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32: In God’s Mysterious Timing, Part 2

This week, we continue with our special edition of TOB Tuesdays with Part 2 of Katrina’s experience of the death of her father.  We’ve included the ending paragraph from last week so as to pick up where she left off.


But there was another mysterious element that didn’t yet make sense to me. After my father’s death, I felt more anchored, more emotionally intact and integrated. This was the polar opposite of what I had anticipated. I’d expected to feel emotionally fragmented, as if I’d lost a gaping piece of myself. A dozen times a day I was hearing, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but I wasn’t feeling loss. Could it be that I was in denial, that I was refusing to feel loss?

On October 2, Feast of the Guardian Angels, God’s timing lifted my own interior veil and allowed me to see what was occurring within me: my deep, healthy attachment bond with my father hadn’t ended at death, but only changed. In fact, it had deepened. I wasn’t feeling loss because I was still bonded deeply, irrevocably, to my father. I felt his presence more consistently, not less. Sure, I couldn’t call or text him, but I could converse with him any time or in any place. He was more accessible to me in eternity not less.

Then, it dawned on me – this was the same experienced I’d had with the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and my mother in 2013. Again, I had expected both of these events to cause devastation and deep grief in my interior. Instead, after only a few days of grieving, I experienced a new spring in my step, a new quality of relatedness to John Paul II and to my Mom. Their legacy lived within me and continued through me. And now, with my father’s death, the third time was the charm: I understood that my deep attachment bonds with both Pope John Paul II and my mother also didn’t end at death, but were strengthened. I was experiencing in a profound way what up to that point had only been words on a page – I was experiencing a love stronger than death.

In his Theology of the Body, to which my life is dedicated, St. John Paul II devotes a short section to the book of Tobit and particularly to this concept of a love stronger than death. I’d studied it. I’d even taught on it. Now I understood it from the inside out. A love stronger than death conquers death not because somehow we willfully decide to keep the memory of our loved ones alive, but because the bond of eros, the bond of deep attachment love, is not extinguished by death.

For the ancient Greeks, eros moved the stars and the universe, and it was eternal. This same powerful movement of love has the capacity to bond parent and child, husband and wife, friend and friend, God and each believer in a way that is permanent and irrevocable. This is the kind of bonded love I shared with Pope John Paul II, who placed his hand on my forehead and personally blessed me in 1992. In that blessing, he imparted a portion of his spirit to me and placed the seed of my future TOB mission within me.

It was also the kind of bonded love I shared individually with my mother and my father – and the initial attachment bond I was granted by holding my newborn granddaughter. No wonder I had so strongly desired to be at Sutton’s birth and at my father’s bedside for his death. I somehow instinctively knew that these would be bonding moment.

What an incredible relief these insights provided! I could stop cross-examining myself for a lack of feeling loss and drink deeply of this new sense of security in being loved and still known by the three most significant adults in my life. What a joy to know that passing through the veil into eternity didn’t end my healthy attachment bonds but liberated and consolidated them within me. I now have my own special human “trinity” in eternity of St. John Paul II, my Mom, and my Dad interceding on my behalf for the legacy and mission each of them has formed in me. Moreover, I have taken one giant step forward in being able to say, “Lord, I trust your timing!” and maybe, some day, I’ll be able to say with full conviction, “Lord, I love your timing!”

But, there was more! I also realized that my experience of minor amounts of grief at the passing of my parents is not the norm. I am certainly not implying that my experience of death is the paradigm for how every person should experience the death of a loved one. Many unusual factors were involved in each of these deaths: they all involved an attachment bond that had matured over the course of years so as to be solid and secure, and they each had a significant period of grieving before the person’s death.

Most especially, though, each situation involved a specific experience of new life paired with death. Upon the announcement of Pope John Paul II’s death, I immediately sensed in my spirit, “Now my life begins!” His death infused my life with new significance and my TOB mission with new power. My mother’s death occurred just five days before Michael and Morgan’s wedding. Her death is thus inextricably linked with the beginning of their new life together. And, of course, my father’s death occurred a mere 12 days after the birth of Michael and Morgan’s first child, again uniting the gift of new life with the gift of death. As a result, death as loss doesn’t dominate these memories in my mind but is balanced by the sweetness of new life.

Additionally, as mentioned above, the death of my Mom, Dad, and Pope John Paul II had been anticipated in its own way. None of their deaths were a surprise nor were they premature. Each had lived a long, full, and very meaningful life that had been a source of life for me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We were deeply bonded, and I harbored no regrets. I share my experience of these three significant deaths with the hope that it can illuminate the possibility of experiencing death as the joyful culmination of a long and fruitful life, and even, as a gift.

