St. Francis of Assisi longed to be in Bethlehem. While he didn’t end up there, he is credited with creating the first Nativity scene, on a hill in Greccio, Italy.
For most of us, visiting the actual sacred sites where Christ was born, grew up, began his ministry, and redeemed us with his death and resurrection is hard to do. But as St. Francis showed us, that shouldn’t deter us from finding creative ways to integrate what happened in these holy places into our everyday faith.
“There is joy that comes from inserting yourself into God’s story,” said Fr. Agustino Torres, CFR, founder of Corazón Puro and author of Prepare Your Heart: A Guided Advent Journal for Prayer and Meditation, which is published in both English and Spanish. How we do that will be different for everyone, but making an intentional effort to do so, especially during holy seasons, can draw us closer to our Lord.
This Advent, Fr. Torres invites you to enter into God’s story in Nazareth from a different angle. The meditations are accompanied by gorgeous original art by Valerie Delgado of Pax.
The art and the reflection questions in this journal call us to listen to the wisdom of the Scriptures, engage in heartfelt prayer, extend our hands in charity to those in need, and serve others with a joyful spirit — the essential elements of Franciscan spirituality.
This approach can feel a little topsy-turvy at first, mainly because contemporary culture emphases individualism, which in turn leads many Christians to focus on asking God to enter their lives. But just as St. Francis went to Jesus, Franciscan spirituality urges us to ask God how we can come into his story.
“Although Advent is a time of joyful anticipation,” Fr. Torres explains, “it is also a time when we can order our hearts to prepare for the coming of the Christ child.”
Prepare Your Heart and its companion materials provides the perfect space to step back and evaluate where you stand with God, yourself, and others. This assessment helps us to recenter our lives to give Jesus a home in our hearts.
Fr. Torres also reveals how the saints and the Holy Family can accompany you during this season. Their stories invite us daily to intimacy with Christ through falling in love with the commonplace way of life we all experience by walking alongside these holy people in the beautiful ordinary of their lives. Each week you will embark on a new path to guide you on how to become part of God’s story:
- Week One, the way of Nazareth: a spirituality that attunes you to the needs of others and the hidden presence of God.
- Week Two, the way of the saints: featuring Sts. Lucy, Nicholas, Juan Diego, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast days fall during Advent; they will teach you to live with intentionality, humility, and devotion.
- Week Three, the way of St. Joseph: revealing the creative courage of Jesus’ foster father, teaching you how he makes a home for each of us in the heart of God.
- Week Four, the way of Mary: a tutorial in learning how to say yes to God’s call for your life and trusting in his loving providence.
While all of these paths converge in the celebration of the incarnation of our Lord and salvation, the journey through these different “ways” offer new and life-changing guidance on how to encounter the Christ Child with wonder, awe, and a transformed heart.
You can find out more about Prepare Your Heart, and access free videos, a family guide, and leader’s guide in both English and Spanish at avemariapress.com.
This article is sponsored by Ave Maria Press.