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Susan Ciancio introduces a new booklet designed to help families pray during the Advent season, with inspiration from the saints.

What do Saints Francis Xavier, Nicholas, and Catherine of Genoa have in common? They gave their lives to the tiny baby whose birth we will celebrate in just a handful of weeks.    

Yet they are certainly not the only ones. Because they lived lives glorifying Jesus, teaching others about Him, and building His Church on earth, they and the other saints in heaven reside with our Father, giving Him perpetual adoration and love.    

Their lives serve as examples when we face adversity, when we feel lonely, when we are confused or scared, and when we need guidance. The saints are our friends in heaven who not only advocate for us but who give us something to strive for.    

Sometimes their life stories sound like adventures that could have been written by J.R.R. Tolkien, Alexandre Dumas, or Mark Twain. We find narratives of kidnapping and escape, of wicked stepmothers, of betrayal, of poverty, of disability, and more. In short, we find hardship. But it was not the kind of hardship where they wallowed or walked away from God. It was the kind of hardship that brought them closer to Him, that built their reliance upon Him, and that ultimately gave them a greater feeling of joy than any they could have imagined.   

Every saint who has ever lived has faced some kind of adversity. Every saint knows what it is like to struggle. They were human beings, after all.  

These saints are true gifts to the Church because we can always find something in their lives that resonates with ours. Through their actions and teachings, we learn about faithfulness and about forgiveness. We learn how to overcome adversity and how to stand up for truth and reason with courage. And we learn that our lives become empty if we don’t have a relationship with God.    

Some would say that life is much easier for us today than for the saints who lived hundreds of years ago. Modern technology and even the basics of life, including electricity and running water, are things they just did not have. But neither did they have the distractions of TV, phones, and social media. They weren’t immersed in some of the vitriol we find ourselves absorbed in today. For those reasons, they were fortunate. Yet what they did have was quiet time for contemplation.   

Catholic writer and philosopher Josef Pieper wrote extensively on leisure and contemplation, acknowledging that we must take time for both. He does not speak of leisure in a “let’s go to the water park or the ball game and goof off” kind of setting but rather in time spent to think and reflect on life and its beauty and meaning. In so doing, he says, we will be led to God.    

With this in mind, the Culture of Life Studies Program created a downloadable booklet for your family that will guide you on your Advent journey as you await the birth of Baby Jesus. Awaiting the Gift of Christ: Walking with the Saints This Advent is a daily reflection booklet whose purpose is to draw your attention away from the craziness of the holidays and to help you reflect on—or contemplate—what we celebrate at Christmas.   

Each day’s entry begins with words of wisdom from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Then we offer a brief biography of a saint and a reflection of how that saint lived a culture of life. We end with suggestions for how you or your family can truly live the lessons he or she taught.    

The purpose of this booklet is to give you that time of quiet contemplation, to help you shut out the outside world, and to encourage you to focus on the reason we spend four weeks in preparation for our Lord’s birth. We hope that the booklet not only strengthens your relationship with God but that it gives you the peace and the joy that we all deserve this holiday season.   

Out of a love we can only begin to fathom, Jesus came to us as a vulnerable baby. He lived and walked here on earth, built His Church, taught a new way of life, and gave us the roadmap we need to navigate our earthly lives and to prepare for eternal life.    

What an immense gift! Let us give back to Him by giving of ourselves and our time this Advent and by allowing His love to permeate our thoughts and our homes.  




Copyright 2023 Susan Ciancio
Images: Canva