Years before the General
Directory for Catechesis
was published, Dr. Maria Harris
talked about the community as catechist and the curriculum as everything
that goes on in the Churchs life. Maria tells us, The
Church does not have
an educational program; it is
an educational program (Fashion Me A People: Curriculum
in the Church
, Westminster/John Knox Press, p. 47). That means
that at this time of the year, Advent is our textbook and the whole
parish is our classroom.
Advent: When and what
The commercial world begins preparing
for Christmas in early fall, and celebrates Christmas all through
December, pulling the plug on the 25th. Thats not how we do
it in the Church. For us the Christmas season begins on the 25th
and goes on, just like the song says, for 12 daysand then
some! Advent, our season for getting ready, begins four Sundays
before the big day. It is a season for waiting and preparing. While
it anticipates the Christmas season it is not the Christmas season.
So how can we make this point in our ministry?
We make the point first of all
by not scheduling any parish Christmas parties before the 25th.
Encourage catechists and Catholic schoolteachers to involve their
youngsters in planning the parties during December but actually
to celebrate Christmas after winter break.
Better still, plan a big parish-wide
to happen during the break (the actual
Christmas season). Assign different grades various responsibilities:
making placemats and decorations, designing and sending invitations,
planning entertainment, etc. Teach adults and children about waiting
and preparing by spending Advent getting ready for the party. Bring
gifts to the party for folks in need and celebrate Christ in the
world by being Christ to others. It could be a good lesson for teachers
Finally, make a point to celebrate
Christmas as a parish at the appropriate time. Plan faculty or staff
Christmas parties for after the 25th. You might be surprised to
find people grateful for not scheduling one more thing during those
hectic pre-Christmas days. The atmosphere is more tranquil, and
it sure is easier to book a restaurant!
Throughout Advent set a tone of prayerful waiting
by gathering groups together for quiet reflection or active contemplation.
Decorate with the purple of the season, and encourage small acts
of penance by suggesting ways parishioners young and old can share
their time, talent and treasure with others. Most important, remember
to take time for yourself, to breathe in the season and enjoy this
time of quiet preparation and anticipation.