Tuesday, December 14, 2010

7 Habits to Pick Up During Advent and Christmas

Prayer is an important part of Advent preparations...and yet there's the shopping, and the holiday programs, and the baking and the travel plans, and just being a mom. It is too easy, in life and especially during the holidays, to find ourselves "too busy" to pray. This Advent, I have resolved to instill new habits of prayer in my daily routine.

Here are some that I have come up with. Many of these are things I am already doing, but not as regularly as I would like. Each of these practices is well established in the Catholic tradition of prayer, and each sounds a particularly appropriate note for the story and themes of Advent and Christmas. If you've overlooked any of these in your spiritual life, consider adding one (or more) to your devotions this season.

1) The Angelus. Whatever you are doing at noon, stop and pray this prayer commemorating the Incarnation, derived from the Liturgy of the Hours. Our family has set an alarm on the computer to play a sound file of church bells at noon. We recite the words of the prayer to a podcast recording, which is helping us memorize them as a family. Maybe later we can add the morning and evening prayer times as well.

2) The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Mary's hymn, in response to her cousin Elizabeth’s greeting at the Visitation, was recommended to me as a good prayer to memorize by a spiritual director I had years ago. It is perfect as a prayer of thanksgiving in good times or a sacrifice of praise during trials.

3) The daily Rosary. Truly, Advent has a Marian flavor. The Joyful Mysteries, "where it all began" in the Gospel story, are recommended as Sunday's set of Mysteries for the Advent and Christmas seasons. They are also, on any day, a great remedy to the frustration or gloom that might creep in. A baby’s coming!

4) Devotion to St. Joseph. Mary is an obvious figure, but this time of year, more than any other liturgical season, belongs to St. Joseph. The Nativity story is just about the only time that we see him in the Gospels, but it is through his ancestry that all the messianic prophecies we hear at Mass are to be fulfilled in Jesus. My favorite prayer to St. Joseph includes a tender petition to the Christ Child in his foster father's arms.

5) Morning Offering. St. James tells us that everything, even our sufferings, can be a source of joy when we offer them to God to unite us to his redemptive work. This is what we do when we make an offering of our day. Here's a tip: Taking a page from Gaudete Sunday, keep a rose-colored candle, perhaps on your family altar, light it, and make your morning offering. Maybe you will use it every day, or maybe just on more challenging days when you need a little boost to "count it all joy."

6) Pray for life. The plight of unborn children gains special urgency when we contemplate the vulnerability of baby Jesus, the dangers his Mother faced as an unwed mother, and the hate of those who tried to kill him as a helpless child. Perhaps you could spiritually adopt a child; or pray daily for an end to abortion, and the conversion of those who participate in it; or channel God's grace by praying in front of an abortion facility.

7) Generosity toward the poor. This is not a prayer, per se, but it fits right in with the spiritual trifecta of prayer, fasting, and alms. One one hand, for many ministries this is the critical month for donations to come in. And on the other, how easy it is to think of Jesus' birth story and know that what you are doing for the least of our brothers you are doing for Him. Some Advent-prompted suggestions: homeless shelters, crisis pregnancy centers, prison outreaches, refugee aid organizations, children's programs, and charities that help families deal with adverse conditions or situations.

Are you doing anything new in your prayer life for Advent?

1 comment:

Jen @ Forever, For Always... said...

This is a great list! We have been trying to incorporate the Angelus into our day since early Fall, but haven't been so successful ~ yet! Happy Advent.

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