Form own themes for Advent prayer - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Form own themes for Advent prayer

May the blessings of the Advent season fill your heart and help us all
to prepare worthily for the Feast of Christmas.

This is a season of attentiveness and receptivity, a time of
anticipation and renewed hope. Its invitation to us is that we take
time for prayer and to note the presence and power of God among us.
Advent is a season that puts us in touch with our world so we become
more aware of the gift of life that is ours, and become more responsive
to Christ’s invitation to advance the Kingdom of God.

I was much impressed by the brief Advent message Pope John Paul II
gave to the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square at noon on the First Sunday
of Advent. In his short message, he invited us to open our hearts to
the peace of Christ, and to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary, both in
our expectant hope and in the way we nurture the Word we bear in our
hearts.

That kind reminder and gentle encouragement is solid in its content
and faithful to the themes of the season. I would have been quite
content to take those words of our Holy Father to heart and let them
form the core of my Advent prayer. In fact, I intend to do so.

But I will also add to my Advent prayers other themes to which he
referred on that occasion — his admonitions to pray that the peace of
Christ may be established in war-torn areas of the world; that we pray
fervently for those afflicted with the HIV/AIDS virus and commit our
resources to its prevention and cure; and that we continue to work
against the death penalty.

I was not at all surprised that our Holy Father’s message attended
both to sublime spiritual truth and to a call to the human family to
deal with the hard demands of the Gospel message — a gift that does
not shield us from life’s pain, but calls us to engage with faith and
confidence in the power of God.

Think for a moment of the attitude we bring to such issues as the
death penalty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the war in Iraq. My experience
tells me that a great number of Catholics on this planet hold views on
these issues much different from those of John Paul II. Perhaps you do
too.

Surely, such dispositions would not surprise John Paul II. He has
been around the block (better — the world) a few times, and knows full
well people’s attitudes about the sensitive, sometimes volatile, issues
cited above. And yet he keeps reminding us of our spiritual heritage
and the profound respect for life in all of its stages to which that
heritage calls us.

Our Holy Father wasn’t instructing us in the particulars of our
Advent prayer in his Angelus address. Rather, he was encouraging us to
make our own the rich themes of attentiveness, joyful hope, receptivity
and anticipation. Further, he was encouraging us, I believe, to let
those themes shine on whatever in our lives may need the light of
Christ.

Those needn’t be limited to global issues. They can be wounded or
fragile relationships, perplexing ethical questions, one’s lifestyle or
pace of life, our perspectives or priorities, or our honest efforts to
live the Gospel.

However you choose to pray, I hope that the Advent season will find
you more alert than ever to the presence and call of God in your life;
that you will have a deeper sense than ever of the meaning and
direction of your life; that you will know that the prayer of our
community supports you in your journey to deeper life in Christ.

Let me add that the family gathered on Saturday for the baptism of
Kevin James Grignon. It was a joyful occasion at St. Edward the
Confessor Parish in Elnora, N.Y., followed by a wonderful party at
Kevin’s home. I further note only that on the 31st day of Kevin’s life
he was as calm, cool and collected as he was on his first.

Peace to all.

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