1. Before I married, I volunteered at a summer day camp for inner city kids sponsored by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity.
It was an awesome experience, mainly because I saw the everyday workings of the Sisters and the simplicity with which they approached every task. They took seriously their job of forming the children in the Catholic faith, but they did so without the latest textbooks, innovative technological devices, and superior educational approaches. The most important thing they used to bring the children closer to Christ was something they carried with them all the time: love, something many of those kids had never experienced before ever.
I've been thinking about those Sisters lately and what they would think about the Catholic blogosphere jam packed with tutorials on "How To Live Advent Perfectly" and the Pinteresty Advent/Christmas crafts I've been seeing all over the place. I'm sure if those Nuns had access to the WWW, many of them would adopt some of the ideas for their faith formation purposes, but I also wonder if the abundance of the informationmight overwhelm them like it does me.
2. Come on, Colleen, some of you might be saying, only you would be overwhelmed by Advent suggestions?
Maybe this is true...
...but there is a problem I see with some of the suggestions/approaches found all over the Catholic blogosphere and here it is:
If our culture measures success by things accomplished, there is a temptation to measure success as a Catholic parent based on what we do as a family.
This is especially true during special liturgical seasons like Advent.
Daily mass with all five kids three times a week? Check
Handmade Jesse ornaments for the tree? Check
Memorization and recitation of the O Antiphons? Check
Homemade Christmas cookies to deliver to the poor? Check
Homemade ornaments for the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousin Bobby, four times removed? Check
Entire library of Christmas books read and reviewed by December 24? Check
Spanish Celebration for Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadeloupe? Check
Don’t get me wrong, my job of "drilling into my children" a love for God is one I take seriously (Deuteronomy 4: 6-7).
But accomplishing activities cannot be my measuring stick for growing the faith in my loved ones, especially if my souls is frantic and frazzled while doing it.
Just because I'm able to implement 10 out of 12 Advent activities I find on some website, does not mean my kids are learning and loving Catholicism, especially if I'm yelling at them as we go.
(This, I’m sure, has the opposite affect.)
Nor does it mean I am growing, especially if I feel burdened during an already crazy time of year. When the bluster of things to do, even religious ones, detract from the purpose of the season----which is to love Christ more, to rest in His peace---I’ve missed the point.
3. Who cares, Colleen? Why are you writing about this?
I fear some moms will feel like failures if they are unable to "make Advent meaningful" for their families because they don't provide a three ring circus.
I fear some moms might stress too much about what to do for Advent--creating a restless interior havoc--rather than focusing on a peaceful, simpler preparation for Jesus' birthday.
And I think it's much better for a mom to do one simple faith building activity--that is not stressful but is unitive and meaningful--and maintain her peace, than attempt multiple things that are stressful and inevitably unhelpful.
4. I also think one of the best ways to prepare for Advent is to GO TO CONFESSION.
Maybe even more than once.
I know for myself, I need to make an active effort to stay on top of mine own spiritual journey rather than obsessing and overly focusing on my family's.
5.So, Confession it is. I’m headed soon for some face-to-face time with the good ol’ Padre. I think I can handle his penance suggestion much better than the ones I find on Pintrest, anyway. I think my kids can, too.
6. As for my plan for Advent? My focus is on simple, faith building activities (like the Jesse Tree in conjunction with Holy Heroes--they do all the work for you). Hey, we may even be somewhat prepared when December 25 rolls around.
O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
Pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things: Come teach us the way of prudence.
7. Speaking of simple Advent celebrations, here are some pics from one of my favorite feast day celebrations, our annual visit from St. Nick. He brought fleece sweaters because our house is wicked cold, an ornament for each child, and some candy canes. :
View outside my window this morning
I forced a group shot before they got their goods.
Zebra striped snow boots ornament because...it's Camille
Candy canes before breakfast
Even little guy got a new fleece
He loved it.
Happy First Week of Advent! Go see Jen for more Quick Takers.