Advent: Trust In The Lord Always

Today’s Advent reflection for the 1st Thursday of Advent, 2016

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you guest posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s guest blogger is Fr. Scott Nolan, reflecting on the Mass readings for Thursday, December 1.]

Trust in the Lord forever, Isaiah invites us.  Trust in the Lord forever.  During this Advent Season we are invited to wait for the coming of the Lord, to prepare the way for Him to come into our world.  Today the book of Isaiah tells us to trust in God forever, to never stop trusting in God’s goodness for us.

And how, we ask, are we to do that?  The one who does the will of the Father in heaven is the one who will enter the Kingdom of heaven, Jesus tells us.  Trust in God and doing the Father’s will are interconnected; they are mutually enriching.  Indeed, Jesus goes on to tell us that doing the Father’s will is like building our house upon a solid foundation.  Perhaps we have seen what happens when a house lacks a solid foundation.  Jesus and those of His time certainly seem to know the devastating effects.

In this time of waiting on the Lord, on vigilance for His coming, we are invited to trust in the Lord, and to know that this trust is founded upon the solid foundation of His goodness for us, and our generous response to that.


Fr. Scott Nolan is a priest of the Diocese of Grand Rapids.  He is currently the pastor of St. Stephen Catholic Church and School in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew

St. Andrew: A Saint For Advent

Today’s Advent reflection for the 2nd Tuesday of Advent, 2016

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you guest posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s guest blogger is Fr. Colin Mulhall, reflecting on the Mass readings for November 30, the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.]

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Apostle St. Andrew, the “first-called” of the Apostles.  He is so named because in the Gospel of John, he is the first of the Apostles to follow Jesus.  Andrew is the one who introduces Peter to Jesus in the Gospel of John.

It might be said that it’s because of a bit of fraternal nagging that Peter met Jesus and eventually became the Prince of the Apostles.  It is fitting that we celebrate his feast during Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.  Here was a man who was eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah, and was most likely a follower of John the Baptist.  When John pointed out Christ, the Lamb of God, Andrew was probably filled with curiosity, and followed Jesus, eventually being invited to “come and see” where He was staying.

The attitude of Andrew, that hopeful expectation of the coming of Christ, is the attitude we are all called to emulate this Advent season.  We are invited to commemorate the coming of the Christ Child, and to prepare ourselves for the triumphant return of Christ in glory.  St. Andrew reminds us Christians that our fundamental attitude is one of preparation and eager anticipation.  We are in a constant of state of tension, an eschatological tension, awaiting the definitive victory of Christ, which has been accomplished in the Paschal Mystery of His suffering, death, Resurrection and Ascension, but has yet to be fully realized.  St. Andrew teaches us what it looks like to wait with the certainty of a hope based in the sure promises of God in Christ Jesus.

Take the opportunity this Advent season to welcome Christ into your life in a new way, letting St. Andrew and all the Saints lead us all into deeper relationship with the Lord.

Fr. Colin Mulhall is associate pastor at St. Robert of Newminster Parish in Ada, MI.


hopes, dreams, desires

Advent: Time Of Hope, Dreams, Desires

Today’s Advent reflection for the 1st Tuesday of Advent, 2016

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you guest posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s guest blogger is Fr. Aaron Ferris, reflecting on the Mass readings for Tuesday, Nov. 29.]

The Season of Advent is an opportunity to reflect on and purify our desires, hopes, and dreams. Our desires are many and varied, ranging from food to satisfy our hunger to friendship to satisfy our need for love. Our hopes and dreams press on even further. The Prophet Isaiah offers a beautiful reflection on many of our desires, hopes, and dreams: our desire for justice, our hope for the vindication of the downtrodden, our dream of peace and security.

Jesus in the Gospel offers Himself as our satisfaction and fulfillment: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” What do those eyes see? They see Jesus, the One who is the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams, the One who is the satisfaction of all our desires. Blessed are those who see Jesus and find in Him their All.

In and through Jesus we are given a share in the Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord promised to us through Isaiah. In and through Jesus we are brought into intimate communion with God who is our Father. In and through Jesus we are given a share in the very life of God.

