share, please let me know. I’d love to have you post them, or I can post them for you!)

Advent is a time of holy waiting, a kind of patience that we are unused to in our lives. Every year I try to enter into the season with an intentional and prayerful presence.

waitingAs I said yesterday, if there has been one thing that has both helped and hampered my Advent practices, it is working at Church! Well, hurt is too strong a word, but I can assure you that a parish office in December is many things, but a place of Holy Waiting is not necessarily one of them!

Yet, I have my morning prayer practice and during Advent I use a booklet to help guide my way. Today I will review two and then I will review two more. I hope that you find these mini-reviews useful.

It just works out that I have four books. Yesterday I reviewed two books from Ave Maria Press. Today I review two books from Liturgical Press.

ResizeImageHandlerDaily Reflections for Advent & Christmas by Jay Cormier (106 pp, $2.00) is the current copy a book that I have used before. Like some of the others, this is sized “to go,” fitting in your bag or pocket. I like the portability myself!

This book does what others may not – it goes from the beginning of Advent all the way through to the Baptism of the Lord. For that reason alone, I love the book, but there are other reasons.

Each day offers a readings, scripture, reflection, meditation, and prayer elements. They are all short, but never short on wisdom. This is an excellent little book to have with you as you journey down the patient path of Advent and I recommend it.

ResizeImageHandler-1The second volume I put forth today is very different than the other books. A Time of Fulfillment, Spiritual Reflections for Advent and Christmas by Anselm Grün, OSB (144 pp, $14.95).

This is a book that will demand more of your time and attention. No, I’m not talking about War and Peace style demands, but this book is markedly different than the other three. This is a book that you will hold onto for future Advents.

The first half of the book is formed around one of my very favorite Advent rituals, the O Antiphons. Gathering insights around song and spirit,  There are also suggestions for further reflection at the end of each chapter, which I loved. Overall, I found myself literally sinking into the words of each page. Ahhhh… a warm bath of wisdom to soak in. Short, but so meaningful, each section nourished my heart and spirit.

The second portion of the book brings us into and through the season of Christmas that follows the Birth of the Lord. Anchoring each chapter in the Gospel, as well as two chapters on Pauline letters, rich exegetical wisdom is found on each and every page. The final chapter, perhaps the finest gift of this book, is about the mystery of Christmas.

The author’s monastic spirituality is made explicitly clear in the pages of this book, and that alone is worth the read. I really can’t rate this book highly enough! Yes, I highly, highly recommended it, to be used in conjunction with one of the other books, which are more focused on daily reflection.

My prayers and blessings to you for a good Advent ahead. Please feel free to share your own practices with us; contact me if you would like to see them posted. It would be great to publish them here on the blog!

Books of Holy Waiting, Part 1

waitingAdvent is a time of holy waiting, a kind of patience that we are unused to in our lives. Every year I try to enter into the season with an intentional and prayerful presence.

Now if there has been one thing that has both helped and hampered my Advent practices, it is working at Church! Well, hurt is too strong a word, but I can assure you that a parish office in December is many things, but a place of Holy Waiting is not necessarily one of them!

Yet, I have my morning prayer practice and during Advent I use a booklet to help guide my way. Today I will review two and then I will review two more. I hope that you find these mini-reviews useful.

It just works out that I have four books, two from one publisher and two from another. Today I begin my reviews with two books from Ave Maria Press.

9781594714368.jpg.232xThe first is part of a longtime series that I truly love, the Sacred Space series. These books are from the Irish Jesuits and their Sacred Space website. This small, slim volume, Sacred Space for Advent and the Christmas Season 2013 (96 pp, $1.25) , is easy enough to tuck into a purse or pocket, is divided up into chapters based on each seek of Advent and then a chapter for Christmas week up to Epiphany.

Each chapter begins with some words about coming days, the presence of God, the Word, and other prayerful elements. Each day offers a reflection that concludes with a prompt and/or question.

One of the things that I like about Sacred Space is that each days pattern is the same, the reflections are brief, but they leave plenty of room for spacious contemplation in what might be a shorter time span. Yes, I know that sounds contradictory, but it has worked well for me in the past.

There is a second portion to the book which offers an Advent retreat. I really like this element as well, and it makes the book so much more attractive to me.

My assessment – highly recommended. This book also has an attractive price point and can be bulk ordered for a parish. It also makes a lovely gift!

9781594713835_rev.jpg.232xAlso from Ave Maria Press is, The Living Gospel, Daily Devotions for Advent 2013, by Brendan McGuire (64 pp, $.1.50). This too is a portable prayer resource that will not challenge your wallet.

I have not used this book before, but I love the format. Each day of Advent offers a Begin, Pray, Listen for the day, followed by a reflection. These are short, but meaningful and very nicely done. At the end of the reflection there are invitations to act and pray. This is a great little book that I would recommend. If there is a downside for me, it is that the book ends with Christmas. I wish that it went to Epiphany, or better yet, the Baptism of the Lord, when the Christmas season truly concludes. Overall though, I really liked it.

Both books are small and simple enough for a wide variety of readers, yet are not “dumbed down” in any way. Each offers those of us in a busy and distracted world, one full of noise and impatience, a way to enter the season of Holy Waiting that approaches.  The small investment in either one, or both for that matter, will be worthwhile.

Tomorrow… two more resources for your consideration.

Book review and other matters

imagesWell, not really. Just book reviews!

Yes, hi – I’m here. Trying to blog, but not being very consistent about it, am I? Part of the reason for any regular posting is that I have been reading a lot more lately. Ahhh, it has been lovely. 5 years of graduate school and all kinds of other distractions, such as social media, redirected my reading focus. But guess what! It is back!

You will see some book reviews appearing here in the next week. To begin with, I will review some Advent book resources.

advent-candle11Why Advent? Each year we are invited to slow down to consciously pray and journey towards the birth of Jesus during this season. Yet, the days of December are often the most hectic, hurtling us from our post-Thanksgiving food comas into a days of shopping, card writing, parties, wrapping gifts, and more. This can be positively numbing; the opposite of the quiet, holy waiting, and presence that we are called to during Advent. Often times, we can’t wait until Christmas so that we get to relax – or at least collapse into a heap on the sofa.

jesus-christmas-reason-for-the-season-bible-lock-screens-ipad-1In my experience, this causes the liturgical season of Christmas to dissolve, the season which begins once we celebrate the day. A season which often goes unnoticed by many – or just not noted, because there we are exhausted from the pre-December 25 hurly burly! I find this challenge in my own life. I will go so far as to say that having an actual Advent practice, one that stills and orients you towards Jesus,  imight be the best way to keep Jesus as the “reason for the season” rather than a bumper sticker, but hey – that’s just me. Not to mention that the “season” runs until January 12, 2014.

Thus, every year I look for a book to use as a prayer companion on my journey through Advent and the Christmas season. It is my experience that the use of a book dedicated to the season(s) is helpful. Kind of like an Advent calendar with a binding! In all seriousness, the right book, combined with my own morning prayer ritual, becomes a daily anchor, steadying my ship in a storm of busy-ness before December 25, and a reminder of the intentionality that the birth of Christ calls us to. This practice also orients me towards noting and celebrating the Christmas season itself.

If you look for Advent resources you may already know that there is a dizzying array of books out there, which is a great. Yet, so many choices can make for a harder decision. This year I began my search unusually early, and am offering a brief reviews of a few resources for your consideration. Those reviews will be published in the coming days.

img_f2914899aa1What are your Advent practices? How do you prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus? Do you use a book? An Advent calendar? An Advent wreath at your table or elsewhere? Is getting to mass or service a priority for you at this time? Or is it more difficult? Are there other practices woven into your own lives? If you are willing to write them up as a short post, I would like to try publish some of them, as space and time permits. Let me know via email (festinalente07 at gmail) or by leaving a comment. (Comments are moderated, so please feel free to write one that is meant as a note for me, with instructions not to publish it!)

-1But wait – there’s more! Next Monday, I am thrilled to be on the blog tour for one of the best books that I have read in a long time. On Monday I will be one of the first stops for author Kyle Cupp, whose new book “Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt” should be on everyone’s reading list. (You may recall my not-review of the book in September.)

ClothedMe.Cover_.Full_-e1372305936491And I might have a word or two, not a review, but an update, about a book that I am involved in, which is about to be published after a printing error and delay!

So stay tuned, follow along, keep reading, and let me know about your Advent practices! Thank you my faithful readers, thank you always!