What are some baby steps for celebrating Advent?I hate to admit this, but I’ve come to associate Advent with EPIC FAIL. (And preparing the way for the glorious birth of Christ, of course. That and EPIC FAIL.)

Every year for the past three years I’ve tried lead my family in some of the rich traditions that this beautiful part of the liturgical year offers. And every year I end up getting overwhelmed and giving up around the second Sunday, the Advent decorations peeking out from the clutter on our mantle now serving primarily as a reminder that I don’t have my act together.

As I’ve contemplated this upcoming Advent, my fourth as a Christian, I’ve realized a few of things:

I am more easily overwhelmed than most people.
I have four kids under age seven (well, I guess I already knew that one).
I have very little experience with this season; neither my husband nor I celebrated it growing up.

Considering those factors, I realized that the problem is that I’m trying to do too much. Even most of the books and websites that offer “simple” suggestions for Advent are above my level right now. Keeping up with an Advent wreath, Jesse tree, countdown calendar, special daily Advent prayers, arts and crafts projects and seasonal baking projects sounds like it wouldn’t be all that much, especially when it’s spread out over a season. But it is for me. By a long shot.

A lot of you are familiar with Fly Lady, the home organization guru who advocates that people who follow her system start with “baby steps,” i.e. doing a few extremely simple things to get your feet wet. (For example, her system will eventually lead you to an entire home makeover, but she suggests that you begin by just putting on your shoes and cleaning your sink. That’s it.)

So here’s my question for you:

What are some “baby steps” I could take to begin bringing the many traditions of Advent into my home?

The more specific, the better. And feel free to include yours, even if others have already commented. I’m sure there are other people who struggle with this, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Also, let me hasten to add that I know that all these great traditions aren’t ends in and of themselves: the goal is to bring us closer to Christ, to prepare our hearts and minds to behold the miracle of Christmas — and you can certainly do that without lighting a single Advent candle. Don’t worry, I don’t think that participating in Advent rituals will act as a magic bullet that instantly makes me holier and better prepared for Christmas.

I do think, however, that the activities of the liturgical year can point our hearts in the right direction (I often think of it as breathing with the Body of Christ); and I think that the rhythmic celebrations of the different seasons are deeply comforting and enriching for children. So it is important to me to make Advent a part of our family’s lives. Hopefully your baby step ideas will get me off to a good start!

By Jennifer Fulwiler

–See more at this link here.  

2nd-sunday

EXILE

Both Isaiah and Peter had the task of comforting and encouraging their communities during times of exile. The Israelites were in geographic exile from Israel; to them this was, in effect, the same as being in exile from their God. The early Christians, following the Resurrection, expected an immediate return of Christ in glory; they, too, felt in “exile” as the delay of the Second Coming grew longer and longer. All four of scripture’s authors today—Isaiah, the psalmist, Peter, and Mark—hasten to help us see things in God’s terms, not ours. They want us to know that we can never truly be exiled from God, or from God-among-us, since we know that when the faithful are gathered, Christ has come into their midst. Instead, we are encouraged today to do what we can from our end to shorten the time of our exile: to repent of our sins, to return our lives to the Lord, to live as people who seek the coming day of the Lord, when “kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss” (Psalm 85:10).
Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co.

Going to Mass with young children can be challenging, to put it nicely. Despite how that, going to Mass with young children IS Worth It. It’s not meant for fun or entertainment or even relaxation. Sometimes Mass is Calvary and sometimes it’s the Resurrection. The catch is that you don’t get to pick. You just have to try and accept it for what it is.

1. Come as prepared as you can

Try and plan ahead and allow time to give the little people some form of nutrition before heading out the door so they aren’t “starving” and whining all about it in the pew.

That said, when we go, the four-year-old is usually finishing off his cereal en route and the baby is still in his jammies, bed head and all.

2. Distraction & redirection

Bring items like books & toys that you can throw at your kids when they start losing focus – if they ever had it.

– I keep a tub in our car with “church books” the kids can pick to bring in with them. When we forget ours, our parish’s cry room has a basket of “lost and forgotten” kids’ books to borrow. Some of the Touch and Feel animal books have helped get us through some unstable times with the baby as well.

– For toys, we keep a bag in the diaper bag filled with special and appropriate toys for Mass time to help distract and ‘entertain’ the little ones who have no real interest in staying in the same place for any amount of time. Be careful what you put in here though. Stay away from anything that beeps, buzzes, lights up or makes any other sound. Keep the wind-up cars at home to avoid chasing runaway toys under the pews and up the altar.

– Notebook and crayons – Blank paper + colors = minutes of focused fun. It’s the simple things sometimes. You can even give the artwork to the priest as a peace offering after Mass.

3. Deflect & ignore

I picked this idea up from this crazy lady with big hair who goes to daily Mass every day, even in the summer, with her FIVE young offspring. When it comes to annoying behavior at Mass, if in doubt, pretend like you didn’t see it.

Seriously, unless it’s hurting someone or damaging church property, or causing too big of a raucous – it can wait. I used to spend way too much time correcting my kids about things that in the end really don’t matter. They won’t go to hell if they don’t kneel and stand when everyone else is.

Sometimes, the less attention you give them the less they try and irritate you. (However, that rule isn’t written in stone unfortunately.) My four-year-old likes to scowl at me when I tell him “no” about something. I usually either ignore him or scowl back.

4. Location, location, location

There are really only two good options when picking your pew. Either sit as far away from other people as you can or march right up to the front so the kids can see what’s going on instead of staring at (and trying to poke) people’s backsides the whole time.

When I’m flying solo, I like to sit in the last pew at the back so we’re not getting in anyone’s view or making anyone nauseous from all the up movement. This also provides quick and easy access to the exit in case of emergencies. (Like throw-up and ‘time-outs’.)

5. Walk out when needed

Sometimes you can only distract and redirect so much until it becomes impossible to keep a young and energetic child in one place. It’s okay if you have to get up and take a little walk in the back of the church.

I know some moms who live for the cry room and others who loathe it. It just depends on what works for you and each child in each situation. Mass isn’t a competition to see who can keep their children in their pew the longest or who can look holiest.

6. Abandon your expectations

If you have certain ideas about how you think Mass with your littles should go, get rid of them. Check them at the doors and bless yourself with the holy water.

Going to Mass with young children is NOT the same as going to Mass alone. It’s also NOT the same as when you were single and had no clue what children were really like. Accept this or fail.

Every Mass experience will be different. It’s important to note that your Mass experience with your children will also differ from that of another parent’s so don’t compare. As another good friend of mine with normal-sized hair said so well, each Mass experience is different; know that each time you go “this is the Mass you’re supposed to have.”

7. Pray – You are at Mass

You go there to PRAY. The Mass is a PRAYER. So PRAY!

Even if your only prayer is, “Lord, save me from these children!!!” It acknowledges that you NEED Him and that’s a good start. If you’re blessed, He’ll hear that prayer and might even save you from yourself in the process.

So if you’re running on fumes and need a little extra grace, try Mass. It sounds crazy. It might drive you crazy. In fact, I can guarantee it will refine you.

But after you get used to it, it will be worth it. I promise. The eternal benefits for you and your children outweigh the temporary and earthly hardship.

Copyright 2013 Erika Marie

1st-sunday

WATCH

“Watch!” This word occurs three times in today’s Gospel passage. Moreover, it is placed at significant points: the beginning, the center, and the end. Though this is technically a parable, it is quite short (four verses). The threefold repetition of “watch” leaves no doubt as to what the story is about.

We often think of Advent as a time of waiting, but it truly is a season of watchfulness, a very active form of waiting for the coming Day of the Lord. It is that day, more than Christmas day, that the Christian community faithfully expects, using all of our gifts and talents for this purpose, as Paul reminds us in the Letter to the Corinthians. When we use these gifts in faithful watching and expectation, we become like the servants of the parable, set to their tasks, not waiting around idly, but engaged in the master’s work until his return.

May our Advent be a time when we return or rededicate our lives and our communities to this work—the active and diligent faithfulness that the Lord will expect to find.
Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co.

FROM OUR TRADITION

Each of the seven sacraments, like other aspects of the Church’s pastoral plan, is an attempt to be faithful to the image of Christ we discover in the Gospels. Anointing of the sick is rooted in Jesus’ saving deeds of healing and even rescue from death. What is your favorite encounter of Jesus with a sick person?

Often, it seems that Jesus would go at once to the person in a crowd who was in the most pain, in the deepest need. A man born blind, Peter’s mother in law, a woman afflicted by years of uncontrollable hemorrhages, a little Roman girl beloved by her soldier father, a crippled man lowered from the rafters, and even a man who lost his ear to a swinging sword in the garden of agony.

This list reads like an admissions chart in an emergency room, and perhaps that is the point. The whole human experience from childhood to old age, from sudden catastrophic illness to chronic debilitating conditions, is represented by those for whom Jesus has such great compassion. This we can name a treasure of tradition with a capital “T.” We are a people of compassion for our sick, who reach out in tenderness to listen, to keep vigil, to strengthen, to touch with reverence, and to anoint with precious oil.
—Rev. James Field, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co.