Can you feel it? Can you hear it? November is rolling along. In a mere two and a half weeks, our nation will celebrate Thanksgiving.
Two and a half weeks, then it really starts. The carols are already playing and the decorations are already up at the stores. You know what that means, right? Christmas is right around the corner. The hectic, frenzied pace of the Christmas season begins.
But wait! For Catholics, the Christmas season begins at Christmas. Advent, a time of penance and spiritual preparation, comes first. November ushers it in with the first Sunday of Advent falling on November 28th, three days after Thanksgiving.
How many times have you gotten 2 weeks into Advent and said to yourself, “This is supposed to be a time of spiritual preparation, and all I’m doing is running around?” Then by the end you resolve, “Next year will be better.”
Well next year is here! I propose we take this time in November to wrap our heads around having a most excellent Advent.
Plan. Decide what you want to do and chart your course. No need to be unprepared or have regrets at the end.
Here are a few suggestions:
Use the saints as your guide. Take a particular charism or virtue demonstrated by a November saint and practice it. November begins with All Saints and All Souls. Pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and ask their intercession for a prayerful Advent. Care for the poor and needy as did St. Martin de Porres. Visit or serve those in the hospital, or maybe a nursing home, as did St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Read the Catechism asking Saint Leo the Great to help you grow in understanding of the Truth. Listen to inspirational Christian music, or sing it, or play it with St. Ceclia by your side. Read what Jesus says in the Gospels about the kingdom of God as you approach the great Feast of Christ the King.
Choose a daily devotion that you will do for the season. The season of Advent is about the incarnation. Figure out a way to pray the Angelus at noon time.
Find a great spiritual book to read for Advent. Order it. Borrow it. Take it off the shelf. Whatever it is and where ever it is. Get it ready for November 28th. One of my personal favorites is The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander – a fabulous book for Advent.
Schedule a book discussion. One Advent I read The Reed of God with two friends. We read on our own and got together once a week to discuss it. I think it might have been for a couple of hours after Saturday morning Mass. It is a terrific way to make the season grow deeper. Reach out to one or two friends, or maybe your husband or wife, and plan a time to reflect on the book as it pertains to where you are in Advent. Setting aside time for spiritual, intellectual and friendship pursuits does the heart good.
Pull out your Advent wreath and purchase your Advent candles. I invariably buy them around the second Sunday of Advent. Not this year, though! I already bought them. Make sure to locate the advent prayer booklet that goes with it. If you don’t have one, visit a local Catholic bookstore or find one on-line.
Find some special books to read with the kids for Advent. One Advent when I was homeschooling my girls, I took out a bunch of books from the library – books about Advent and different Christmas traditions around the world. Each morning we would snuggle up in my bed and read one of the books. It’s a wonderful memory we all share of that time. Do your research. Use the library. Borrow the books so that you have them in time.
Make an appointment to go to Confession and then keep it!
If you don’t already go to daily Mass, plan on going one day a week. If you go once a week, try adding another day.
Finally, try praying St. Andrews Christmas Novena. This novena is prayed from the feast of St. Andrew, November 30, until Christmas Eve. It is prayed 15 times daily. It can be prayed all in one sitting, or it can be split up praying it, say, three sets of 5 with your daily meals. I must admit, when I first read the 15 times part, I said, “Well, this certainly isn’t for me.” But on second thought, “I think I’m going to pray this novena; it will help me to grow in the discipline of my prayer.”
These seem like pretty good places to start. I’d love to hear the ways you get ready for Advent. If we plan ahead, our Advent will be blessed!
May God bless you and keep you, Anne