By Sue Richardson
In 2002, urged by Father Michael McGlade, we used the first Diocesan Advent Reflection Programme. We followed ‘Preparing Together’ a programme designed to help the Diocesan Pastoral Formation Team to understand what the parishes needed and to plan how to support them in the coming years. The follow up programme in 2003 was ‘Gathering Together’ In both years around 120 St Pius X parishioners, joined 13 groups to use the material. The process, which asked for input on a range of topics, helped us feel that we were contributing to Diocesan planning and formation. Responses were gathered from across the Diocese by the Pastoral Team.
Over the next ten years, 60 – 80 parishioners continued to meet in small groups each Advent. The programmes during this period concentrated on the scriptures for the Sundays of Advent – Old and New testament readings, Psalms, Gospels, and on one occasion, the ‘O’ Antiphons.
The scriptures were read and discussed, using guidance from a series of questions and suggestions offered by the Diocesan team.
Always enjoyable, the sessions afforded an opportunity to step away from the busyness and commercialism of Advent.
Concentrating on the scriptures and considering our individual responses to discussion topics has been a refreshing experience and has frequently made us question our own commitment to those around us who are lonely, suffering, and in trouble of any sort. Finishing with a cup of coffee and a chat was an essential and enjoyable part of the process!
Our group has followed the Diocesan programme each year since the start, and were worried that the discussion topics had become very predictable, leading us down similar paths each year.
Often we have found ourselves discussing the areas of need around us, and identifying interventions that might be of help - but often we were daunted by the scale of those problems and the insignificance of any action we might take. We recognised that identifying needs was one thing, but being able to take action at an individual level was often much more difficult. Sometimes we were left feeling inadequate, or even guilty that we could do so little to help.
The programme for Advent 2016 was a little different to previous years. A SIMPLE PATH FOR ADVENT
asked us to reflect on St Mother Teresa of Calcuttas’ path of
SILENCE, PRAYER, FAITH, LOVE, SERVICE AND PEACE
We concentrated on the First reading from each Sunday of Advent. We followed Lectio Divina, which Bishop Richard has urged us to practice. This required us to read the passage slowly four times. After each reading we each identified and shared a word, then a phrase, then any brief thoughts that came to us from the reading.
At first, we were apprehensive about reading the same passage so many times, thinking we might just ‘switch off’ In fact, this slow unwrapping of the scripture helped us to understand the meaning much more fully, and we all enjoyed the process.
We also reflected on Mother Teresa’s own words, supplemented by a description of the work carried out by her Order for the poor of Calcutta. The sessions provided a discussion question to accompany her words on Faith, Love, Service and Peace, based on this work.
Our reflections this year left us in a much more positive frame of mind; we acknowledged what we are actually doing, both as individuals and in our church community, sometimes with family, friends and neighbours, sometimes with strangers, and recognised that our many small acts of service are steps on St Mother Teresa’s Simple Path.
We look forward to next year’s programme and urge YOU to think about finding time in Advent to join with a group of 8 or so friends from the community and follow the programme together.
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