December 2, 2012

Making the Most of Your Family’s Advent by Lisa Hendey

I recently had the experience of speaking on the topic of Advent at a local parish. The participants in my session were parents of children who were attending the parish’s religious education program. This particular church provides “whole family catechesis”, which means that while the kids are in class, their parents can choose from a few different classes or speakers and learn too. The classes are preceded by pizza dinner and family prayer, and last less than an hour. All in all, a wonderful formula!

But as a mom, I remember those nights of having to head back out for something – even something wonderful like family prayer – at the end of a busy day. Perhaps that’s why when I offered the parents a silent opportunity to jot down their feelings about Advent and share them with me privately, I received the results I did.

Some of the dads surveyed said of Advent:
·         It helps me get in the mood for Christmas
·         It’s a good time to get our kids involved in the Season
·         It helps me to focus the Christmas season on my faith
·         It’s a spiritual time for our family
·         Advent is a season of joy, celebration & anticipation
·         We should be reaching out to those in need

The moms who responded shared answers such as:
·         I like that it reminds our children of the true meaning of Christmas
         I enjoy it but do not participate as much as I would like to
         I feel excited but overwhelmed because I want to make it important in our family but Christmas is so hectic
         I want to celebrate with my children but get behind and never get to it
         Life is so busy that we don’t celebrate it appropriately
         It’s a good time to bring our family in from our crazy life and gives us pressure to get back to faith

Obviously, my simple little “fill in the blank” survey was neither scientific, nor comprehensive, but it was enough to remind me that so often, we Catholic moms are stressed out.

And as a result, all too often, we may see Advent simply as yet another “to do” item on a laundry list of responsibilities that fill our holiday season. Far from being a time of quiet, prayerful preparation, it may be viewed as yet another reason to see ourselves “falling short” when we don’t “do” Advent in the fashion we consider right.

Maybe this doesn’t describe your life in the least. If you’re reading this, and you don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed this Advent season, please count your blessings and say a prayer for the rest of us. Even with grown sons and fewer hands-on parenting chores than many of you, I still struggle to carve out precious prayer time every day in our home.

So this Advent, I invite you to join me in setting aside expectations of any kind that may lead you to feel you aren’t “doing Advent” right. I hope you and your family can simply turn inward a bit during the busyness of the season, and can joyfully – yet simply – prepare your hearts to receive Christ. When you catch yourself feeling overwhelmed, imagine me in Fresno, praying with and for you. Take a moment to breathe, to count your blessings, and to ponder the glory of our Savior – his coming to us as a babe in the manger, our anticipation of his glorious return at the Second Coming, and also his quiet, constant presence in our lives each day through the gift of the Eucharist and his True Presence in our hearts and homes.

May this Advent be for you and yours a true blessing!

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the author of O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath (available at for $1.25 or $1 with purchases of ten or more using coupon code catholicmom12.

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


  1. The differences in the responses between men and women is so TRUE! It's hard for me to understand why my husband ISN'T stressed about everything that needs to be done in the next month. But he is not a mom, and that really does make all the difference. Thanks for this reflection!

  2. Every Advent and Christmas, we take a 6-week break from homeschooling. Instead of having even more to do, we have less. I love Advent now! You can read all about it at:
    Faith-based education, Carmelite spirituality