WARNING: I will ramble on this post. A lot.
I found a wonderful new little book for Advent.
Come Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.
I have purchased other books for Advent or Lent or other Liturgical occasions/seasons of the year and many times have been disappointed. So many of them are just fluff and no meat. Real meat, that is what I want in a book. Something to nourish my soul, not just pretty words that within the first chapter my eyes are glazing over and my mind is wandering.
Anyway, I had this book in my shopping cart on Amazon for a while and when it got closer to Advent I went to purchase it and it was sold out! What?? This must be a good one! So I madly searched the internet and found it at I think Catholic Online? I'll have to look that up.
So it came and it laid on my nightstand waiting for Advent to begin.
Then came the first Sunday of Advent and did I grab it and start to read? No. Then Monday. Didn't read it. Then Tuesday. Didn't read it. I have to tell you that Advent holds a very special place in my heart. I'm not exactly sure why, but I LOVE it! I almost love it more than Christmas.
I used to be a Christmas-aholic. I mean as soon as the kids started school, I began their Christmas lists and shopping. By Christmas I had such a horde of Christmas gifts it took me days to wrap them, and every year I was still wrapping at midnight of Christmas Eve. I was WAY into the spirit of Christmas! Way. I bought the kids those candy Advent calendars with a piece of crummy chocolate behind each cardboard door. Was that teaching my children the true meaning of Advent? No.
I mean I wasn't a total secular materialist. But close. I did stress the true meaning of Christmas by telling them about Christ, Mary, Bethlehem, St. Joseph. We had a manger all set up. We read books about the first Christmas. They were in public school for heavens sake! I should have taught them much more than I did about the Catholic faith, not just Advent and Christmas! Oh to have do-overs!
When I was little, Advent was my favorite part of the Christmas season. My Mom would put the manger under the tree and I would lie for hours looking at it while listening to Christmas carols on the record player, moving the figures so they were perfectly positioned, making sure a BLUE Christmas light was in the hole in the back of the stable so it looked like midnight and imagining what it was really like in that stable in Bethlehem. It was a constant fight with my brothers who wanted an orange light because they thought it looked more like a star. Huh? Anyway, I'd be on the floor, chin in hands just looking and loving it, the actual statues and the thought of the story of Christmas, AND the anticipation of Christmas with all it's gifts and festivity. The house was super clean and decorated with our real Christmas tree, little tin foil wreaths with stiff red and green satiny bows hanging on the knobs of the china cabinet and that was pretty much it, but I thought it was BEAUTIFUL!! No lights on the house though; my Dad would not do it (cost too much). It felt like such a joyful time of year. My parents were in a good mood, and our tiny house with seven kids was finally so pretty in my childish eyes for about the only time of the year.
We did not have much money (meaning very, very little). Seven kids (four girls and three boys) shared two bedrooms, the boys' room and the girls' room. Two girls shared a twin size bed as did two of the boys. But it was the way it was. We never knew any different. As we got older, we expanded into a semi-finished basement and a couple more twin beds. There were no toys or gifts bought ever, except at Christmas and birthdays. Other than that, we were never allowed to have new stuff. My dad always talked about not enough money. So at Christmas when we each got about five things, it was as if the sky had opened up and rained presents! It was actually miraculous to me. Every year I waited with unbelievable excitement. Clearly Jesus coming and Santa coming at the same time was almost more than my little brain could take.
All this to explain why I love Advent.
When I became a mom myself, I was determined that my kids would have the perceived bounteous Christmases of my youth and never hear "not enough money". Since in my twenties I had abandoned my faith as so many of my generation have done, I mostly saw Advent as a time of spending money that we did not have so that my kids would have a wondrous joyful Christmas even though we did NOT have enough money for everything I bought. Every year we would go into debt that would take the rest of the year to climb out of or we would pay it off if my husband received a bonus at work. It was not the right way to "do" Advent. Or Christmas.
I'm afraid I taught my kids the wrong lesson, although they seem to have somehow learned to be very giving and a little more sensible than I was about spending at Christmas. But the true lessons of Advent were never taught and they have also gone into adulthood without a faith life. I think they all do deep down believe in God but they absolutely view Mass, prayer and the sacraments as totally unnecessary. I suffer for them on a daily, hourly basis. I suffer for me also for not passing the Holy Catholic faith on to them. It is the most painful thing in my life. The absolute. most. painful.
Anywaaaaay, the book. So here I am finally more mature about money matters and also about what Advent should really be. Every year I look forward to a quiet, deep, contemplative Advent (which usually never happens because life gets in the way) and I always search for a good book to help me get a little deeper into the meaning of this time of year.
I was afraid it was going to be more worthless reading so I didn't even open it, although I really wanted to. Finally on Wednesday of the first week of Advent I opened the book and started to read and OH what a wonderful surprise! It was good. Really good and lovely. It is written by the abbess of a Poor Clare monastery. This also made me leery to begin reading, as so many times have I been burned reading craziness that was produced by nuns who have obviously gone rogue.
But this book is not like that at all. Mother Mary Francis clearly was obviously a deeply prayerful sister who was faithful to Tradition (even though she must follow the new liturgical calendar our of obedience). There are three chapters for each Sunday to correspond to the different liturgical Mass readings from years A, B, and C. Then one reading from the Mass readings for each weekday of each week of Advent. She quotes Latin frequently which is so welcome. Do not be afraid of this. She either explains the meaning of the quotes or you can look them up on Google Translate which is very easy to use. And they are usually very short quotes. I do love Latin though.
She died in 2006 and her sisters loved her and her teachings so much they gathered them all together and had them published. The chapters are all talks that she gave to her sisters during many, many Advents. Each one covers a different topic of self examination in light of Advent using themes from Scripture, Mary, the saints, and of course Christ himself. It's hard to just read one chapter a day.
More later on some quotes from the book.