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I hope the first part of Advent has been fruitful for you.  It has been a good opportunity for me to start some practices of reading more in the evening, getting up on time and saying my morning prayers, and trying to clear some more space for Christ’s birth in my daily routines.  Here are some ways that you and I can get the most out of Advent.

One important way I do this is through spiritual direction.  I have a priest in the diocese of Toledo (Ohio) that I visit with regularly (every month or two) to seek for mentoring in my priesthood and in my personal faith life.  We meet for an hour or a little more, and it is a beautiful gift that has been very helpful for me. I will be going to see him this Thursday.

The Bishop also has us attend a “day of recollection” for the priests, allowing us an opportunity for some peace and quiet during this time.  If you cannot take a day away from your routine, try getting a few hours for an extended prayer time. You can find many retreat guides online through a simple search, or just spend time reading a book on Christmas (I recommend Scott Hahn’s Joy to the World).

I also prepare for Christmas through the Sacrament of Penance, known also as Reconciliation or Confession.  I just heard recently about how Pope John Paul II visited a parish in Rome and said how this was an important way to prepare for Jesus, adding quietly, “and the Pope will be going to Confession, too.”  We have seen Pope Francis go to Confession in public as well during his papacy, and this is a good reminder for all of us. Besides going to Confession when I visit my spiritual director, I usually go over to Notre Dame during the week at least once a month.  I think people might be a tad confused when there is a priest in line for Confession, but it is a good reminder that everyone should be using this sacrament.

This is something we all should try to do during Advent.  To help this, many parishes offer a Penance service for people to go to Confession with many priests available.  You are free to attend at any parish, especially if you cannot make it at your home parish. We will have ours on Saturday December 22nd starting at 11am with a short prayer service.  Remember to prepare ahead of time by asking for God to enlighten your mind to truly know both your own sins and His abundant mercy.

Finally, I would recommend using some of the resources on Formed.org  - the website that is full of Catholic content (video, audio, e-books, etc.) and free to you thanks to our parish subscription.  The resources there are phenomenal, and they have organized Advent and Christmas resources for easy browsing. Listening to one of the lectures could be part of your mini-retreat, or could be some extra reflection time during your day, and even in the car – just download it ahead of time through the app or stream it with your data plan.  If you’ve not registered, there is a simple process that you will find at link: littleflowerchurch.formed.org

May we truly open wide the doors of our hearts to the child Jesus.  

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, pray for us!