Deborah Stollery, Special to The Catholic Virginian

It’s Dec. 6 already!  Egads. Time is flying, but Advent has just begun. Perhaps these prayers, inspired by this blessed season and those that follow from the Octave of Christmas, will be just one of many doors to the holy during this season.

I love this quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: “Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man.  Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely the memory of the God who became a child.  This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so it can discern the star of hope…

“It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and this to open doors of hope.”

With that in mind, may our liturgical year open the doors to hope.

Dec. 6: Feast of St. Nicholas. It brings us the story of the “real” Santa Claus, distributing gold coins in the shoes of poor children, and a question:  

What can we give that fits inside a shoe? 

St. Nicholas, inspire us we pray, to give others our time, in open hearts, in ears attuned and with our full attention.

Dec. 12: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is celebrated during the second week of Advent. She’s a constant reminder to us that all of the giving we do now in charity and in all the work we do for justice, we must remember to correct the reasons others need charity. This becomes an apt expression of her Son’s preferential option for the poor.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us as we seek to order our giving using your Son’s heart for those most in need. 

Dec. 13: Memorial of St. Lucy, virgin and martyr. In Sweden, St. Lucia’s crown of candles is the symbol of the festival of lights. The day is short, the darkness long. We yearn for light.

St. Lucia, pray for us, that we might be light in the darkness of this troubled world.

Dec. 20: Annunciation.   Today’s a great day to spend time with Mary: bewildered, amazed, open, fighting her fears but ever-willing.  

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us that we too might choose a courageous response to your Son’s call to follow him.

Dec. 25: Nativity of the Lord.  I return to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s notion that the purpose of the liturgical year is “to awaken the heart’s memory so it can discern the star of hope…”  The heart’s memory:  of safety, of love, of purpose, of joy, of hope.  

Lord Jesus, as we remember your birth, enlighten our hearts with your mission of bringing joy, love and hope to a world darkened by hatred and division.

Dec. 26: Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr.  St. Stephen vigorously defended his faith in Jesus Christ before a rabbinic court, enraging his Jewish audience. That rage led to his stoning death. It is the willingness to die in ser- vice to Jesus’ message that the Church places on the day after the Nativity of the Lord.  

St. Stephen, pray for us that we might all have the courage to stand with Jesus Christ in these often hostile times.  Pray for all those Christians who have lost their lives while standing firm in their faith.

Dec. 27:  Feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist. Yes, this is the John of the fourth book of the Gospel, a leading figure in the early Church in Jerusalem!  The Church sees the willingness to die for the kingdom Jesus’ birth ushers in as a first implication of the Incarnation. She sees the call to share this Good News of God-with-us as the second.

St. John the Divine, pray for us that we might have your zeal, your courage and your commitment to Jesus, proclaiming his message from the housetops.

Dec. 28: Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs.   For a second time in the days immediately following the Nativity of the Lord, our Church turns our attention to those who have died because of their connection to Jesus.  Also called Childermas, this day we remember Herod’s slaughter of male babies in an attempt to rid himself of a threat to his power, and we remember all the innocent children who unjustly die at the hands of the powerful.

All you Holy Innocents, pray for us that we might never forget the little ones around our world who suffer and die at the hands of the mighty.  Pray for us, that we might have long memories and a commitment to bring hope.

Dec. 30: Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It’s tempting to pietize this feast, to focus on those images of a newborn and his parents, already with halos. But our Church places this feast within the Octave of Christmas to remind us that to follow Jesus is to become part of a pilgrim family, one persecuted, migrant and poor.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us that we might become the family of God the world needs to see now: willing to follow God’s ways, even to our own detriment, that peace, justice, joy and hope might dawn upon our world.

Jan. 1: Octave Day of Christmas —  Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  Once again our Church turns our attention to Mary, known as “God-bearer” to the world.  She surrendered her life to do God’s will.  

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Pray that we might always walk with Jesus, committed to bringing His glad tidings to all the world.

May the healing memory of God-with-us awaken hope across our world!

Deborah Stollery is part of the ConSpirita Consulting Network, LLC. Originally written for the Diocese of Richmond’s Office of Faith Formation, this article is used with her permission. Deborah.stollery