Advent begins today, the wonderful time we spend preparing spiritually for Christmas. Let me give you some resources to help you celebrate Advent this year.
Advent would not be complete without EWTN’s Advent Meditation page. They not only provide meditations and an action for each day, but give you a little run-down of each popular Advent activity. This year EWTN and Our Sunday Visitor Publishing are also providing a free download of Bishop Robert Baker’s eBook Reasons for Hope – Meditations for the Advent Season.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishop’s has an Advent & Christmas Website again this year and they also are providing a free download of their book Advent & Christmas With Pope Benedict XVI. I like this book because it is simple, just using the day’s readings and quotes from the Pope for meditation.
The Catholic Culture Advent Workshop is a real practical site with help in how to celebrate Advent in the home, the history of Advent, and a great calendar that shows the saints of the day with a biography, recipes for the season and lots more.
Finally, Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio has a page for Advent and Christmas dedicated to downloads of articles for each day, from himself, or saints, or early Church Fathers, such as this gem from St. Gregory of Nazienzen for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
I originally wrote this in August of 2009, but I’m just as thankful. I hope you all have a blessed, safe and happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you Lord for a blessed life. Thank you for my family and good friends. Thank you for faith in times of confusion and troubles, sorrow and pain. Thank you for my home, the strong roof over our heads, the abundance of clothes our family has, and shoes. So many children walk over dusty roads, rusty garbage and sewage, but my children have shoes to protect their feet.
Thank you for our family’s health, our doctors and a hospital 10 minutes away. Many have to travel hours or days to get to a hospital. We have a rescue squad 3 blocks away and an excellent hospital, in fact several. Thank you for medicine, both cheap and expensive – so, so many don’t even have an aspirin.
Thank you for my education so that my intellect is fostered and broadened, my curiosity fed, and my family enriched. Thank you for the ability to send my children to school. So many sit in the dust with a tiny blackboard and chalk to learn their letters. Many children don’t even have that. Girls all over the world are denied even a rudimentary education, but I went to college. I can teach my children at home if I would so choose. Many countries deny this. I can take my children to museums, aquariums, parks and zoos, others don’t even know these things exist.
Thank you Lord for books! Oh, Lord what would I do with out books? Today, I can learn to make bread or fix a faucet, learn about quarks or black holes, enjoy a novel or enrich my soul. Thank you Lord. I can take my children to the library. Many in the world cannot even comprehend that such a thing exists – and for free!
Oh, Lord – thank you for my computer where I can learn anything in the touch of a fingertip, in microseconds. I can talk to others with the same interests across the world and know that we are not alone – when we thought we were before. Thanks for the TV too, where the whole world is opened in front of our eyes. Good and bad, just like people, but a blessing nonetheless.
Thank you Lord for my husband, wise and strong, yet gentle and loving. So many women have been abused, abandoned or ignored. Thank you Lord for loving, kind in-laws, too.
Thank you for air conditioning and indoor plumbing! Thank you for washing machines! I don’t have to beat my clothes on a rock in the river, or get my hand caught in a wringer. I don’t have to do more than sort, load and throw in the dryer. Thank you God for dryers! I can do my laundry at midnight or if it is raining. I don’t have to haul loads of clothes in the car and wait for hours at the laundromat since my washer & dryer are steps away.
Speaking of cars, thank you Lord for cars. We can transport our whole family across town or across the country with nary a thought. Many people have to walk miles to go to church, each way. I can jump in the car and be there in 6 minutes. Many people never leave their village or town. Many never go farther away than 10 miles from their homes. We may go more than 10 miles to visit a friend or go to work. Thank you for airplanes too, so we can even see the world.
Thank you Lord for employment, for every paycheck, for we can eat and eat well. Too, too, many places in the world families have only a bit of bread and beans, if that. In some places Lord, people eat cakes made of dirt to fill their bellies. They have to watch their children starve to death, women carrying dead babies to their graves. We have an abundance, and whine if our particular brand is out of stock. Thank you for refrigerators for the food we have will not spoil and make us sick. Thank you that my family does not know what real hunger means.
Thank you Lord for the garden my family grows. For sprouting seeds and luscious produce. Thank you for inventing the beautiful, red bursting strawberries, the incredibly fast beans, and the prolific indescribable tomato. Yes, thank you for tomatoes, they are truly a gift. And garlic. And onions too! You had a good day Lord when you invented tomatoes, onions and garlic. Thank you too for the fruit trees, bursting with nutrition and flavor, to fill our stomachs.
