Peace and Preparedness: Young Adult Evening of Reflection with the Sisters of Life
As I’ve gotten older, the seasons of the Church seem to be sneaking up on me more and more. Each time Lent, Easter, Advent, or Christmas come around, I say to myself, “I can’t believe it’s already *insert liturgical season here*.” The beginning of this Advent season was no exception; in fact, the sensation of surprise and — from another perspective, perhaps — unpreparedness, was more pronounced than ever. Now, I do have some admittedly valid reasons for this, having recently experienced several positive yet preoccupying changes in my life. However, part of me felt like I had missed something, that I had perhaps not stopped long enough to truly realize that Christmas was well on its way.
I had the opportunity to attend the recent Young Adult Evening of Reflection at St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills, which was hosted by the Sisters of Life. If you aren’t already aware, the Sisters of Life are an order of religious women dedicated to advocacy for the sacredness of human life. As their website’s “Who We Are” page states so beautifully, they are “captivated by the truth of the beauty of every human person, created in God’s image and likeness.” I had heard of the Sisters of Life before, but I had yet to encounter any of them in person. After sharing dinner with all of us gathered in the gym of St. John the Apostle Catholic School, Sister Mary Grace, SV, gave the reflection. I felt that it spoke very much to the way I had been feeling regarding my “Advent surprise syndrome.”
The central theme of Sr. Mary Grace’s reflection was the recognition of peace as a person and, following from this recognition, how we should prepare to welcome peace into our lives. This is a greatly evocative way for us to visualize the meaning of the Advent season, which is not merely one long in-drawing of breath in nervous anticipation of Christmas. Rather, Advent, like its counterpart Lent, is a penitential season (hence the violet and rose vestments), wherein we are meant to occupy ourselves with contemplation and self-examination, much like how one inspects and cleans every surface in the house when anticipating friendly company. This understanding also correlates well with the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Advent, on which the night of reflection took place. The reading recounts the preaching of John the Baptist, quoting the well-known injunction of Isaiah: “A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3).
However, we certainly don’t always manage to clear out every cobweb or sweep up every speck of dust. Sr. Mary Grace touched on this aspect as well, drawing a comparison between the stable and manger where Jesus was born to the condition of our souls. Even though we are fallen, and our souls may sometimes resemble unkempt and unclean sheds, God still desires to dwell within us. In fact, our imperfections, whatever they may be, draw us closer to God in the end, as we are forced to recognize our utter dependence on Him. My generation would benefit greatly by taking this truth to heart.
Fittingly, the evening concluded with a holy hour in the church sanctuary. This prayerful time was made all the more poignant by another one of sister’s earlier reminders, that the spiritual state of praise, of worshipping the God who created us and sustains us this very moment, is the default state of all created things. With this in mind, as I walked into the sanctuary and saw the monstrance displayed on the altar, it felt more like a return than an arrival. Here, I believe, can be found a remedy to any feelings of unpreparedness we may experience during the liturgical year, be it Advent or Lent. If we continually hold in our minds the reality of our place in God’s creation, and His continual willing of our existence, then we would never feel ourselves to be truly unprepared. We would always be in a state of receptiveness, of readiness to welcome Him whenever He may come.