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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
November 20, 1987     The Message
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November 20, 1987

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Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of November 1987 Evansville, 2O, I A creative family Advent By Neil Parent NC News Service utside of grace at meals, we don't seem to be able to pray much as a family," said a mother par- ticipating in a parish discussion group. Understanding heads nod- ded in agreement. Prayer was the evening's topic and the mother's remarks strirred lively conversation. It wasn't long before amusing stories began to surface about how one's own parents had made heroic attempts at introducing family prayer, such as the rosary and novenas, only to have them somehow self-destruct. Still, the memories of those occa- sions appeared warm, even when they went awry. Family prayer undoubtedly is difficult today. The pressures on modern families are such that they are fortunate if they can gather regularly to say grace at meals. Still, much can be done, particular- ly when some creative thought is given to utilizing the liturgical seasons. Advent's arrival Offers a good opportunity to pray as a family. Frequently Advent becomes either a holding pattern for Christmas or it focuses too narrowly on decora- tions, Advent calendars and the like. The true meaning of Advent is one of expectation, of longing, of hoping and praying ff)r the coming of God's reign in peace and justice. It is the dark before the dawn of the Son of God. One family I know observes the feast of St. Nicholas Dec. 6. The saint's life is retold by the parents with special emphasis on him as a gift giver. The gift giving is described as a foretaste of the joy and peace that is to come with the birth of the Messiah. Thus, all are called to be "Nicholases"  givers of gifts that help bring peace and justice. All in the family are invited to pray for ways they can be better gift givers to,each other and to those outside the ;family. The celebration ends : with the exchange of small but ' thoughtful gifts. i ,, Another family uses a special i r,' prayer practice to observe Advent. : Early in the day, the mother in this family bakes bread. The rich aroma of baking bread is a signal to all that tonight before dinner there will be a special prayer. ) ,, When the family assembles for ,  ,dinner, the parents' wedding I chalice is first passed around the table empty. Each person prays in- to the chalice on one of the themes of Advent -- peace, justice, hope. The prayers fill the cup like spiritual drink. Then after everyone has prayed, grape juice is added and the cup is once again passed and drunk from. "The pressures on modern families are such that they are fortunate if they can gather regularly to say grace at meals. Still, much can be done..." Then the freshly baked bread is blessed and also passed. Because this prayer is so tactile, it is par- ticularly appealing to-the younger children. Another family prayer form for Advent involves bringing out a globe or world map and identify- ing a particular country or region that especially needs the healing presence of the Prince of Peace. The family spends time, either before meals or at other times, praying for the people of that area. A related technique is to have family members identify and pray about a person or a group of peo- ple whose situation was reported in the newspaper and who could benefit from the blessings of Jesus' coming. A family also may choose to view the evening news together and then spend a brief time after- ward talking about and praying for people or situations that need to experience the joy and peace of Christmas. Advent can be more than a prelude to Christmas. Advent prayer helps us not only prepare for Christ's coming. It also can be a means by which we wait and watch, hopefully, expectantly, with and for others. (Parent is on the staff of the U.S. Catholic Conference Depart- ment of Education.) . f/ Everyd By Jane Wolford Hughes NC News Service c a: a h rq h q l n the early morning light, the mountain climbers paused to adjust their ropes. As the climbers looked down, an eagle rose from a nest and flew off into s the canyon below. Their awe sl blended with nature's hush until L, Marion spontaneously broke the j( silence: "Praise God for the o wonders he gives us!" ,2, It was one of those moments -- n like the moment a child is born -- n when God seems visible and b prayer comes naturally. More tt common, Marion and I agreed, are rr the moments when God seems q invisible, t( Scripture advises people to "stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that q is to happen" (Luke 21:36). But fi what does it mean to "stay a awake"? How do people remain g, attentive to God's voice in a life. li of mostly ordinary days? " Tom begins his day with calisthenics. Ignoring the routine st and the sweat, he has a thoughtful a conversation with God at the " same time. A coach in an inner- city high school, he says, "I have o to keep my body in shape or the p kids will run over me. I need the f time with God or I can't be on cq top of the kids' problems." :u Gloria and Harry read a Scri] o ture passage each night and reflect on it, often together with their b4 Twisti By Father John Castelot a NC News Service TI , c( l ing Hezekiah was at death's door and in no m hurry to break it down. An II "K He "turned his face to bi thc wall and praycd to pl the l.ord" (Isaiah 38:2). m When Isaiah assured him that his prayer was answered, he gave heartfelt thanks: "You have given me health and life; thus is my bit- terness transformed into peace .... For it is not the nether world that gives you thanks .... The living, the living give'you thanks." "" re* Hezekiah's prayer, a sort of Tt "pious blackmail," is not uncom- to mon in the Bible. The petitioner says to God that if he dies, no one wins. For dead people (in the early Old Testament view) cannot thank God or give him praise. This "arm-twisting" to get God to give us what we want is still in vogue. And it is far from worth- less. For it does keep the lines of communication open. It is a kind of dialogue, perhaps III I _ -- fl ' v i ' q ,,, % ,,,, .......