Amid our many competing desires, hopes, and dreams, we can easily lose sight of the fact that Jesus is the satisfaction and fulfillment of everything. This Advent Season we are invited again to make Jesus the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams and the satisfaction of our desires.

Fr. Aaron Ferris is currently the pastor of St. Mary Great Mother of God Catholic Church in Lowell, MI, and St. Anthony in Saranac, MI. He was ordained in 2009.

joy to the world

Advent: Joy To The World!

Today’s Advent reflection for the 1st Sunday of Advent, 2016

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you guest posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord.]

Today’s reflection is from author and speaker Chris Stefanick.


There is no better news:

Your deepest hopes aren’t answered by the void, but by the Word.

The story of human existence is a love story.

Death doesn’t get the final word.

Love wins.

You were created for glory.

That “something more” you’re looking for is within reach

and it’s free for the taking.


Nothing comes close.

There is no message taught by any philosopher,

no dream dreamt by any child

no book penned by any author

no pleasure offered by the world,

that’s as stunningly beautiful

or able to fill our souls with purpose and peace.


And the best part is:

It’s not for someone else.

It’s for you.


The first Christians summed up the central message of Christianity with a funny word: Kerygma. It’s a word taken up from the ancient Greek world. It means “announcement.” It’s what a keryx (a herald) did.

Before print, the way you got news out to the world was to entrust it to a herald, who spread it from town to town. He’d show up in the city center, unroll a scroll on behalf of a king, and shout, “Hear ye! Hear ye!”

The reason the first Christians used that word to describe the core message of the Gospel is simple: They didn’t see Christianity as an intellectual endeavor reserved for the greatest minds. They didn’t see Christianity as a secret spiritual path only for the most enlightened souls. They didn’t see Christianity as a moral code for the perfect. They saw Christianity as the best news ever.

“I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10).

News so big that the whole story of the universe fits under the headline. News so powerful it rewrites the story of our lives. News so personal it reads like a love letter.

Every Christmas we’re invited to remember what that news is, and what it has to do with our own quest for something more . . .


Chris Stefanick - Guest AuthorChris Stefanick  is an internationally acclaimed author and speaker, who has devoted his life to inspiring people to live a bold, contagious faith. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap calls Chris, “one of the most engaging young defenders of the Christian faith on the scene today.”  Chris is also the founder of Real Life Catholic, a Denver-based non-profit which operates as the headquarters for Chris’s various initiatives. Above all, Chris is proud to be the husband to his wife Natalie and father to their six children. To learn more about Chris’s work, please visit:


Advent Reflections 2016

Advent can be a time of great grace, if we prayerfully take the time to prepare ourselves for Christmas and for the Second Coming of Christ. We are pleased to present, for the Advent 2016 season, special holiday reflections every week day. Priests, religious and lay people have answered our request to bring you thoughtful and hopeful words of faith, weekdays beginning November 28 until December 23.

Also, if you know someone who is homebound, has limited access to a faith community or someone who has been away from the Church for awhile, please consider sharing these reflections with them. Again, Advent can be a time of great grace.

If you’d like to receive these reflections via email, simply scroll down to the bottom of this page and enter your email. (Rest assured, we do not share your email with anyone.)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, As they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils. For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, From David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains. By judgment and justice, both now and forever. 
(Is. 9:1-2, 5-6)

Christmas cards

Christmas Greetings! And 3 Reasons They Are Important

The holiday season is upon us. We swap out Halloween decorations for Thanksgiving for Christmas. We may not always agree how to greet each other (“Merry Christmas!” v. “Happy Holidays”) but there are a few things we nearly all agree upon: fruitcakes are kind of icky, some Christmas sweaters are indeed ugly, and Christmas cards are always welcome.

The Christmas card was “invented” by Sir Henry Cole (who established the Victoria and Albert Museum in England.) He got a lot of mail, especially around the holidays, and couldn’t figure out how he’d answer all of it. He took his idea to an artist friend: a picture of a family celebrating and helping the poor, with a standard greeting. It became the first Christmas card.

