SOUTH BEND – Christmas card list: Check. Cards ordered: Check. Christmas presents: Check. Christmas dinner planned: Check.
People get so bogged down preparing for the holidays with gifts, food and cards that it’s easy to forget about spiritual preparation. One way to start preparing for the Christmas season is by going to reconciliation during Advent.
“Canon law requires that we go to confession at least once a year, or whenever we’re in a state of mortal sin: but whenever people ask me how often they should go I always answer, ‘As often as you need to,’ said Father Stephen Lacroix, pastor at Christ the King Parish in South Bend. “Confession is this tremendous gift that Jesus left us. He knows that we sin, but He gives us a way to reconcile with Him, over and over again, as often as we need it.
“It’s amazing how often you see people leave the confessional as if a big weight has been lifted off of their shoulders, especially if it’s been awhile since they received the sacrament. There’s something about saying those sins out loud and hearing those words ‘I absolve you of your sins’ with our own ears. It helps us to really accept that forgiveness and move forward like nothing else can.”
Becoming reconciled with Christ through a penance service is also a way to concentrate one’s focus on the great gift from God that is His Son, Jesus.
“Just as a parent readies the expectant newborn’s nursery with fresh paint, clean or new carpet, a crib washed clean from previous use, and so on, why not do the same to prepare for the newborn Jesus, who comes to us once again and repeatedly, through the celebration of the seasons of the Church year?” stated Father John Delaney, pastor at St. Jude and Sacred Heart of Jesus parishes in South Bend.
Part of what Christians do during Advent is to prepare a place in their hearts to welcome the Lord when He comes. “When we receive a guest into our home for Christmas, we clean it up as much as we can, as a sign of how much we love that guest and how glad we are to welcome them. Confession helps clean out our souls so that we can welcome Jesus with the greatest possible joy, without our sins hanging over our heads and dampening the celebration,” commented Lacroix.
Once that has happened, continue the preparation with other forms of outreach and participation, “as with the advice Jesus Himself gives — through works of charity and almsgiving; addressing the needs of the poor or poor-of-heart, such as nursing home patients, the homebound and the recently bereaved,” shared Delaney.
Prayer is a very important part of Advent preparation, added Lacroix.
“There’s so much busyness going on in the secular world in the weeks before Christmas that it can be difficult to prepare. That’s why carving out some quiet time in prayer — whether liturgical prayer in church, family prayer, or personal prayer — is so important in maintaining our focus during our Advent preparation. Works of service to the less fortunate also are really important, since Jesus promised us that we encounter Him in the faces of the poor.
“Finally,” he said, “I think that doing our secular preparations with great love is important. This is a time of year when people can feel stressed out because they feel pressure to do too much and spend too much. Simple things like praying for a person while you’re buying their gift, or thanking God for the people who are about to come over to your house, can transform our attitude and transform some of these secular preparations into real acts of love.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.