Advent: a new church year begins

There won’t be any bottles of champagne uncorked or crowds of people gathered in New York’s Times Square to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” but a new year is beginning at midnight on Sunday, Nov. 30, and it calls people of faith to conversion of life just as surely as any New Year’s resolution made on Jan. 1.

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, which is the start of a new liturgical year in the Catholic Church. Unlike the celebration at the beginning of the calendar year, however, the church’s new year begins with a period of prayer and preparation.

“I believe that the church’s liturgical seasons provide wonderful opportunities for all of us to be newly converted, to be transformed, to delve more deeply into the mysteries of Jesus Christ. Advent is no exception,” said Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB, who offers spiritual direction at St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island and gives retreats at the Benedictine community’s Benet House Retreat Center there.

She said that during Advent she invites directees to allow God to be God and to let go of what is not of God in their lives.

“In this sense they are making a new effort, turning the corner in their lives,” she said. “I guess one could say they are encouraged to make a ‘New Year’s resolution.'”

She also recommended food for the soul: prayer and daily Mass, when possible.

“We have to trust that God is hearing us today,” Sister Catherine said. “There is a little bit of panic and anxiety (about the economy). We have to take a deep breath in and trust in the Lord.”

The rosary is a good meditation for Advent, especially the Joyful Mysteries, Father Dominic Garramone, OSB, told The Post.

“They figure so prominently in the liturgies,” he said, adding that he considers them to be mysteries of vocation.

“That’s how Mary and Joseph begin to understand what their vocation is, through the course of these readings,” Father Dominic explained. “Little by little it is revealed to them what their vocations will be. God is calling them in unexpected ways.”

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