Clearly, we have faster and less time-consuming ways of contacting each other. A decade ago, it was considered poor manners to invite someone to a party using social media; now it’s common and acceptable. A generation ago, the thought of “posting” a sympathetic message to a family who’s lost a member would be an egregious faux pas. Now, sending such a message its considered just fine by many people. So, why should we send Christmas cards?

  1. Christmas cards (while they may have the same cover) are personal. You add your own touches: a picture of the kids, a short letter about what’s happened during the past year, a recipe that your family cherishes.
  2. It’s thoughtful. When you are writing out Christmas card messages, you are thinking about each individual recipient. It’s a great time to pray for that person or family.
  3. Christmas cards force you to slow down in a very busy season. Let’s face it: even the most stalwart of us gets pulled into the Christmas hustle. Lots of obligations for parties, baking that you want to do, getting shopping done. Even a simple trip to the grocery store means long waits as people fill their carts with holiday goodies. Sitting down and making a list of card recipients, writing out the cards and addresses forces us to slow down during a hectic time. Enjoy some beautiful music, place some Christmas cookies on your grandmother’s Christmas plates, and enjoy the process of sending Christmas greetings.

For our parish friends, the “time crunch” of the holidays is probably even harder to manage. Church staffs begin planning Advent and Christmas somewhere around the 4th of July. (Maybe not that soon, but it’s early!) There’s the Children’s Mass and choir and more visitors to the office … but Christmas greetings are still important. Why should your parish and staff send cards this year?

  1. Christmas cards help  you slow down. Just like the folks in their homes trying to balance work, family and holiday obligations, Christmas cards can help the parish staff slow down a bit. Take time to enjoy the process.
  2. It lets parishioners – near and far – know they are important to the parish faith community. Parishes sometimes don’t see many “regulars” during the winter months. Maybe there are “snow birds” who live part-time in another part of the country. Maybe you have older people who just don’t venture out as often in the snowy weather. Many people vacation this time of year. Christmas cards can help you connect with people who probably most need to hear from you.
  3. Christmas cards are a wonderful way to pray for people. When we think about what Christmas celebrates (the Incarnation, the single most important event in human history), churches should be reminding people of the wonderful event of the birth of Christ. It’s a time of prayer and wonder, a time to say “we’re thinking of you and praying for you,” a time to send some cheer in a world that sorely lacks it sometimes. Let your Christmas cards be messages of faith and inspiration.

Christmas greetings and Christmas cards are a wonderful tradition that we can share with our children, our families and the people we may not see regularly but with whom we want to stay in touch. A Christmas card is a wonderful way to exchange news, to pray and to make sure people know we are thinking of them.

Featured Christmas Cards

Advent reading

5 Books For Advent Reading (And A Bonus Book For Kids)

Advent is a great time to focus on Catholic traditions for the home, and also a great time to work on your own spiritual development. Many parishes offer special prayer services, Scripture studies and talks. We know how easy it is to get caught up in the commercialism that surrounds this time of year, and the busy-ness many of us feel as check things off our Christmas lists. Advent is the perfect time to treat yourself to some spiritual reading and to nourish the soul. Here are 5 suggestions:

  1. The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins, John Zmirak, author. If you haven’t ever read Zmirak, you’re in for a treat. His sense of humor blasts through every page of the Bad Catholic’s series and will have you laughing out loud. However, Zmirak is not “lite” on catechetics. He takes the teachings of the Church seriously and you’ll learn fabulous things about our faith.
  2. Tears of God, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, author. For many people, the holidays are very difficult. The loss of loved ones, personal illness, loneliness: all of these can make the “happiest time of year” very bleak. This little gem of a book by Fr. Benedict Groeschel addresses how life’s difficulties are not inconsequential to Our Lord. For those crying out, “Lord, where are you? Why has this happened to me, to my family?” this book is balm for the soul.
  3. Parched, Heather King, author. Heather King bares her soul in this memoir. King, a Catholic and an alcoholic, recalls her family’s tepid faith and her chaotic childhood. As an adult, her alcoholism cost her nearly everything and drove her to her knees. King’s writing is both eloquent and utterly humble. Even if you do not suffer from substance abuse yourself, Parched is ultimately about the search for God, that unquenchable thirst we all share.
  4. How to be Holy: First Steps in Becoming A Saint, Peter Kreeft, author. Kreeft is a convert to Catholicism, having been raised a staunch Calvinist. He now teaches philosophy at Boston College. Philosophers can sometimes be daunting to read, but Kreeft has a gift for making heady thoughts manageable. In this book, he reminds us that each of us shares exactly the same destiny: to be a saint. However, we must choose this. So just how does one become a saint? Check out this book and see.
  5. Seeds of the Word, Bishop Robert Barron, author. Bishop Barron, known for his wildly popular “Word On Fire” videos and website, knows that God can show up in the most unexpected places. How can we find God in our culture, especially in a time when our culture is in such upheaval? Barron explores popular media (primarily movies) to show us that since all Truth is of God, then God is in Coen Brothers movies, “True Grit,” “The Giver” and a host of other pop culture offerings. Who knows? Maybe this book will spur you to a reading AND a movie expedition for Advent.

