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Advent Expressions of Faith

Fr. Rick Walsh, CSP
December 15, 2023

I enjoy reading books and watching programs that impart information of old customs and traditions from various cultures. Our own Advent season has a rich history of unique traditions particularly in those countries and regions that were predominantly Catholic.

I have a small book in my library by a Jesuit, Fr. Francis X. Weiser called “Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs”. In this small book, Fr. Weiser shares a tradition that has variations depending upon the country.

The customs involve honoring Mary and Joseph. Years past, in Central and  South America, the nine days before Christmas included a popular novena in honor of the baby Jesus called “La Novena del Nino”. The nine days of prayer and carol singing were held in local churches which had a designated area dedicated to the nativity complete with all the figurines with the exception of the baby Jesus (who arrived on Christmas Eve) and the three kings (who made their appearance known on January 6).

After each novena prayer service, the children would go outside and light firecrackers and bottle rockets in the streets expressing their delight at the approach of Christmas.

Germany has brought us many seasonal treats and customs. We think of the Advent wreath, the Advent calendar, Advent and Christmas carols (Stille Nacht, O Tannenbaum) wooden nutcracker figurines, stollen and other tasty treats, and of course the Christmas tree.

But there was also a novena of sorts there too called “Josephstragen” (Carrying St. Joseph) that involved having one boy carry a statue of St. Joseph from the local Church to his home on the first night. There he and his family would offer prayers in honor of the saint. The next night, a boy from the next home to receive the statue joined the first boy in processing from the first home to his family. Each evening, the number of boys grew until the evening of December 24 when they were joined by nine girls, each dressed in white, who joined the nine boys in bringing the statue through the town to the Church where they helped put up the Christmas crib.

It makes me wonder whether in our own time, in our unique situation with virtual gatherings, if we could perhaps create some 21st century worship experiences that connect us over the internet home to home.

Maybe you’d be interested in helping the Paulist Center create such prayerful, communal expressions of faith, not just in Advent, but throughout the year?

Let me know.

Fr. Rick