Reclaiming Advent

Family Matters: Married Life

Image courtesy of Archdiocese of Denver
Image courtesy of Archdiocese of Denver

Every year, we resolve to have a peaceful, meaningful Advent in our household — yet every year it somehow sneaks up on us. 

The culture doesn’t help: According to the retail-store calendar, the Christmas season began in mid-September. 

By the time Christmas Day actually rolls around, it feels like a conclusion rather than a beginning. 

We as a society have it completely backward: In our impatient, instant-gratification culture, the idea of being patient and anticipating a big event can seem beyond us. 

But we must persevere. So many valuable lessons are lost when we ignore the liturgical seasons and dive into Christmas music in November. The Church actually teaches that learning to wait is important for the future moral life of our kids: “Chastity cannot exist as a virtue without the capacity to renounce self, to make sacrifices and to wait” (Pontifical Council for the Family’s “Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality,” 5). 

Remember that it’s never too late to start creating some Advent traditions, and any effort is worthwhile. 

Here are some tried-and-true ideas for reclaiming the Advent and Christmas seasons in your family:

Deck the halls with lots of purple. When you put up all your wreaths and greenery on doors and windows, hold on to your red Christmas bows and invest in some purple ribbon instead. This can set the tone for the whole Advent season: that it’s something special and different from Christmas. Switch out the purple bows on Christmas Eve. What a witness to the whole neighborhood!

Pray a new prayer. Advent is the perfect time to introduce new prayers to your household. Novenas are wonderful family prayers, because once you start, everyone is invested in praying every day. This year, we’ll be praying the “Novena to Our Lady of the New Advent,” which begins on Dec. 16. Learn more about this newer devotion by googling the title. Be sure to note the beautiful icon of this image, which shows Christ in utero. 

Stake out family time. Christmas celebrates the Holy Family; honor them by scheduling time together as a family. For example, plan a family movie night and pop in It’s A Wonderful Life. Make this life-affirming movie mandatory viewing for all of your kids.

Celebrate the birthday of Baby Jesus. In our house, we make a birthday cake for Jesus as part of Christmas dinner, and, yes, you can light candles and sing Happy Birthday. Other families we know sing the song in the morning before opening presents. Still others have a crèche inside and make a big deal of placing Baby Jesus in the crib that morning.

Be Web-savvy. Explore Catholic websites for more ideas. Our personal favorites are and the Advent and Christmas workshops at Find one or two new ideas that will work for your family and make those part of your Christmas preparation.

Happy Advent!

Tom and Caroline McDonald are the parents of five children,

from a toddler to teens. They teach high school and are

the family-life ministers for their parish in Mobile, Alabama.

Image courtesy of Archdiocese of Denver.


Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.