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.