BEFORE THE CROSS | Seven signs we are ready for Christmas

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson recently visited Msgr. Luis Mesa, the superior of the Messengers of Peace, a mission and religious community based in Colombia. The community is dedicated to praying for peace in that nation and around the world. The mission serves children, the elderly and poor in Colombia. The archbishop co-founded the Messengers of Peace with Msgr. Mesa, shown renewing his vows.

Advent is a time of preparation for the Lord's coming again at Christmas and at the end of time. Although Advent is not as strict a penitential season as Lent, the Church does call us to pray, fast and do good works while we ready ourselves for the future joy of Christ's coming.

How do we know that our preparations have been successful? What are some of the signs of our being ready to once again welcome our Lord to our world and to our personal lives?

I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Invite Jesus into your heart this Christmas

Bishop Robert J. Hermann

With Christmas nearing, what preparations have you made to welcome Christ into the depths of your heart?

In today's first reading, Ahaz, the king of Judah, just received word that two kings are on their way to invade and destroy Judah. At this news "the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled, as leaves of the forest tremble in the wind."

CATHOLIC BY GRACE | Advent helps us learn how to wait

Denise Bossert

My due date was Dec. 26, but by Christmas Eve 1985, I was ready to be done with it.

I stretched out on the bed and reluctantly prepared for another night of leg cramps and propped pillows. The Christmas presents were wrapped and ready. The Christmas cookies decorated. The overnight hospital bag was packed and waiting in the corner. My sister had arrived and was ready to look after my daughter.

Still, nothing happened.

Belief in eternal life with Christ frees people from worldly woes

Pope Francis administered the sacrament of confirmation to a young man during Mass at the Parish of San Cirillo Alessandrino in Rome Dec. 1. The pope confirmed several young men.

VATICAN CITY -- With his resurrection, Jesus opened the doors for all those who believe in him to be risen and united with him in heaven, Pope Francis said.

The anticipation of eternal life "is the source and reason of our hope, a hope that, if cultivated and safeguarded, becomes the light to illuminate our own lives" and those around us, he said during his general audience in St. Peter's Square Dec. 4.

BEFORE THE CROSS | Gaudete Sunday reminds us that Advent is a season of joy

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson celebrated Mass in the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel at the Cardinal Rigali Center on Nov. 25 for employees of the Curia who were celebrating service anniversaries.

Rejoice! Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said that this simple but exuberant word, rejoice, can be called the word that begins the New Testament, the new and eternal covenant between God and His people. It is joy -- not fear or anger or uncertainly or despair or vengeance -- that heralds the reign of God and that should be the fundamental attitude that characterizes the people of God.

TWENTY SOMETHING | Waiting for a baby: On Advent and adoption

For years, folks told Mike and Maria Slavik that their blue colonial-style house looked like a Christmas card. Maria would be out mowing the lawn in the middle of July and someone would stop to say he loved the way it was decorated for the holidays. So they decided to make it into a card, editing a picture to resemble a painting, blurring the lights into longer strokes, darkening the red poinsettias in the window boxes and the red bows on the wreaths.

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