In 1964, the Second Vatican Council published a document called “Lumen Gentium”. In this document, the Council fathers discussed the entirety of the Church. In this document, they discuss the family, which they called, “the domestic church.” This is an incredible title, and one that carries with it a great honor. They are saying that the family ought to be the place where people, especially children, learn how to live out our faith; to move our faith from the intellectual to the practical; from theory to action. Our faith is one that is meant to be lived out in the real, day-to-day world, not exclusively within the walls of the church building. It is within the family where we first learn how to apply our faith.
The document goes on to say this about the family: “In [the family] parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.”
I can remember learning my night time prayers from my parents who prayed with me before I knew even how to speak. It was my parents who taught me the importance of going to church by taking me to mass every weekend, if it was convenient or not. It was my parents, who gave me the first language to even talk to God. It was my parents, who brought me to confession to encounter the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. When I began to think more deeply about this reality, I realized, it wasn’t the priest at our local parish, but my parents who first taught me about the love of Jesus Christ.
On this feast of the Holy Family, I encourage all of the parents here, and everywhere, to see the awesome honor that you have to be the first teachers of the faith for your children. Your example gives your children the formation needed to live their faith. Stay close to the Holy Family as you pray as a family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are not only the example for holiness in family life, but they still are there to intercede and help all families throughout the world.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph...pray for us, and have a blessed New Year!
Many people will tell us to remember “the reason for the season,” and this is very true. However, because of the amount of activities that cascade over us during the season of Advent, we often miss the time to prepare for the arrival of Jesus Christ. Between our multiple Christmas parties, our searching Amazon for the last minute gift (hoping that our friends have a public wish list), and managing the children who have (seemingly) much more time off for Christmas break than we ever did, we miss out on Advent. We feel as though we missed the season, however, it is in the doldrums of winter, following December 25th, that we can actually experience Christmas!
Many people complain that the month of January is the longest for us in Minnesota, fearing that nothing happens but for the anxious awaiting of spring time. This creates the perfect opportunity to experience Christmas. For the season of Christmas actually begins on December 25th, it does not end. It is during this time after Christmas Day where we ought to concentrate our minds on paying attention to the great gift that is God entering the world. We ought to be a people who notice in a new and beautiful way the love of God for each person by him choosing to become a human, just like us. To have a family, just like us. To have highs and lows, just like us. To be like us in all things, but sin. He did this so that he can save us from our sins.
That small, little child is destined to be the savior of all people, even us today. Let us use the quiet and depth of winter to notice again, in a more intimate way, the love that this great season offers us. Let us truly experience Christmas.
Today is “Gaudete Sunday” or the third Sunday of Advent, or, as many people say, “The Sunday where Father wears pink.” This Sunday began as a midpoint of the season of Advent and was lived out as a bit of a break from the penitential practices of the season of Advent. Hence the use of the term “gaudete,” which means “rejoice”.
To signify the significance of this particular Sunday, the clergy are allowed to wear a rose colored vestment, rather than the customary violet. While not the full white, the rose indicates a bit of hope, a sign of the hope breaking through the darker moments.
For us spiritually, this is how we ought to live. There are many times in our lives where there is darkness. Sometimes the darkness happens from outside of us, found in factors that we cannot control. Other times, the darkness occurs because of our own making, our poor decisions, our sinfulness. Regardless of how this occurs, we are a people of hope.
For a believer in Jesus Christ, hope is not based upon chance. It is not the type of “hope” that I will have a lucky ticket for the lottery. Rather, Catholic hope is based upon the surety of Jesus Christ. Knowing that Jesus Christ is the savior and has entered into this world, the believer can know the darkness and sin does not have the last word. Yes, we do walk through the darkness, through the sufferings and pain, but we know that in the end, it is Jesus and his resurrection that is the final statement.
So let us be a people who pay attention to the reality of the hope that Jesus Christ offers. Let us see in the rose vestments the light breaking through. It is there where we must keep our focus so that we might rejoice with even greater excitement at the entrance of Jesus Christ into the world in the great season of Christmas.
During the season of Advent, the priest wears the color of purple. The other season where the color of purple is prescribed is during the season of Lent. In the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, the color purple is used as a color of penance. The Church has recognized that as the major celebrations approach, there is a need to prepare one’s self (and the Church as a whole) to properly engage in this major event, and so it is with Christmas.
Just as when we prepare to go on a long trip for vacation, we will do a penance (of sorts) in preparation to fully enjoy the trip. We will set aside money, we will do extra laundry, we make arrangements to ensure that our house is monitored while we are gone. All of this is extra work on top of the normal daily routine. However, this extra work, if done well, allows us to fully enjoy the vacation. It is work, but the work will allow us to enter into the joy of the vacation. Similarly with our season of Advent.
If we prepare properly for the season of Christmas, with four weeks of preparation, we will have all the greater joy of the graces of the season of Christmas when it arrives. The season of Advent should be a time of increased prayer, where we engage in both the personal prayer and the reading of Sacred Scripture. We ought to be reading the Gospel accounts of how Mary and Joseph prepared for the arrival of Jesus. We ought to spend extra time in prayer individually and as a family, especially praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary (the mysteries about the early life of Jesus). Yes, this does mean more work and more time invested, but it is an investment worth making, just as our preparations for vacation are worth making.
Let us engage in this season of Advent through our penitential preparations so that we might experience an even greater joy at the time of Christmas!
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl