Reading the Bible in a Year… Again

Bible in a Year

In 2024, I’m reading the entire Bible again. Longtime RosaryMeds readers, you may remember that I did this back in 2021. I think reading the Bible is something we should revisit periodically. Hopefully, I’ve grown in spiritual maturity since 2021 and so I’ll learn new things on this next reading.

When I first read the Bible in a year, I used the physical copy from the Augustine Institute. It was good, but I felt like the explanations and meditations that accompanied each day were too shallow. This time, I’m using the Ascension app and listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz read the Bible. The great thing about this one is that Fr. Schmitz provides much more in-depth commentary on the day’s scripture passages.

Build Strong Reserves

I’m starting my Bible reading now. I know there will be days in 2024 when I won’t be able to listen or read my Bible. I will have busy days or times when I just won’t have the energy to focus. It’s a good idea to have a few days “banked up” to stay on track. This is good advice for reading the Bible in a year and for many tasks and goals in life — get started early and build up reserves.

Building up reserve strength is also why we need to continuously pray the Rosary and receive the sacraments. As Mary promised, praying the Rosary builds up our armor against Satan. The more we pray, the stronger that armor will be. She promises that we’ll never be conquered by misfortune. We need to pray the rosary, not just when times are tough, but also when times are good to prepare ourselves for those tough times.

Thankfulness in all Circumstances

One point that many people don’t understand is that Mary doesn’t promise that we will never encounter misfortune or be tempted to sin if we pray the rosary. It’s important to understand that Satan is always out there trying to lure us away from God. And the world is an imperfect place where misfortune happens. What Mary does promise is that we’ll never be CONQUERED by misfortune and temptation. Why? Because we will have built up strong spiritual reserves through the rosary.

The second reading for the third Sunday of Advent provides a good roadmap on how we should approach prayer — pray without ceasing and in all circumstances, give thanks. The second part is difficult to follow, especially when times are tough. My lector workbook says that we should offer thanksgiving IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances. When we pray, we must remember to thank God for seeing us through both the good and bad aspects of our lives.

Pray the Rosary early and often.

PSA: Two Holy Days of Obligation This Christmas

The Public Service Announcement

I know we are only starting the second week of Advent. But many of us are making plans for Christmas Eve and Day already. If it seems like time is flying by, it’s not your mind playing tricks on you — Christmas is coming early. Basically, the fourth “week” of Advent is only one day — Sunday, December 24. That means that both Sunday and Monday are Holy Days of Obligation.

uCatholic shared this article answering the question, “Can an evening Mass on the 24th fulfill the Sunday Mass obligation and the Christmas Day Mass obligation?” Short answer: NO. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said this in reply:

“The prevailing view of many canon lawyers is that each obligation must be fulfilled with a separate Mass. When consecutive obligations occur on Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, the faithful must attend Mass twice to fulfill two separate obligations.”

I can hear the collective groans from my keyboard. I’m sure a lot of people are cranky about how they are going to juggle two Masses amongst their already-crowded Christmas plans. Or maybe, you’re covering your eyes and quickly closing this webpage while chanting, “Didn’t see that; not a sin if I didn’t know.” That leads to the question, why are we so averse to spending a little extra time with our Lord at Mass? Isn’t Jesus the reason for the season?

Team Catholicism

It’s been an unofficial theme of RosaryMeds this year — why aren’t people attending Mass? This has been a topic many parishes have been asking since the Covid lockdowns. Unfortunately, Covid exposed how weakly catechized many people are that they would so easily give up Mass. We’ve forgotten what it means to be Catholic and practice our faith.

For me, the dwindling participation in my parish hits me on a personal level. I see my parish and the Church as a whole as a team. But in the last few years, many of my teammates haven’t been giving 100%. Think about what happens to a sports team when people don’t practice, don’t show up, and don’t work hard. The team loses. And that is how I sometimes feel about Team Catholicism — we’re losing because the team doesn’t want to put in the effort anymore.

This is what losing looks like

We have an Advent/Christmas doubleheader this year. Instead of bemoaning it or trying to avoid it, let’s remember all the spiritual benefits and graces that come from participating in Mass. Remember to remind your friends and family to center their Christmas around our faith. The gifts that God bestows on us will be greater than any flatscreen TV or new phone.

Go Team Catholicism!

Avoid These Pitfalls During Advent to Practice Humility

Stay Humble

Let’s take a break from current events and return to a more classic RosaryMeds post — an actual Rosary meditation. As we enter Advent and the Christmas season, I want to give some of my ideas of the First Joyful Mystery and its fruit, humility.

In the Annunciation, Mary’s humility is exemplified in her response to the angel Gabriel when she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She showed a joyful willingness to submit to God’s will and a trust in God’s plan for her life. She accepted the role that God had given her despite the radical changes and challenges it would bring. In short, she placed God’s will before her wants and desires.

Buying for Ourselves During Christmas

Placing God before our wants and desires can be challenging during Advent. That is why it’s important to be aware of the temptations that draw us away from behaving humbly. We are bombarded with advertisements to shop until we drop. Even when we shop for others, it’s hard to curb that desire to buy things for ourselves or at least desire them. We may obsess over receiving a certain gift and fixate on how we’re going to hint to our loved ones to buy it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things and maybe splurging occasionally. But those desires can make it harder to practice humility when we place our desires ahead of others’ needs.

Christmas shopping can weigh us down and not leave room for others in our life.

I think back to last Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus tells his disciples about the sheep and the goats. The theme of his teaching is that those who serve Jesus are the ones who serve others, particularly those in most need. We honor Jesus when we put the needs of others before our wants. But that is hard to accomplish when we are bombarded with ads everywhere we turn. Advent can easily turn into a season where we serve ourselves, not others, and especially not God.

Trying to Create that “Perfect” Christmas

There are other mindsets that make humility hard to practice during Advent and Christmas. We may truly embrace the idea of “giving” during the season. But is that goal preventing us from acting with true humility? Are we putting our desire to find the perfect present, throw the perfect party, and produce the perfect Christmas ahead of being truly present in other’s lives? Are we praying for one another? Fasting and sacrificing? Maybe we can think of the perfect Christmas as the one where we put others’ spiritual needs ahead of satisfying their seasonal desires.

Christmas doesn’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting to be perfect

Praying only for Yourself

Finally, reflect on your humility in prayer and intentions. I so often fall into the mode where I pray only for myself. I focus solely on my challenges, desires, sorrows, and thanksgiving. That’s not exactly showing humility when our well-being is the sole focus of our prayers. It also creates a form of isolation because we don’t look past ourselves. Humility implies a sense of connection with others. After all, how can we put others ahead of ourselves if we don’t acknowledge others in our lives?

There you have it — three different challenges to practicing the virtue of humility during Advent and Christmas. I think it’s important to be aware of these traps so we can actively work on avoiding them. Naturally, asking for Mary’s intervention in these matters through her Rosary and the First Joyful Mystery is a good place to start.

The Gift of a Prayerful You

Are you still looking for Christmas gifts? I have a simple idea. Give the gift of a prayerful you. A household fueled by prayer is a joyful one. It’s something anyone can give, from the very young to the very old.

I’m not talking about giving someone a card saying, “My gift to you is that I’m praying for you.” I think that would rub many people the wrong way. They will think that you are cheap, forgot to get them a gift, or that you’re using a gift as an opportunity to comment on your spirituality. I’m thinking of a different direction when talking about the gift of prayer.

I suggest that you consciously commit to prayer in the final days of Advent, Christmas, and beyond. Let’s face it, Christmas may be joyful but it’s hardly peaceful or relaxing. There are all sorts of chaos — family, shopping, dinners, and parties. For those traveling, it’s dealing with accommodations you may not be used to such as crashing on your in-laws’ coach because that’s the only place to sleep. Maybe you’re alone because you have to work or your family lives far away. Routine, daily prayer can help you experience joy during the busy Christmas season.

Try not to flip out this Christmas

Imagine a Christmas when everyone is fueled by prayer. I see it as one where people don’t flip out because they didn’t give or receive the correct presents. It’s enjoying a conversation with Grandma Josephine despite the fact she burnt the apple pie (again). It’s about talking to your sibling about your shared interest in movies instead of arguing about politics. It’s a time when people just roll with inconveniences instead of turning into monsters. That is what a prayerful Christmas can look like.

Picture Mary in the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. The fruit of this mystery is loving your neighbor. Despite being pregnant, Mary traveled far to be with her cousin Elizabeth. It was probably rough and uncomfortable for Mary. And yet, the Bible speaks of the joy both felt when they encountered each other. Maybe there was some complaining over the long journey, but it was overshadowed by joy. Imitate Mary and Elizabeth by focusing on the joy of Christmas instead of the hardships.

Regardless of your circumstances, Christmas can always be improved with daily prayer. Carve out time to pray the Rosary and let Mary help you see the joy that God places all around you.

The Artificiality of Social Media

The Decline of Social Media

With Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, there’s been a lot of media coverage about social media in general. Many, including myself, think that we’ve reached “peak media” and will see a decline in the use of social media in the coming years. I hope this will open the door for more authentic interactions between people and also a reconnection with faith and prayer.

This may be anecdotal, but I haven’t logged into Facebook in months. I’ve tapered off posting to my Facebook Rosary Prayer channel. When I look at the traffic coming into RosaryMeds from social media, it’s a sliver and hardly worth the effort to post. Facebook is starting to feel like an old mall with space for rent, seasonal “pop-up” stores, and a few people wandering around. Granted, FB still has millions of active users, but it’s nowhere close to what it was a few years ago. It’s no surprise that Facebook has laid off many workers.

The same trend is starting to happen on Twitter. As much as news outlets and politicians want to make a big deal of Elon Musk changing Twitter, I think most people could really care less who’s barking on the service. For years, Twitter has enjoyed a large amount of influence where a tiny group of people could influence companies and politicians. That led to a very toxic “cancel culture” and later a tsunami of wokeness. I think it’s a good direction if Musk’s Twitter is a much smaller virtual town square if agitators and their followers leave the platform.

A Fading Fad

I bring up Facebook and Twitter because I think they are examples of a fad that is starting to decline. When social media first came onto the scene, people were excited because it offered the ability to connect with old friends and provided shared experiences across the world. But now its artificiality and social manipulation are starting to show. Social media is a lot like a microwave “TV” dinner. They were all the rage when first introduced because they freed people from spending time in the kitchen preparing meals. Microwave meals offer convenience, but they are processed and artificial. Much like how people prefer a home-cooked meal, we’re also looking again for more authentic social experiences the Facebooks of the world fail to provide.


In addition to people once again returning to face-to-face communication and being physically present, I think we’re starting to realize that our faith isn’t something we can “phone in.” A key aspect of Christianity is that we are all part of one body united in Christ Jesus. That body doesn’t function when its members are separated and isolated from each other. Much like how Facebook and Zoom can’t replace an in-person conversation, virtual Masses cannot replace physical presence at Mass.

Why Physical Presence is Important

I’ve talked a lot about the need for people to return to Mass. Besides the importance of receiving sacraments, it is needed to have a vibrant community. You need people physically present to serve as lectors, cantors, altar servers, and Eucharistic ministers. But you also need to physically walk by food donation bins or a Christmas giving tree to see that there are those in need of your charity. You need to talk to someone after Mass to learn that a parishioner is sick and is in need of prayer. You need to be there so that someone new to the parish or new to the faith sees that there is a physical community of brothers and sisters. These examples are why we cannot have an energetic parish or a rich faith over Zoom.