Finally, here is a book the whole family can enjoy together: Saint Francis Celebrates Christmas, Mary Caswell Walsh, author and Helen Caswell, illustrator. This incredibly charming children’s book tells the story of how St. Francis of Assisi brought the birth of Christ to life in order to deepen the faith of the people he served. Out of this grew the tradition of the Nativity set, which so many of us set up in our home for Christmas. With its charming illustrations and touching story, this will surely become a family holiday favorite.

When preparing for Advent, keep in mind this quote from St. Jerome: When we pray we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us.


9 Advent Traditions For Your Home

20 days. 20 days until Advent begins. It’s time to get ready.

Unlike much of the world, Catholics don’t plunge headlong into Christmas after the Halloween candy has been passed out. Nope, we take it slow. We like to REALLY prepare for Christmas. That means a four week period of getting ourselves ready, spiritually, for the celebration of the Incarnation: God-made-man.

Advent actually has two spiritual purposes: we prepare spiritually for Christmas in remembrance of Christ’s first coming, and we also prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming, whenever that may be.

Here are some Advent traditions for you, whether you live by yourself, have a bunch of kiddos at home, are grandparents or babysitters – there is something for everyone.

  1. The Advent wreath. You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. If you have youngsters, you can certainly include them in the making of a simple wreath. You’ll also need four candles: three purple and one rose. You can learn more about this tradition here. (Don’t forget to bless it!)
  2. An Advent calendar. Not sure what it is about this, but kids LOVE opening the little doors each day to reveal a picture, a Scripture passage, a treat. You can find versions of this online, purchase a paper calendar or create a more elaborate one.
  3. Set up the Nativity set, and tell your kids about its history. Many families will “assign” one of the pieces of the Nativity set to each child, and as Advent progresses and the children work on good works, that piece advances until, on Christmas Day, each family member’s piece is present in the manger next to Baby Jesus.
  4. Fully celebrate the holy days in Advent: St. Nicholas’ feast, the feast of St. Lucia, Our Lady of Guadalupe. There are plenty of crafts, food and stories surrounding each of these, so with a little planning, you can enjoy each of the celebrations regardless of the ages of folks in your home.
  5. Can’t wait to get the tree up? Decorate with Jesse Tree ornaments. These ornaments (and the accompanying prayers) tell the story of Christ from the Old Testament – a prophecy and promise of the long-awaited Savior.
  6. Learn and pray the “O Antiphons.” These beautiful prayers date back to the 8th century A.D. You’ll recognize them as part of the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
  7. Want to sing your way to Christmas? You don’t have to tune in to the “all Christmas music, all the time” radio station. Here’s a list of Advent music to enjoy.
  8. Go to confession. This is truly the best way to prepare for the arrival of the Christ Child. Go as a family, and then perhaps enjoy a special treat afterwards.
  9. Make someone else’s day. Bake something special for a neighbor, make a wreath for an elderly friend, volunteer at a food bank or shelter, visit a shut-in.

As always, our prayer life should deepen in this holy season, so whatever you choose to do: pray.

God of Love,
Your son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us.
He is a sign of your love.
Help us walk in that love during the weeks of Advent,
As we wait and prepare for his coming.
We pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior.