Celebrating Advent

Gaudete-Sunday5Five years ago, I moved from Central Illinois to Denver for my job.  This means that each year I look forward to travel around Christmastime, in order to allow me to spend the holidays with my extended family.  This means we get to live with my parents for a few weeks, and that can makes it challenging to have our own family traditions.

Last year, we discussed some things we might be able to do for Advent.

The biggest thing that we did was to celebrate St. Nicholas‘s feast day.  On the eve of the feast day, we said some special prayers, put a small statue of the bishop Saint Nicholas on our family altar, and read my daughter (who is two and a half) a children’s story about the bishop of Myra.  We also had our daughter put out her shoe, she was happy to receive a small gift on his feast day.

On Saint Nicholas’s actual feast day, we had a leisurely evening together as a family and said some prayers for Saint Nicholas’s intercession.  We also had an extended family meal and made some special punch for the occasion, which our daughter loved.

We also added the Magnificat Advent Companion to our prayer rotation and a small, portable Advent wreath so we could count the weeks until we celebrate Christ’s birth.  We also spent much of the month of December with friends and family, focusing on having a relaxing, enjoyable and festive season.  There are plenty of other websites that have provided a myriad of Advent observances, these are just the ones that worked best for our family this year.

If you have a special Advent observance, share it in the comment box.  We’d love to hear what other families do to celebrate this very special time of year.


Saint Athanasius: A man for today’s Church

AthanasiusToday is the feast day of Saint Athanasius, the 20th bishop of Alexandria who lived from c. 296 – 373.  He is best known for his strong convictions and his lead role in the First Council of Nicaea against the Arian heresy in 325.

At the root of the Arian heresy was the holding that Jesus Christ is of a different substance (separate) from God the Father.  Athanasius proved himself to be a pillar of strong theology and orthodoxy, holding fast to the truth of the divinity of Christ.  Athanasius engaged in this struggle against the Arians for most of his life and this earned him five official exiles from four different Roman emporers, not including six more instances where he was forced from Alexandria for his own personal safety.

I first became acquainted with the virtues of Saint Athanasius through his famous quotation:

If the world goes against Truth, then Athanasius goes against the world.

I believe that his wisdom applies directly to the situation we find ourselves in today as a Church.  Today (at least in the United States), we have a legion of under-catechized, lukewarm Catholics that do not know the tenants of their Faith.  They allow themselves to be molded not by the Truth, but by a secular culture that wants everyone to “get along to get along” and in doing so distorts the actual teachings of Jesus.  This leads people toward the dangerous precipice of a life lived apart from Christ.

The quotation above should be the clarion call of all faithful Catholics.  We are called to be witnesses of the absolute Truth of Christ even if that causes us persecution, exile, pain, or death.  Saint Athanasius embodied these virtues throughout his life, and I can identify with the necessity of such conviction.  It is easy for us to be steamrolled by popular opinion, political tides, or well-intentioned but ignorant friends and family.  Our goal, following in the footsteps of this great saint, is to be educated in the Faith, to recognize the Truth, and to accurately and ardently present that Truth to those that would erode or ignore it.

Saint Athanasius, pray for us!