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A book that teaches how to pray, not what to pray


Father Joel Sember | Our Sunday Visitor

Fr. Edward Looney - published on 12/01/20

The aim of 'Oriens' is to equip you for a lifetime of intimate prayer and meditation with the Trinity.

Have you ever had a prayerful Advent? Or how about this question: Have you fully observed the Christmas season? You’ve probably had good intentions. You signed up for all the Advent emails that Catholic organizations and personalities put out and if you are like me, you are good for the first few days … and then fall off the bandwagon. That was 2019 or 2018. But this is 2020.

We are in the middle of a worldwide health pandemic. Our life looks different. Our government leaders are telling us to shelter in place and not to gather with family. That means we will have fewer Christmas parties this year during our Advent season. It means fewer Christmas concerts. And maybe less time shopping at the mall. With a slower paced Advent, maybe this is the year we will have a more prayerful time preparing for Christ’s birth and even to extend that celebration throughout the Christmas season and until Candlemas, the feast Christ’s Presentation on February 2.

I know lots of Catholic people are vying for your attention during Advent. But let me introduce you to a brother priest in the Diocese of Green Bay—Fr. Joel Sember.

He’s written a new book that is not like any Advent devotional you’ve put your hands on. It’s called Oriens: A Pilgrimage through Advent and Christmas and it is published by OSV. The book serves more as a guided prayer journal, and the Pilgrim Priest Fr. Sember wishes to teach you how to pray and meditate.

Typically, when you pick up a spiritual book for a liturgical season such as Advent or Lent, you expect a book with meditations that you read daily, then think that’s a nice thought for the day, and maybe it recurs in your mind as you go about your activities.

The aim of Fr. Joel’s book is to equip you for a lifetime of intimate prayer and meditation with the Trinity. This pilgrim guide to prayer will introduce you to the prayer methods of our Catholic tradition such as lectio divina, relational prayer, and imaginative prayer.

After being introduced to these prayer methods, each day of the journey will guide you through a Scripture passage and how to unpack it in prayer, along with the opportunity to journal.

What I love about Oriens is that as a journal, you will be able to go back to it sometime in the future and see how much you have deepened your spiritual life since your Advent and Christmas pilgrimage.

This year’s book is the 2020 edition, and a new edition will come out to help you with Advent 2021. Also, the book doesn’t end with Christmas, but continues with the twelve days of Christmas, and extends until the Presentation of Jesus in the temple.  On my podcast How They Love Mary, Fr. Sember said that if you find that you get behind by Christmas, the nice thing is that you still have more than half the book left to engage with during the month of January.

Oriens will be a book to help you not only to prepare for Christmas and beyond but it will be a guidebook for your pilgrimage to the kingdom of Heaven, taking you to new spiritual heights during our earthly sojourn to the Heavenly Jerusalem.


Read more:
Contemplation for beginners: How to calm your thoughts

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