National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Advent Prep

Brother John Raymond tells how to make Advent fasting more fruitful for yourself — and for the poor.

BY BROTHER JOHN RAYMOND

December 10-16, 2006 Issue | Posted 12/7/06 at 10:00 AM

 

Every December since 1979, Larry Stewart has been quietly roaming the streets of Kansas City, Mo., handing out money to people in need.

It all began when Larry was feeling sorry for himself. For the second year in a row, he’d been fired from his job soon before Christmas. He pulled into a drive-in restaurant, the kind with “car-hop” wait staff. The woman who waited on him was shivering. It was clear she was wanting for a winter coat.

Even though he was down on his luck himself, Larry gave the waitress a $20 bill for the food and told her to keep the change, which was far in excess of his order. She began crying and expressing how much Larry’s random act of kindness meant to her.

Later that day, he went to the bank, took out $200 and began looking for people to give to. He started with this modest amount but, as the years passed, his own fortune grew into the millions.

Lately he has been handing out $100 bills. It was only recently, after being treated for cancer, that he allowed the media to release his identity.

Larry Stewart was doing what all Christians should be doing during Advent and Christmas: seeking out and helping those in need.

Remember that Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, came into a world that was cold in more ways than one. The night air must have been frosty in Bethlehem. They didn’t know what the “wind chill factor” was in that time and place, but they surely knew what it felt like to have no shelter on a winter night. There they were, poor, needy and expecting, and nobody was willing to give up a spot for them indoors.

No wonder Advent has been called a “Little Lent.” Fasting is part of it, or ought to be. And there are many reasons and benefits to fasting. One aspect of fasting I believe lost to modern society is the idea of giving.

Giving what? The money saved by our fasting. This is what those great early teachers and saints of the Church, the Church Fathers, encouraged the faithful to do.

A simple example that comes to mind is restaurant dining. Many people eat out at least weekly, if not daily. Why not fast from a restaurant meal once a week? Take the money saved by this and help someone in need. This would even be better if done as a family. Many of the saints involved their children in works of charity.

Or, instead of expecting a gift at Christmas, why not ask family members and friends to donate whatever amount they would have spent on you to a worthy charity — one whose mission is in accord with the Church’s teachings? That way you’re helping the charity and witnessing your faith to the giver at the same time.

Giving money to needy people was Larry Stewart’s Christmas present to himself. It was the gift that, he found, gave him the greatest sense of satisfaction.

I’m suggesting that we follow his example by giving a Christmas present to Jesus, who said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

Let’s not leave Jesus out in the cold this Advent and Christmas but, instead, invite him inside — into the best and warmest room we can prepare for him.

Brother John Raymond is co-founder of the Community of the Monks of Adoration

in Venice, Florida.