Thank you for the rain and the sun to drench the soil with the good things it needs. I even thank you for the hurricanes and the earthquakes, for they are part of your plan for Earth. They are minor inconveniences compared to the grandeur of the building of mountains, and the workings of the oceans. Ah, the deep, deep oceans, Lord. How wondrous are your creations, your waves, your sea creatures, the saltiness of the sea, the bounty of the sea, the sound of the sea.
Dear Lord, I thank you for the delicate child in the womb, floating in a sea, drifting to sleep by the rocking of its mothers voice and steps. Thank you for the kicks of life I was privileged to feel. The groans of childbirth and the sweet, sweet breath of a child on my cheek. The glorious privilege of watching my child nuzzle and nurse at my breast, his hand delicately placed upon it.
I thank you so much for being born at this time, in this wonderful country. Where there is freedom. Where I can speak my mind and not worry about a knock at the door in the middle of the night. Where we are safe. Yes, bad things do happen here, but nothing like other countries. War is not here. Machine guns carried by thugs do not roam my streets. Bombs do not explode in my supermarket. I thank you. We have laws and courts that, while not perfect, are the envy of millions.
We are truly blessed. Blessed to have this Earth. Blessed that you gave us your son. Blessed for his sacrifice. Blessed to have your Church guide us. Blessed for your overflowing, never-ending love. Thank you.
Here is another book for your viewing pleasure. Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words. This fantastic book lets you read the writings of four great saints of the early Church: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons. Ignatius of Antioch was a student of St. John the Apostle himself and was the first to use the term “Catholic,” which means universal.
It is fascinating to learn about what the Early Christians thought, and how they worshiped. This is a really wonderful book and an easy read. What were the thoughts of the earliest Christians about the Eucharist? Were these people uneducated peasants or highly educated scholars? How did they live and how did they die? Get this book for someone special and then borrow it because it will really do something for your faith.
Every year I try to buy one or two really nice Christmas ornaments. I prefer porcelain, crystal or silver and not glass because they really don’t last well. My mother collected lots of those really large Polish glass painted ornaments. They were beautiful in their day, but they all broke or lost all their paint, and we wound up having to throw them away. Heartbreaking.
After years of collecting we have a fairly nice collection that we can pass onto our sons and their families some day. The last few years I have bought some White House Christmas Ornaments and while they are nice and are affordable, I really would like more ornaments that have religious significance.
So, here is my next gift idea. It is from Monastery Greetings and include 3 different beautiful jeweled and cloisonne Orthodox icon Madonna ornaments. I would love to really have the set, but I will probably just buy one. I love icons and these are just lovely.
And while you are there, be sure to check out the selection of international beers from monasteries. There are probably a few people you know who would like to receive that as a gift, and you can support the hard working monks as well.
So you looked at my last Christmas gift idea, making a rosary (or jewelry) from parts from Gardens of Grace, but you perhaps are not crafty, or want a more inexpensive gift that you can make that would foster the faith. Making your own knotted rosary would fit the bill.
I first discovered this when a bible study friend gave our group these knotted rosaries. We loved them. I use mine every day. It is soft and silent. I can tuck it into my pocket or purse without fear of breakage. A few years ago, I – who am the least crafty person in my state – decided I would like to make a few for friends and family for Christmas. And I did it! It was easy. I just followed the directions at the Rosary Army website. Even a kid could do it. I only needed to buy the cord and some crucifixes to affix to the end. Once you get the hang of it, which is pretty much when you do the first one, it should take about an hour each rosary. You can make them while watching TV or commuting on the train or bus.
This is actually a pretty popular idea in some Catholic circles. You can even buy them. For example, here is a Facebook page for Handmade Cord Knotted Rosary which sells rosaries like the one above.
So where do you get the supplies for this? First check out the list of suppliers at Rosary Army or look online where you will find places like the RosaryCord website. You can also find crucifixes at perhaps your local Catholic supply store. A quick search on the internet for Rosary supplies yielded Rosary Workshop and Rosary Shop. So look around. You can make the cord rosaries to the last part and put crucifixes on the lot of them at the end.
This is a beautiful gift and everyone I have given it to has been very happy to receive it. I have even been asked to make more. So try it. Even if it is not for Christmas, these would make good year round gifts for any occasion.
Here is one gift idea that would take a little work on your part. Gardens of Grace has – hands down – the most beautiful rosaries I have ever seen. One is more beautiful and elegant than the next. I don’t think they make many rosaries anymore, BUT they have all the parts to make these beautiful works of art. These rosary parts and beads can be used for jewelry too, of course.
Any rosary, chaplet, paternoster or piece of jewelry you would make from these pieces would be treasured as family heirlooms for decades to come.