©by Katrina J. Zeno, MTS

31: In God’s Mysterious Timing, Part 1

This week, we post Part 1 of a Special Edition of TOB Tuesdays where Katrina reflects on the recent birth of her first grandchild followed by the death of her father. We hope it speaks to your heart.

Psalm 27:14       Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

About 10 years ago, I attended an evening of praise and worship. Unexpectedly, the worship leader burst out, “Lord, I love your timing!” My immediate and uncensored reaction was, “Lord, I don’t love your timing!”

That moment surfaced an important spirit of resistance within me. I obviously had “issues” with how I perceived God’s timing in my life as less than ideal and sometimes even painful. Nevertheless, I resolved to try to change my interior response by trusting God’s timing more even though I didn’t know exactly how to carry this out.

Fast forward to September 2019. My first grandchild was due on September 12. My son expressed a strong desire for me to be close by during the delivery (i.e., in the hospital waiting room), which corresponded perfectly with my own grandmotherly desire. In advance, I tried to anticipate the timing by making four separate plane reservations so I could mix and match arrivals and departures from Phoenix to Reno to be there for the birth. (BTW, Reno is a 14-hour drive through unhospitable desert, so a quick car ride was out of the question.)

I cancelled the first outbound plane reservation for September 8 since not even the slightest hint of labor was taking place. My next outbound flight was for September 10, and I quickly realized that if I didn’t take that flight, I would be incurring a $400, last-minute one-way airfare. I rapidly concocted a plan to hang out in Reno at a hotel or Airbnb, doing my professional work while awaiting my grandchild’s birth.

And that’s what I did. I flew to Reno, settled into my Airbnb and happily enjoyed dinners with my son, Michael and his wife Morgan, while reveling in her very pregnant belly and the rippling movements of the child within. Her due date, September 12, came and went. So did September 13, 14, and 15 with no apparent signs of labor. Now, I was in a conundrum. My last plane reservation to return home was only 2 days away and my Airbnb accommodations ended the same day. Despite the fact I was having a great time hiking and golfing with Michael and admiring Morgan’s end-of-pregnancy energy, my trip’s intention was not a vacation, but to see my grandchild born. So, back to the Internet I went.

I cancelled my return flight, emailed my boss saying I would not be back until later in the week, and found yet another Airbnb reservation for three additional days (can you read “stress” in between the lines?). I hoped against hope that my efforts would be rewarded in the way and the timing that my son and I both desired.

In the middle of that Sunday night, Morgan went into labor. I got the text at 4:40 am and made it to the hospital via Uber by about 5:30. Armed with my Bible and Rosary, I prayed and read and waited and prayed. Shortly after 7 am, as I was praying the Rosary, the long-anticipated text arrived – my beautiful and very petite granddaughter, Sutton Olivia Zeno, had entered the world!

My heart soared. Morgan’s parents arrived. We chatted delightfully about their family history. Michael showed up, escorted us to Morgan’s hospital room, and all three grandparents lovingly took turns holding and bonding with their newborn granddaughter. Sutton was cute as a button (even at two hours old!), her big eyes alert and her sweet disposition capturing our hearts. My heart swelled even more with gratitude and thanksgiving for the privilege of being close by, of praying the Rosary at the moment of her birth, and then sharing in this newborn bonding time.

Fast forward 7 days. I had planned to visit my father (who lives in San Diego) after returning from Reno. My strong, athletic Dad was finally succumbing to the end stages of lung cancer after his initial diagnosis eight years before and ceasing all treatment two and a half years ago. Knowing my schedule would be tight, I decided to fly instead of drive (6 hours), so I’d made plane reservations for late September. Then, my schedule started to shift: I missed 3 additional days of work due to my extended stay in Reno and my new administrative assistant was due to start the Monday I planned to be in San Diego, which was 6 weeks later than originally anticipated. Suddenly, my life felt overly crammed and too demanding to be leaving town again so soon. So, I rebooked my plane reservation for two weeks later, delaying my San Diego visit to mid-October.

