From apps to coloring books, pocket-size booklets, and devotionals for grownups, Barb Szyszkiewicz looks at new prayer resources for Advent and the liturgical year ahead.
What's your plan for this Advent?
Do you want to make a renewed commitment to a daily spiritual practice during Advent, or perhaps begin paying extra attention to the Sunday Mass readings beginning in Advent with the new liturgical year? If so, there's an app for that—as well as quite a few daily and weekly devotionals and even a coloring book for seasonally-inspired prayer.
The Magnificat Advent Companion App: This robust app packs everything you need for Advent devotions, all in a single package. Each daily entry contains Prayer for the Morning, Evening, and Night (based on the Liturgy of the Hours), the full text of the Mass including the day's readings, and an Advent meditation. These meditations are brief and could be used at the close of the evening meal as the Advent candle is lit.
Bonus content includes chants for Advent, blessing for the Advent wreath and Christmas tree, blessing before a Christmas Stable, Advent Stations, Advent Prayers, information and prayers for the O Antiphons, Christmas carols, and more. The Magnificat Advent Companion App is available for iOS and Android devices; it's a bargain at $2.99.
Messages of Patience for Advent and Christmas 2023: 3-Minute Devotions by Michael White and Tom Corcoran is an uncomplicated daily devotional in a conveniently-sized format. Monday through Friday, entries begin with Scripture passages and end with a call to action, and weekend devotions are structured differently. Saturday’s reflections are the Responsorial Psalm from daily Mass, and Sunday offers a devotion and call to action but no Scripture reading.
These reflections are not prayers for patience (those can be dangerous!) but are instead an invitation to pray with patience. Available in paperback or Kindle format. (Ave Maria Press)
Also from Ave Maria Press is a new small-format daily devotional, Draw Near: Daily Prayers for Advent and Christmas 2023. This booklet by Josh Noem features a page or two per day, with short passages from Scripture or the Liturgy of the Hours, a brief meditation based on that reading, prayers for morning and evening, and a "traveling question" you can meditate on throughout the day—these will make great journal prompts.
Weekly themes for the Advent devotions include waking up, preparing for Christ, rejoicing, and receiving God's light. This book also includes a week of prayers for the Christmas season, celebrating the Incarnation.
Pray and color your way through the Advent season with a new coloring book from Pauline Books and Media. What Child Is This: A Coloring Book for Prayer and Meditation is a 32-page coloring book based on the familiar Christmas carol. Because the tune, "Greensleeves," is medieval, the drawings by Sr. Mary Joseph Peterson, FSP, have a medieval feel.
I can't think of a better time than Advent to slow down with some colored pencils or crayons in hand and some seasonal music playing, taking a moment just to imagine through art the season we are anticipating.
If you're looking for a journal, Prepare Your Heart by Fr. Agustino Torres, CFS, includes daily meditations on a passage from Scripture, reflection questions, prayer, and space for journaling and notetaking. The back of the book contains a QR code readers can use to access the free weekly videos (which will be shown here on CatholicMom.com every Sunday). I love that the meditations often reference Franciscan practices and traditions in cultural and historical context, and then invite the reader to consider how those practices can become part of their daily spirituality.
Each daily entry begins with a Scripture passage, which is provided for you so you won't need to make sure to have a Bible handy. This is followed by a meditation just about a page long: a gentle invitation to ponder our spiritual preparations according to the weekly themes, two reflection questions and a lined page for journaling, and a brief closing prayer. (Ave Maria Press)
Sundays on the Go: 90 Seconds with the Weekly Gospel by Fr. Albert Haase, OFM, offers a quick meditation evoking the weekly Gospel, plus a prayer and a question to ponder. You'll find the Gospel citation for each Sunday, but you need to bring your own Bible for this one. One way to use this paperback devotional, if you're empty nesters or have teenage children, is to have someone read each week's entry in the car on the way home from Sunday Mass, and then discuss the question on the ride home.
The meditations take only a minute to read, and there are also readings for Solemnities and special feasts, including all the Holy Days of Obligation, the Annunciation, St. Anthony of Padua, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and more. That's a wonderful encouragement to individuals, couples, and families to mark those days in a special way—including Mass. (Paraclete Press)
One Sunday at a Time: Preparing Your Heart for Weekly Mass by Mark Hart is a companion to the Cycle B readings that begin in Advent, from Ave Maria Press. You'll want to have the readings available online when you use this book (or a Bible where you can look them up); Scripture references are included but the actual Scripture text is not.
After an opening prayer, you'll get a look at the message in these readings—and some behind-the-scenes info, always fascinating to me—and then there are some journal questions and a challenge for the week. You can even use the journal questions as conversation starters! This book, available as a lovely hardcover with full-color pages, will help you dig deeper into the meaning of each Sunday's Mass readings and apply them to your life.
Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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About the Author
Barb Szyszkiewicz, senior editor at CatholicMom.com, is a wife, mom of 3 young adults, and a Secular Franciscan. Barb enjoys writing, cooking, and reading, and is a music minister at her parish. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information at Cook and Count. Barb is the author of The Handy Little Guide to Prayer and The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, available from Our Sunday Visitor.