It’s pretty clear that secular society doesn’t have much interest in the season of Advent. Instead, everywhere we look it’s like the Christmas season is already here.
It can be a good thing to focus on a holiday that does have the birth of Christ at its center, no matter how they might try to forget that fact! But we as single Catholic men and women know that we’re just not there yet.
Does that mean we have to hold off with decorating, gift-shopping, and the Christmas tunes until the holiday itself arrives? Not necessarily.
But at the same time, we should try our hardest to avoid falling into the trap of playing like we’re fully there already, with no time set aside for preparation.
Traditionally, the Church has held that the season of Advent is indeed a time of preparation for the coming birth of Christ. Catholics should enter into this spirit through an increase in prayer, almsgiving, and penance – rather like Lent, but shorter and perhaps less intense.
It turns out that there are actually a lot of Catholic traditions that can help us enter more fully into the season of Advent. Here are three in particular that can fit well with the Catholic single life.
1. Join in prayer with others
The most obvious, and often simplest, way to enter more fully into the Advent season is to step up your prayer life.
This can look like a lot of different things to different people who have different preferences and attractions when it comes to prayer.
Some of us might feel drawn to start a daily rosary, or to make a purposeful meditation on Advent-related Scripture readings. Or we might want to start reading a spiritual book.
Any increase in your prayer life is a good idea to help prepare for the birth of Christ. But perhaps one of the more fruitful ways to carry this out as a single is to look for opportunities to join in your parish community’s prayer life this Advent.
A lot of parishes hold additional prayer events throughout Advent. For example, during the last seven days of Advent, some parishes will communally pray the evening prayer portion of Liturgy of the Hours (also known as Vespers), as the once-per-year “O Antiphons” make their appearance in the prayers.
Even if your parish doesn’t hold additional prayer events, you can try to join in the prayer events they hold all year, like a communal rosary.
Finding a way to get out of your house as you increase your prayer life will help with both making it intentional, and also with connecting you to other Catholics – which can sometimes feel like a difficult thing to do during your single years.
2. Try almsgiving in a communal sense
Perhaps a lot of times when we think of almsgiving, we think of simply giving money (or giving more money) to charity.
That can definitely be part of almsgiving. I can personally vouch for the fact that it’s the most practical way to give alms when you’re at a stage of life that includes caring for your small children.
But our single years are a great time to take almsgiving a step farther and give some time as well. I certainly wish, looking back, that I had taken the opportunity to do more hands-on service when it would have been easier to fit it in.
It still might not be easy to fit in something like volunteering at a soup kitchen or the like this Advent season, between work and the demands of family and other social commitments.
But, except for a few of us who are unusually drawn to this kind of work, it might never be easy to motivate ourselves to do it. And we know that it is a spiritually worthwhile goal to love Christ in our neighbors by serving their physical needs.
3. Make Sunday a special occasion
A lot of us might be familiar with the practice of treating each Sunday like a mini-Easter during Lent, a break from whatever personal penance we’ve chosen to offer up throughout the season.
Even though Advent isn’t as intense in its penitential spirit as Lent, we can still treat each Sunday as a mini-celebration during Advent to help us appreciate the spirit of solemn preparation through the rest of the week.
One way to do this that can be especially helpful for singles is to have Sunday night dinners with family or friends. There’s no need to wait until Christmas for a big get-together.
Invite family or friends to your place. Invite yourself to someone else’s. That’s one benefit to the skip-ahead-to-Christmas mentality of secular society: people are already in the mood to be festive together.
Take the opportunity to connect more deeply with friends and family even before the big day, as a good remedy to fight off inclinations toward lonely feelings and a help to enter into the spirit of the Advent season throughout the rest of the week.
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