Upon informing my siblings of my decision, my brother sent me a text saying Dad might not still be around in mid-October. This jolted me as I didn’t think his decline was so rapid. I found myself in a new conundrum: Should I rearrange my schedule, including my assistant’s start date, so as to drive over to San Diego (it would be too expensive to change my plane reservations) or did I peacefully leave things as is and trust that if “it was meant to be,” my father would still be alive in 2 ½ more weeks? As I considered the decision, my Dad’s conditioned worsened, and I could see the stress it was causing my siblings. I wanted to help lighten the load, so I launched into a new flurry of activity in order to reconfigure my next six days and head to San Diego.

After leading a lunch-time book study on Friday, September 27, I drove six hours to San Diego, arriving at my father’s retirement community around 8 pm. Upon entering his apartment, I hugged my sister from New Mexico, who had been caring for my father for the past two weeks (not an easy task). Then, I went to my father’s bedside. He lay in a hospital bed, oxygen streaming into his nose and a kind of gargle occurring every time he breathed, but his eyes were alert and present. He recognized me and asked how my week was (so thoughtful!). I told him the “best news” was that Michael and Morgan’s child had been born. “A daughter,” he said. Yes, indeed, he was still very aware of all that was occurring.

My sister left shortly after, and I assured her I would be again at his bedside early in the morning so she could take a bit of a respite from her daily 10 to 12-hour shifts.

Over the past two years, my father and I developed a predictable routine for my visits. I would arrive around 8:30 am, we would have breakfast together and then participate in communal chair exercises. We always spent part of the day (or even twice a day) on the putting green as my Dad was an avid golfer, so much so, that the retirement community named the putting green after him when it was refurbished. Other activities included working on jigsaw puzzles, eating dinner in the community dining room, and watching nature shows. I would normally leave around 8:30 pm, with the promise of repeating our routine the next day.

But that Friday night, he seemed restless and agitated. He kept opening and closing his eyes, with a kind of questioning look. The gargling, which accompanied every breath, dominated the airwaves and his speech was becoming almost indecipherable. He kept trying to pull the covers up and then push them off, and he asked repeatedly to be taken to his own bed (which he was already in). Although a caregiver was at his side, I didn’t want to leave my father until I had seen him fall peacefully asleep. I waited until 9 pm…10 pm…11pm… I stroked his arm and sang to him, but he still seemed agitated and far from sleep. I asked the nurses for an additional dose of morphine, but even that didn’t seem to settle him down. I finally left at 11:30 pm, hoping sleep for him would follow close behind.

The next morning, I awoke at 7 am and was at his bedside by 7:45 am. The caregiver said he’d had a rough night, not fully falling asleep until 3 am. However, when I arrived, he was sleeping peacefully, eyes closed, with the persistent gargle accompanying every breath. At 8 am the caregiver shift changed and so did the whole tenor of the room. The new nurse immediately took charge, made my Dad more comfortable, swabbed out his mouth, and asked me if I practiced a religion. I told her I was Catholic. Within seconds, she whipped out a brown scapular, placed it over his head, and asked me, “Do you want to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet?” My guiding angel had arrived.

I responded, “Of course,” and headed to my purse to retrieve my Rosary. Before we started to pray, she instructed me to tell him I loved him and to give him permission to go. Interiorly, I hesitated because I knew my eldest sister was to arrive that afternoon around 3 pm, but then I also knew she wouldn’t want Dad to hang on for her sake.

So I told him I loved him, thanked him for his faithful fatherhood, and encouraged him to enter into eternity, to allow Jesus the Bridegroom to come and take him home. Then, the nurse and I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet and somewhere along the way, the gargling stopped and his face became beautifully peaceful and serene as he continued sleeping. We finished the Divine Mercy chaplet, and I took out my guitar and began to play and sing praise songs to him. As I was singing, my 92-year-old father, the paternal light of my life, passed into eternal life.

I will never forget those moments.  After anticipating his death for almost 8 years, it came so peacefully, without any kind of protracted struggle – just one restless night and then Divine Mercy came to take Him home. And I was there to be with him, but I shouldn’t have been.

If I had kept my original plane reservation, I wouldn’t have arrived until after 11 am (he passed at 9:15 am). If my brother hadn’t emphatically informed me of his rapid decline, I would have waited 2 weeks to visit. If I hadn’t opted to push back the start date of my new assistant, I would have been six hours away. If…if…if…there were so many variables that could have written the script in such a radically different manner.

And yet it was I and the amazing Catholic caregiver who clothed him with the brown scapular and initiated the Divine Mercy Chaplet who were at his bedside at the moment of his death. And although my eldest sister didn’t arrive until 3 pm (notice the timing), her one request to me had been that she and I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet together at my Dad’s bedside. Even that smallest of detail had been accommodated in God’s mysterious timing, albeit in a different way.

