Monday, November 25, 2013

Catholic Identity During Advent

I read the paragraphs below in a parish bulletin; and it doesn’t matter which parish, really, does it? I know this is not an isolated occurrence, because I googled a phrase from the first paragraph and found the same item in more than one parish bulletin across the country. Take a look:

On Sunday, December 1st, we will begin the Season of Advent. Advent is a great time to focus on your home as a holy place that is called the domestic church. The domestic church refers to your home as the primary place where children first hear about and witness the Catholic faith. In your home, your children will learn to love, to pray, and to serve.

Honor this joyful season in a simple way in your home. Keep the focus on Jesus with prayer. Gather the family at least once a week to pray – it would be nice if your family could do this every day during Advent.

It doesn’t need to be more than a 5-minute moment during the day. You could have everyone join hands and form a circle. Then invite each person to praise God for the gift of his Son.

When I read this, my stomach knotted up, my heart sank, and I almost wept. Is this what we have become as a “Catholic community”? Are we reduced to observing Advent by spending one 5-minute period a week holding hands in a circle?

Whatever happened to praying the Rosary as a family? I’ve heard that people used to do that! What about a “Jesse tree”? What about an Advent wreath on the dining room table? What about an Advent calendar? People could even get really radical and think about the “O Antiphons” in the latter days of Advent…

Do you ever wonder why it seems that we have to form a circle and hold hands to “pray”?  It’s really okay to not be in a circle, and not to hold hands. It’s even okay to pray a “memorized” prayer like the Our Father, which is a prayer that certainly praises God and also reminds us of our own sins and our need for forgiveness. Isn’t that why Jesus came to earth in the first place?

I know that in most parishes – mine included – there will be an Advent wreath in a prime position at Sunday Mass throughout Advent (please, oh please, don't put it right in front of the altar!); and there will be special “chosen ones” of the congregation lighting the candles each week.  There will be a “reconciliation service” (I am not even going to say a word about how I feel about those). There will be the Advent readings and prayers at Mass, of course. At the weekly RE Classes, there will be… well… something, I’m sure, to help the children learn more about Advent.

But in the “domestic church”, the place where children should be immersed in the faith, have we really sunk to such a deplorable lack of Catholic identity as the bulletin blurb above seems to indicate? I’m afraid it is probably so.

How will we restore our Catholic identity? It’s going to be an uphill battle. Of course, it’s worth the fight.

Pray. Fast.


  1. I notice, too, that the bulletin says Advent is a "joyful" time. Certainly it is--but there is no mention of its being a penitential season. Advent used to be 40 days long, like Lent, and was approached the way Lent was, through fasting and penance. The restrictions have since been relaxed, but considering most Catholics have imbibed protestant sensibilities, we seem to have forgotten the penitential nature of this season.

  2. Yes, I almost commented on the idea of it being a "joyful" time, too - and the fact that there is that penitential aspect. And there's the whole thing about Christmas carols - which are sung all through Advent by the secular world, with Catholics joining in - and then we Catholics seem to forget all about those weeks of the Christmas season which follow the birth of Our Lord!

  3. Speaking of "fast"ing, Dr. Boyd.

    I echo what Christine says. Advent is a season of hope and anticipation of the coming of the Messiah... true.

    But! Let us not forget it is also a season of *penance*.

    "Christmas" parties seem to sart Thanksgiving Day, anymore! (Eat, folks! Eat all you can. 'Tis the season to be jolly!)

    I will be giving a talk to some confirmation kids on the 11th. Um, I will be mentioning this. :^)

    By the way, we do

  4. Well, unfortunately the Holy Catholic Church is not the center of people's lives anymore. What do you expect?

    What were looking at is the consequences of opening that window to the world. Now it's waaaaaaayyyy to hard to pray? Good grief. That just shows you the deplorable condition of the Church.

    Pray indeed.


  5. This is something that some might find a beneficial activity during advent:

  6. Sadly, the art of observing Advent has been undermined by the false notions that religious customs (devotions, processions, various venerations) are irrelevant and even obstacles to faith. The impoverishment of the Liturgy and parish life in general has been led by individuals who are more puritans and iconoclasts than Catholics.

    Fast and pray—cast out banality and let the restoration of Catholic sensibility among Catholics begin again, and again!


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