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The four Ps of Advent

A statue of St. Anthony holding the child Jesus is shown at St. Anthony Shrine in Emmitsburg. (Father Collin Poston)
The season of Advent is in full swing! It’s is a short season, yet also an important one.

Spiritually, Advent is a sacred time of wise preparation and joyful anticipation. Culturally and socially, with all the “hustle and bustle” of purchasing gifts, decorating our homes and preparing for family and social gatherings, it may seem at times to be just the opposite. That is why we need to intentionally slow down and make time to pray.

Notice: I do not merely say “take time” but make time – which means giving up something else to pray and hence prepare our souls for a right — and truly amazing and joyful — celebration of Christmas.

How do we do this?

I particularly, personally, precisely and prayerfully propose a plan. Interest piqued? It’s the “Four Ps of Advent.”

Preparation.  We can prepare our minds, hearts and souls for the birth of Christ and also for his Second Coming — be it tomorrow or the end of time. “Be prepared” we hear our Lord say to us in the Gospel of the First Sunday of Advent [Matt. 24:37-44.] Let’s get good and right with God.

Prayer. We can give the Lord the gift of time — a quiet resting with him, adoring him in eucharistic adoration, prayerfully reading about him in the Bible, contemplatively learning of him with Mary as a prayer partner in praying the rosary. One of my favorite prayers is the Examen, an Ignatian form of prayer through which one invites the Holy Spirit to reveal to moments of the day where God was present, or perhaps an experience of joy, surprise, contrition or gratitude, to give just a few examples. Advent is a great time to do any or all of these!

Penance.  Ok, I know what you’re thinking: even though we wear purple (or violet, to be more precise) Advent is not Lent. We don’t “give up things” as we do in the Lenten season. But Advent is still an excellent time to prepare for Christmas by making a good confession or by making a sacrifice in this season. You could “offer up” the tough stuff of life in prayer and in solidarity with others who suffer and struggle. It is also a great season to begin to build good spiritual habits and healthy disciplines that can last throughout the year.

Pilgrimage. Consider making a pilgrimage or day of retreat to a shrine or sacred place this Advent. We have several within our archdiocese and region, such as the Shrine of Saint Anthony in Ellicott City, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Cathedral of Mary our Queen in Baltimore, St. Jude Shrine in Baltimore and many others. In my neighborhood, if you are available on Monday Dec. 9 at 2:30 pm, the priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word and the Servidora sisters will be making a walking pilgrimage starting at the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg proper and will end at the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes on the mountain above my parish of St. Anthony. This will conclude with a Mass to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Grotto Chapel at approx. 4:30 pm. All are welcome to join us!

In the meantime, may our Emmanuel fill you with many inspiring graces and mercies this Advent.

For more on Advent in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, click here.