Advent is our preparation for God coming into our lives and hearts in all moments, all places, and all times (past, present, and future).
Advent is a time that reminds us to commemorate the birth of Jesus, welcome God into our lives everyday, and to prepare for Christ’s second coming. It reminds us there’s joy in waiting.
Advent begins a new year for the Church.
Advent is different from Lent because it is a season of hope, not repentance. During Lent, we work on cleaning ourselves up; but during Advent, it is a cozier time to get yourself ready to welcome Jesus.
The colors of Advent are purple and rose.
On the third week, the candle is rose for Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means rejoice (don’t lose heart).
Advent is not about shopping, stressing, planning, or buying. Advent is about expecting, waiting, hoping, and praying.
Suggestions on what to do during Advent:
Volunteer your time at a hospital or soup kitchen.
Excerpt from a homily by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
And the Virgin’s name was Mary. Let us speak a little about this name, which is said to mean “star of the sea,” and which so well befits the Virgin Mother. Rightly is she likened to a star. As a star emits a ray without being dimmed, so the Virgin brought forth her Son without receiving any injury. The ray takes naught from the brightness of the star, nor the Son from His Mother’s virginal integrity. This is the noble star risen out of Jacob, whose ray illumines the whole world, whose splendor shines in the heavens, penetrates the abyss, and, traversing the whole earth, gives warmth rather to souls than to bodies, cherishing virtues, withering vices.
Mary is that bright and incomparable star, whom we need to see raised above this vast sea, shining by her merits, and giving us light by her example.
All of you, who see yourselves amid the tides of the world, tossed by storms and tempests rather than walking on the land, do not turn your eyes away from this shining star unless you want to be overwhelmed by the hurricane.
If temptation storms or you fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, call upon Mary.
If you are tossed by the waves of pride or ambition, detraction or envy, look to the star, call upon Mary.
If anger or avarice or the desires of the flesh dash against the ship of your soul, turn your eyes to Mary.
If troubled by the enormity of your crimes, ashamed of your guilty conscience, terrified by dread of the judgment, you begin to sink into the gulf of sadness or the abyss of despair, think of Mary.
In dangers, in anguish, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary.
Let her name be even on your lips, ever in your heart; and the better to obtain the help of her prayers, imitate the example of her life: “Following her, thou strayest not; invoking her, thou despairest not; thinking of her, thou wanderest not; upheld by her, thou fallest not; shielded by her, thou fearest not; guided by her, thou growest not weary; favored by her, thou reachest the goal. And thus dost thou experience in thyself how good is that saying: ‘And the Virgin’s name was Mary.’
How do we know Jesus is truly present at every Catholic Mass in the physical appearance of bread and wine? Why must we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood? Answer: Jesus tells us and then doubles down when His followers question the weirdness of it.
To wrap our heads around this, we must look to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and to the letters of St. Paul and the accounts of the early Church fathers.
John makes it very clear in Chapter 6 of his book, starting at Verse 25:
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper′na-um. Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.”
After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Will you also go away?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Wow, what an incredible chapter from John. Jesus makes it absolutely clear that if we want to live forever in the kingdom of God (aka Heaven), we must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood.
Many are skeptical that simple bread and wine can be offered at Mass to become truly the Body and Blood of Jesus, as were the disciples at the time who said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” We may even be tempted to think, “Oh, Jesus was talking symbolically.” But Jesus reiterates over and over that no, we must eat His literal flesh to have eternal life. He does that FIVE times. Also, if Jesus was explaining to just simply think of him while eating the offered up bread and wine (consuming the flesh and blood in a symbolic way), the disciple would not have responded as that being a “hard saying”. It might be weird but not hard for them to accept that.
Jesus acknowledges them being critical of this teaching, but then points out who He is. This is critical because this isn’t some ordinary person teaching a really strange lesson, it is Jesus Christ who literally is God who created everything we see around us from nothing!
“It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail” is a line that gets confusing for many Christians. This line does not refer to the Flesh of Jesus, but the flesh meaning fallen human nature. Fallen human nature is powerless to raise itself up because we need God’s grace. The spirit gives life, while fallen human nature is of no avail. Whenever Jesus talks about His Flesh, He refers to it as “my flesh”, not “the flesh”.
