The following is a guest post from Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., a member of The Christophers’ Board of Directors.
Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas, recalling the hope surrounding Christ’s first coming and looking forward to His second coming, when all things will be fulfilled in Him.
During this time, we should feel like we are on a journey away from the bondage of worldliness and towards the fulfillment of our deepest and purest desires.
One of the most important ways to bring this journey to life within our hearts is to pray for guidance, protection, and intercession along the way, and there are certain saints that are particularly appropriate to call upon, with life stories to inspire us as we prepare ourselves for Christmas.
In an article for Catholic Exchange, journalist Stephen Beale lists his “Top Ten Saints for Advent” and explains how aspects of their stories relate to this period of expectation. For instance, St. Francis of Assisi installed the first nativity scene, using real life animals and a life-sized manger. He wanted to ignite devotion to the faith, and his actions remind us that this is indeed a time for us to create beautiful commemorations to the miracle of Christ’s birth.
Another saint devoted to reminding others of the importance of Christ was John the Baptist, only his was a prophetic call sounded even before Christ began His ministry. John’s story reminds us that we all have a unique purpose in life. His purpose was so clear to him from the very beginning that he actually leapt in his mother Elizabeth’s womb upon being in the presence of the unborn Christ in Mary’s womb.
Other saints that Beale highlights for their significance during Advent are St. John of the Cross for his meditation on the Dark Night of the Soul, a time when we wait in anxious expectation to be calmed by the peace of Christ; St. Martin of Tours, whose feast day was once a Mardi-Gras-like kick-off to start Advent; St. Nicholas, whose legend has grown around Christmas but who was also known as a strong defender of the faith; St. Lucy, who endured a torture that left her blind and is now remembered in connection to the Christmas imagery of Jesus as the light of the world; St. Therese of Lisieux, who was devoted to the Child Jesus; and St. Teresa of Avila, who was devoted to St. Joseph.
And that brings us to the two most important saints to remember during Advent: Mary and Joseph. Beale calls Mary “the ultimate Christian believer,” who experienced the intense joy of being close to Christ and who also weathered the turmoil that surrounded His life.
Reflecting on St. Joseph, Beale references an Advent sermon given by St. Bernard of Clairvaux on the special relationship between Joseph and Jesus. Bernard highlighted that God trusted Joseph to “carry in his arms, to lead by the hand, to nourish and to watch over the Infant Savior.”
No two people could have experienced the anticipation of Christ’s birth more profoundly than Mary and Joseph. Imagine the responsibility they knew they were preparing themselves for—and then realize that God is calling you to that same responsibility.
Advent is a time to prepare ourselves to welcome the Child Jesus in all His vulnerability into our lives and to see Christ in all those entrusted to us in their most vulnerable moments. When we do that, we have walked in the footsteps of the saints in preparing ourselves for Christ, and it is a journey that will not disappoint.