Catholic Family Meeting {Prep for Sunday, November 30} - FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This Sunday is the start of Advent!  During this time of year, we often think of the arrival of Jesus at His birth.  But this week's readings remind us that we are still waiting for Jesus' arrival.

"Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming...may he not come suddenly and find you sleeping." (Mark 13:35-36)

This week's family meeting focuses on preparing our hearts and homes for Jesus' arrival at His second coming, including all the fun preparations we love during Advent: the Advent wreath, Christmas decorating, music, etc.  

I've linked it in the family meeting slideshow below, but I'll link it here too.  This post from last week has a lot of the basic information and traditions of Advent.  Let's do our best to not be found sleeping this Advent.

Keeping Christ in Christmas: Celebrating Advent 2014 {Starting November 30th!}

Thursday, November 20, 2014

**This post is an updated post from last year.  All the links and calendars have been updated for 2014.

Even though I am a cradle-Catholic, I never grew up celebrating Advent.  Not intentionally, anyway.  We went to mass during the Advent season, but I guess I just didn't pay much attention, and I figured our family's Advent wreath was just part of our regular holiday decorations.  I honestly had very little understanding of what Advent was up until a few years ago.  Since then, I have been on a slow, but steady, journey to celebrate Advent with my family.  

Ada and Grace at our church's nativity scene

So what is Advent?  

For Catholics, Advent starts the beginning of the liturgical year, and is a season of anticipation for both the birth of Jesus Christ and Jesus' second coming.  It is celebrated the four weeks leading up to Christmas.  What I love about Advent is that it helps us focus on the reason for the season: Jesus.  All those other details (Christmas gifts, cards, baking, decorating, etc) become less stressful for me, if they are put in their proper places, as ways to glorify God and celebrate His only Son.  

This 2 minute video gives a great overview of Advent:

Now, here's some music to get us anticipating the birth of Jesus!

FYI - Only when you try to compile a list of Advent songs, do you realize that pretty much every Christmas song has to do with post-Jesus' birth.  Thus, a 5 song playlist that includes 4 versions of O Come, Emmanuel (which are all pretty awesome, by the way.)  

Being pretty new to celebrating Advent, our family is trying to add one new tradition each year until we have some basics covered.  I do not want it to be overwhelming or feel like one more thing piled onto the already crazy list of "stuff" to do.  The important thing is preparing our hearts for Jesus.  I will remind myself: Advent does not have to be Pinterest-worthy.  

So, here are some simple ways to celebrate Advent with your family:

Advent wreath

Advent Wreath
An Advent wreath is a pretty simple tradition to start.  We bought ours on, along with the candles, for a very reasonable price.  You can also make one quite easily.  Here is a quick read about how this German custom started.  

This page on Catholic Culture provides the blessing, prayers, and explanation of what to do with your Advent wreath, and Our Sunday Visitor has an Advent guide, as well.

On the first Sunday of Advent (December 1st this year) , we will be blessing our Advent wreath and lighting the first purple candle, along with a prayer.  This is done each night of Advent.  By the second week, we will be lighting the two purple candles, and the third week sees the additional lighting of the pink "joyous" candle.  The fourth, and final, Sunday of Advent observes the lighting of the last purple candle.  The Advent wreath is a simple, yet significant way to incorporate our preparation for the birth of Christ into our daily lives.

Advent calendar

This is a tradition that you are probably familiar with.  There are so many different Advent calendars, and you can buy them at stores, online, or make your own.  Last year, my 4 year-old, Grace, looked forward to it everyday, and I'm sure she's excited to get her little sister in on the fun.  Sometimes we end up with more than one, which is no problem for us!  But to emphasize the true meaning of Advent and Christmas, I want to be sure that at least one of my Advent calendars is religious.  

Loyola Press has an awesome online Advent calendar for kids, which is also printable.  

Children's Advent Calendar

Here is one from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that can be used online or printed.  It includes the Catholic feast days, suggested prayers, and activities that can be done to prepare for Christmas.
I also love this fabric Advent calendar because the kids can add a new piece to the nativity scene each day.  I am thinking of making this with paper nativity pieces.

