Advent: Time for quiet, prayer recommended

Make prayer a priority this Advent, advises Jessi Kary, national director of the Pro Sanctity Movement, a worldwide organization that promotes holiness in everyday life.

Kary and Father Damian Zuerlein, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Church in Omaha, offered tips for growing closer to God and others this Advent.

Set aside time, even minutes a day, to pray – especially in a church, Father Zuerlein recommends. “It’s amazing what 10 or 15 minutes in a quiet place can do.”

Spend quiet time away with a loved one as well, he said. “Just sit with each other a few minutes.”

Being still for prayer during this busy season can be difficult, especially as people tend to jump ahead to Christmas and overlook Advent, Father Zuerlein acknowledged.

“It’s hard to fight the culture,” he said, and over the years he’s learned to try to transform it instead.

In the midst of the busyness and overloaded calendars – the parties, shopping, decorating and cooking – try to transform those moments by pausing and thinking about why one bothers to do all those things, he said. “Bring a sense of love and peace into it.”

When shopping, for example, one might be tempted to be irritated at the crowds and parking problems. Instead, try to focus on why you’re making the effort, Father Zuerlein said.

“If I’m shopping for someone I love, it should be a fun thing,” he said. “Don’t let those moments be a hassle.”

Christmas cards, too, can be written in a loving way.

“For me, it’s a connection with old friends,” Father Zuerlein said.

Not jumping into Christmas too soon, “holding back to increase the celebration” is “a very Catholic thing to do,” he said.

During Advent the church looks at the Old Testament, before Jesus’ birth, and takes in “only little glimpses” of him, Father Zuerlein said.

Saint feast days and holy days during Advent – including those of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucy and St. Nicholas – also provide those anticipatory glimpses, he said.

The light of Advent candles during the darkest days of the year points to the light Christ, “hope in a dark world,” he said.

Lighting Advent wreath candles at dinner can be “a great tool to use for kids,” Father Zuerlein said. Candles tend to make an occasion special, he said, and prayers can be added as more candles are lit each week.

If people live alone, maybe with family members displaced or deceased, they can “call them to mind and light a candle in their honor.”

“Even when you’re sad, give it over to God,” Father Zuerlein said.

Decorating Christmas trees also can be transformed into something sacred, he said. The decorations might remind a person of loved ones. Involving children can create new memories and traditions.

“Don’t make it a chore, but a sacred time,” Father Zuerlein said. “You can make it somewhat prayerful in the process.”

Every day during Advent, pray the joyful mysteries of the rosary, which focus on Jesus’ incarnation and birth, Kary suggests.

Young children who might have trouble staying still during a family rosary can draw a picture of the rosary mystery the family is meditating on, she said. Or they could look at a picture illustrating the mystery.

Children could be asked to close their eyes and picture Jesus with them. Ask them to share what they experienced, Kary said.

She also suggests praying for a particular grace each week during Advent, individually or as a family.

“Sometimes we forget to ask for what we need,” Kary said. “Jesus gives us his whole self at Christmas, but he also wants to give us the graces and gifts we need. Where you feel helpless, Jesus draws you to do something about that this Advent.”

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