Mary Vlazny
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Advent, the prelude to The Greatest Story Ever Told! Many of us are old enough to remember that movie, but it is today’s generations that I see living by faith now. It is my challenge to seriously pray hard for their future. Advent’s prophets help me if I am attentive – Isaiah’s vision of the peaceable Kingdom, St Nicolas’ generosity to the poor, John the Baptist’s plea to stay awake and attentive, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s care for all peoples, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth’s life leaping for joy anticipating Jesus! The other prophets that lead me are those members of my family that have shaped my view of what makes the season blessed.

My Dad would take me with him when the Knights of Columbus would hand out toys to kids whose families could not afford Christmas gifts. We would also take meals to our elderly aunt and uncle who still lived on the farm. We were a bright spot in a very dreary, lonely living situation. Even though my aunt mainly fretted, lamentations are a part of life that allowed us to participate in her suffering. Did I enjoy that part, not so much, especially as a child. But I also remember the promise that Advent brought to me, the promise of great joy, candle by candle, week by week, brighter as we came closer to Christmas. I was confused as a child about the lack of Christmas decorations and songs at church when the outside world was swirling with lights and tinsel. As an adult, I have explored and now understand some of the mystery of Advent… Stay awake, pay attention to the needs of the world which waits for my response here with my faith community and outside the Church doors after Mass. Where will I see Jesus?

I have been profoundly shaped by the people with whom I have worshipped, served, laughed and cried, celebrated new life and life eternal here in this faith community. Generations of witnesses of belonging by which I am gifted. Gifted by years of building relationships through serving together! Now I am seeing new generations of young people participating in Adopt A Family and other giving and serving opportunities. They tell me how much they enjoy buying gifts for their adopted person, and shopping together, and buying for others before they buy anything for each other!

I look back and see the witnesses of belonging, but I look forward with Hope because of the way I see people caring for and helping others experience joy. This can be in offering gifts that give life and don’t take a toll on our common home…special food, shopping local, giving time together, donating to nonprofits in someone’s honor, or fair trade and sustainable gifting. Preparing our gifts, we can cut waste and have fun with re-usable wrapping; a basket, a special bag, recyclable decorated bags. Food is often the center of our celebrations, food that is special and wonderful. These foods can also be local, sustainable, organic, or fair trade.

Our Advent anticipation and our Christmas celebrations can incorporate simplicity and participation in preparations. There are simple ways of building relationships in conversations as we are building something, or playing cards, checkers, or another game. We may watch videos and music that uplift, tell a story, show a wonderous part of our world, make us laugh with each other and cry together. There are probably seasonal story books that we read together and share a message of caring and belonging. Simply sending a card or a call to someone who may need to hear from you speaks of the community of Advent and hope.

How many ways can I allow the wisdom of the Saints of Advent, and the saints of my life, to create a reality of life and joy for others?

Mary Vlazny
Director of Social Action