Last Sunday was the start of the holy season of Advent, the annual period of preparation leading to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. It should be a fruitful time, as we ready our hearts in anticipation of the true reason for the season.
I don’t know about all of you, but one of the reasons I used to love the seasons of Advent and Lent was that our churches were filled to overflowing. When our kids were young, my wife and I sounded our own Sunday morning alarm during this time of year: “Get moving, folks, we don’t want to be standing for the entire Mass.”
That meant leaving our house half an hour before Mass, so we would arrive 15 minutes early, which generally guaranteed seating together in the front part of the church.
Even before the onset of Covid-19, the Sundays of Advent and Lent no longer brought full houses, at least not in our parish. More Christmas and Easter Catholics, as they are called, stayed away on those holy days, and on the Sundays leading to them.
That response might very well have been understandable last Advent, not too long after the pandemic forced the cancellation of Masses, other than virtual ones, in the archdiocese and across the nation, for months.
Many excuses could be offered, but I don’t want to concentrate my focus there. I’d like to center my efforts in the other direction.
In writing this column, I have always presumed I’m “preaching to the choir.” Simply stated, the great majority of CNY readers are active parishioners of the archdiocese, meaning that one of the things you do is attend Mass on a weekly basis. There are exceptions, of course, but I believe that continues to be the case.
For my part, attending Mass brings me closer to God, and my personal prayer and reflection are more fruitful and dedicated than almost any other time. As I’ve previously noted, more ideas for Catholic New York come to me as I sit in a quiet pew before Mass than almost any other time.
Hearing the Word of God proclaimed and explained frequently unleashes a wellspring of thoughts and feelings. The quality of priestly preaching in homilies over the past year and a half has been more consistently good and enriching than any other time I recall. We are also fortunate to have cantors and choirs that enhance our parish worship with voices approaching the celestial.
And I haven’t yet said one word about the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith. If we believe that the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus is brought down upon the altar for us to receive in Holy Communion, how can that not have a profound effect on our lives as Catholics?
We do all this in communion with our brothers and sisters in faith, because Catholics need fuel to propel us forth in our journey in life.
Let’s make this an Advent to remember. I’m going to assume you share many of my reasons for coming to Mass, with maybe a few of your own added for good measure.
To stretch your faith, I would like to challenge you to take one more step. Think of one Catholic you know who is no longer attending Mass regularly. It could be a friend, a neighbor or even a family member. For many parents and grandparents, that person could be a young adult child who no longer attends Mass.
I’m going to make this simple. Choose one person and invite them to come with you to Mass on at least one of the three remaining Sundays of Advent. (In case you’re wondering, I’ll take up my own challenge.)
It may not be easy to take that first step in faith, but remember that you are sharing a great gift, and the response you receive will be a benefit to you, too.
A Blessed Advent to you and yours.