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This phrase makes me think of the animated movie Atlantis. In order to convince Milo, the scrawny bookworm to take the plunge and go on an expedition to discover the lost city, the financial backer Preston Whitmore says to him, “Atlantis is waiting.” This phrase always gets me, the excitement and anticipation. I wish someone would come around to each of us before a big decision and whisper with that same enthusiasm, “_____ is waiting.”
Friends, Advent is waiting. It’s only a few days away. Are you ready? Am I ready? It’s too bad we don’t have a Preston Whitmore who organizes our whole life ahead of our decisions so that the answer is obvious. What we can do, however, is take these opportunities the Church regularly builds into the liturgical year. Advent is the perfect time to step back, slow down and build momentum in our spiritual life.
This year’s Advent Journals are officially here! There are two different journals, both in pdf format. One narrows your focus to the 4 Sundays of Advent. Each day of the week you read one of the readings, and at the end of the week there are a few reflections. On Fridays, I’ve offered a few key themes and images found in the readings and expanded on their importance. On Saturday, inspired by the overall themes of the Sunday, there is a reflection on one of the aspects of Jesus. The Homily Notes space from last year is still there and can be used for additional note taking. Also, and this is so exciting, I figured out the booklet printing issue from last year so there are 2 versions of this journal, one in Booklet Format and one that is A5 size. If you print the A5 size at home you will need to cut the pages down after printing. If you choose the booklet be sure you select “booklet” or “book fold” in your printer’s settings.
Keep in mind that this journal is preparing for the upcoming Sunday of Advent, so it starts this coming Monday Nov. 25!
The second journal is a repeat from last year. I love using Lectio Divina for Advent. I’ve updated the dates and Scripture verses but the rest of the journal is much the same from last year. The last page is still blank if you would rather select your own Scripture verses. I did not do a booklet format for this journal because of all the writing space so there is only one version of the Lectio journal.
Remember, these journals are totally FREE for you to print, so you can grab both and see which works best for you. Or maybe you will find both inspirational. I’d love to hear which you chose and why. Feel free to share this post with anyone and everyone. It is my Advent gift to all of you.
A quick Google search will reveal a whole host of opinions and definitions of the miraculous journey that we call “Motherhood.” For some, motherhood is very specifically tied to the birth event of a child. For others, motherhood begins when that first kick is felt. Still others consider a broader perspective to include adoptive mothers, mother-like figures or even spiritual mothers.
With such definitions, it would appear at first glance that motherhood is yet another area of relativistic individualism – what’s true for me may or may not be true for you and that’s ok. When we go to the dictionary, things are even less helpful. “The state of being a mother” isn’t the most illustrated definition. When looking up simply “Mother” things do get a bit more definite: “a female parent,” “a woman exercising control, influence, or authority like that of a mother,” or “something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source.”
While there is still room for interpretation in these selected definitions, we can begin to see the blurry outlines of who and what a mother is. A mother is typically a female person, though the final definition opens even this observation up to all people. A mother is a person who has some level of authority over others, especially a protective care or measure of control grounded in a relationship. The last definition is most interesting – origin or source. Let’s take a special look at this perspective and how it relates to the Church’s understanding of motherhood.
St. Julian of Norwich
St. Julian of Norwich was an anchoress and mystic who lived in the late 1300s. An anchoress was a woman who “anchored” herself to a specific church, living a life of cloister and prayer. She received a series of sixteen visions of Christ which she wrote about in her work, Revelations of Divine Love, and can still be read today. She developed a new understanding of Jesus’ identity – Jesus as Mother.
Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good, is our true Mother. We received our ‘Being’ from Him and this is where His Maternity starts And with it comes the gentle Protection and Guard of Love which will never ceases to surround us.
Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother.
Here we find the maternity of Christ to fit perfectly with our modern definitions of a mother. Through Jesus we find our origin and in Jesus we are enveloped in protection and love.
Chiara Lubich is the founder of the Focolare Movement, a movement of laity and clergy which began during WWII. Focolare means “Work of Mary” and it is through Mary’s guidance Chiara explores what total union with God and one another looks like. Chiara’s theology of Mary is deeply intimate, resonating with both St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximillian Kolbe, two of the greatest Marian theologians. Part of Chiara’s understandings revolve around Mary’s role as Jesus’ mother, and by spiritual extension our mother. We are Mary’s children and as such are called to emulate her example. What is her example? To bear Christ to the world.
Mary’s is Jesus’ mother. Her willing cooperation with the Holy Spirit brought Jesus, the Son of God, into human existence. We too are called to bring Christ into the world. The motherhood of Mary in union with the Holy Spirit, which brings forth Christ, is relived in the Church and in each of us. According to Lumen Gentium #65, whenever Christ is born in the hearts of the faithful, they are participating in the mystery of the Incarnation where Christ is “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin.” All Christians, no matter their gender, profession, or age are called to live this birthing every day.
When does motherhood begin?
After all this, we still may not be closer to answering the question, “When does motherhood begin?” However, I think we do have some clues about something broader, and perhaps more important. Like love, motherhood isn’t a feeling. Nor is it necessarily something outside your control. Motherhood, like love, is a choice. When does someone start to act as a mother, to be a mother? Based on the secular definitions and the reflections of Julian of Norwich and Chiara Lubich, it is when a person chooses to serve another, regardless of the expense or cost to themselves.
Consider it this way. A couple wishes to have a child. The couple has been struggling to conceive and they are seeking advice, tracking her cycles, practicing NFP, paying attention to risk factors and doing a series of tests to screen out any other potential inhibitors. They make lifestyle changes as recommended. The wife is taking prenatal vitamins, being mindful of any alcohol and taking extra care in her tracking. The husband is supportive, moderating his own alcohol intake in solidarity with his wife, he encourages her tracking and any dietary changes which may help their hopes for a child. Are they practicing motherhood yet?
What about the family who hopes to adopt? They pray every day, children and parents alike, for their hoped for child. They work together to make any necessary changes to their home for the preliminary inspections and requirements. They fill out paperwork, answer questions, take time off work for meetings and other important interactions in order to be accepted as a potential family. Are they practicing motherhood yet?
What about a person who volunteers their time with their parish’s youth group? They dedicated time each week to encouraging and mentoring the teenagers. They open their home to the group for a summer barbeque, travel to a religious site or pilgrimage with them, and even help coach a summer intramural volleyball team. Is this person practicing motherhood yet?
What about the child who sees another sad or hurt at the playground. Instead of walking past, they sit down and ask to play together. Are they practicing motherhood yet?
If motherhood, as I said earlier, is “when a person chooses to serve another, regardless of the expense or cost to themselves,” then the clear answer to the previous scenarios is “Yes!” All these examples, even the child, are moments of motherhood.
Chiara sums it up beautifully in a letter written in 1983:
“…Mothers only know how to love. It is typical of a mother to love her children as herself, because there’s something of herself in them. … We too can find something of ourselves in others. For we must see Jesus in ourselves and in every neighbor. What shall we do? With each neighbor, at home, at work, or on the street, with the people we talk; with those we speak to over the phone, or for whom we carry out our daily work – with every person we meet these days, we must think: “I must act as if I were his or her mother,” and act accordingly. Mothers are always serving, Mothers always find excuses for their children. Mothers are always full of hope.”
The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother – St. Therese of Lisieux
Happy Mother’s Day!
I’m so pleased to share with you all these Advent Journals. As you may have noticed, Advent is quickly approaching and there are so many wonderful resources available to help deepen and enrich your Advent experience.
For the past few years, I’ve noticed a need for Advent journals that cover a few bases. 1. They are Scripturally based 2. They are simple 3. They are not time consuming but still powerful 4. They are free. I have 2 different journals this year so be sure to read to the bottom to hear about both. One is based on lectio divina, the other is a deeper look at the 4 Sundays of Advent.
Lectio Divina Journal
In the journal I’ve highlighted one or two verses from the daily readings for reflection. There is space to prepare yourself for lectio and think about what’s going on in your life that day. What’s joyful, stressful, exciting or bothering you? Your lectio experience is colored by what’s happening in your life and it is good to take a moment to acknowledge what you are bringing to the table. There is also a place for your Word or phrase that has been highlighted during your reading as well as your prayerful response to God’s movements in your heart. Finally, there is room to think creatively about what God is calling you to do or change as inspired by the day’s prayer.
The journal includes an overview of what lectio divina is, how to pray it and why it’s such a rich experience of prayer. As I said, I have chosen one or two verses for your reflection. However, maybe you already have a habit of reading the daily readings. Maybe a different verse stood out to you. At the very end of the journal is a blank page. It has all the formatting and different writing spaces, but the Scripture portion is blank. You can use this page to write your own verses in.
Remember, this is completely free and is a pdf. So you can print the whole thing if you are going to use the verses I chose. Or you can print that last page 30 times and fill in your own verse every day. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed and already have a daily Advent devotional but want to give lectio divina a try – just print a week and see how it goes. Maybe every Sunday would work better. This is completely customizable to you.
4 Sundays of Advent Journal
This is the brand new journal and I’m so excited about. I was inspired by a few things. First by my long-term writing project on the Philippians 2 Christ hymn. In that project, I am doing a deep study of the hymn, looking at the historical, theological, ecclesial, and liturgical significance and why it is a piece of Scripture that we all should know inside and out. I was also inspired by Every Sacred Sunday and how their Mass journals encourage Catholics to spend quality time preparing for Mass. If you are looking for something long term to help you dig deeper into the Sunday readings all year long, I cannot recommend their journals enough.
My new Advent Journal works like this. The first and super important thing you need to know is that it starts on Nov. 26. Yes, that’s before Advent actually begins. But, if you are going to be preparing for the 4 Sundays of Advent, you’ve got to start before the first Sunday, right?
Ok, got that cleared up. Mondays we spend time with the First Reading. Tuesdays the Psalm. Wednesdays the Second Reading. Thursdays the Gospel. Each page has the reading as well as space for any notes, questions or insights you might have while reading. There is also space for a brief prayer or reflection on what you’ve read. Think of this as lectio divina lite.
Friday’s I offer a theological reflection on the readings. These include any historical information that is relevant, how the readings fit together, and what they can say to us today. It concludes with a quote from a saint that illuminates the overall theme of the Sunday.
Saturday encompasses how we can take what we’ve learned and grow in the week to come. I include another brief reflection, followed by questions or ideas meant to inspire you to apply the readings to your daily life and enhance your Advent experience.
Sunday is a simple page for homily notes or other reflections you have on these readings. Perhaps you have another Advent devotional you are doing side by side and want to write down a special quote or work through a new idea. Here is space to do it, especially in light of the Sunday readings.
I’m so excited for your Advent journey. It would be great to hear from you which journal you chose and why. I love feedback and want to keep developing these into quality, useful tools for you to deepen your relationship with God. Do please share with anyone you think would benefit from these journals.
It’s that time of year again, if you can believe it. All the memes about how March lasted for 5 years, the summer was 1,000 days and that this year would never end. Yet here we are, at the end of October. In a way, Catholics get to cheat the system a little bit. We don’t have to wait for December 31, 2020 to celebrate the end of the year. According to our liturgical calendar, the new year begins the first Sunday of Advent – this year on November 29.
This year has been full. Full of emotion, full of questions, full of time. I know so many of us are hoping for some sense of closure to 2020 by the time 2021 gets here. Rather than blocking out the past 9 months, I would like to challenge all of us to use this Advent season to meditate on what God has been speaking to us. What lessons have you learned? How have you grown? What good things will you carry forward into the Christmas season?
Advent, while a festive time secularly, is also a desert time. It is a time where we relearn, each year, how to wait with hope and purpose. Taking time with Scripture is an excellent way to slow down and focus on where the Holy Spirit is leading you for the season.
With this in mind, I’ve created two completely free Advent resources. The first is the classic Lectio Divina journal that I’ve been creating for a number of years now. In it you will find a guide for how to pray following the lectio model as well as daily journal pages. The pages have a Scripture passage selected from the day’s readings and include space for journaling, prayer and reflection. If you would like to choose your own Scriptures, there is a blank page included below as well that you can print off as many times as you would like.
The second journal is both similar and a departure from last year’s reflection journal, for those of you who used it. We are still focusing on the Sunday readings, but in a new way. Beginning on the First Sunday of Advent, each day will have a Scripture focus taken from the Sunday readings. The Scripture is accompanied by a short meditation and reflection question with space to journal.
Now, the techy stuff. There are 2 versions of each journal. One is the normal, in order, print, staple at the corner, you’re on your way. The second, for the brave and adventurous, is set up so that you can turn your journal into a legitimate booklet. You will have to print double sided either by choosing that setting on your printer, or by printing the odd pages, reinserting them into your printer however you need to (every printer is different, I’m sorry I can give better directions than that) and then printing the even pages. I highly recommend do a test of the first and second pages to make sure you have the process down before printing the whole thing.
I hope that you find these journals helpful and encouraging during the upcoming Advent season. I love hearing how they have blessed you, your families and small groups. Please feel free to let me know if you have ideas or suggestions for Lent. I would also love love love to know how the booklet printing goes – it took a lot of brain power to figure out how to get the pages in the right order and I hope it works for you.
Please share this post with anyone who is looking for a quality Advent resource and doesn’t want to wait for shipping! May God bless each of you as the year closes and Advent brings us into a brand new year.
In the Gospel today, religious leaders tried to put Jesus between a rock and hard place. They wanted to know if they could trick Him into upsetting someone, no matter how he responds. “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Option A: Jesus says yes. Now the people are upset because Jesus openly admits to supporting the Roman regime which has conquered the area and is ruling the people.
Option B: Jesus says no. Now the officials and those in the community who support the local governance are on high alert. Jesus has labeled Himself as a revolutionary.
Option C: Don’t people know yet there’s always an option C? “Show me the coin,” Jesus says. “Whose image is on it?” Can you hear the mumbled reply, the looks on their faces as they realize just how quickly the tables got turned? Jesus’ definitive response: “Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”
As citizens of our countries, we have duties and responsibilities to our governments and fellow citizens. One of the primary ways we in America pay back to Caesar is through full and active participation in our elections. I’m not going to begin a political debate or lecture you on which side to vote for. I’m simply asking for your full and active participation in the process. Vote!
Ok, that aside, how do we know what belongs to God? God doesn’t have a coin for us to reference, but Jesus’ measure of what is owed to Caesar can still be applied. If the coin which bears Caesar’s image on it belongs to him, then it would stand to reason that whatever bears God’s image ought to be returned to Him. The question then follows, “What (or who) bears God’s image?”
US! We, His most prized creations, are made in His image. While we live on this earth, and we participate in civic life, social and cultural movements, family and workplaces, we do not owe our lives to the world. We owe ourselves to God. When we place our lives in His care, He generously returns us to even fuller participation in the world He created for us.
I know, it’s a bit convoluted and confusing. Think of it like this: The more you take away from the ground, the larger the hole you’re making will become. The more you dig, the greater its capacity to hold whatever you need it to hold. The more we give ourselves to God, the greater our capacity to do the work in the world He has laid before us.
As Advent is approaching – yikes! – now is a great time to look at what you give to Caesar, and what you give to God. If you would like to learn more about being a fully active Catholic citizen, take the time to read Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, a document written last year by the US Bishop’s Conference about public responsibility.
Also, be on the look out! The free Advent Journals are in their final stages and I’m so excited for this year! Be sure you are signed up to receive emails when I post new content so you can get your copies for this year. There’s a new page at the top which has all of the Advent Journals from the previous years in one place.
As August was coming to a close I began to update my planner for September. Typically, I will schedule events in the monthly overview and then once that month draws near I will write the events on their appropriate days in the daily spreads. I have a monthly sticker subscription (remember, if it’s pretty and took effort I’m more likely to use it) which I was also using to spruce things up for September. One of the larger stickers which serves as pure decoration and inspiration, no specific planning purpose in mind, had this quote:
Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go
I was so struck by this simple observation. While winter in the plant world is usually looked upon as a season of death, cold, solitude, isolation and barrenness, autumn has very different qualities. Autumn, for many plants, is about the process of dying or at the very least, a time of loss. But how beautiful is that process! The fall colors, vibrant in so many places with golds, oranges, reds, even purples. Whole forests become riots of color everywhere you turn. Our tables are laden with the fruits and vegetables of the harvest, while the plants which bore them are becoming shriveled, leaves withering as their last ounces of energy are given up to their produce. We look lovingly upon them all the same, thankful for the gifts they have given us. Where before satisfaction was found in a field bursting with life, those feelings have shifted to empty fields, the fullness to be found in bales of hay or well stocked barns. Days are shortening and the rituals of warm pumpkin spiced lattes, fireside evenings, read alouds and pumpkin patches beckon us to slow down and savor the daylight.
In a way, 2020 has had an Autumn spirit about it. Much has been lost this year – school days, work days, schedules, vacations, a sense of certainty about tomorrow. We are still grappling with loss, so many of our world have lost loved ones to coronavirus. Others have lost jobs without assurances of where work will come from next. Others, while still maintaining job security, have lost their routines which have been replaced with juggling acts of work, child care, virtual learning and e-grocery shopping. There are still thousands of assisted living and nursing home residents who are not permitted to visit with their families, to leave their facilities or engage in regular activities. This Autumn year has affected everyone.
As we enter into actual autumn, I am hoping to use the changing season to investigate my own heart and perceptions of this year. This has been an extremely difficult year and it is not going to get any easier. But when we look at the seasons, every single year has a difficult autumn. While we see the autumn colors and think to ourselves, “Wow, how beautiful!” what is actually happening is those leaves are dying. We are marveling at death.
Perhaps it is because we already know that the beautiful death we are witnessing is not the end of the story for those trees. We are able to see the beauty, and even take joy, in death because we know that after a time, spring will come. Where there was once death, life will once more burst forth.
This is the hope I have for 2020. We are living within an Autumn, and from where we are sitting, it is difficult to see the colors. But the colors are there! Change is extremely difficult and painful, but change is one of the most beautiful things to witness. Voices are being heard where before they were absent. People are perceiving the world with new eyes and recognizing where their community has thrived and where it has failed.
Right now we may feel as the inhabitants of Narnia felt in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where it is “always winter, but it never gets to Christmas.” The hope I see, the hope I hope you all can see, is that Aslan is coming. Spring will come again. It may be a different sort of spring that we are used to. There may be different flowers about, new vegetables to try, new routines and ways of life. But spring will come.
There are things in 2020 that we have learned to let go of. There are things we are holding onto so tightly it is clouding our vision of how to move forward toward spring. Rather than responding in anger to what we cannot control, let’s use this autumn season to pause and see the colors that surround us. Let us appreciate this season for what it is, rather than wishing for what it isn’t.
- What is something you have had to let go of this 2020 year? How did you feel in the moment you had to let it go? How do you feel about it now?
- What is something positive that has happened this year? Can you connect this positive moment with a loss preceding it which made it possible?
- What are you angry or upset about? Is it something beyond your control? What is one thing you can do, learn, or adjust that could help you soften your anger and think of a more constructive attitude toward the problem?
- What are you nervous about as September and the fall season are upon us? What is one thing you can do, learn or adjust in your life which will help you come up with a plan to tackle the days ahead with positivity and purpose?