Of course, I cried and cried, amassing a small mountain of saturated Kleenex beside me. I stayed by his bedside, soaking in the last glimpses of my earthly father. My in-town siblings arrived; more tears followed. The mortician arrived, wrapped him in a white sheet, and I sobbed. Emotions swirled inside of me, although I couldn’t quite put words on what I was feeling. It would take me the next few days to identify what I was feeling, and most especially, why. (To be continued next week.)

©by Katrina J. Zeno, MTS

Finding Christ in Advent

By David Gibson

The problem of Advent is its way of rushing by. In what can seem just the blink of an eye, Advent’s weeks are completed; Christmas arrives.

December’s days are filled with shopping, festive gatherings, cooking, and the laying of plans for the big day. In his book “Finding Happiness,” Abbot Christopher Jamison, a British Benedictine monk, shares his concern about the holiday season:

“The commercial world has taken over the popular imagination at Christmas and tells us that there are only two essential parts of the festival, namely, Christmas gifts and Christmas feasting. Shopping is the key to both.”

If that’s all there is to Christmas, one might ask how much there possibly could be to Advent!

Advice for a Well-Kept Advent

Writer Lisa Hendey thinks “the busyness of the holiday season leaves us too weary and overwhelmed.” In her booklet for Advent titled “O Radiant Dawn” (Ave Maria Press), she asks, “How can you renew your spiritual strength this Advent? What will help your spirit soar?”

Her booklet, subtitled “5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath,” is proposed to families as “a doorway into the profound solace of a well-kept Advent.” Hendey will be recognized by many as the author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and the Handbook for Catholic Moms.

“Put away unhelpful expectations of what you think Advent should be, and allow this to be a time of simplicity, focus and sacred longing,” Hendey suggests.

She urges that ways be found in families—despite all the season’s “to-do lists”—for individual reflection or “shared conversation about what matters most.” To that end, her prayers and reflections for each Advent day include a question to prompt thought or discussion.

It seems to me that these tend to be questions a wife and husband or parents and children could discuss together. For example, she asks:

  • How does “faith in God embolden you” to surmount your life’s challenges?
  • Are there ways to show “love and support” for friends or family members experiencing sadness this Advent?
  • Where are you “being sent” to serve “people in need?”

Watchfulness is a major Advent theme. Those awaiting the coming of Christ, both at Christmas and his Second Coming in glory, are encouraged to watch for signs of his presence now.

Hendey notes how Advent invites Christians to “make room for Christ” daily. Not surprisingly, some of her points for discussion in families hone in on the signs of Christ here and now.

She asks, “What signs in the world reveal that Christ is present?” And, are there ways “your actions help others” recognize Christ’s presence?

Watching for the Face of Christ

“I know that the Lord waits for me in you,” Pope Benedict XVI said to a prisoner in December 2011 named Omar during an Advent visit to a Rome prison.

Several prisoners asked questions of the pope when he visited them on December 18 last year. Responding to Omar, Pope Benedict recalled Christ’s assurance that in visiting the sick or imprisoned one also visited the Lord.

When Pope Benedict announced the Year of Faith in an apostolic letter titled The Door of Faith, he pointed out that it would be “a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity.”

I wonder if family members experiencing the stress of real life—perhaps parents, particularly—were heartened by this comment in the apostolic letter about the presence of Christ in those around them: “Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love.”

The pope insisted in his letter that “the reflection of Christ’s own face” can be seen in “lonely, marginalized or excluded” people. Christ’s love “impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life,” the pope said.

“Watch!” That was Pope Benedict’s word of exhortation the first day of Advent 2011. Advent is a reminder, he explained, that life needs to “find its proper orientation, turned toward the face of God.”

Again, in remarks in 2011 for the lighting of a Christmas tree in the Italian town of Gubbio, the pope accented the world’s need for kindness. “Every small act of kindness is like a light of this great tree,” he said.

Recalling the “light shone on the shepherds” when Jesus was born, Pope Benedict added that Jesus is “the true light.” The pope wished, he said, “that everyone may know how to bring a little light to the places where they live: in the family, at work, in the neighborhood, in towns, in cities.” He said, “May each of us be a light for those nearby.”


David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service.

