December 14, 2012

A Perpetual State of Advent by Lisa Schmidt

Earlier this year I developed a spiritual board of directors --- a group of saints to serve, in a particularly intimate way, as my cloud of witnesses throughout this year. One of the saints on my board is St. Benedict.

My husband Joel is in deacon formation and we travel once a month to Conception Abbey and Seminary, a Benedictine monastery, for theological training. Through our visits, I’ve developed a great admiration for the order and the simple, purposeful Benedictine way of life.

The Rule of St. Benedict calls for life to be ordered in prayer, study, work, and sleep. This is done both communally and privately in silence. The spirit of St. Benedict’s Rule is summed up by two phrases: pax (peace) and ora et labora (pray and work). The pattern of the day varies only according to the seasons of the year and the liturgical calendar. It is balanced.


What do I know about balance?! Not much, but I’m slowly understanding why the Holy Spirit was calling me to place St. Benedict on my spiritual board.

St. Bene meet Papa Bene. Our Holy Father seems to get this idea of balance. 

"We live in a society in which it seems that every space, every moment must be 'filled' with initiatives, activity, sound; often there is not even time to listen and dialogue … Let us not be afraid to be silent outside and inside ourselves, so that we are able not only to perceive God's voice, but also the voice of the person next to us, the voices of others" (quote source).

He’s talking about the need for balance both in the world and in our hearts. No small task. I’ve heard some say that balance became a myth with the invention of the light bulb. No longer were we “forced” to live by the natural rhythms of day and night. We could eliminate the darkness to live an eternal day. The problem? God created the darkness with a purpose.  

“Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Evening came, and morning followed—the first day” (Genesis 1:3).

I’ve seen it written that in Advent we live in the night with our faces turned toward the unseen dawn.

Flashback Advent 2011. I was nearly 9-months pregnant with a 10-pound babe incubating in my womb who happened to be most comfortable sitting on my sciatic nerve. I was big, immobile, and in a lot of pain. So I alternately sat on the couch and lay in bed; I’m equal opportunity like that. Forced largely to retreat from the world, I dove into the Advent season via the Catholic blogosphere. I learned how to bring liturgical celebrations to life, inside my home.

As the liturgical calendar prompted, I slowly unpacked the items stowed away in the Christmas totes. The Advent wreath came out on the First Sunday of Advent; the stockings appeared with the Feast of St. Nicholas. We kicked off our Christmas preparation in earnest by celebrating the feast of our daughter’s patron, St. Lucy. We ratcheted up our spiritual preparation by praying the O Antiphons found in the Liturgy of the Hours the week before Christmas.
And get this. Our Advent was so simple, purposeful, and peaceful … just like the Benedictine way of life. Throughout 2012, maybe thanks to St. Benedict himself, it’s dawned on me that this is how it’s supposed to be. All the time. Not just in Advent.

Unquestionably, Advent is a pronounced time of anticipation. Yet I’m feeling called to live my life in a perpetual state of advent. Because if, on December 26, I return to filling my life up with initiatives, activity, and sound (as our Holy Father cautioned) then haven’t I missed the point?

The word Advent comes from the Latin advenio, "to come to," and refers to the coming of Christ. Jesus came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). When he comes on Christmas, if we don’t take that and live it out the rest of the year, what have we gained?

Marantha; Come, Lord Jesus.

Lisa Schmidt is a cradle Catholic, wife, mother, former city administrator, singer, and proud Iowan.  She's also one of the sweetest, prettiest women I've ever met in my life.  She and her deacon-in-training husband Joel are doing great things for their home Diocese, including being light and salt to the blogosphere at The Practicing Catholic, where Lisa enjoys writing about faith, family, fine arts, food, and the feminine genius. She is also a columnist and Facebook moderator for, and co-host of the radio show Catholic Women Now. You can follow me on Twitter (@LisaAnnSchmidt).

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


  1. This is just what I needed to read!

  2. Thanks, Teri. Glad the Holy Spirit worked through me to reach you. God bless.

  3. Bonnie, the comments you wrote in my bio are so touching. Thank you. Gives me courage to keep running the race with perseverance. Thankful our paths crossed a year ago; looking forward to seeing you again soon! You are such a blessing to the #cathmedia world!

  4. I love that the deacon formation program is leading you to take the riches of Benedictine spirituality into your life and home. And you make a great point that our technology-driven life makes it harder to discern the natural and liturgical rhythms of our year. Thanks for sharing your experience, Lisa.

    1. Hi Nancy! Thanks for commenting in. Joel and I have discussed, in jest, packing up and moving next to the Abbey when formation is over. Might not go over well with our Bishop! :) Have a joy-filled weekend!

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