December 21, 2012

I Feel Holy by Jennifer Sagel

There are a lot of things about the holiday season that bring on warm and fuzzy and oh-so-good feelings: twinkle lights, sugar cookies, children’s laughter, age old Christmas carols, the smell of pine, and a general feeling of goodwill towards one another. All of these are great things, but I have to say, I do not seem to amass these same feelings when it comes to my spiritual preparation.

Usually these last few days before Christmas I spend feeling guilty for all of the well-intentioned plans I had for religious devotions and prayers and reflections and discussions that would inevitably lead to holiness. To appropriately welcome baby Jesus into my heart and into the world. To be set apart for others to see that Advent is preparation time; Christmas is celebration time. So, my little brain tells me, if I haven’t accomplished those noble goals, then I am not attaining holiness.
Well, Get Behind Me Satan.

I will tell you this: I have ideas in mind of what I want Advent to look like, both on a practical to-do level and a spiritual growth level.* But I can’t let those ideas dictate the success of how the Lord has actually prepared me.  At the beginning of Advent I had the intention of reading a daily five to seven paragraph reflection book. This is what it sounded like the first day (I kid you not…exactly like this):
                We can’t properly app[“but if you say it like, poopy poop poop poop…]reciate the presence of God as [hahahah! Now you say…] man. It indeed is more hea[MOM!!!  Will you get me the remote?!]ven-shaking than the “signs in the sun, the moon, and the starts.” To contemplate it is to sat[Max poop butt, Max poop butt! AHHH!! IT’S NOT FUNNY!]urate our minds with a picture of God’s [Anthony-don’t throw that.]redemptive love. It is a love that defies [Mom. I need help. Open my banana.]all expectations.

Isn’t that such a nice and warm fuzzy feeling? Don’t you feel holier already? Exactly. (And for full disclosure, I really did sit down when things were quiet. How do they know?!) This is my state in life, and maybe you can relate, and maybe you can’t. But there are always things that get in the way of our plans- whether it’s kids or work or illness. As a mom of four under the age of eight, I like to be realistic in what spiritual preparation actually looks like:
·         Did I at least try to find the meditation book I set out to read each day?
·         Did I engage my children about the homily given at Mass on Sunday?
·         Did I say a prayer to the Holy Spirit instead of yelling at the kids when they didn’t listen the first three times I told them to pick the toys up off the floor?
·         Did I worry less about the Pinterest-level looking Christmas tree I was aspiring to and instead enjoy the music and family time together as we decorated the tree?
·         Did I give my husband the benefit of the doubt when he didn’t get to the dishes but normally does?
·         Did I turn off the television for even five minutes of quiet when I had the opportunity?
·         Did I turn to God to show me the goodness in my children/co-workers when all I can see are their shortcomings?
·         Was I there for someone who lost a loved one during the most wonderful time of the year?
·         Did I forgo Starbucks Mocha Latte Skim Double Espresso Machiotto so I could make a charitable donation instead?
·         Did I make time for reconciliation?**

These are things the Lord is looking for from us. Quite frankly, our feeling of being prepared is not an indication of how we have grown spiritually (or helped our little ones to grow) during this time of Advent. I can say with certainty that I don’t feel holier than I did four weeks ago. But I can look back and say that I relied on the Lord more. I sought Him out more. I tried to love Him and those around me more.
So be at peace with what the Lord has accomplished in you this Advent. Enjoy your remaining days of anticipation and then the eight days of celebration with your families and friends. You are a child of the Lord, and He adores what you set out to accomplish during this holy season, just as Mary and Joseph adored the sweet Babe of Bethlehem so many years ago.

*For those more practical minded how-to people, here are a few concrete things we do to during Advent:
·         We use an advent wreath and sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, say a prayer for families, then say grace.
·         We purchase a real Christmas tree, but we wait until a couple of weeks before Christmas to purchase it so we can keep it up for the Octave (eight days) of Christmas.
·         My husband and I each try to do some sort of spiritual reading/reflection.
·         We make time for confession.
·         We emphasize the man St. Nicholas and minimize the Santa Clause character. (And we totally blow the naughty or nice list out of the water.)
·         I immediately throw all fliers and catalogues in the recycle bin to avoid the “I want that” syndrome. Then we can focus on what we have and what we have to give.

**I realize it is late in the game for making it to confession at this point, BUT, if you haven’t, and there is a last-ditch opportunity, then GO. Even if it’s been ten years. Even if you don’t know what to say. Even if you aren’t sure how the prayers go. Even if you are sure that everyone there can tell you are super crazy uncomfortable. Even if it is a regular pattern for you. Even if it seems like you are saying the same things every time you go. I am not one of those Catholics that really enjoys going to confession. I have to force myself to go-every time. And this is my one, no-excuses-what-so-ever promise during Advent. During Advent, I go. It is uncomfortable. But it is good for me. It is good for our fellow man. It is good for the Church.

Jennifer Sagel has four great kids and a principal husband.  She's pretty apathetic about growing up in the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan but she is passionate about her Catholic faith.  After graduating college Jen worked in campus ministry and is currently the helping with several ministries at her parish.  She has a dry sense of humor, a great taste in fashion, and really likes beer.  Jen is not a blogger though you can occasionally find her reviewing products over at Momma In Flip Flops 2

For more posts on Advent traditions and reflections check out the Advent series.


  1. Thanks Jennifer. Really, really glad that I'm not the only one facing the "poopy,poop,poops" this Advent.