Looking for more opportunities for a fruitful Advent?

Categories: Guest Views

by Doug Scott

Try committing to extra reading, attending evening prayer, or drinking in the awe and beauty of God’s creation reflected in the night sky

The start of Advent is a little more than a week away — Nov. 30 to be exact. Advent traditionally is a season of anticipation, of preparation for the coming of Jesus into the world. Perhaps we never can be fully prepared to receive such a great gift, but we need to try. Here are a few ideas to make the most of our Advent preparation this year.

Commit to doing some extra seasonal reading. The Liturgical Press in Collegeville (www.litpress.org) sells a number of Advent books including some daily devotionals. Do an Internet search if you want a larger selection.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website (www.usccb.org) features the daily Mass readings. You even can sign up to have them emailed to you. There’s no better way to start the day, especially during a period of preparation like Advent or Lent, than to read and pray on the daily readings.

If you need a break from shopping, baking and the frenzy of the holidays, attend a play or a concert. The diocesan website (www.stcdio.org/events) regularly lists performances taking place around the area.

Throughout Advent there are wonderful choral concerts at St. Mary’s Cathedral where we can temporarily declutter our minds and fill them with ancient hymns and carols. If you live near a Catholic school, consider attending the Christmas program to catch the genuine excitement only kids can bring.

Keep an eye on your bulletin for special Advent prayer opportunities at your parish and take advantage of them. It’s important to keep our perspective during this increasingly commercialized season.

Praying in community

One of my favorite activities during Advent is attending vespers or evening prayer. My family prays with the Crosiers in Onamia at 5 p.m. on Sundays.
The other professed religious communities in the diocese also hold evening prayer throughout the week, including Sundays, and it’s open to the public. At St. John’s Abbey and St. Benedict’s Monastery, Sunday evening prayer starts at 5 p.m. The Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls start at 4:15 p.m. St. Scholastica Convent in St. Cloud begins at 4:30 p.m.

Evening prayer usually involves singing psalms, hymns and reading from Scripture. Typically it lasts around 30 minutes. Because it’s shorter than a concert or a play, it’s great for kids or the elderly. Since it is not a eucharistic celebration, I’ve found it’s a non-threatening place to invite friends who feel out of place at Mass. The Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls also are holding Taize prayer and centering prayer sessions during November and December. Call 320-632-0668 for dates and times.

The Episcopal House of Prayer, with locations at St. John’s University in Collegeville and in Minneapolis, offers Advent prayer opportunities of a more contemplative nature. Visit www.ehouseofprayer.org for information about upcoming events.

Looking upward

There is one more way we can prepare during Advent that is perhaps the easiest and best of all. It’s a timeless practice, gifted to us through Scripture but often overlooked.

Go outside and look up at the night sky. If you can’t go outside, turn off the lights and go to your window. Let the same flood of heavenly light pour upon you that showered Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, the names traditionally given to the Three Wise Men. They could have been led to the baby Jesus through dreams or by an angel. Instead, they were led by a star.

In God there are no coincidences! Like the Three Kings, we also should spend time under the stars as we make our Advent journey.

How does staring into the heavens prepare us to welcome Jesus? Thanks to the Creator’s infinite wisdom, humans seem wired to respond to the night sky in certain ways. When we lose ourselves in the infinite expanse of stars, we naturally wonder about God. Observing the moon obedient in its orbit and the flash and burn of shooting meteors triggers questions in us that cut to the core of our being like, “I wonder if I am living right?” “What will happen to me when I die?”
Pining for the God we sense but cannot see and pondering the timeless questions mortals alone can’t resolve touch the very essence of Advent. May we, like the

Magi, push on in hope toward God-Among-Us, the Eternal Answer, whose arrival in the flesh we’ll celebrate soon.

Doug Scott is a member of St. Louis Bertrand Parish in Foreston.