Think about Jesus’ ministry and the thousands of people who followed him. People felt drawn to physically be in his presence and learn from him. God could have chosen to continue to teach us via private revelation and through prophets. God could have “uploaded” all of Jesus’ teachings to humanity. But he didn’t because he knew the value of physical presence and community. People not only found comfort in being close to Jesus but also in being close to one another.

Presence in the Rosary

Meditate on the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary and its connection to faith and community. Consider that Mary and Joseph valued their sacred traditions and made efforts to praise God as written in the Law. They physically went to the Temple to offer sacrifices and present Jesus. Similarly, God commands us to be physically, mentally, and spiritually present in our faith. Remember, we profess that we believe in “one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Church.” “Catholic” means “universal.” We’re not meant to practice our faith in isolation.

Consider the Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. Jesus performed his first public miracle at a wedding where many gathered. I like to think that where many gather, miracles happen. Of course, the biggest miracle takes place every Mass — the transformation of bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood. But that miracle requires presence to really have a transforming effect. Miracles need witnesses. Otherwise, they are just stories. That is why people aren’t as inspired by miracles that occurred centuries ago. And that is why a live-streamed Mass or a virtual parish is a poor substitute for physical presence.

Now that we’re halfway through Advent, take a moment to ask yourself how present you are in your faith. Has Advent been mostly secular for you revolving around gifts and decorations? Now is the time to really make this season meaningful by consciously centering your day around the coming of Jesus. Be present.

Adding Joy Through Christ this Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas

As we go into the third week of Advent, I think many of us start to feel a little fatigued and anxious. Some of you may be wrapping up a marathon of shopping, decorating, and attending various events. Others may feel stressed out because you haven’t done much preparation and feel like “you won’t make Christmas.” And others may just feel like Charlie Brown, a time when you are supposed to feel happy, but aren’t.

I think many of us can relate to Charlie Brown. It’s hard to reconcile a supposed season of joy with all the stress we’ve created around Christmas. Besides the normal Christmas stressors, we also have to contend with Covid fatigue, wokism, and politics. Many of us also have work, financial, and family issues. How do we put on a happy face on all of this?

The Nativity

We need to look to Mary and Joseph and the first Christmas. They traveled far in hard conditions only to find no room at the inn. They made due in a stable and delivered Jesus away from family and friends. As any mother knows, giving birth, even in the best conditions, is not easy or fun. The first Christmas wasn’t fun or easy. But through all that hardship there was joy. Through Mary, Christ the Savior was born. That event changed everything for all of us.

This brings us back to Charlie Brown. In all his anxiety over Christmas, what turns it around for him? It’s not directing the Christmas play or buying a tree. It was Linus’ monologue retelling the Nativity story that turned everything around, not just for Charlie Brown, but for the whole Peanuts crew. They became nicer to him, saw the hidden beauty of his scrawny tree, and wished him a merry Christmas.

Add More “Christ” To Christmas

We can learn a lot from Charlie Brown, Mary, and Joseph in finding joy this Christmas. We won’t find real joy at Target, Walmart, and Amazon finding great deals or that perfect gift. We’re not going to find it through our amazing lighting displays. It may not easy or even happy as in “laugh out loud happy.” But we can find a level of joy and peace if we add Jesus to this Advent and Christmas.

“Let’s not live a fake Christmas, please, a commercial Christmas,” the pope advised Dec. 10. “Let us allow ourselves to be wrapped up in the closeness of God, this closeness which is compassionate, which is tender; wrapped in the Christmas atmosphere that art, music, songs, and traditions bring into the heart.”

