Amid the planning, stresses and anxieties that often accompany the weeks leading up to Christmas, young adult Catholics paused for a day of reflection aimed at “Winning Back Advent” as society bustles with shopping, decorating, scheduling get-togethers and planning meals.
Hosted by the Diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, the Advent gathering on Saturday, December 3 offered a daylong retreat of sorts at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg, with time for spiritual refreshment, camaraderie, mutual support, meals and games.
Following Morning Prayer and the Rosary, the young adults heard a reflection from Bishop Ronald Gainer, who asked them, “Apart from our liturgy, does Advent really exist?”
“The season of expectation and waiting has been gobbled up by society,” the bishop said. “The disappearances of Advent from our daily lives prompts us to ask what we can do to win it back.”
“Advent calls us to be aware and alert to how Jesus touches our lives today…and to focus our minds and hearts on awaiting for Him to come in glory,” he said.
At a time when the stresses of the season can cause us to lose hope, there are three figures who can accompany us on our Advent journey, the bishop said: John the Baptist, Isaiah and the Blessed Mother, “three figures of hope” who “knew the blessedness of the unquestionable acceptance of the will of God.”
Small-group discussion, a Holy Hour and the celebration of Mass provided attendees with time to focus on the Eucharistic Lord and his presence in their lives today, even as they await His arrival at Christmas.
Monica Burke Jeffrey, a native of St. Joseph Parish in Danville and a current adjunct teacher at Christendom College, presented a reflection on having hope even in the midst of disappointment and grief.
“Advent can be a time when we experience some of life’s biggest disappointments, especially if we’re grieving the loss of someone who is no longer with us,” she said. “How do we deal with this, especially during a season of hope?”
“Hope as a Christian virtue is not hope in this world, but rather hope in the next,” she said. “It’s not the conviction that we’ll get what we want in this life, but the reality that life with Jesus Christ cannot be taken away from us.”
“When we are disappointed, when we don’t receive the good things we ask for, God calls us to take up the sufferings of Christ as an opportunity for merit, so that we can live with Him forever – and that is our ultimate hope,” she said.
The day of reflection also connected various young adult groups throughout the Diocese with one another and with the Diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said Zack Haney, it’s director. It was one among many planned events to engage and cultivate relationships among Catholic young adults.
Jordan Mayers, an attendee from St. John the Baptist Parish in New Freedom, told The Witness, “Building community for young adults in the Catholic Church is something I feel is lacking in our Diocese, and events like these are a great way to remedy that.”
She said the day of reflection offered what she was hoping to find: “a day to unplug from the busyness of the Christmas season and focus on the fruits of the season of Advent. I was also looking forward to the opportunity to interact with young adults from across the Diocese and build the Catholic community in the area.”
“The message of hope stood out to me most of all,” said Mayers, 24. “Bishop Gainer spoke about how hope is the virtue of Advent. The season of Advent is a time of preparation, anticipation and excitement. As we prepare for the coming of Christ, we should place our hope in Him to restore and fulfill us. As the bishop said, God wants us to hope for big things. If we put our trust in Him and remain hopeful this Advent, our hopes in Christ are secured.”
Caleb Albright of St. Patrick Parish in York said he found the day to be a beneficial experience, especially on the meaning of Advent.
“I left the event reflecting mostly on the parts of the presentations that had to do with the nature of waiting during Advent, and how waiting for Our Lord’s return is not a passive action, but one full of spiritual preparation,” he said.
“As a recent convert, it was helpful to have a deeper understanding of what Advent is,” Albright said. “I look forward to attending more events within the Diocese and would recommend others to do the same.”
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness