Behold, all ye who enter here, the Hat of Happiness:
The Hat of Happiness hath been given unto me by mine sweetheart, and mine sweetheart hath decreed the Hat shall be worn at whatsoever time I am in moods not of the endearing kind, and the Hat shall sway the darkness of mine temper and sweeten the disposition of mine self.
Also, mine sweetheart shall therefore be warned by mine adornment in the Hat of Happiness of the dangerous waters into which he may be sailing.
So hath it been decreed, so shall it be done.
It totally works, too, ya’ll. I mean, just today I was in a not-so-chipper mood, and I put on the hat. Then I says to myself in the middle of an inner complain sesh,
Me: “Self, what is that on your head?”
Self: *pauses to consider* “It is a hat.”
Me: “With two pom-poms?”
Self *pauses again to consider again* “Yes, in fact, it is a hat with two pom-poms.”
Me: “So, what is the problem again?”
Self: *pauses for a considerable amount of time to consider* “Nothing. Actually, nothing.”
Me: “Well, there we have it.”
And so it goes. Really quite brilliant, that sweetheart of mine. Quite. Brilliant.
I need it fairly often. I’ve only had it four days and, already, I have needed it quite often. But, sometimes, I do not need it.
Like, for example, when Christmas attacks me.
Now, I could be all, DUDEHELLOITISADVENTNOOOOTCHRISTMAS!!!
But I do not need my Hat of Happiness for that. Because I do not feel like that.
Now, I love Christmas. I do.
And I actually love Advent even more. Advent is My Very Favorite Ever. See last year’s December blog posts for proof.
I had a little “moment” about a week before Thanksgiving. There was a tree. A Christmas tree. A decorated Christmas tree. A week before Thanksgiving.
For half a second I froze up with the onset of frustration: what the heck happened to Thanksgiving?
The next half second, something occurred to me. I mulled it over quite a bit, and started discussing it with that brilliant sweetheart of mine. My conclusion was that people setting up Christmas shop so incredibly early does not make me angry.
It does make me sad in a certain way, but not angry. I get super more bothered by Christmas evaporating on December 26th than I do about it appearing on November 26th. But that is another post for another time. The reason it makes me sad is that I think, buried down in the hype is an earnest hunger for what we call “Advent.”
Now, okay okay, I do know that all this craziness is significantly due to commercialism and consumerism and Americanism and whatevertheheckelseism you want to blame it on. But as someone told me once: in every convincing lie, there must be a grain of truth.
I know there seems to be some ever-present overhead-announcer-voice shrieking: “Hurry hurry hurry get ready the holidays are coming!” However, I think it’s arguable that the reason people listen to that driving, screaming overhead-announcer-voice is that, deep in their hearts there is an aching whisper of, “Get ready, He’s coming.”
Now, as Catholics we should be as accustomed as it is possible to be to living the liturgical calendar within the goings-on of the secular one.
Every spring, we suddenly show up wearing dirt on our foreheads one Wednesday and shunning meat on Fridays. Different feast days find Catholics processing through downtown city streets with what look to outsiders like a Jewish wedding canopy over a giant gold sunburst. Catholics are weird, man. And I love it. Weirdness attracts attention, and if we handle the attention right, we get to start a conversation, and if we handle the conversation right, we get to do that Catholic thing. You know, THAT Catholic thing: evangelize.
You didn’t know that was a Catholic thing?
Dude. Meet Advent.
I heard a priest speak very beautifully last weekend about the importance of our living faithfully the Advent season. But I do not suppose that he meant I am to run around freaking out every time somebody busts out a Christmas tree or a snowman or a Santa Claus is comin’ to town. I’m going to (try to) smile calmly, live my Advent, move in peace and joy, and when somebody says “Merry Christmas!” I’m going to say, “You too, and a blessed Advent!” and if they ask me about that, then I get to do that Catholic thing. Or if people talk about how stressed they are, or how tough the holidays are since they lost a loved one or a job or a home, then I can listen, and maybe have a chance afterwards to share some Advent.
I mentioned in the last paragraph that I’m going to “live my Advent.” In case you’re looking for ideas, I thought I’d share some of my favorites. 🙂
1. Advent at Ephesus – Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles.
From their website: “We never cease to marvel at the wonderful, unexpected blessings which Divine Providence prepares for our community. The story of this Advent recording is another striking example. Truly our Divine Spouse orders all things ‘mightily and sweetly,’ as we chant just days before Christmas in one of the beautiful “O” Antiphons of the Church’s Advent liturgy.”