This article was originally published on Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Advent Preparations at Church and at Home

“Each Advent season, in prayer and humility we pray and prepare for Christmas. We call to mind the love of the Father reflected in the presence of his Son among us who came to teach us, forgive us, and make us holy through his gift of new life in the Holy Spirit. We and the world can never be the same.” (“Advent: A Time of Waiting”)

The liturgical year begins with the season of Advent and includes the four Sundays before Christmas. While in the secular world, the preparation may be more focused on decorating and shopping before Christmas, as Catholics we are called to focus our attention on waiting, conversion, and hope. The first weeks of Advent are marked by preparing for the second coming of Christ, while also recognizing his presence among us even now. As Christmas draws nearer, our focus shifts to preparing for the Nativity of the Lord.

“As believers in Christ, we find his presence most perfectly in the Eucharist, as well as in prayer, in his Church, and in our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need of our love. We are encouraged to pray often during this Advent season and to attend daily Mass as our schedules allow. It is also a time to be generous with our patience, our giving of ourselves, and our concern for those in need.” (“Advent: A Time of Waiting”)

“Each day at Mass, we describe our life as waiting in joyful hope. Christ is our hope, and the season of Advent gives us the opportunity to join together as we recall and await the three comings of Christ: His coming two-thousand years ago as man, his coming into the hearts of every believer, and his coming at the end of time.” (“Advent: A Time of Waiting”)

As we prepare for Christmas, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes some differences to the Mass that should be observed during the season. For one, you’ll notice that the priest will wear violet or purple during Advent, except for the Third Sunday of Advent, or Gaudete Sunday, when rose is worn (GIRM, no. 316). Aside from what the priest wears, other aesthetic changes in the Church include a modestly decorated altar. “During Advent the floral decoration of the altar should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord” (GIRM no. 305).

In addition, the Gloria in excelsis is not sung during Advent, to reflect the solemn character of the season (GIRM, no. 53). Outside of Mass, you may also choose to use symbols like the Advent wreath to prepare for Christ’s coming in your own home.

“The Advent wreath is an ancient Christian tradition. Just as we long for the brightness of the summer sun during the winter’s cold, so does the gradually brightening light of this wreath herald the dawn of Christ, the Light of the World! Traditionally, Advent wreaths are a circle of evergreen branches into which four candles are inserted, representing the four weeks of Advent. Ideally, three candles are purple and one is rose, but white candles can also be used. Many parishes and other organizations sell Advent wreaths, but it also easy to create one. The progressive lighting of the candles on the Sundays of Advent symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world.” (“Advent: A Time of Waiting”)


This article is an original piece, written specifically for myUSCCB. Copyright © 2015, 2017, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Quotes taken from “Advent: A Time of Waiting,” USCCB, 2015.

About Advent Wreaths

Traditionally, Advent wreaths are constructed of a circle of evergreen branches into which four candles are inserted, representing the four weeks of Advent. Ideally, three candles are purple and one is rose, but white candles can also be used.

The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest may also wear rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas.

The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of his second coming to judge the living and the dead.

Blessing of the Advent Wreath

[See more at] The use of the Advent Wreath is a traditional practice which has found its place in the Church as well as in the home. The blessing of an Advent Wreath takes place on the First Sunday of Advent or on the evening before the First Sunday of Advent.

When the blessing of the Advent Wreath is celebrated in the home, it is appropriate that it be blessed by a parent or another member of the family.

All make the sign of the cross as the leader says:

Our help is in the name of the Lord.

Response (R/.) Who made heaven and earth.

Then the Scripture, Isaiah 9: 1-2 and 5-6, Isaiah 63: 16-17 and 19, or Isaiah 64: 2-7 is read:

Reader: The Word of the Lord.

R/. Thanks be to God.

With hands joined, the leader says:

Lord our God,
we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is the Savior of every nation.

Lord God,
let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light
be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R/. Amen.

The blessing may conclude with a verse from “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:

O come, desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of humankind;
bid ev’ry sad division cease
and be thyself our Prince of peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.


Blessing of the Advent Wreath taken from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2007), 73-75. This article was originally published as part of a homily resource in 2016. Copyright © 2016, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Advent: O, Come, Emmanuel

by Mar Muñoz-Visoso

On the first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical year begins, and with it, the preparations for Jesus’ birth at Christmas. Advent is a time of joyful hope.

The word Advent comes from the Latin word that means coming or arriving. Thus, Advent is marked by the anticipation of those who await the arrival of someone dear or important, knowing that the awaited one is almost here. The seasonal liturgy offers us as a symbol the Advent wreath with its four candles, signifying the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. The Sunday readings of the season propose to us some models of hope and faith to reflect on: the Virgin Mary, her cousin Elizabeth,
John the Baptist, and even the people of Israel. And the whole Church sings with joyful hope, “O come, o come Emmanuel,” God-with-us.

