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Something new to me is how intentional Catholics are about the marking of time. Obviously, every part of our lives should be oriented toward serving God, but the Catholic Church provides very tangible ways. From prayers at certain times of the day to Liturgical seasons, there are so many beautiful ways to observe the passage of time in an intentional way within Catholic tradition.
During Advent, it is tempting to jump right into pre-Christmas preparations, but as Christians, we should strive to observe this season. It is a season of joyful anticipation for the coming of our Lord, Jesus.During Advent, it is tempting to jump right into pre-Christmas preparations, but as Christians, we should strive to observe this season. Click To Tweet
As someone who was in college recently and is now laying the foundation for a family with my husband, I’ve been seeking ways we can incorporate Liturgical Living into our lives, especially with Advent. There are so many great ideas for Advent, but I’ve found that a lot of this advice is directed towards families. So how should a single person or a couple that doesn’t have children celebrate Advent? Here are some of my ideas.
Make a small sacrifice.
Though Advent technically* isn’t a penitential season in the Latin rite, making sacrifices helps us grow in virtue. We often limit sacrifices to Lent, but with the right purpose and practice, these can help us grow in holiness year round. It can be something as simple as abstaining from meat on Fridays (which we are technically supposed to be doing year-round anyways), fasting, or giving up something. Remember, the sacrifice shouldn’t be you cutting out something sinful; the purpose of making a sacrifice is to give up something good or neutral to orient yourself towards God.
*If you’re curious about the concept of Advent being considered a little Lent, you can read apologist Jimmy Akin’s response, a mini-research project on a blog called “The Roman Sacristan,” and a post about a practice in the Eastern Church called The Nativity Fast.
Add a new spiritual practice.
Have you been meaning to start the Liturgy of the Hours? Want to read the Gospel every day? Think you should attend a Mass outside of the Sunday obligation? Advent is a great time to start. While we ideally would be starting these things whenever, there are benefits to starting new goals at a specific time. As the start of the Liturgical year, Advent could be a great time to start something new.
The key is to pick something realistic. If you try to do everything at once, you’ll likely wind up discouraged when you don’t check every box off the list. Pray and decide on one thing you can do to grow closer to God.
Here are two free reflections that get sent to your inbox:
If you’re looking for a solid study Bible, this is the one I use.
Here is the Shorter Christian Prayer book my husband uses.
Don’t listen to Christmas music on the radio.
Though it’s pretty difficult to avoid Christmas music altogether, when you have control of the music, find something else to listen to. You could listen to Relevant Radio or some Catholic podcasts (I recommend Among the Lilies, Catholic Stuff You Should Know or Letters to Women). Some options on Spotify are The Catholic News Agency’s Advent playlist, this instrumental Advent album, or the Advent playlist I made. Even better, you could turn some of that time into silence.
Perform Works of Mercy
Not too long ago, the Mass readings reminded us that we must live our faith through good works. As we prepare for the coming of Christ, we have a great opportunity to love like Christ. These are the lists and recommendations for Corporal Works of Mercy and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Not So Formulaic has a great printable Advent Calendar with Works of Mercy.As we prepare for the coming of Christ, we have a great opportunity to love like Christ. Click To Tweet
Find a way to be charitable with a Christmas spin.
This kind of goes along with the one above, but if you’re itching to get in the Christmas spirit, there are ways you can orient your works of service in that direction. Some churches will have giving trees where you can purchase a gift for a child in need. Some companies offer opportunities to “adopt” a family for Christmas. Different organizations collect toys, necessities, or money during the holiday season (although be cautious of to whom you donate). All these are ways to bring the “Christmas spirit” to your Advent giving.
If you’re tight on money, team up with some friends to go in for something together.
Another option is learning to crochet. I know this sounds a little crazy, but if you don’t have a lot of money, crocheting is a relatively cheap way to create value out of a low budget. You can get a large amount of yarn for a small price (especially because most places that accept donated yarn items prefer acrylic yarn). Crocheting is a great way to relieve stress, and there are plenty of resources online for learning to crochet.
Pray for the people you are getting gifts for/ sending Christmas cards to.
It’s pretty difficult to avoid the flurry of Christmas cards and gifts during Advent, and these things aren’t inherently bad. Giving gifts joyfully can be a good way to honor Christ. The problem arises when these become the center of your attention. A way you can keep Christ at the center even if you’re wrapping gifts or frantically addressing cards.
If you don’t send cards, consider making a list of people you would send cards to and pray for them instead.Your prayer can be an incredible gift for someone even if they don’t know that you’re doing so.
Celebrate a feast day.
Find a saint’s feast day and put in the effort to recognize it. Make a slightly more special meal, find a reflection for the saint, and pray. These small efforts are a great way to “meet” new saints and to learn more about the holy men and women within our rich Christian tradition. Here is a list of the feast days in December.
Do a Jesse Tree.
I hadn’t heard of a Jesse tree until last year when I was looking for ideas for my first grade faith formation class. There are some beautiful options out there. If you’re tight on money, I recommend this printable set from To Jesus, Sincerely. It comes with all the ornaments plus explanations of the symbols and a short prayer. The nice thing about the printables is you can make them on cardstock so they’re sturdier or you could print them on printer paper so they can just be taped to your wall.
Use an Advent Wreath.
This is one of the first things someone thinks of when it comes to Advent, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Though there are some beautiful options you can purchase (this is the holder and candle set Ben and I have), but you can also make one on your own. Even if you can’t have real candles, there are battery-powered Advent candles.
Here are some prayer/ reflection ideas you can use when you light the candles each Sunday:
Center Christmas plans around Mass and Jesus.
Attending Mass should be your number one priority. Keep in mind when you’re planning your holiday visits that you have an obligation for both Sunday and Christmas. There’s no “double-dipping.” Kirby from Under Thy Roof made a very helpful graphic to break down all the options.
You should also keep Mass in mind as you’re planning meals so you have time for the Eucharistic fast. Christmas is a great time to invite family members to Mass if they haven’t attended in a while. Think about elderly neighbors or family members who may need a ride to Mass. Brainstorm ways you can orient your focus on December 25 towards our Savior.
What liturgical practices will you include during your Advent?