Roxane Salonen introduces Oriens, a meditative book by Fr. Joel Sember promising an interior adventure embarked on from the comfort of your home.
It hadn’t occurred to me until recently, but inherent in the very word “Advent,” we find “adventure.” And adventure is exactly what Fr. Joel Sember promises in his 2022 version of Oriens: A pilgrimage through Advent and Christmas, published by Our Sunday Visitor.
I’ll admit, I was looking for something more this Advent, something deeper. Not faster. Not more hurried. I wanted to slow down and take my time, but it seemed an impossible task on my own.
Enter Oriens, Latin for “East” or “Morning Star.” From there, other associated words come to mind, such as “the Orient” and “orientation.”
The Catholic faith is so rich, with so much to learn. As a lifelong learner, I’m excited to go on this adventure with Fr. Sember, and, perhaps with you, too. The Oriens book is a start (it would be wise to grab your copy now at PilgrimPriest.us/book or OSVCatholicBookstore.com), but fellow pilgrims are also invited to meet online each week for additional encouragement by signing up at the same website.
In setting up the premise for the adventure, Fr. Sember explains the difference between a bus pilgrimage and a walking pilgrimage. “When you ride a bus to a shrine, it’s mostly about the destination,” he explains. “Walking pilgrims, on the other hand, learn the joy of the journey.”
Familiar roads look differently when you travel them on foot, he says. “Pilgrims begin to appreciate the beauty around them. They enter into the ebb and flow of nature. They draw closer to the people they walk with.” And best of all? “They learn to keep their eyes open for encounters with God along the way.”
A walking pilgrimage, he emphasizes, is “a journey of the heart. It changes you in ways you never expected.”
Are you feeling the exhale as I am?
Fr. Sember speaks straight to my mother heart when making the connection between the walking pilgrimage and Advent and Christmas. “The Church is telling us to slow down, but the world is telling us, ‘Hurry up.’” Herein lies my annual dilemma—and likely yours, too.
The problem, he says, is that we keep treating Advent like the bus on the way to Christmas, when Holy Mother Church designed it to be a slower ascent, allowing us to actually enjoy the journey. “Think of this book as a Camino guidebook,” he says. “It will show you how to step off the busy Christmas bus and walk the Advent road one day at a time.”
But how? For one, the journey doesn’t stop at Christmas, but goes beyond it to the Feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas, on Feb. 2. So, pilgrims will have 28 days to prepare for Christmas and 40 days to celebrate it. As Fr. Sember notes, “It’s easier to pray in the post-Christmas lull, and we need a little help getting through the low time in January.”
Busy parents will also appreciate the wiggle room within that Fr. Sember offers, noting that we don’t have to walk the whole way with him, since it’s our journey and we “can quit any time. ... But let me encourage you to plan for a longer walk,” he suggests, adding that in this adventure, no one walks alone.
I love the way the book is set up, with a suggested calendar at the front guiding steps along all of Advent and beyond, and including a prayer for the blessing of the Advent wreath. From there, the daily journey advances, set up in a lectio divina style, in which the reader is encouraged to reflect on a particular theme or focus, led by Scripture. For those who are helped with this, a section for journaling at the end of each day is included.
Each day comprises four simple steps, a prayer form following this pattern: read, think, talk and listen. Fr. Sember will guide us each day through this, allowing our own interior insights to color the journey through our unique hearts. It’s less instruction from him, and more, gentle guidance to help make this journey meaningful to us personally.
In this Oriens journey, I don’t feel alone, but accompanied. It’s too early to say just how I will find God, and others, along the road, but I’m already packing my bags with the essentials, with a mug of warm coffee nearby, and an openness to hear what God wants to say to me this Advent and beyond.
Let the adventure begin!
Q4U: Are you ready for something more this Advent? Are you ready for an Adventure? Then let’s go!
Copyright 2022 Roxane Salonen
About the Author
Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, North Dakota, is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer, Catholic radio host, and speaker. Roxane co-authored several spiritual works, including “What Would Monica Do?” (Ascension Press, September 2022) and writes a regular diocesan column, “Sidewalk Stories,” about her encounters at an abortion facility near her city. Her work can be found at RoxaneSalonen.com