Advent is now upon us. It is a time of waiting and a time of preparation for the anniversary of the coming of the Son of God. Instead of making spiritual preparations during Advent, many of us get caught up in the demands of the holiday season. Any extra time we have is spent on the material preparations that have become an annual tradition, such as buying gifts, decorating our homes and work areas, planning parties, and baking treats.
During the years that Georgette and I were raising our children, we did our best to go out on a date at least once a week. There was only one condition that applied to our weekly dates: no one else could join us. If we had friends or family members we wanted to go out with, we planned one evening for our weekly date and a different evening for our friends or family members. It didn’t matter where we went, but most of the time, we ended up at a local restaurant.
I have a client — I’ll call her Joanne — who is a devout Christian. Joanne periodically contacts me and asks for my opinion about a faith-based issue she is struggling with. She recently asked me if I think she has an obligation to assist her husband’s mother — I’ll call her Frances — with her basic personal, healthcare, and financial needs.
The year was 1969. I was 12 years old and I had a paper route, money in my pocket, and a radio on the nightstand that was next to my bed. Back then, the world I lived in was as close to paradise that a 12-year-old boy could get. Other than 8-track tape players in cars, the only way we could listen to prerecorded music was on a radio or a record player.
I’ve written before about Fr. Clair Bourdereaux, a Franciscan priest who was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria in 1976. He remained there for 19 years, until his death in January 1995. Fr. Clair had all the qualities of a great counselor. He was holy, smart, wise, gentle, diplomatic, compassionate, and understanding. He had the unique ability to connect with people on their level and set them on a path toward holiness and happiness.
Did you know that there’s an old plantation hymn that Catholics traditionally sing in church on Good Friday? The hymn was composed in the 19th century by African American slaves and was first published in 1899 by William Eleazar Barton in his hymnal, Old Plantation Hymns. Here’s the first verse of the hymn: