To say Advent has been on my mind a while would be an understatement. In late June or August, I wrote an article about Advent, scheduled for the beginning of Advent, for Catholic Sistas. In it, I encouraged readers,
So, as we enter Advent this year, I encourage all of us to spend some time focusing on how we are a living Sacramental. Commit to a Work of Mercy each day during Advent, knowing you’ll repeat some several times. Don’t be afraid to take the Good News and Joy of the Season to those to whom you may initially be afraid to reach out.
As the days crept closer to Advent, I began reading other fantastic bloggers’ ideas of celebrating Advent with their families. I wanted to try the Jesse Tree with my kids, I envisioned beautiful discussions centered on faith and Advent (and preparing our hearts and homes), and I had every intention of doing something to “joyfully anticipate” the coming of Christmas. I wanted to keep the secular away from the religious origination of Christmas, since Christmas is to be celebrated beginning Christmas Day – and going for twelve days after. I even developed a beautiful Reflection on O Antiphons for the Military Family – something which will be released tomorrow through the Military Council of Catholic Women-Worldwide!
And, before the first week of Advent, I realized I was overwhelmed. I was daunted by the task of “running Advent smoothly.”
Then, the first week hit, and the kids were down with the flu – or, an adverse reaction to flu shots. Given the kids being sick, and my feelings of being overwhelmed, I didn’t even unpack our Advent wreath until last night – the eve of the second week of Advent.
I spent quite a bit of time in prayer during that first week of Advent, trying to discern how to approach Advent.
I realized I was overwhelmed because I am not quite sure my family is ready to walk through the journey of Advent quite yet. I don’t want to sell my children short, but one is (almost) two; the other is five.
The two year old is having a good day when I can coax her to say “Amen!” to dinner prayers, and when she does her version of the Sign of the Cross as we enter church.
The five year old could care less about the daily changes on the Jesse Tree:
- He’s currently stuck on the second day, in which we discuss Adam and Eve, their disobedience to God’s will, and how we try very hard to make God smile through obeying His will.
- We are stuck on the ways he can incorporate his choices during his daily routine to reflect Mommy Mary’s yes to God’s will, rather than rejecting God’s will.
- We are stuck on the notion that Satan tempts all of us, and the reason babies get baptized is so they can have a clean slate to learn to make God smile.
- We are focusing on learning the Lord’s Prayer – even if the translation will be (hopefully) clarified and changed.
- We are focusing on nightly prayers.
- We are focusing on acting appropriately in church.
The root of my overwhelmed feelings was trying to do too much. I was trying to do everything, and not recognizing my need, let alone my family’s need to take things slowly.
I have been accused in the past as being “intense,” when it comes to my Faith. And, it’s true – I can get intense. I like to think the word “passionate” is more applicable, but the feelings are still the same. The person discussing Faith with me, and on the receiving end of my soap box, can feel a little intimidated and a little put off at the notion of faith-based conversations.
And, I have no doubt, in my zeal to “do all things Catholic,” that intensity has a tendency to make my five year old bristle.
So, the more the first week progressed, the more I realized I needed to cut my family some slack. We won’t be lighting the Advent candles on our wreath this year. But, we will still have Faith-based discussions as we are able.
Instead, I will be having an Advent I can spiritually handle – one which forces me, as an individual living a life of interior prayer, to cut back on my intensity.
An Advent which forces me to work on my own individual prayer life.
An Advent where I work less at being a Pharisee, and more like being a Disciple.
I am, hands-down, impressed at the mothers and families who all have family-reflective Advents. But, that is not me. Not this year.
And, to any other Christian mama out there, worried they aren’t “doing Advent right,” may I impart this little reminder – there is no “one way,” and there is no “right way,” to have the perfect Advent.
From this Catholic mommy blogger to the reader feeling overwhelmed, I’m giving you permission to meet yourself where you are at – to not feel guilty if you aren’t having an Advent you either wanted, or envisioned.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states in section 26,
Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life.
I can’t force faith (with a little “f”) on my family. I can optimize opportunities for them to explore faith, learn faith, and grow in faith. And, I am recognizing the best way to do that is to allow the faith (and Faith) to weave into natural conversation, rather than trying to do “the best Advent,” or “the best Lent.”
So, this year, my family gets a pass on Advent. We will journey as a family through Advent in years to come, but this year?
Advent is about my personal journey – of faith, and in Faith.