My very liturgically-minded husband strongly believes—and advocates for—the correct implementation of the Advent season. It starts with no decorations before December 17 (that’s when the “O Antiphons” begin.) It continues with observing the emphases of the two foci of Advent’s Scripture—first two weeks on the second coming of Christ and the last two weeks on the Incarnation that we celebrate on Christmas. And it ends with a concerted effort to keep the “adult Christ in Christmas.”
One of the threads weaving through all of these theological points is the tone of the season, hope. But as we all probably know from experience hope has different facets.
In a pastoral care class in graduate school, our professor flipped my assumptions and understandings of hope on their ear. We usually think of hope in the sense of “hoping for” something, like an event or a gift, he noted. He proposed that instead of hoping for, what Jesus and the Scriptures teach us is that hope is about “hoping with.”
That lesson has stuck with me, especially as I have traversed the sometimes rough waters of ministry, both as a professional and volunteer. In my teaching ministry, I walked alongside many young women as they muddled through a wide range of concerns including their faith. In my music ministry, hoping with is the driving force behind many of the lyrics that I have the privilege of singing. As I watch others, especially my mother and her hospice chaplaincy work, hoping with is the very fabric of who we are called to be with and for others, especially in illness and at the end of life.
Advent is all about “hoping with.” While we hope for the second coming, the more important focus is on the “who” that we hope with and who hopes with us, God.
This first week of Advent’s CatholicsRead titles are replete with tools that will cultivate and inspire that skill of hoping with. All of these resources are from Twenty-Third Publications/Pflaum Publishing Group/Creative Communications for the Parish.
The first set of titles focus on hoping with the One who dwells with us and the spirit of the first two weeks of Advent.
Constant Hope: Reflections and Meditations to Strengthen the Spirit is from Joyce Rupp and structured around the seasons of the liturgical year.
Hanging onto Hope: Reflections and Prayers for Finding “Good” in an Imperfect World comes from Melannie Svoboda who connects hope with faith, love, courage, prayer, pain, and sorrow and shares her insights in these simple yet inspiring reflections.
The first of two story books this week, God Plays a Purple Banjo and 41 Other Stories of Inspiration, Hope and Humor explores where to find God in everyday life.
Then, Jesus Wears Socks with Sandals: 41 Stories of Humanity Being Ridiculously Lovable shines a light on just how near and clear Christ is in our ordinary encounters with life.
Sometimes having hope in bad times is challenging, partly because finding God’s presence can be felt more as an absence. Good News in Bad Times: Finding Spiritual Meaning in the Midst of Uncertainty takes a different perspective on finding God’s active presence in our daily lives.
At Your Side: Prayers for Messy, Delightful, Complicated, Outrageous, Everyday Life might be a
“companion” piece to the previous title as a collection of prayers for those “bad” times.
For the children in your lives, The Gospels for Young Catholics and My Little Catholic Encyclopedia are two titles for every family’s Catholic bookshelf. Both of these easy-to-read books help build the skill of “hoping with” in children as they learn about Jesus and what it means to be and act as a Catholic.
365 Devotions for Catholic Women and 365 Devotions for Catholics are the tools for those who are committed to developing a daily practice of hoping with the larger faith community. Start or build your current practice with this Advent. The former includes daily reflections that address the unique challenges and joys that women face in the world today. The latter will support you as you cultivate and grow your habit (these reflections are not date-specific) by revisiting these reflections year after year.
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Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.