LIGHT IT UP | Create new traditions to usher in the birth of Christ this Advent

Advent calendar, candles for advent wreath.

Advent is a time of preparation that points our hearts and minds to the two comings of Christ: at the end of time and at His birth on Christmas. The word Advent comes from the Latin "advenio," meaning "to come."

For the first several weeks of Advent, the Church focuses on the coming of Christ at the end of time. Toward the latter part of Advent, Dec. 17-24, we focus on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord at Christmas.

GOOD STEWARD | Advent is the season of hope, Mary is the star

Dan Conway

Advent is the season of hope, a time of eager anticipation or longing for Christ. During this blessed season, we have a chance to connect with our deepest desires. Above all else, whether we recognize it, we human beings long to be united with God, the source and summit of our aspirations, the joy of our desiring.

This longing, which we try to hide or suppress most of the year with no great success, bubbles to the surface in Advent. The hymns, prayers and readings evoke our heart's deepest desires like no other time of year.

EDITORIAL | Humble hearts at Advent

Advent wreath

At a recent Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis said that God will reveal Himself to those who have humble and meek hearts.

"Only those who have a heart like a child are capable of receiving this revelation, those who have a humble, meek heart, who feel the need to pray, to open themselves to God, who feel poor; only those who live according to the first Beatitude -- the poor in spirit," the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

CATHOLIC BY GRACE | Advent is the antidote to the Christmas craziness

I have dipped my toes in the chaos of the Christmas-before-Advent scene. I've been to the mall once. I've landed on radio stations that play Christmas music around the clock -- and quickly popped in my Rosary CD to escape the noise. I've seen enough of commercialized Christmas even though I have actively avoided it this year.

Advent is the only antidote.

But Advent only comes to those who know how to get quiet. It hides from those who hurry. It won't be found in the crowded places and packed spaces of shopping aisles and city crosswalks.

The diversity of Advent

Brooke Buck reacted to the blessing her classmate, Jerick Conner, gave to her as they shared oplatki. Students at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Ferguson learned about the Polish Christmas tradition of oplatki from pastoral associate Sister Cathy Doherty, SSND. Oplatki, an flatbread, is broken and shared among families at Christmas, with each person praying and bestowing blessings upon one another for the upcoming year.

This Advent, students at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Ferguson were celebrating multicultural style.

In the weeks before Christmas, students learned about traditions from Polish, Italian and Hispanic cultures. Last week, parish pastoral associate Sister Cathy Doherty, SSND, visited classrooms to share Polish oplatki, a large rectangular flatbread that is broken and shared among families as a way of professing their love for one another. The bread, which looks similar to a communion wafer, is often referred to as the "bread of love."

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?

Syndicate content