Advent: reorienting ourselves toward God

CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review
A lit candle is seen on an Advent wreath. Advent is a season of waiting.

By Barb Arland-Fye

Our journey through Advent begins this Sunday, Dec. 3, a time to interrupt the busyness of our daily lives with more intentional focus on prayer, Scripture, reflection, participation in the sacraments and service to others. “The liturgical season of Advent invites us to go to the encounter with the Lord who comes through prayer, penitence and works of charity,” Pope Francis says. “Prepare yourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus with assiduous listening to the Word of God and a generous response to his grace” (General Audience, Nov. 30, 2022).

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reminds us that Advent is “a time that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and the anniversary of Our Lord’s birth on Christmas” ( It is a time to “reflect on the ways God is calling us to turn toward him,” Maria Enid Barga says in her commentaries on the Sunday readings for Advent (“Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word 2024”). Through our reflection, “we recognize that this conversion leads us deeper into our relationship with God and those around us as expressed through concrete actions.”

At the same time, she advises us to be heralds of glad tidings, patient and vigilant, to practice repentance and to follow the way of the Lord. Doing so will lead us to experience “the peace and comfort that only comes with being in right relationship with God and the community,” Barga says.


In the first reading for the first Sunday of Advent, we hear Isaiah say, “Yet, O Lord, you are our father, we are the clay and you our potter: we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah: 64: 7). How pliant are we in God’s hands? How do we become more pliant in God’s hands this Advent so that we can turn toward him trustingly?

As Pope Francis and biblical scholar Barga suggest, we begin by making time for God in prayer, which leads to action shaped by our abilities and limitations. For starters, read our 2023 Advent calendar (Pages 6-7), which the Messenger’s diocesan reporter Lindsay Steele created with input from the rest of our staff. The calendar offers ideas for prayers and activities. Sign up to receive Catholic Relief Services’ Online Advent Calendar ( to “reflect on the needs of our global family.”

  • Next, check out the Diocese of Davenport’s Liturgy Office online for information and resources about Advent ( Then, commit to reading the daily Scripture readings, available on the USCCB website ( We also publish a list of the readings on the Messenger’s Events page (Page 4). Bishop Robert Barron offers daily Gospel Reflections through his Word on Fire website and, for purchase, the “2023 Advent Gospel Reflections.” The booklet features the full Gospel reading for each day of Advent, a daily reflection from Bishop Barron, space for journaling and answering reflection questions, and more. You can use it for both individual meditation and group study on a family or parish level.

Books to read

  • “Waiting in Joyful Hope, Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas 2023-2024,” by Susan H. Swetnam, Liturgical Press ( The book offers “brief, down-to-earth reflections that bring prayer and Scripture into everyday life” and will “help busy people achieve their goal of enriching their prayer life during the seasons of Advent and Christmas.”
  • “Advent of the Heart,” by Alfred Delp, S.J., Ignatian Press ( Father Delp, a heroic German Jesuit priest imprisoned and martyred by the Nazis in a Nazi death camp in 1945, was an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime. The book contains his “powerful reflections from prison during the Advent season” and sermons he gave on the season of Advent at his parish in Munich.
  • “Advent with Pope Francis” ( “This daily devotional includes Scripture citations for each day of the season, a selection of the Holy Father’s writings, reflection questions, and a prayer.” It serves as a reminder “to slow down and breathe in God’s spirit …”
  • “Advent for Families 2023: A Growing Season, Daily Reflections, Prayers and Actions,” by Connie Clark, Twenty-Third Publications ( “Each day, find a short reflection on one of the daily Mass readings, a prayer to say with your family, and a fun, faith-filled activity to try together.”
  • “The Liturgy of the Hours” (“Christian Prayer”), the daily prayer of the Church, which sanctifies the day with prayer. Available through Religious Supply Center in Davenport (

Other suggestions to observe a meaningful Advent:

  • Attend daily Mass when possible in addition to weekend Mass (
  • Attend a communal penance service. Check with your parish or neighboring parish for dates and times.
  • Attend celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Las Posadas. Watch the Messenger for details on dates, times and parishes.

Finally, we turn toward God by following Pope Francis’ advice to examine our consciences daily.  “Learning to read what happened during the day in the book of our heart. Do it: it will take just two minutes, but it will do you good, I assure you.”

Editor Barb Arland-Fye

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