Pope Francis: Avoid ‘fake Christmas’ of commercialism by reflecting on God’s closeness | Catholic News Agency

We only have so much time and attention. We have to choose how we are going to fill that time. Are we maximizing joy by shopping for gifts and trying to create that Norman Rockwell-depicted Christmas? If that is leading to great anxiety and stress, maybe you should try adding more Jesus to your routine in the coming weeks. Jesus brought joy out of hardship to Joseph and Mary. He will bring joy to us as well.

If you want joy this Christmas and Advent, you should remember to add “Christ” and the “Mass” to your day. Ease up on Amazon and ramp up on the Rosary. Don’t focus on finding the perfect gifts, rather pray perfectly. Don’t dwell on what things you don’t have, but rejoice in the real joy you receive when you make Christmas about Christ.

How Much Do We Want God This Advent Season?

Advent has started and it’s time to prepare our hearts for the miraculous gift of Jesus’ birth. This should be a time of joyful prayer and reflection on how we can bring Christ to our brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, this season is overshadowed by consumerism and, particularly this year, crime. How do we navigate these next few weeks when our culture doesn’t make room for Jesus?

Flash Mobs

Crime is on an uptick across the United States. It’s taking the shape of flash mobs — groups of people coordinating online to rush into stores and take as much as they can grab in a few minutes. These groups overwhelm the store’s staff who are told to stand back and not get involved due to potential lawsuits. Basically, it’s a mob looting the store in broad daylight, in full view of cameras and staff, without a care about the ethical and moral implications of their actions.

When I was young, it was the thieves who wore masks, not the customers

It’s not surprising that we came to this place in our culture. Black Friday mobs in the USA have been escalating with arguments, fights, tramplings, and shootings. It was only a matter of time before these mobs started skipping the formality of actually paying. After all, if someone doesn’t have qualms about punching someone over a discounted toaster oven, why would he have qualms about not paying for it at all?

You Can’t Follow What You’re Not Taught

This escalation seems to coincide with a decline in the promotion of basic ethics. Think about where we traditionally learn about what is right and wrong — through our family, schools, culture, and faith. Now, look at the declining faith participation and empty churches. Look at how our society basically preaches that stealing and vandalism are righteous forms of social justice action fighting against large, dispassionate corporations. And when our kids see their parents participating in these Black Friday mobs, that behavior becomes normalized in their minds. We can’t expect people to follow rules like “though shalt not steal” if it’s not reflected anywhere in our society.

What do we do now? We can’t go back in time and teach these adults the basic ethics they should have learned as children. There’s plenty of voices out there warning us about the dangers of wokeness and secularism that are being silenced and ignored. We’re in a hard place right now. Our society is crumbling into warring factions and common sense ideas of how to treat each other have deteriorated. But this is where the awesome power of God comes into play. Nothing is outside His ability to fix. We just need to understand that God’s fix most likely won’t involve a shoplifting mob to magically disappear. But it might be someone changing his mind at the last minute and choosing not to participate.

What Can We Do?

We need to increase our devotion to prayer if we’re serious about changing our world. We need to ask God to help change all our hearts and minds to know and do His will. We have to want God to have a place in our world if we desire to have His truth present. God is the ultimate gentleman and will respect our wishes. If we don’t want Him to get involved in our world, we can remain silent. Or, we can pick up our rosary beads, bibles, and Mass schedules and ask for His help to heal our broken world.

Advent is a great time to look beyond the gifts and celebrations and see the need for God in our lives. Like Lent, Advent should be a time of reflection. Ask yourself, “Do you want God in your life?” And if so, are you making room in your life for Him? When Jesus was born, there was no room for him at the inn. Will there be room for him in your heart?

How to Listen to God in a Noisy World

All that noise, noise, noise! Who remembers that phrase from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas“? Now that I’m older, I can sympathize with the Grinch and his desire for some peace and quiet. I wonder if sometimes God thinks something similar… “how can they hear Me over all that noise, noise, noise”? We can learn about the gift of listening to God from the story of Zechariah.

Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this? 
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. 
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. 
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent | USCCB

I always viewed Zechariah’s silence as a punishment for his disbelief in the power of God. However, in one meditation book I read, the author wants us to look at his silence not as a punishment but as an opportunity. It was an opportunity for Zechariah to listen to what God was telling him. God freed Zechariah from all the noise, both external and internal, so that he could finally listen.

Notice how Zechariah was stricken mute when he was praying in the Holies of Holies. God was basically telling him to be quiet and listen when he prayed. I think often we are like Zechariah in our prayers. We ask God for this and that, expecting Him to answer. But we don’t give Him a chance to answer, we just keep talking and talking. Our prayers are all output. But do we take the time to accept input from God? Maybe God tries to answer but is drowned out because we won’t stop to listen.

Any parent of small children can sympathize. My kids have a tendency to talk in long, run-on sentences. Even if I want to comment or answer a question, I can’t because there’s no opportunity. Of course, I could always interrupt, but that would be impolite. God, the ultimate gentleman, probably acts the same way. Instead of interrupting us, he waits patiently for the right opportunity. And that means we need to stop the talking and be still enough to hear Him.

Quietness and stillness are at a premium this year. With many of us working from home and our kids remote schooling, finding a quiet time and place during the day is challenging. It may require more of an effort. Perhaps we need to wake up earlier before the daily chaos kicks in to pray the Rosary and just sit silently to listen to God (a good cup of coffee helps). Maybe it means turning off the TV, computer, and phones earlier in the evening and just meditate in a dark, quiet house. These are sacrifices, but isn’t it worth it for a chance to listen to God’s personal advice to you? Or would you rather He strike you mute for nine months?

Boost Your Spiritual Defenses this Advent

I love Star Wars. I’ve seen the original trilogy hundreds of times and I’m now enjoying the movies with my sons. If you’ve seen Revenge of the Sith (Episode III), then you know that Anakin Skywalker’s downfall was due to his fear of losing his love, Padame. Being manipulated by Darth Sidious, that fear led him to the Dark Side of the Force and eventually turned him into Darth Vader. Anakin felt alone and abandoned by the Jedi order. I think a similar manipulation is going on right now. Our fear of the Covid-19 virus and wanting to keep our loved ones safe allows Satan to manipulate us.

Everyone can sense it, there is something particularly strange about the COVID virus itself, but also the way government authorities and American public are reacting to it. It’s not just a normal virus/pandemic situation like humanity has experienced numerous times in the past, on a much worse scale. Something else is going on here. What is becoming quite clear is that The Virus, and the reaction to it, is a spiritual attack by Satan designed to destroy charity and souls.

The Devil’s in More than the Details: How Satan is using The Virus to Destroy Charity – The Catholic Esquire

This situation reminds me of a homily I heard a few weeks ago. My priest said that we are joyful and happy when we are grateful and charitable. Basically, we are happy when we feel connected to each other and serve each other. But in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re forced to isolate ourselves. The one thing we are forbidden to do is “connect” with each other. And while the mandates talk only about physical distancing, it creates a domino effect that reduces our willingness to connect charitably and spiritually.

Many of us have adopted a “me first” attitude this year. It’s not something born from selfishness, but rather our basic instinct of self-preservation. We’re always thinking about how we can stay safe, not contract Covid-19, and not pass it to others. We all want to do our part in fighting this pandemic. And there is nothing wrong with that as long as we realize that it affects our spiritual ability to fight off Satan.

When we feel alone and isolated we become an easier target for Satan. He can more easily influence an individual than a group. He can take our wanting to be safe and keep our loved ones safe and use that to push us into despair. We no longer feel a sense of community from our friends, family, and universal Church. Many of us cannot go to Mass regularly. And those of us who can go to Mass often feel like we have to rush through it so as not to be exposed to others for too long. We’re all like Anakin Skywalker, we want to do the right thing. But when we are cut off from sources of truth, Satan has a louder voice. It becomes harder to know what the “right thing” is because the Prince of Lies may be distorting our sense of truth.