Some neat extra facts from scripture about the reality of the Eucharist:
Interestingly, in the ancient Greek text of this scripture, there are two words used that we have just translated as ‘eat’: phago (basic eating) and trogo (gnawing, crunching, or chewing). And the word used in this context of eating his flesh is trogo, a graphic and more literal way to demonstrate eating, instead of using the more basic word phago which could be used in a more symbolic sense.
Also interestingly, the verse where the disciples walk away after hearing about Jesus double down on the importance of eating and drinking His Body and Blood is John 6:66 (666, yikes, according to the Book of Revelation, this is the number of Satan).
Finally, as we learned from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was born in a manger (a feeding trough). Jesus, the Bread of life, who we must eat to have eternal life was born in a feed trough. Coincidence?
• Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, an Indian layman and father who was born to an upper-caste Hindu family in 1712 and converted to Christianity in 1745. The Vatican said his refusal to participate in Hindu ceremonies and his preaching about “the equality of all people,” denying the Hindu caste system, led to his arrest, torture and his death in 1752.
• Blessed César de Bus, the France-born founder of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine, a religious congregation dedicated to education, pastoral ministry and catechesis. Born in 1544, he enjoyed life and parties until he had a conversion experience in his early 30s and began dedicating his life to prayer and helping the poor. Ordained to the priesthood in 1582, he was a pioneer in educating the laity in the faith, using illustrations he painted himself and songs and poetry he wrote. He died in 1607.
• Blessed Luigi Maria Palazzolo, an Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor. Born in 1827, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1850. The Vatican biography said, “At that time there was an abundance of clergy and, like the majority of priests from wealthy families who stayed at home and generously dedicated themselves to good works, Don Luigi chose to devote himself to young people” at an oratory in a poor neighborhood. He opened a school that offered evening classes in reading and writing to men and boys before opening a separate oratory for girls and founding the Sisters of the Poor to run it.
• Blessed Giustino Maria Russolillo, an Italian who, on the day of his ordination to the priesthood in 1913, vowed to establish a religious order dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but his first attempt was stopped by his bishop. Eventually, though, he founded the Society of Divine Vocations for men and the Vocationist Sisters.
• Blessed Charles de Foucauld was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1858. He strayed from the faith during his adolescence, but during a trip to Morocco, he saw how devoted Muslims were to their faith, which inspired him to return to the Church and, eventually, to join the Trappists. After living in monasteries in France and in Syria, he sought an even more austere life as a hermit. Ordained to the priesthood in 1901, he lived among the poor and finally settled in Tamanrasset, Algeria. In 1916, he was killed by a band of marauders. His writings inspired the foundation, after his death, of the Little Brothers of Jesus and the Little Sisters of Jesus.
• Blessed Anna Maria Rubatto, founder of the order now known as the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto, was born in Carmagnola, Italy, in 1844 and died in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1904.
• Blessed Maria Domenica Mantovani, co-founder and first superior general of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family. Born in 1862 in Castelletto di Brenzone, Italy, she dedicated her life to serving the poor and needy as well as assisting the sick and the elderly. She died in 1934.
• Blessed Titus Brandsma was born in Oegeklooster, Netherlands, in 1881 and entered the Carmelites in 1898. Ordained in 1905, he was sent to Rome for further studies and, while there, became a correspondent for several Dutch newspapers and magazines. When he returned home, he founded the magazine Karmelrozen and, in 1935, was named chaplain to the Dutch Catholic journalists’ association. During World War II, he was arrested and sent to Dachau for treason after defending Jews and encouraging Catholic newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda. He was killed with a lethal injection in 1942 at the age of 61 and cremated at the camp.
• Blessed Marie Rivier, a Frenchwoman who founded the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary in 1796 during the time of the French Revolution, when many Catholic convents were closed and religious activities were outlawed. She was born in 1768 and died in 1838.
• Blessed Carolina Santocanale, also known as Blessed Mary of Jesus, an Italian nun born in 1852, who founded the Congregation of the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculate of Lourdes. She died in Palermo in 1923.
May all these newly canonized saints, pray for us!
The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth century. On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead of each the sign of the cross, saying the words: “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. – Catholic Encyclopedia (Thurston, Herbert)
CODE OF CANON LAW Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.
Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
The formula for fasting is to only have two small meals and then one regular-sized meal that’s no larger than both those small meals put together.
Fasting isn’t meant to be very difficult, and the purpose isn’t for one to starve. What’s difficult is this is a fast day whether we like it or not. This is a day when we’re called to eat less. We’re called to act differently, whether we like it or not.
