featured image

Roxane Salonen shares her excitement over her forthcoming Oriens journey this Advent with Fr. Joel Sember and friends, and invites others to join them. 

“Hear Ye! Hear Ye!” The subject line of the email from Oct. 27 caught my eye and heart. I knew it contained something exciting, because it was coming from one of my Oriens friends, Dottie, who always brings good news and a smile.  

“Greetings Faith Family!” Dottie began. “I’m so very excited to share that Fr. Joel will be getting out of his easy chair (ha!) in about one month, and Oriens will begin! So clean off that compass, find your favorite pen, and stock up on that best morning coffee, cause we’re gonna start on a pilgrimage!” 

Having gotten to know Dottie during our Oriens adventure last year, I could “hear” these words from her voice and heart. And based on my Advent 2022 experience, I know I’m in for another beautiful journey for Advent 2023.   

Last year, when Barb at CatholicMom.com offered Advent book titles for review, she mentioned several options. But something about this book called to me. I wanted to really dive deeply into what God might have in mind for my heart, so I said “Yes” to Oriens, which ended up being better than any Christmas gift. 

“Why am I so excited?” Dottie’s email continued. “Because there has been little in my journey (other than Mass) that has brought me so intimately and instantaneously before God like Oriens. This pilgrimage offers me a quiet, purposeful walk despite colder temps, a whirlwind world and possibly upsetting news. This pilgrimage is a godsend for me!” 

She encouraged those who had journeyed with us last year to come aboard again, through daily Scripture readings and reflections by Fr. Joel Sember, along with weekly internet check-ins to share our thoughts and enter into the journey in a more personal way. (You’ll need to sign up through the Oriens website to be connected.) 

I can attest that while Fr. Joel’s reflections are wonderful, the weekly online gatherings made Advent come alive to me in a way I’d never experienced before. I didn’t expect true companionship to emerge, but it did. 

Last year, when I wrote about my hopes for Oriens, I could only speculate. This year, it’s no longer a hope but something I know from experience.  

As mentioned then, “Oriens” is Latin for “East” or “Morning Star. Fr. Joel has described it as a walking journey, one not hurried, in which you learn the joy of the journey as you go.  

“Pilgrims begin to appreciate the beauty around them,” he wrote in Oriens 2022, adding that “they enter into the ebb and flow of nature, draw closer to the people they walk with, and learn to keep their eyes open for encounters with God along the way.” 

Above all, he described Oriens as “a journey of the heart” that changes you in ways you never expected. And that is exactly what happened to me last Advent. 

Not long into it, on Dec. 6, our youngest son, 17, was involved in a near-fatal car accident on his namesake patron’s feast day. Being able to share my tender emotions with my Oriens group, who lovingly listened and offered encouragement, blessed me unexpectedly. It was God reaching out to soothe my mother heart. I am indebted to Fr. Joel and the rest and hope many others can join us this year.  

If you are, like me, seeking deeper meaning this Advent—something to set you on a course of hope—consider coming along with Fr. Joel, who pours his heart into every year’s reflections, and the rest of us, who will welcome you with our hearts.  

Oriens 2023: A Pilgrimage Through Advent and Christmas can be purchased through Our Sunday Visitor, Amazon.com, or your favorite Catholic bookstore.  

Hope to see you in a few weeks! 

Q4U: How are you preparing your heart for Advent this year? Why not Oriens? 



Copyright 2023 Roxane Salonen
Images: Canva
This article contains Amazon affiliate links, which provide a small compensation to the author of this piece when purchases are made through the links, at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting our Catholic Mom writers in this way.