"Jesus lives before the face of God, not just as a friend, but as a Son; he lives in the most intimate unity with the Father." Benedict XVI (Jesus of Nazareth)
Dear Students, Parents, Alums and Colleagues:
Advent is a period of time in the life of the Church, which is mostly misunderstood or overshadowed by the Feast of Christmas. We slide from Hallowe'en into Christmas in a matter of seconds. How do we dig ourselves out of the barbarism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to even begin preparations for the great Feast and contemplate the most important event in history? Little wonder then that our Lord warns us in the Readings of the First Sunday of Advent that there will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the sound of the sea and of the waves, men withering away from fear and expectation of the things which shall come upon the world; for the powers of heaven will be moved. (Luke 21) These words of our Lord have been appropriated by some to predict some impending ecological disaster. Not the point. Our Lord is referring to the state of creation before his coming, a coming which is already here and always coming. I suggest though they speak more properly and profoundly to what is happening in the hearts and souls of men.
No feast of the contemporary calendar is looked forward to with more anticipation than Christmas. It is the time when many experience the joys of family gatherings and the exchange of the best wishes for the season by friends. These are pleasant and good things, but they are far from the significance of the recalling of the Incarnation and its impact on us.
Today, more than at any time in the history of the Feast, there is before us a challenge of no small proportion. For most, Christmas has become nothing more than a highly orchestrated and abundantly successful marketing ploy. Sadly, Christians are mostly responsible for the devastation of Christmas and its reduction to a day's reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the season. I have to ask myself, do I contribute to this problem, or do I try to observe the Feast in a manner befitting its meaning? Do I really take time during the weeks of Advent to do my best to become the child of God that I am called to be?
Gratitude and humility surely provide the best hope of recovering the mystery of Christmas.
We must be ever thankful to God and his goodness, sending us his Only-Begotten Son in order that we might be saved.
During these weeks before Christmas, I find myself drawn to reading the lives of the Saints, who were especially attached to performing works of charity to the poor.
One in particular that I have found interesting is Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. A fellow Lasallian who attended the Brothers' school in Torino. Born in April 1901, he died at the very young age of 24, in 1925. Unknown even to his family, Pier Giorgio joined a number of charitable groups, including Catholic Action and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. At the time of his death, the poor of Torino flocked to his funeral in recognition of the extraordinary gestures of charity he had shown them in his brief life. St. John Paul II, who beatified him in 1990, referred to him as the Man of the Eight Beatitudes. Although from a fairly wealthy family, he led a pretty normal life. A good athlete and accomplished mountaineer, Pier Giorgio enjoyed his life with his friends. Almost privately, though, he showed a keen interest in the welfare of the poor. His unassuming manner and kindness won over many of the poor who had distanced themselves from the Church in these days.
We see in his short life, a happy combination of a fervent faith as he attended Mass daily and a zealous concern for the social issues of this period resulting from the growing poverty in his native city.
The young in any age need to know that true holiness is attainable if one dares to follow Christ. The helplessness of the Christ Child should remind us that we need to tend to others - children, the poor, the sick, the lonely, the elderly, and the dispossessed. The young also deserve the chance to know and feel what many of us continue to experience as we contemplate in the stillness and silence of the Holy Night of His Birth, the ardent desire to know, love and serve God in this life by loving Him and our neighbour.
Let us prepare a worthy place in our hearts for Jesus.
Brother Domenic, fsc