I recently wrote a reflection titled “A Perpetual State of Advent” for A Knotted Life. This assignment really stretched me, and I have St. Benedict and those darn happy monks at Conception Abbey to thank. As taxing as deacon formation has been for Joel and our family, being introduced to the Benedictine way of life has been very good for our family. Very good. If interested in reading how I weave all that into a post about Advent, yes Advent, head over here to read it.
Disclaimer: I talk a whole bunch about balance and order and peace in that post. Ahhhh, my life is so calm and peaceful, right? Lest you think I’ve figured it all out, please know that I didn’t get it sent off until midnight on the day it was due (so really, I missed my deadline), I blew off a commitment to take a meal to a family with a new baby (who does that?!), and I totally spaced off “Parent and Child Together” time at Lucy’s preschool and had to answer her, “Where were you, MOM?!” questions when she returned home (BAD MOM!). What really do I know about balance anyway? Not much, it seems. I’m a work in progress, folks, as we all are — we grow and learn together.
I was feeling called to incorporate some “Advent by Candlelight” type of activities with the family. So I went out and bought a whole bunch of candles at Hobby Lobby. Here was the plan: on Sunday evenings, we gather around the family table, light a ton of candles, shut off all artificial light, and slow down with a nice Advent prayer service for 30 minutes or so. So we tried it. We got all the candles lit, and then someone rang our doorbell. Sophie, our black lab, went nuts and barreled into the table which knocked over some of the candles. One candle fell into the Advent wreath, starting the greenery on fire. Our daughter starts screaming, our son starts wailing, Joel runs to get the fire extinguisher, and I lean over to try and pat out the fire. While doing that, a strand of my hair finds its way into a candle’s flame, thereby starting MY HAIR ON FIRE. Joel throws a wet towel to me and I’m able to stop the fire in my hair. He then takes the extinguisher to the wreath, putting out the fire and destroying the Advent wreath to boot.
Advent Fools! Just joshing. None of that really happened. But I feared it would, so I nixed all plans for Advent by Candlelight at Das Schmidt Haus. Maybe next year.
Okay, so no Advent by total candlelight, but really, how hard can it be to light a candle and say a few prayers? So that is what we’ve been doing. Each morning, I light one candle … just one … that safely sits in the center of the Advent wreath. It stays lit pretty much all day. Later in the evening, we gather around the table, light the appropriate number of Advent candles, and say a simple prayer that takes maybe up to one minute … just one.
What makes this extra special is the votives used in the center of the wreath come from our diocese’s first ever Miscarriage Memorial Mass held earlier this year. During the Mass, families were encouraged to light a candle in memory of their child and place it at the altar, thereby “handing over” their child into Jesus’ eternal care. Even though families were encouraged to take the candles home, several remained after the Mass. We brought them home, and the Holy Spirit prompted me to light one each day of Advent and offer prayers for the grieving family and the child. Given I ran around so much right up to the start of the Mass, I wasn’t able to disconnect and fully enter into it. Taking time to pray for these families and babies, our two included, has been therapeutic. Shown above is the prayer card that was used for the Mass. So beautiful (made by CatholicPrayerCards.org).
Recipe for the week: Homemade Salted Nut Rolls! (Printable recipe here.) I made a pan on Tuesday. By Thursday evening they were gone. Long gone. My brother was the only person to visit our house in that same timeframe. I gave him one serving … one. So that means Joel and I ate the rest. All by ourselves. We got problems!
We celebrate St. Lucy BIG here (read more about the Feast of Santa Lucia here). Oh how BIG your candles are, dear Lucy. Can you see now why I’m leery of starting Advent by Candlelight traditions?
And I’ll sign-off with the following thought. “If you wish to become a saint, first of all start rising early.” (Not certain who said that, but I believe it was St. Josemaria Escriva.)
The quote came across my desk after a string of days when that early-rising four-year-old with the big candles awoke at an even earlier than normal-for-her time. I think it’s a gentle poke from the Holy Spirit to stop fighting it. If rising early leads her and ME to personal sanctity, all those early mornings will one day be worth it.
In joyful hope! For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.