Dying to self during Advent


By Barb Arland-Fye

Driving to church, I slowed down to a crawl behind an out-of-state driver trying to find a parking spot in downtown LeClaire during a shopping event this Advent season. LeClaire, with its quaint shops set against the backdrop of the Mississippi River, has become a tourist attraction. Slow traffic is to be expected but, admittedly, not appreciated on my part.

Patience is a virtue God has been attempting to instill in me for a lifetime, a work in progress at best! The out-of-state driver apparently detected my impatience because he or she pulled over to allow me to move on. That’s when I felt God’s nudge to consider how I am observing Advent, a season of waiting, watchfulness and anticipation. If I had left the house 10 minutes earlier, my patience with the driver in front of me would have improved immeasurably.


I arrived at church to prepare the altar for eucharistic adoration but encountered another opportunity for patience building while attempting to light the candles. The battery-powered lighter wouldn’t immediately produce a flame, possibly because my grip wasn’t as strong as it should be. I finally coaxed a flame from the lighter, but discovered that the wick on the first candle had broken off. Nothing was going to light it. At that moment, into the church walked my guardian angel, Madelyn, who switched out candles from a closet in the back of the church. I could imagine God smiling down on me, saying, “See; I take care of you.”


Eucharistic adoration requires another exercise in patience for me on the first Saturday of each month. While I love the stillness of the church and the opportunity to focus on listening to God, distractions — or drowsiness — tempt me. Yet I’m drawn to this spiritual discipline to hear the whisper of God’s voice. Just three of us were present the first weekend of Advent for Liturgy of the Hours, Evening Prayer, which we prayed during eucharistic adoration. Previously, I’d get discouraged by a small turnout, but a prayer practice like this has to be nurtured, ever so patiently, as my pastor reminded me, and with attentiveness to spreading the word. I realize now that God isn’t counting heads.

Mass followed eucharistic adoration. Celebration of the Eucharist is essential to my life. Even so, my full, active, conscious participation in the Mass requires patience. Sometimes, I get distracted thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner that night or an encounter I’ve had with someone or an email that left me unsettled. Sometimes I don’t think about what it means to consume the body and blood of Christ. So I say a short prayer waiting in line: “You are gift to me, Lord. Please help me to be gift to others.”

That night’s homily included a reference to the late, renowned monk and writer, Father Thomas Merton. I looked up the quote afterwards and found it be meaningful to my journey through Advent. In part, Merton says:

“Advent for us means acceptance of this totally new beginning. It means a readiness to have eternity and time meet not only in Christ, but in us, in Man, in our life, in our world, in our time. The beginning, therefore, is the end. We must accept the end, before we can begin…”
I’ll patiently contemplate Merton’s words, including the next time I have to slow down in traffic.

(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at arland-fye@davenportdiocese.org.)

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