The most important thing we can do in these last days of Advent is realize that our normal defenses against Satan are weaker. Many of us haven’t been strengthened by receiving the Sacrament of Communion or attending Mass regularly. We maybe aren’t praying as much as we should. We’ve substituted a spiritual Advent of charity with “rage spending” on extravagant gifts because we just have all this frustration from a year of cabin fever and missed events.

It’s not too late to strengthen ourselves. Pray the Rosary daily! Meditate on the daily readings. Attend Mass daily, even if it is just online, and go in person on Sunday when you can. Contribute to charities. Fast. Sacrifice as you do during Lent. Do these so that Satan will back off and look for easier prey. Pray for those who are at the greatest risk of being influenced by Satan’s lies.

If anything, keeping up with your spiritual needs will have benefits for your emotional needs too.

In 2019, about 42% of those who reported attending religious services weekly told Gallup that their mental health was excellent. In 2020, 46% said the same, an increase of 4 percentage points. Only 35% of those who attend services nearly weekly or monthly reported excellent mental health, down 12 percentage points from last year. Among those who attend seldom or never, 29% reported excellent mental health, down 13 percentage points.

Only frequent church attendees avoided downward mental health trend in 2020 (

Advent: A Time to Get Back to Basics

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many of us to change our Christmas plans. As stressful and inconvenient as this year may be for many us, maybe there’s a silver lining. We have a chance to see past the usual distractions and better embrace Advent and Christmas for what it really is — a holy time to prepare our hearts for Christ Jesus.

Many of us cannot partake in the more commercial and secular holiday traditions this year. There aren’t tree lighting ceremonies, public ice skating, nights to go out to a café and enjoy hot chocolate or enjoy family and work parties. But let’s think back to the original Advent. It’s not like Mary and Joseph had a chance to party down either. They had to make a hard journey through the desert to Bethlehem. Mary was 9 months pregnant and probably needed to walk most of the way. They certainly didn’t get to stop by a Starbucks and pick up their holiday-spiced latte.

And yet, despite the hardship of traveling, Mary and Joseph were filled with joy. Like any parent, they were eagerly anticipating their first-born child’s birth. And they knew that this baby was special – conceived by the Holy Spirit. Did they want to travel far from their home? No. But they had to under orders by the Roman emperor. But even in the midst of that hard journey, they found joy.

Does anyone want to celebrate Advent and Christmas with Covid-19 lockdowns? No, of course not. Like Mary and Joseph, we too have our hardships this Advent. But we can still eagerly anticipate Jesus’ birth as they did. Without all the commercial distractions, maybe this Advent and Christmas can take on a new meaning for many of us. It’s a good time to start or resurrect some of the more spiritual traditions that usually get lost in the noise of a normal December.

Perhaps this Advent would be a good time to prepare our souls for Jesus’ arrival. Make some sacrifices like giving up treats, alcohol, or some other luxuries like you do for Lent. Meditate on all the sacrifices Mary and Joseph needed to make while preparing for Jesus’ birth. Make Advent a time of preparation by increased prayer. In the time you would usually be fighting for a parking space at the mall, pray the Rosary instead. The time that you would be sipping on a hot chocolate at a tree lighting event, read the Bible. Light an Advent wreath and pray as a family. Give thanks for God’s blessings that you otherwise might not think about because you would normally be looking for that perfect toy at the store.

I know it’s hard to avoid the negative vibe this Advent and Christmas have. We often can’t change the challenges in our life. But we can choose how we want to respond to those challenges. Let’s take our queue from Mary and Joseph and ask God for the strength to approach our current challenges with a sense of joy. Just because this Advent is different, doesn’t mean it needs to be bad. Instead of focusing on what we’re losing, let’s focus on what God is giving us — an opportunity for Him to fill our lives with His grace.