In the first reading for the first Sunday of Advent, Isaiah prays, “O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” How many of us don’t feel like clay in need of molding by God in this time of an ongoing, life-altering pandemic? Who are we as people of faith today? What are we called to do?
Retired St. Ambrose University professor Corinne Winter writes in her editorial on this page that the season of Advent calls us to find hope within the darkness. Her words bear repeating to help us avoid becoming lost in the darkness of despair, loneliness and isolation that are byproducts of the pandemic and our current political climate. We find hope in the darkness by placing ourselves in the hands of God, allowing God to mold us to respond to the needs of others as well as our own.
Our molding begins in prayer, both individual and communal prayer. A deacon in our diocese said that in this time of pandemic, he realizes the importance of taking quiet time in prayer, to make sense of what is happening in our world and to stay focused on what he needs to focus on. He spoke during a virtual meeting of Vision 20/20 mentors, some of whom have begun participating in small, faith-sharing Emmaus groups, an initiative of the Diocese of Davenport open to all of the faithful.
Consider starting or participating in an Emmaus group with three other people with whom you could take a closer walk with Jesus. Who is God putting on your heart to reach out to? Consider any name that arrives on your heart. Then go to the diocesan website (www.davenportdiocese.org), click on the Emmaus icon, and download the Discipleship Quad materials, which are free. Familiarize yourself with the program and read recommendations on forming a group. Invite the people God placed on your heart and set up a time, place and format that makes everyone comfortable. Flexibility is just one of the attractive aspects of this faith-building initiative. While the starting date is flexible, Advent, which calls us to attentiveness of the threefold coming of our Triune God, provides the impetus to begin now.
Other prayer and faith building opportunities (individual or communal) include:
• The Catholic Messenger’s Advent 2020 calendar (see Pages 6-7).
• Free online retreats of Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat (https://tinyurl.com/y2e22k2e). The Prairie will present “Integrating Mary’s Magnificat” as a two-part retreat, the first session on Dec. 1 from 6:30-8 p.m. and the second on Dec. 8 from 6:30-8 p.m. An Advent Day of Reflection: Resting in God, Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “Come to the Quiet: Celebrating Divine Incarnation,” Dec. 8 from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
• Online presentation on Pope Francis’ new encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” by St. Ambrose University Professor Micah Kiel on Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Daily readings sent to your email every morning from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (sign up at https://tinyurl.com/y5btdsw2).
• Read the Bible. Try Luke’s Gospel during Advent. The Canticle of Mary and the Canticle of Zechariah contained in Luke’s Gospel are prayed daily in The Liturgy of the Hours, the latter during Morning Prayer and the former during Evening Prayer. Both canticles deserve our attention and meditation.
• The Liturgy of the Hours, the universal prayer of the church. Do a Google search to learn how to pray this inspiring form of prayer or other forms of prayer new to you, such as Lectio Divina.
• Pray the rosary or divine mercy chaplet.
Pope Francis said prayer “is a yearning that takes us beyond ourselves as we seek some ‘other.’ It is an ‘I’ in search of a ‘You.’ A Christian’s prayer, he added, begins with the revelation that the ‘You’ we seek is not shrouded in mystery. ‘Christianity is the religion that continually celebrates the ‘manifestation’ of God, His epiphany’” (Vatican News, May 13, 2020 General Audience).
We are the clay, and God is the potter; let our prayers make us malleable so that God can shape us into a people who will transform a world in crisis into one of renewal. That gives us hope.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor