Editorial: Advent introspection

Since the earliest days of Pope Francis’ pontificate, two of his leading themes have been outreach and encounter. As a Church, the Holy Father has called us to go beyond ourselves, to focus on the poor, the elderly, the sick, the marginalized and the forgotten. He’s shed light in dark places and given attention in areas that had seen too much neglect. With the start of Advent this Sunday, Catholics will be faced with increased opportunities to live out this call and bring Christ to the world. Chances are you will only have to go as far as your parish’s giving tree or other seasonal charity to begin.

But Advent, while a fitting time to reach outside of ourselves, is also an opportune time to turn inward. It’s during Advent that we wait, long and prepare for Jesus Christ to be born into our world and into our hearts. Advent, through Scripture and the Church’s tradition, offers us a prime opportunity for introspection — for sizing up our spiritual growth during the past calendar year, for examining our consciences, and for recommitting ourselves to the path of discipleship. As Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle says in “An Advent Pilgrimage” (OSV, $1.95), “Who of us does not need a regular time of silence and peace, a time to let the events and trials of life fall into perspective — Jesus’ perspective?”

During these early days of December, we are called to be on the alert — watchful and ready — prepared to give our fiat to Christ.

During these early days of December, we are called to be on the alert — watchful and ready — prepared to give our fiat to Christ, as exemplified firstly and perfectly by our Blessed Mother. Are we up to the challenge? Are we willing to model our lives on Christ? Are we willing to say “no” to a culture that prefers to tell us who Christ should be rather than who he really is? Are we willing instead to say, as Mary did, “Be it done unto me according to thy word?”

With these questions in mind, it’s fitting that Nov. 30, in addition to being the first Sunday of Advent, also marks the start of the Year of Consecrated Life, as announced by the Vatican earlier this year. According to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the year is an opportunity to “reflect on the graced time we have been given to live.”

“In their finite humanity, on the margins, in their everyday struggles, consecrated men and women live out their fidelity, giving a reason for the joy that lives in them,” the congregation wrote in a letter. “So they become splendid witnesses, effective proclaimers, companions and neighbors for the women and men with whom they share a common history and who want to find their Father’s house in the Church.”

These consecrated men and women embody what it means to live lives of both introspection and outreach. In countless ways, for so many centuries, they have displayed before the world a depth of Christian faith and love. As we prepare to enter into this Advent season, now is the time to look to the gifts that our consecrated brothers and sisters in Christ bring to the Church. We need to pray for them, to support them and to model our lives after theirs as they strive for holiness.

To get us started, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ secretariat for clergy, consecrated life and vocations, offers this prayer: “During this Year of Consecrated Life, we give you thanks for these courageous witnesses of faith and models of inspiration. Their pursuit of holy lives teaches us to make a more perfect offering of ourselves to you. Continue to enrich your Church by calling forth sons and daughters who, having found the pearl of great price, treasure the kingdom of heaven above all things.” Amen.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor