Timing is everything, so the adage goes. But while the calendar says that it is the first week of November (Halloween was just two days ago!) and the trees here are barely changing color, the Hallmark Channel is already into its “Countdown to Christmas,” holiday decorations (and not for Thanksgiving) are emerging on the streets and in the stores, and grocery shelves already feature the warm tastes of pumpkin and apple and Christmas cookie recipes.
I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. November and December are so packed with celebrate-able opportunities—Thanksgiving, many friends’ birthdays, Advent, St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia, la Posada—and yet our attention so quickly focuses in on Christmas.
While we are truly a “Hallmark” household, we also try to slow the perception of time down so that our journey to December 25 leaves us with enough energy to appreciate and participate in the season of Christmas. Yes, Virginia, there really is a Christmas season! Imagine that! Twelve whole days (or thereabouts). One thing we do during this journey is pray each day during Advent; sometimes from the Liturgy of the Hours, at other times reflections from the Advent Sourcebook. We try to wait to decorate until the octave before Christmas when we pray the “O Antiphons.”
If you wish to keep the timing of the seasons, you will find at least a couple of titles in this week’s selections from CatholicsRead to support and guide you along the way.
The first group of titles are linked to specifically linked to “time,” namely the calendar. Living with Christ’s 2021-2022 Living with Christ Prayer Journal, Loyola Press’ A Prayer Book for Eucharistic Adoration, Ascension’s Catholic Mothers Planner 2022, and Catholic Book Publishing Corporation’s Handbook for Lectors & Proclaimers of the Word mark time in different ways—through personal prayer, communal prayer, daily life, and Scriptures. This is a great opportunity to find or reinforce a prayer practice that fits your life and spiritual needs by using one of these resources.
The second group of titles, like the first, are timely and direct our attention to the upcoming season of Advent—OSV’s Oriens: A Pilgrimage Through Advent and Christmas 2021, Loyola Press’s Sacred Space for Advent and the Christmas Season 2021-22, Creative Communications for the Parish’s The Fullness of Time, and RENEW International’s Waiting with Joy. They include prayers and reflections for the season while the latter also include the Blessing for the Advent Wreath and of the Christmas Tree.
The third group of titles challenge us to look deeply at one of our sacramental treasures, the Liturgy, and where it takes place, the sacred spaces of churches. As we emerge from the pandemic and the restrictions on liturgical life, these two resources, Liturgy Training Publications’ The Liturgy: The Source and Summit of Our Christian Life (in English and Spanish), and Ascension’s The Sacred That Surrounds Us: How Everything in a Catholic Church Points to Heaven, help us transition back from the mundane of our living rooms and home offices to the awe and wonder of the “source and summit” of our lives. I’m a particular fan of Ascension’s The Sacred That Surrounds Us. The actual buildings where we worship have so much to teach us about who we are and what we believe. As one of the most ancient ways of sharing the faith in centuries when people were not literate, our Churches stand as some of our most articulate ways of sharing faith.
The last group of titles are about people of times and eras who have walked in faith through the words and actions, showing us the way to journey through the new liturgical year. Stephen Binz offers us a companion piece in Twenty-Third Publications’ “Threshold Bible Series” called Questions Jesus Asks. Walk each day of Advent by reflecting on a question and Jesus’ response. OSV’s Elwood: The Story of a Catholic World War II Hero gives us the story of Captain Elwood Euart and how his faith in the midst of the dangers of World War II guided his choice to sacrifice his life to rescue others. Kate Bryan looks to a small army of her heroes to answer the question, “How do you live the feminist dream?” and create a faithful vision for women in the Church and world. This book from New City Press, Living the Feminist Dream, points to many ordinary and extraordinary women from Catherine of Siena to Dolly Parton for guidance in answering that question. Twenty-Third Publications’ The Wisdom Years: Prayers and Practices for Finding Joy in Life’s Second Half is all about timing—and how to life faithfully in this new phase of life.