Retreat speaker urges faithful to call on Mary during journey through Advent
Advent can be a time of incredible grace with a little preparation, protection, participation and prayer, Father Adam Cesarek told those who attended a morning retreat planned by the Bishop’s Commission on Women in the Church and in Society. It took place last Saturday at St. Vincent de Paul in Peoria.
Father Cesarek’s theme was “Advent with Our Lady of Perpetual Help.” It turned out to be a perfect fit for the Bishop’s Commission on Women, whose patroness is Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
“I can talk about Mary all day long,” said the priest, who is parochial vicar at St. Mary, Pontiac; St. Joseph, Flanagan; St. Joseph, Chenoa; and St. Mary, Lexington. He added that the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has always meant something special to him because of the way Jesus is fleeing into the arms of Mary as he catches sight of the cross and nails.
“What do all children do when they’re afraid? They jump into their mother’s arms,” Father Cesarek said.
At the crucifixion Jesus makes Mary our mother, too, when he says to John, the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother.”
“She’s a means of drawing us closer to the Lord,” Father Cesarek said.
PROTECT TIME WITH GOD
For the first week of Advent, he suggested focusing on how we will prepare to receive Jesus at Christmas by preparing our hearts to love God (Sunday), Mary (Monday), our spouse (Tuesday), our children (Wednesday), our parish and community (Thursday), our friends (Friday), and those who are hard to love (Saturday).
The concept of preparation is not foreign, he said, since God prepared to enter into humanity from the beginning of time. Those plans included not just choosing Mary as his mother, but giving her Sts. Joachim and Anne for parents.
He also pointed out that the Angel Gabriel addressed Mary by saying, “Hail, full of grace.”
“Mary has been grace, is grace, and will always be grace. It’s not something that happened in that moment.”
Even the angels bow down to this woman, he said.
During the second week of Advent, Father Cesarek asked his listeners to consider how they would protect their relationships with God, Mary, spouse, children, parish, friends, and those who might be difficult to love.
Even though people want to avoid suffering and want to protect their loved ones from it, some suffering is bound to occur and can lead to the joy of resurrection, Father Cesarek said.
“God transforms suffering,” he explained. “This is what turned the worst event in the history of the world into the greatest event in the history of the world.”
He encouraged them to look at how they can protect their time with God, saying he considers his Holy Hour as an appointment with God, and “It would be rude to break an appointment with God.”
To deepen our spiritual life, we must address our brokenness. Without sanctifying grace in the soul, our prayer life cannot be as strong as it could be, Father Cesarek said.
The third week of Advent would be a good time for the sacrament of reconciliation — looking at those areas of our life that we don’t want to look at, and letting Jesus lift them up, he told his listeners.
Father Cesarek added that it’s impossible to live Christianity on our own — we need the community.
Prayer takes center stage during the fourth week of Advent on Father Cesarek’s Advent calendar, which means growing in faith. Many are still living the faith of their youth, he said.
“We can’t love things we don’t know. Once we know them we love them and want to know more,” Father Cesarek said. “We need to be excited about knowing Christ.”
Ellen Ehrgott of Rushville, who chairs the Bishop’s Commission on Women, thanked people for coming and asked them to take what they had heard back to their families and friends to make this Advent a joyful one.
Lisa Diefendorf of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights said she intended to do just that.
“I felt so overwhelmed,” she said. “I thought this is what I need to make Advent and Christmas more meaningful.”