Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The season of Advent is a preparation period for the great mystery of our salvation with the incarnation of Emmanuel – God is with us. We hear the voice crying out to prepare for the Lord, and we encounter John the Baptist calling for repentance. John knows who he is and who he is not. He knows his role in encouraging people to think about what is to come. We don’t know much about John, outside of the few stories, but his role in announcing the coming of the Messiah is significant in our salvation history. His voice and announcement should also radiate in our ears as we tread these weeks of Advent.

The gospel provides a great reminder to prepare during the sometimes crazy and uncertain days we our living. Like our reflections on how to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, we must also reflect on how to celebrate the upcoming Advent and Christmas seasons. It’s easy to get caught up in disappointments with so many social activities cancelled or hosted virtually. The cold weather and virus may keep some of us isolated. Church services won’t have the glorious singing that we are accustomed to enjoying. None-the-less, we must prepare for these coming days. If we don’t, they may pass us by. And this year more than others, we have both more time at home with our families and a desire for joyfulness – a perfect opportunity to make this particular Advent and Christmas extra special. This year I challenge all parishioners, young and old, to gain a deeper understanding of the true meaning of Christmas and what we celebrate as Christians.

Although Advent doesn’t have the same strong penitential nature as Lent, we can be creative with those themes. How can you pray this Advent season? I suggest downloading the daily readings to see how the Church moves through this season liturgically. Or find a special Advent prayer and include it in your daily prayers. Fasting, while difficult during a season marked by so much food and treats, mindfully grounds us in the sacrifices made for us. Perhaps you focus on acts for the greater good, and avoid unnecessary activities that could put you or someone else at risk of getting the virus. This too is a sacrifice.

This time of year, it’s easy to find opportunities to give alms. Your financial assistance, especially to support the giving trees, go so far in bringing joy to the hearts of others. One of the greatest gifts of alms that we can give is our time. As I have mentioned, with the pandemic and colder days upon us, it’s easy to become isolated. Let us be cautious of our own temptations to become isolated, and in turn make extra efforts to help others feel connected to the human family. Be creative, while keeping safe, to fill a person’s overcast day with a little joy and hope.

As we move through this season remember that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass in person is still dispensed. This also includes Holy Days of Obligation such as the Immaculate Conception, Christmas, and Holy Mary Mother of God (New Year’s Day). With limited seating in the church to maintain social distancing, please consider other forms of participation in these celebrations, especially Christmas. Gather your family at home around the television and attend Mass together, as you would in the church. Or plan on coming to a weekday mass during the Octave of Christmas. With so many options to attend Mass virtually (live or recorded) across the diocese, TV networks, and the internet, I’m confident that our parish will continue to celebrate their faith each week until we can all gather again safely.

“We Give Catholic” is this Tuesday, December 1st. Please visit the parish website for information on how to participate and to learn about our parish project. Thank you in advance for your participation in this important fund raiser. I am very grateful and amazed at the generosity of so many people during these challenging times.

As we light our Advent candles to mark the start of our journey, let our hearts be filled with the light of the world as we prepare to celebrate His birth and await His return.

Advent Blessings!

Fr. Workman

A Prayer to Prepare My Heart for Christ’s Coming

Father, just as You sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus, help me to clear the path in my heart, too. Show me the distractions in my life that block me from all-out worship of You this Advent. Lord, I await Your coming! As I celebrate the first Advent––the first coming––I look toward the day where I will see You face to face. I imagine what it will be like. Give me a heart, Lord, that looks for Your coming on a daily basis. Help me to live my life where I’m constantly seeking Your presence. My offering to You today is my righteous life for I know I am only clean because of Jesus. Show me today how I need to be refined, purified, forgiven. Give me the strength to ask for forgiveness and to then change my ways.

~Sarah Martin, from “The Awe & Wonder of Advent: Day 18