In popular culture, the Latin American peoples have over time developed some practices and traditions that also reflect this preparation for Christmas.

Some examples are novenas and the Posadas. Christmas novenas are prayers repeated in the nine evenings before Christmas
Day. Colombians, for instance, celebrate Novenas de Aguinaldo. Every night, they remember some event in the history of salvation, and every night, they hope to get an aguinaldo, or gift, as a symbol of God who gives us his Son.

Mexicans also celebrate Las Posadas, remembering the pilgrimage of the Holy Family from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and how hard it was for them to find a place to rest despite Mary’s advanced pregnancy. With songs, those accompanying “the Holy Pilgrims” (depicted as Joseph and Mary pregnant and riding on a donkey) represent the act of knocking on the door of a house requesting posada (lodging): “En el nombre del cielo, os pido posada…” Those inside keep turning them down. They go back and forth several stanzas until the house hosting the posada finally opens the doors welcoming the pilgrims and accompanying crowd. The community then prays the Rosary together, and after, the host showers visitors with typical foods and hot drinks such as chocolate, atole, or champurreado. Children—sometimes adults as well—normally walk out with an aguinaldo, a bag usually containing oranges, peanuts, and candy. In the United States, this Mexican tradition has extended to many other Latin American communities, perhaps due to identification with the migration experience of the Holy Family.

Right in the middle of Advent, several Marian feasts are also celebrated that have special echo in the Hispanic community. They are the Immaculate Conception of Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

La Inmaculada Concepción, or La Purísima, the Marian feast par excellence, is celebrated especially in Panama, Nicaragua, Paraguay, the United States, and in Spain, all of whom have this name of Mary as their national patron saint. Every December 8, the pope himself joins in the celebration. Aided by Rome’s firefighters, he hangs a flowery wreath in the arms of the Immaculate Conception statue that resides high above over the Piazza D’ Spagna.

The celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe have extended well beyond Mexico to the entire American continent. In addition to the proper Mass on her feast day, December 12, many Latino communities in the US pray novenas, Rosaries, and represent the story, “Las Apariciones,” (apparitions) of the Blessed Mother to the Indian Juan Diego. For this reason, her story is known to many. Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe has extended beyond Latinos to many other US Catholics, in part because the pro-life movement has adopted her, too, as patron saint of the unborn.

Advent offers us many reasons for hope. Between joyful liturgies and popular devotions, Latino Catholics sing with the entire Church: “Ven, ven Señor, no tardes. Ven, ven que te esperamos”. (Come, Lord, come without delay. Come, we await you!)


Mar Munoz-Visoso is executive director of the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This article was originally published on as an Entre Amigos column.

Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Lectio Divina for the First Week of Advent

We begin our prayer:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Keep us alert, we pray, O Lord our God, as we await the advent of Christ your Son, so that, when he comes and knocks, he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

(Collect, Monday of the First Week of Advent)

Reading (Lectio)

Read the following Scripture two or three times.

Mark 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

Meditation (Meditatio)

After the reading, take some time to reflect in silence on one or more of the following questions:

  • What word or words in this passage caught your attention?
  • What in this passage comforted you?
  • What in this passage challenged you?

If practicing lectio divina as a family or in a group, after the reflection time, invite the participants to share their responses.

Prayer (Oratio)

Read the Scripture passage one more time. Bring to the Lord the praise, petition, or thanksgiving that the Word inspires in you.

Contemplation (Contemplatio)

Read the Scripture passage again, followed by this reflection:

What conversion of mind, heart, and life is the Lord asking of me?

“Be watchful! Be alert!” What things capture my attention? What things distract me from God’s plan?

“You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.” Does the way I spend my time reflect my priorities? How can I make sure that I spend my time on the things that matter most (prayer, family, service to others)?

“May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” To what sins and injustices do I close my eyes? What parts of my faith keep me awake and energized to do God’s will?

After a period of silent reflection and/or discussion, all recite the Lord’s Prayer and the following:

Closing Prayer:

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power, and come to save us.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.

(Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19)

Living the Word This Week

How can I make my life a gift for others in charity?

Each night before falling asleep, look over your day to identify God’s presence in your day and opportunities you had to reach out in love. Make a form commitment to become more alert to the needs around you and to God working in your life.


Copyright © 2017, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights rese