The same thing is true when it comes to Mass every Sunday and Holy days of obligation. It’s a thing that we’re called to do whether we like it or not.
Here’s why that’s so good:
What is love? Love is willing the good of the other. It’s willing or choosing the good of the other, so we’re called to love our neighbor, and we’re called to love the people in our families. We’re simply called to love others. How do you love God? Love is willing the good of the other, so you’re typically providing for something they lack, or you’re giving them something they don’t have. But when it comes to God, He has everything. How we can love God is basically through three ways: – We can love God through giving Him glory. By praising Him, by giving Him thanksgiving, or by worshiping Him. – We love God by serving our neighbor. – We love God through obedience. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” We show our love by saying yes to God. Why? Because God has everything in the world, He has everything in the universe, except for one thing, and the one thing God doesn’t have is your heart. When we say yes to His will, we’re giving Him our heart. When we say yes to His law, we’re giving Him our heart.
It’s not about how hard the fast is, it’s about us doing this because we’re asked to do it. When it comes to going to Mass, it’s about going there because we’re asked to go there. The heart of every sin is not caring what God wants and just doing what we want to do.
On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, God’s call for us is to fast and to abstain from meat. He asks us through His Scripture and through His Church. When we say yes to this, we’re saying yes to him, and being obedient is an ultimate expression of our love.
This Lent, what you and I are called to do, is simply obey God’s commands. Why? Because we want to show our love to Him.
The exhortation to be watchful resounds many times in the liturgy, especially in Advent, a season of preparation not only for Christmas, but also for Christ’s definitive and glorious coming at the end of time. It therefore has a distinctly eschatological meaning and invites the believer to spend every day and every moment in the presence of the One ‘who is and who was and who is come,’ to whom the future of the world and of man belongs.
St. Pope John Paul II
Give alms – Food basket donations, clothing donations, monetary donations to the Church and trusted charity organizations, volunteering your time to those who are in need, are needed all year long, but Advent is a good time to start. Praying for others is a very important way to help others too, and everyone can do it.
Arrange a Nativity Scene – Having a Nativity scene in your home can be a helpful reminder for you to reflect on the birth of Jesus. If possible, set up an outdoor Nativity scene in front of your home for people walking by to see.
Pray the Rosary – Praying the Rosary, especially the Joyful Mysteries, can help draw you closer to Jesus through Mary. See a Rosary Guide here.
Fast – Fasting is not just for lent, it is a great way to remind us of our need for God. It can be a great thing to do during Advent as we prepare for Christmas
There are two ways to live and they can be described by the paths we travel on through life. One path is easy, the other is difficult. The easy path is more popular, it is full of pleasures and, generally, most people will relate to the stuff you do on it, but it does not lead to God. The difficult path is less popular, but it leads to eternal life because this path is purely set on God’s will.
One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.
DIARY Of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska Divine Mercy in My Soul, 2005, Marian Press Stockbridge, MA
It’s not always easy to follow the path to eternal life with Jesus. Sometimes you need to make sacrifices to stay on this path, and it requires you to lay down your life in love.
Even though the difficult path is full of obstacles, trials, and struggles; remember that this is the right path. We need to stay on this path no matter what.
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
Even if your family, friends, co-workers ridicule you or think you’re foolish… who cares. By staying on the narrow path, you have your heart set on eternal life.
Your faithfulness shown by staying on the narrow path is a way to lead by example because some people will see how you live your life and will realize the path they’re on is empty. The wide path that many people are on is vain and pointless, it leads to nowhere. We need to joyfully take up our cross following Jesus every day and stay on the narrow path, and eventually, some will see the light and join us.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Trent Horn tells us that we should first ask the person what is their source for the accusation. These statements can often be old recycled arguments from non-reliable sources. Asking for the source will get the other person thinking, and it can also give you the opportunity to show proof and evidence supporting Catholic beliefs.
Ask the person what is your primary source to show you these ancient religions predated christianity and believed in these very specific things related to christianity.
Nine times out of ten they can’t give you a citation. They’re just taking it on faith, reading from this anti-catholic or anti-christian author they’re quoting.
It’s not really helpful to tell the other person that they are wrong when they bring up claims against Catholicism, and it is better to ask the question of how they came to believe that or why do they think that is true. Asking for evidence can plant a seed of doubt which can be more effective than just telling them they’re wrong.