Persons, places and things: preparing for Christmas time


By Barb Arland-Fye


Sitting alone in the newsroom early one morning before Christmas, absorbed in writing and editing, I looked up with dismay to see circulation department staffers arriving to start the day. I had been at my desk since the previous morning — 18 hours ago. The goal of that marathon shift was completion of deadlines that piled up in December so I could travel with family to celebrate the holy season of Christmas Time. But physically, mentally and spiritually, I was wiped out. Next year would be different! I would intentionally make time to prepare the way of the Lord through prayer, Scripture and liturgy.


That vow has been a work in progress: Advent vesper services, Liturgy of the Hours, scriptural or other spiritual reading now have reserved space in my life. Two years ago, with generous help from the Altar & Rosary Society at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire, I led a mini-retreat to help myself and others prepare for Christmas Time.


We’re offering another mini retreat this Advent season, Saturday, Dec. 6, from 9 a.m. to noon. All are welcome! While the first mini-retreat aimed to enlighten participants about when and how to celebrate Christmas Time, this year’s retreat focuses on prayer. The theme is “He comes in splendor, the King who is our peace.” It is taken from the antiphon for Christmas, Evening Prayer 1 of Liturgy of the Hours. War and violence at home and abroad left me longing for all of us to strive to emulate Jesus Christ, the King who is our peace.

In his 2013 Christmas message, Pope Francis invoked the “Prince of Peace” to “lead people to give up their arms and ‘undertake the path of dialogue’” (, Dec. 25, 2013). He addressed war and violence occurring around the globe, which rage on today in parts of Africa, Syria and the Holy Land, among other places. We have to look only as far as Ferguson, Mo., to see that peace is sorely needed.

“Peace calls for daily commitment … starting from God’s gift, from the grace which He has given us in Jesus Christ,” the Holy Father said. He urges us to ask God to “help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, the whole world. …“Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.”

Thomas N. Hart in “The Art of Christian Living” says we need to be “attuned to the deeper voice and the more profound direction, to find a source of peace inside ourselves.”
That’s where it begins. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Prayer causes me to reflect on my actions and their impact on others. Through reflection, I am moved by God’s goodness. The Christmas Time Retreat seeks to help all of us to be moved by God’s goodness, to prepare the way of the Lord every day.

Our Lady of the River’s retreat is one of several happening Dec. 6. The Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton offer a “Coming Home to Christmas” retreat from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at their motherhouse, The Canticle. They will present Gospel passages relating to the concept of home while exploring how Saints Francis and Clare implemented living out the Gospel.

Catholic composer, vocalist and guitarist Michael John Poirier will give Advent programs Dec. 6 and 7 in the Davenport Diocese. I appreciate that his presentation at a men’s conference the evening of Dec. 6 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf is titled “Called to be Prayer Warriors.”

Please think about attending one of these retreats. Making time for a retreat, liturgy or prayer experience can be a wonderful way to prepare the way of the Lord.

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