By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
The world today may seem filled with uncertainty and division, grief and loss, but Advent offers Christians and all humankind a sign of hope and joy, said Sister Jeanie Hagedorn, CHM. Advent, the Latin word for coming, is “a much-needed reminder to our world that light follows darkness, love overcomes hate, and life lives within each of us. … Like Mary, we are called to bring it to birth in our time.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops describes the mother of God as a model of perfect discipleship. She embraces God’s will and freely chooses to cooperate with God’s grace, thereby fulfilling a crucial role in God’s plan of salvation.
Each year, the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport takes time to honor St. Mary and to contemplate her connection to the Advent season. “The Sisters of Humility claim Mary and her Magnificat as their ‘model for loving and humble response to God’s call,’” said Sister Mary Rehmann, CHM.
On Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the sisters renew their vows and reflect on Mary’s grace and humility, especially in saying “Yes” to carrying the son of God in her womb. “Mary is our model of total surrender to God. Even without understanding, even, likely, fearing the unknown, Mary accepted, even welcomed the invitation of the Holy One,” Sister Hagedorn said. “Mary could have said no to (being) Jesus’ mother, but she chose to say yes,” said Sister Delphine Vasquez, CHM. “Her role in this time of Advent is to live that yes by nurturing the life she chose.”
“I cannot even begin to imagine the joy, bewilderment and anticipation Mary was experiencing during the Advent season as she prepared to give birth to the Son of God,” said Sister Dolores Schuh, CHM.
By emulating Mary’s trust and love for God, Catholics can learn to say “Yes” to God’s call to love others, the way her son, Jesus, did. “Our ‘Yes’ can also bring love to life,” Sister Hagedorn said.
To bring God’s love to life, Catholics can emulate Mary’s grace and humility as they approach the Advent season, focusing on God’s presence and direction as they go about their daily lives, Sister Hagedorn continued. “I imagine Mary entering each day as a normal Jewish girl with chores to do, places to go (getting water from the well, for example), people to see, all the while living her deep faith in God as the center of all she was and did. She recognized ‘God already with us’ and responded in selfless service to those in need,” Sister Hagedorn said. This included traveling “difficult” roads during the early months of her pregnancy to accompany her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also facing an unexpected pregnancy.
Mary teaches us “to live our normal, everyday lives doing our best at work, play, relationships, in the ordinariness of our days … all as an active prayer of love. And Mary’s quiet, intimate time with her God inspires us to make a priority in our days for quiet prayerful listening, contemplating the God within while we wait for ‘the Word,’” Sister Hagedorn said.
That can be tough to do with the distractions of the holiday season. “In our busy, noisy lives it is easy to get drawn into all the busyness surrounding us. Especially during the final weeks of pre-Christmas rush, the constant commercials, expectations to shop, decorate, send Christmas greetings, and other consuming activities, we need Advent,” Sister Hagedorn said. During Advent, “when we are in the midst of the rush of responding to the many activities that we find ourselves caught in,” we take time out for a day of quiet to reflect on some theme of the season,” noted Sister Joanne Kuebrich. For this, the community selects one Sunday during Advent to participate in an Advent retreat on-site. “We usually invite a speaker to give us a reflection on an Advent theme.”
Sister Hagedorn said the Advent season “reminds us to listen less to the noise without and more to the still quiet voice within. We Christians need the Advent season to remind us to slow down, relearn the need for quiet, patient waiting, and the joy of anticipation.”
Ultimately, St. Mary teaches us to love and trust God so completely that “we, too, learn to respond with our own ‘Yes.’ With Mary’s ‘Yes,’ God’s love entered the world. … Now it’s our turn. A suffering world awaits our response.”