Advent begins today!

Lord, during this Advent season, increase your peace in our hearts and allow your promise of rest and refreshment to lighten the labors and burdens in our busy lives.

Teach us how to practice silence, solitude and simple living, and how to slow our pace, so we can hear the silence of Christmas around us.

Let us empty our hearts of material wants to make room for the real meaning of the birth of the Christ Child. And when we are weary and anxious, may we always find rest in you.


Listening to Christmas

By Alan Harris

Have you ever heard snow?

Christmas at the Motherhouse

Not the howling wind of a blizzard, not the crackling of snow underfoot, but the actual falling of snow?

Have you ever heard Christmas? Not the traffic noises in the city, not the bells and hymns and carols, beautiful as they are, not even the laughter of your children as they open their presents — but Christmas itself?

Have you been by yourself and just sat and listened to the silence within, patiently, without letting the mind race to the next Christmas chore?

Perhaps if you have, you felt the pulse of all humanity beating in your own heart.
Perhaps you noticed an outflowing of love for all your brothers and sisters on the earth, a soft sense of Oneness with all that lives.

In the silence of a snowy night, listen intently, holding your breath, and you may hear snow on snow.
Serene, alone, undisturbed by thought, listen to the silence in your heart, and you may hear Christmas.


A Voice Cries Out

Christmas is a time for cluttering.Be honest, most us know that our lives, our homes, our schedules, our world is already over stuffed and here we bring out more stuff. When we begin to decorate, boxes are pulled out from the attic, the basement, a closet or maybe from all these places. As we begin to unpack the decorations, they bring out with them so many memories. But in order to find a place to put them, we have to rearrange some of the things that are already out in our homes during the year. Most of our homes already have things filling the shelves, the tabletops, and the cabinets, and here comes more.

The world doesn’t stop for Christmas. Many will still have to work or keep appointments or do those things that keep our lives running. We add to an already hectic world more things we must do.

Then there is shopping. The economic times we live in make this even a greater challenge, as we desire to please those we are giving gifts to with the budget we have to spend. This means more time and more effort.

We don’t know how much the wise men paid for their gifts, much less, if they found them on sale. We really don’t know how much time or effort was invested by the shepherds, but we know that both the wise men and the shepherds all came for one reason: to worship and adore the one who came at Christmas. They were not distracted by clutter in their lives. Out of all the stars that filled the sky, the wise men stayed focused on one. The sheep had for a moment to be set aside to go to Bethlehem and see what the angels told of. [Living Liturgy 2018]

John the Baptist, who speaks out in our Gospel this day, was one of the most colorful characters in all of history. He went out into the wilderness, away from the city, away from the crowds, to attract a great crowd. He seemed almost determined to fail. Despite all these things we would call poor marketing, Luke tells us that people from all over the region were flocking to hear his message.

There will be new power and hope that comes from God’s presence in our lives and in our world. In these days leading up to Christmas may we see beyond the clutter of living to the hope that was born so many years ago in Bethlehem. We, too, can find the way home. The call is for us to find the way to God to be in our days and our hearts.

Look at your calendar for the days between now and Christmas. Where have you set aside time for prayer or to find a worship service, for some quiet time? A major part of uncluttering is making sure there is time for God to touch our lives and shape our days. Maybe a friend or loved one needs you more than the gift you will spend hours trying to find. Maybe more important than perfection in our decorations is a smile on our face as we spend time with those dear to us. Preparing a way means to be willing to ask some tough questions and make some hard decisions.

To prepare the way of the Lord means to make choices. We must decide what we are to focus our lives and days on. We must decide what we will keep.

The challenge is for us to surrender to God’s control, to prepare the way of the Lord. The challenge is to get our lives in such order, that our hearts will be open to the way of the Lord. Once we have settled the issue of who is first in our lives, we do not have to deal with the clutter of divided loyalties. The one who was born at Bethlehem will be the Lord of our lives if we are willing to let God prepare the way.

The Gospel also calls for us to make the crooked places straight. We are told to make the rough ways smooth. In our lives, this may mean for us to forgive those who have hurt you, to refuse to allow what has happened to you to control your life. We need to make sure there is enough time for those that we care about.

The call for us is to find a way for God to be in our days and our hearts. Those who went to the wilderness were challenged to turn and go in a new direction in their lives, leaving behind much of what they had believed and looking for a new way.

Few people are kept from Christ by some great, overpowering evil. Most fail to see or hear because they are preoccupied with good things, busy at work, acquiring wealth, enjoying entertainment, being comfortable, but not seeking the best. We are challenged to unclutter our lives to find the Christ who is there with us, in us, and calling for us to come and follow.

Adapted from Renew International


John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: ‘One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:6-8).

This Gospel opens with the declaration of Jesus as the Son of God and then introduces John the Baptist as the messenger who prepares the way of the Lord. To do so, John called the people to repent, acknowledge their sins, and undergo baptism for forgiveness.

Unlike Lent, Advent is not primarily a penitential season. However, Advent does invite us to acknowledge what stands in the way of God’s reign. While John was looking forward to Christ’s first coming, we are looking forward to his coming to us anew each day and to his return in glory at the end of time, when God’s reign will be fulfilled. John’s call is still valid to us – repentance and forgiveness are essential for those who prepare the way of the Lord.

What do you need to be forgiven for? Whom do you need to forgive? How can you make forgiveness real in your life this Advent, as a means of preparing the way of the Lord?

Our journey through Advent also teaches us a value needed while awaiting the fulfillment of God’s reign – patience. We sometimes want to “get through” Advent and get to Christmas. We are like the child who can’t wait to unwrap the presents lying under the Christmas tree. We naturally want to enjoy the glory of God’s reign here and now, but Advent feeds us the wild honey of joyful expectation, reminding us that the reign of God is already being experienced, but not yet complete.

What things try your patience? What might God be telling you about your response to situations that try your patience?

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International.

Advent Week One: Stay Awake

With today’s instant and easy communication technology, it is difficult to imagine not knowing when someone for whom we’re waiting will come. We know the exact time when the plane will land, when the car leaves the Interstate, when the guest is arriving at our house. While Christ doesn’t exactly communicate by texting us of his every arrival, when our watching for him is alert and wakeful, we begin to see all the signs of his Presence to us now. We prepare best for Christ’s final coming by the kind of watching we do now and how we grow in our ability to recognize his presence now.

We begin Advent this Sunday not by looking to Christ’s first coming into our midst at the Incarnation, but by looking to Christ’s return at the end of time. Christ has come, fulfilled his mission, and then, like the “lord of the house” in the gospel, is “traveling abroad.” We, “his servants in charge,” have each been given our own work to do until Christ returns. And what is our first and most important work? Watching for Christ’s coming! We must always remember that the watching is never in vain: our watching hastens encounters with the very One on whom we wait. Our watching and encountering is now and in it the past and future meet. We live now, and in this present moment Christ is within us and among us.[Living Liturgy 2017]

Four times in this gospel Christ commands us, “Be watchful!” or “Watch!”

While we are to watch for Christ’s Second Coming, that future can be elusive for us. What is immediate and manageable is to watch for Christ’s coming now into our midst. Being watchful and alert for the Second Coming is not enough; we must consciously seek to identify Christ already present now. If we are pro¬actively watching for everyday encounters with Christ, he will surely not find us “sleeping,” neither now nor when he returns. The Second Coming becomes real for us in our encounters with Christ in the here and now. Christ’s glory be¬comes real for us in our encounter with Christ in the here and now.

Our watching for Christ’s coming is heightened by seeing God in the simple, everyday things we do. Our lives often seem to bog down with the endless “sameness” of things. We spend Advent in the time and place we always live, and we still can find Christ anew because he is ever making us anew. When we encounter Christ, we actually encounter who we are now and who we are becoming. The work of Advent is to “Be watchful!” so that we grow in being Christ’s Presence for others.

We are the servants left in charge; we are the ones who watch and wait for the master’s return. The gospel illustrates for us how we are to be during our watching: we are not only to watch for Christ, but we watch Christ. From him we learn how to reach out to others. Our work is futile when it serves our own ends; it is fruitful when it manifests the very work the Son came to do—bring justice and peace to a weary world. Only by encountering Christ and opening ourselves to his goodness is our weariness soothed, our energy quickened, and our lives expressed in the joy of the Word being made flesh today in us.

Adapted from Renew Inrnational: Prayer Time Cycle B

Advent Calendar

Dear Friends,

4thsundayThe season of Advent begins a new Church year. Advent is a time to recall the cry of the early Christians: Maranatha! “Come, Lord Jesus!” It takes us on a spiritual journey to remember the time of desert, the time of darkness, but it also renews our hope in the “Word” that became flesh and now lives among us. Jesus is God’s expression of unconditional love—Emmanuel. In Hebrew the name means “God is with us.”

Pope Francis has designated 2015 as “The Year of Consecrated Life”. He has challenged Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests to “Wake Up The World!” by their vocational calling.

This special year begins with the 1st Sunday of Advent, and continues until February 2, 2016.

As part of the celebration, The Toledo Area Vocation Ministers wish to continue sharing their Advent Reflection Series. This calendar is the fruit of their reflection.

We invite you into daily prayer with us to walk the journey of darkness into light—to wake up the world! Together, let us reflect on the daily readings from our Liturgical Calendar for Advent and enter into the awareness and extent of God’s love for each of us.


