A few years ago, when Pope Francis visited New York City, my husband and I decided that seeing the pope in Central Park was something that our family could not miss. So, before dawn on the morning of his visit, we gathered up our family and headed out to Central Park in hopes of seeing Pope Francis as he traveled across NYC. Due to incredible luck, we were able to beat most of the crowds and get a good spot to see Pope Francis. On the downside, however, getting a good spot also meant that we had to wait several hours (eight, to be exact) in order to see him. Our children were just four and one at that time, so one can imagine how nervous we were as to whether or not they would make it through the long wait, but good preparation (and I mean really good preparation!) got us through the day. Seeing Pope Francis in Central Park has now become one our family’s best memories from the time we lived in NYC. Spiritual, physical, and emotional preparation for whatever obstacle that day might bring enabled our family to experience the incredible joy of that day. And I had learned the enduring lesson of the importance of good preparation.
One of the greatest blessings that our Church has gifted us with is the season of Advent—a season of preparation for Christ’s arrival. And as a bonus gift, we do not have to figure out how to prepare on our own. We have Scripture, the writings of Church Fathers and of the saints, and even reflections shared via social media to help guide us in our preparations for his return. Our children are also blessed to have great books, prayers, songs, and liturgical experiences to help them prepare in ways that are meaningful to them. How blessed our families are to be able to gather together in preparation for the return of Christ! How blessed we are to have the opportunity to guide our children towards the Light of the World. Christmas becomes fully alive through the joy received in the preparation for our King’s arrival.
So this Advent season, as your family is preparing for the Christmas parties, recitals, and travel, be sure to take time to prepare spiritually for our King’s arrival. Spend extra time in prayer; establish a nightly routine of reciting the Rosary together as a family; read the Gospel birth-stories with your children; say a prayer for those who are spiritually lost or who do not have a family to share the season with; and make time to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. For it is when we are fully prepared that we will find peace and joy in the great anticipation for the life to come. And as you help guide your family in its preparation for Christ’s return, spend some time in solitude, preparing your soul for what is to come—for the joy and peace of Christ’s love. ‘Tis the season for preparation, so let’s just embrace it with quiet anticipation.
God of Love, your son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us. He is a sign of your love. Help us walk in that love during the weeks of Advent, as we wait and prepare for his coming. We pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
—Advent Family Prayer (Ignatius Press)