Singing cloistered nuns who tell their story like that…How can you resist? You just can’t. I’ve already listened a few times through in our whole four days of Advent. If you get on Spotify you can listen to the whole album free before you cave and buy the CD. I especially love “O Come, Divine Messiah” and “Gabriel’s Song.” Go listen now, you can thank me later.
Also, silence is good. Try some of that, too.
2. Advent of the Heart – Father Alfred Delp
Don’t even get me started, I could go on forever. I love this book. So. Much. I discovered it last year and was itching to pull it back out this year. There’s the actual book from Ignatius Press or a Kindle version. It could be argued that I have an addiction to the Kindle app on my iPad mini but for this I like the actual book…enjoying seeing my highlights from last year. Full of profoundly challenging, achingly beautiful words: “Advent is a time of being deeply shaken, so that man will wake up to himself.” If this book doesn’t get you in the Advent spirit…I…can’t even talk to you.
3. 2013 Magnificat Advent Companion
Back to my arguable addiction to the Kindle app on the iPad mini. This one is short and sweet and doled out in daily doses. Also $0.99. There are paper versions of this too, if you must.
4. Advent wreath
This might seem obvious, but, apparently there are some questions about how one goes about such an enterprise. I’ve been running across these questions lately. I shall therefore address them forthwith: at my house, we kick it like as follows.
We have a very simple ring for the 4 candles, kinda like this:
Mom circles the frame in faux greenery, we get three violets and a rose (candles) from Hobby Lobby, and then set La Virgen de Buena Esperanza in the center. Like so:
And please keep in mind for your candles that it’s three violets and a rose, not three purples and a pink. There are pink candles and rose candles. Get rose. When you see them you’ll know of what I speak.
Or Google it and order a set from someone. Whatever.
5. Mass. Not only for Sundays.
Daily Mass is amazing. I particularly love it during November and December. November is pretty much my favorite month for liturgical readings. (Maccabees, anyone? Every year, you guys. It never gets old.) But Advent is also really beautiful. No Maccabees, but there’s plenty of excitement to go around. Yesterday was the Centurion soldier, which took on some fresh interest after reading Dear and Glorious Physician, which we should discuss sometime. Plus at Mass there’s the Eucharist, and Who is better for getting you ready for Jesus than…Jesus? Nobody, that’s who. If you can make it, you won’t be sorry you went.
Say some Memorares. Or decades. Or Rosaries. Or check out the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. Or renew your Consecration. (There’s actually a free podcast on iTunes which I love to use from Rosary Army – they even have a priest who helps lead the prayers for the different days. Makes it much easier to keep up.) You could even take some flowers to a church and set them next to one of her pictures, like you would your mom’s picture at home. Something. Because the other person who’s really good at getting you ready for Jesus is His Mother. If you want to live Advent powerfully, live it the way the original Advent was done: with Mary.
7. ST. JOSEPH
I love St. Joseph. I love him, just, so much. One of my friends once told me, “You want to pray the Joyful Mysteries in a whole new way? Meditate with St. Joseph.” Boom. Or the Litany to St. Joseph…Check it out, you guys. And please do not even get started with thinking he’s some old man. The Pillar of Families an old cripple leaning on a twisted staff? The Guardian of the Virgin stumbling around in infirmity? God sending His Son and His Son’s Mother across the desert into Egypt with an elderly gent on death’s doorstep? Do you really think we call him “Joseph most Chaste” because he was just too old to care that Mary was the most radiant woman ever to walk the earth? Uhhh…NO. Big fat no. As in no way. I imagine there is an incredibly good reason the Church calls him the Terror of Demons, and I highly doubt it was because he was a sweet-faced old man.
Somebody guided the God-Man’s hands in His first carpentry work, and that somebody was our very own Model of Artisans. Think about that.
Glory of the Domestic Life and Solace of the Wretched – pray for us.
I’m not suggesting you do all of these, but I am suggesting them in hopes you’ll be inspired to look around and CHOOSE something, and then DO it. Take up a devotion. Fast from something. Pray a little more than you were. Instead of complaining about Christmas being turned into a booming business, let’s live this Advent season with good penitential Catholic joy. That joy and peace will be the beginning of helping the world understand the real, deep hunger that it has, and of leading all to the One who alone can satisfy.