Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

Find what works for you in celebrating of Advent

Published: December 16, 2023

By Lou Ann Gieringer
Former Campus Minister, Mount St. Mary Academy

As an adult convert to Catholicism, Advent was a new experience to me. In my previous faith, we didn’t talk about Advent except maybe an Advent calendar with candy as a countdown to Christmas.

As I tried to find out more about Advent, the more it seemed elusive. What were we supposed to do? Did every Catholic know what to do? Was there a set process to follow? I looked for answers but found them vague. There was not a set process. Therefore, I began to educate myself about this mystery.

First: What is Advent? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’"

In other words, Advent means that as members of the body of Christ, as part of his family, we remember the story of longing for the Messiah to be born. Now we look forward to his second coming.

In other words, it means that as members of the body of Christ, as part of his family, we remember the story of longing for the Messiah to be born. Now we look forward to his second coming.

Advent prepares us for the celebration of Christ’s birth and helps us stay focused on the real reason we are celebrating. During this season, Catholic churches will have an Advent wreath with candles that will be lit at each Mass as we count down to Christmas.

Our priests and deacons will wear violet or purple, except for the third Sunday when they will wear rose. These colors represent preparation, penance and sacrifice. They call us to prepare, ask for forgiveness and to sacrifice in some way.

Once I knew what Advent was about, I wanted to know how I could be involved. I wanted to make it special for our family. As a family, we tried several options. Some seemed just right for us, and some did not work.

An Advent wreath at home is a beautiful way to honor the season. However, I must confess I was not very good at keeping up with that tradition. As our children grew, some options changed to fit the family dynamics better. Some were constant for us. We loved purchasing gifts for the giving tree at our church and donating to special charities. We also loved planning special family time.

The world is in the middle of Advent right now. What a wonderful season in the Church, waiting for Jesus’ birth on Christmas. These are a few ideas you might try on your Advent journey:

  • Focus on the season by reading Advent prayers and devotions.
  • Special reconciliation events may be held in your area, or attend reconciliation in your own parish.
  • Family time can focus on meaningful activities, such as praying together.
  • Drop a small gift by a neighbor's home. (One year I made a pie for each of our neighbors. It really filled us with the love of neighbors as the kids delivered the pies. And I think the neighbors enjoyed them, too.)
  • Caroling is always joyful. Visiting a senior center or someone that lives alone is a way to share your gift of time and love. 

Whether your Advent action is small or large, as Pope Francis said, “Advent invites us to a commitment to vigilance, looking beyond ourselves, expanding our mind and heart in order to open ourselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters and to the desire for a new world."

Understanding Our Church