 Nov 30   Dec 1 Dec 2  Dec 3   Dec 4   Dec 5   Dec 6
 Dec 7  Dec 8   Dec 9  Dec 10  Dec 11  Dec 12  Dec 13
 Dec 14   Dec 15  Dec 16  Dec 17  Dec 18  Dec 19  Dec 20
 Dec 21  Dec 22  Dec 23  Dec 24  Dec 25  20131224_114111  20131224_113812

Waiting, Hoping

When my nephew was younger, we would use NORAD’s website to track Santa’s progress around the world. Jason would want us to go to the website every few minutes to see where he was. At a certain point, with eager expectation, we had to get him to bed. What a challenge! His expectation was unlimited. All good things were about to happen.

And we? Are we affected by our expectations as an eager child who is waiting for Santa? And do our sound expectations motivate our behaviors and open us to new possibilities?

Jesus’ admonition, ” Be watchful! Be alert!” in our gospel was spoken to hearers holding expectations that the Messiah was about to come to restore Israel to its former power, wealth and glory. However, their expectations narrowed their vision. Their limited expectations prevented them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah already in their midst. Why? Who would expect a carpenter to be the Messiah!

The challenge for us is to be open our eyes to the simple, everyday ways God is present to us with gifts we cannot imagine.

Stay Awake

Our lives are inevitably shaped by those for whom we wait. “You’d better not shout, you’d better not cry, you’d better not pout, I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.” As children, we looked at the season of Advent as waiting for great surprises.

As we grow older we realize our lives are inevitably shaped by those events in our lives that change us. In our Gospel, Jesus’ warning of  “Stay awake'” has to do with having clear vision. We are to see what in our lives needs to change. We are also to see how our good living now is already preparation for the unexpected Second coming of Christ.

Advent always begins by looking to the second coming of Christ. Advent is not just looking into the future. Christ came in the past and Christ is coming to us now in Word and Sacrament and in each other.

Our behavior is inevitably shaped by the one for whom we wait, for there is a sense in which even as we live out our days in the interim, we already possess and are possessed by the one for whom we wait.

Karen, a student at Union Theological Seminary, was living and studying in New York City while her newly lawyered husband had gone to work for a law firm in Harrisburg. They saw each other only on weekends. In homiletics class, Karen described what her Fridays were like when John came into Pennsylvania Station on the train in time for supper. “I usually get up early on Friday to clean the apartment before coming up here to school,” she said. “Then, after classes, I make a kind of safari down Broadway. I stop for groceries, pick up a bottle of wine, stop at a favorite flower stall for fresh flowers, and when I get home, I have just enough time to get myself and supper ready. Then John comes.” Only Karen went on to add, “The funny thing about it is that from morning until he arrives, I have this strange feeling that he is already with me…not really…but really.

In Advent the one for whom we wait is already here shaping and giving substance and hope to our lives. Not really..but really.

Advent Evening Prayer

The word Advent is derived from the Latin phrase: Adventus Domini, meaning “the coming of the Lord.”  Often, this is understood to refer to the first coming of Jesus.  Rather, Adventus Domini refers to the Coming of the Lord in the past, today, and especially at the end of time.  The season of Advent, therefore, is a season filled with anticipation, not just for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus — the First Coming of the Lord — but also anticipation of current, future and final manifestations.

The Ursuline Sisters invite you to join them for Evening Prayer with Silent Reflection on the Wednesdays of Advent: Dec 1,8,15 and 22, 2010 at 6:30 pm in the Ursuline Sisters Motherhouse chapel  4250 Shields Rd. Canfield OH, to celebrate the “Coming of the Lord” within our lives.

For more information contact Sr Therese Rich 330.792.7636

Be Vigilant – Our God Is Coming!

This time of the year can bring adjustments to changing weather patterns, shorter daylight hours, increased busyness as we begin our shopping, baking, decorating. New seasons always calls for adjustments – not just in clocks, clothing and calendars but also in the way we approach each other.  Our changing liturgical season  means adjusting to new gospel challenges.

Our Gospel today calls for far reaching adjustments -reaching even to final judgment. We are asked to adjust our daily living in order to develop the kind of vigilance that enables us to discern the signs of  our Lord’s presence and to adjust the choices in our lives so that we are blameless in holiness.

One sign of the Lord’s presence is that we are growing in love. It is easy to see the Lord’s presence in the other when that person is pleasant or cooperative or helpful. The challenge is to see Christ’s presence in the other when the other is cranky, complaining or not to our liking.

The Advent season invites us to a more balanced perspective of what we are really all about – opening ourselves to Christ’s presence.

Our God is coming!  God comes in the habit of seeing Christ in all others because Christ came to redeem all.  We are to be vigilant for Christ comes in many ways. The real challenge comes in adjusting to all these presences of Christ in our lives.