Column: If you’re gonna pray for a holier Advent…

by Father Mark Goldasich

Consider this a public confession: The other day I lied to Anita McSorley, the managing editor of  The Leaven. Now, I didn’t do it intentionally or maliciously. It’s just that, as I had a chance to think later, I realized that I’d not told the truth.

Here’s what happened: Anita sent me a text message and asked if I was playing video games at all anymore. I answered: “I haven’t played video games in ages. Time is the main factor!” That’s true, as far as playing games on the Wii or Nintendo DS. What didn’t even enter my mind — and here’s where the fib came in — is all the time I spend (waste?) on what is not technically a “video” game, but is played on my iPad. In fact, many of you may be familiar with this addictive time bandit called Candy Crush Saga.

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with playing a few games every once in a while to get a little break. But when you start making excuses for things that you don’t get done for “lack of time,” dishonesty enters in. For example, there have been times I’ve not prayed or read as much as I wanted, or written a long-delayed letter to a friend or cleaned up a messy corner in my home “for lack of time.” Miraculously, though, I’d somehow found scads of time to spend conquering a particularly difficult level of Candy Crush.

In years past, I’ve lamented here how I always fall short of making Advent
a time of prayerful and meaningful preparation.

I’ve always laid the blame for that on God (not giving me enough energy or the ability to bilocate), on all the “extras” in my ministry schedule (like penance services), or on the year-end demands of The Leaven. Never, however, have I taken responsibility for settling for a lackluster season.

I see a lot of myself in the following story:

One summer, the heartland was gripped in a devastating drought. A local Baptist pastor organized a prayer crusade to pray for rain. He also invited the local Catholics to come to the park and bring their “prayer instruments” to bolster the Baptists’ prayers. Toward the end of the service, both pastors asked the people to come forward and lay down their “prayer instruments” beneath a cross in the park. Soon the ground was covered in Bibles, rosaries, prayer books, medals, holy cards, statues, and crosses. Seeing this impressive array of religious items, the pastors declared that the people’s faith in God was clearly profound.

All were put to shame, however, when a little girl rushed forward at the last minute to offer her “prayer instrument”: a brightly colored red and yellow umbrella. She was the only one who really believed that when you ask God for rain, you’d better bring an umbrella!

God promises us great peace and meaning in these days of Advent, but so many times we don’t really believe that’s possible. We think of it as a nice, but impossible, dream that couldn’t possibly fit into our shopping, baking, cleaning, decorating and scurrying around. However, if we give God the tools to work with — our faith and some time — all of these other “seasonal” items will shift to their proper place and move from being chores to being sources of holiness and service.

While Advent is still brand new, think of four things that would make this season a special, uplifting, and holy time for you and your family. It might be putting a handwritten note in your Christmas cards or going out to see a special Christmas play or concert or attending your parish’s penance service together. The time to schedule these activities is now — one special thing each week of Advent. Everything else — Candy Crush, Facebook, an extra football or basketball game — can wait.

If you’re truly serious about having a holier and happier Advent season, just ask God for it . . . and then get ready for a downpour!

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