Reginas Catholic Gifts - Fabric Advent Calendar-Nativity, $42.50 (
Fabric Advent Calendar

Jesse Tree

Jesse Tree

Up until a couple of years ago, I'd never even heard of the Jesse Tree.  So what is it?  The Jesse Tree is an Advent tradition that focuses on Jesus' family tree, as shown in the image on the left.  For more information about the background, check out this article.  Similar to the Advent calendar, a new symbol or ornament is hung on the Jesse Tree each day of Advent.  As the ornament is hung, a corresponding bible passage is read.  

There are so many different ways to do a Jesse Tree:  some simple, some complex.  I even Googled it for you.  You're welcome.
Felt Jesse Tree

More Printable Jesse Tree Ornaments

Last year was our first with a Jesse Tree.  It went over big with my then-4 year old, Grace.  We opted for printable symbols, which can be found here or here.  Then, we hung them on a small Christmas tree that I found at a local crafts store.

Other resources

Looking for some basic printouts on Advent?  Check out this page:

Free Advent Printables
Good Ground Press

Good Ground Press also makes this printable Advent Traditions Game that looks like a lot of fun.

Advent Traditions Game
Good Ground Press

Here is a short video from Catholic News Service with ideas for how to celebrate Advent:


May your family have a blessed Advent!  
- Jessica

Catholic Family Meeting {Prep for Sunday, November 23}

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me."
Matthew 25:40

This Sunday is another special feast day:  The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

I just love that.  King of the Universe.  

What better lesson to teach our family than that Jesus Christ is the King of everything: all people, all places, all things, for all of eternity.  

It is easy to get lost amid the worldly ideals and begin to see ourselves as our own king or be ruled by sin.  In fact, this feast day was created in 1925 by Pope Pius XI as a response to secularism, a "way of life which leaves God out of man's thinking and living and organizes his life as if God did not exist" (Catholic Culture).  

We are living in a secular world, and it is our job to proclaim in our family and publicly that Christ is our King and King of the Universe.  

We should do this in what we say and in what we do.  In living a life of love and service to the least among us, as Jesus instructed us in this Sunday's gospel.

This week's family meeting includes ideas for celebrating the Feast of Christ, the King, as well as discussing Corporal Works of Mercy and a saint that is a wonderful example of loving the "least among us", even when as a princess.

Catholic Family Meeting {Prep for Sunday, November 16}

Monday, November 10, 2014

"His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.  
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  
Come, share your master's joy.'"
Matthew 25:21

This Sunday's gospel reading (Matthew 25:14-30) is the parable of the talents.  A master leaves for a long journey, leaving talents (money) to his three servants.  Two of his servants go off and use the money he's given them to earn more.  The third servant buries his talent in the ground.  Upon his return, the master celebrates with his two servants, saying (above), "Well done, my good and faithful servant."  The third servant, who buried his talent, is reprimanded and thrown out.

God has given us talents, gifts, and abilities, and He has given them to us for a reason.  He wants us to use them to serve Him and others.  

What good are our talents if we bury them in the sand?  

We must each discern what talents God has given us and how He wants us to use them to further His kingdom.  

This is the focus of this week's family meeting:

Catholic Family Meeting {Prep for Sunday, November 9}

Monday, November 3, 2014

Preparing for this week's family meeting was the first time I've heard of The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.  The Lateran Basilica is the Pope's cathedral and is known as "the mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world".  Information for this feast can be found here at Catholic Culture.

Sunday's second reading explains that God created us to be His temple.  "Do you know that you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16).  If we truly believe that we are all created as temples of God, then that should dictate how we treat our bodies and how we treat others.  

The gospel then tells the familiar story of Jesus cleaning the temple of those who were not treating it with the proper respect.  And later, Jesus refers to himself as the temple that will be destroyed and raised again three days later.

"As we celebrate the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, we focus on how Jesus cleansed the Temple, challenging us to respect his Father's house and all that it stands for, especially his people." - Loyola Press

Here is this week's family meeting: