It's that wonderful and holy time of year that our Church calls "Advent." We might be planning (or at least hoping) to observe this Advent season in a holier way than we have in the past but aren't quite sure how to accomplish it. After all, there's that crazy time factor to deal with - or shall I say, the "lack thereof"? Advent seems to speed by and we might end up lamenting later on that we missed out on what we had hoped to do.
Then there's the advertising frenzy we are forced to contend with, blaring at us at every turn. Even when we are careful, our impressionable kids are exposed to all the tricks and distractions from the secular media. We want to be careful not to allow them to get caught up in the hype or get distracted ourselves.
So, during Advent, I think we really need to make our home "another Nazareth" as Mother Teresa once told me. I'd like to share five tips with you which will hopefully help to keep Advent holy in your domestic church. In order to carry out these tips we have to establish at least a little bit of structure into our days or that holiness we are talking about just might not happen.
1. Create a holy home.
Now, that's easy, right? Well, not exactly, but with using a few simple tangible items, our homes become more like a little church (a domestic church!) rather than just blending into everything else in society.
I suggest using an Advent wreath and lighting the candles each night at dinner. Say a prayer or two after you say your Grace before the meal. Some families use a Jesse Tree.
Either of these two Advent traditions are wonderful (or both). Place sacred and holy images and art around the household. These holy reminders and sacramentals help the family to look to heavenly things rather than the secular world.
2. Dedicate time for prayer.
If we don't pencil in our Creator to our "to-do" list, our conversation with Him might not happen. I recommend that we pray first thing in the morning. Get your day started off right. Say a simple prayer together as a family at the breakfast table. No matter how busy you are, make it happen.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your love for us. Please bring our family close to You today. Help us to see You in others and serve You in them. Amen.
Later, at night, pray again while around the dinner table. And, of course, all throughout the day you'll be lifting your hearts heavenward. You will be creating an essential prayer habit. Help your family to establish a very good prayer habit.
3. Choose a Saint.
Get acquainted with a saint and read about their life at the dinner table. This need not be a complicated task. It can actually be quite easy.
Use a book you have in your family library or get some information from a good online Catholic source. Read even just a couple of lines or a paragraph to the family at dinner whenever you can. Offer them a question about the saint to ponder (and to see if they were listening!).
And then, invoke the saint together as a family all throughout Advent. With this simple addition to your Advent tradition, your family will be learning about a saint, and you will be helping them to focus on heavenly things instead of the advertising frenzy and the lack of good values of the secular culture (which we are trying to keep outside the doors of our domestic church).
4. Establish a "NO NOISE" time (and/or zone).
Once or twice a week (or even every day if possible) set a timer for ten minutes. Explain to the kids that they are to be very quiet during that short period of time. You can give the older ones a suggested line of Scripture or information about the saint you are learning about. They are to meditate for ten minutes on something holy (the line from Scripture, the saint, the season of Advent, an idea to do to help someone, etc). There should be no grumbling or complaining about this. We can all spare ten minutes, can't we?
You will be assisting your family to carve out the essential time for silence in their lives. We all need quiet time to be able to listen to God. How can we possibly hear Him whispering to our hearts and souls when there is too much noise around us and if we are so preoccupied with everything else?
Encouraging the family to listen for God will certainly prove to be very beneficial as they grow in holiness and are exposed to all kinds of experiences and distractions from the secular world. Carving out a quiet time is a simple habit to learn which can be carried throughout life.
5. Strive to live in the present moments of your life.
Surrender your heart to God this Advent season. Accept what God gives you each day. You might try to take some extra time out to pray and suddenly the kids aren't cooperating or the neighbor is ringing the doorbell needing your help, or you're sick, or facing some sort of challenge.
God might be asking you to put aside your preconceptions of what your prayer should be at that moment, and further, He might want you to allow Him to show you another way to pray--actively--giving your heart to those He puts in your midst (without complaining). Or He might be asking you to offer your sickness and sufferings to Him with love, asking that He transform them into graces to help you and your family.
So, whatever it is, try hard to accept Our Lord's Advent "gifts" for you and answer Him with a loving "Yes!"
Live in the moment this Advent and with God's grace and your faithfulness, your life will become a beautiful prayer to God!
Copyright 2013 Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle
About the Author
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle is a Catholic wife, mother, grandmother, international speaker, pilgrimage leader, award-winning journalist, and author of over 30 books. She knew Mother Teresa, participated in a Vatican congress, and St. John Paul II blessed her work on Mother Teresa. She writes for L'Osservatore Romano, National Catholic Register, Magnificat magazine, Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, Catholic World Report, and more. Visit DonnaCooperOBoyle.com.