With so much
violence on TV, how can I keep my family
 focused on Advent?

We are definitely living in turbulent times, but so did the Holy Family. Remember how the Romans were in power?

Remember the census that forced Joseph and his pregnant wife, Mary, to make the long trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem? Remember how there were too many people in Bethlehem and no room in the inn? Remember the birth of the savior of the world in a stable and how his first crib was the feeding trough of the animals?

Today’s refugee situation, due to violence and war, has quite a few similarities to the experience of the Holy Family. However, there is a tangible fear that surrounds the situations we see today which might be missing when we read the Gospel stories of the Holy Family.

Have hope: Do not be afraid

A great guide and model for getting through these troubled times with hope and courage is St. John Paul II.

In his first homily as pope, John Paul II said, “Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power, open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows ‘what is in man.’ He alone knows it.”

Pope John Paul II proceeded to lead the Catholic Church with courage and hope, taking every opportunity to peacefully offer resistance to tyranny and injustice and to give hope and encouragement to those who lived under oppression. “Do not be afraid” became a motto for his papacy. He came back to this message time and time again: “I plead with you – never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

He established the biennial World Youth Day and within that setting he spoke to our children the same message of hope and identified the challenge of our times for this generation:

“Ask yourselves, young people, about the love of Christ. Acknowledge his voice resounding in the temple of your heart. Return his bright and penetrating glance which opens the paths of your life to the horizons of the church’s mission. It is a taxing mission, today more than ever, to teach men the truth about themselves, about their end, their destiny, and to show faithful souls the unspeakable riches of the love of Christ. Do not be afraid of the radicalness of his demands, because Jesus, who loved us first, is prepared to give himself to you, as well as asking of you. If he asks much of you, it is because he knows you can give much.”

This Advent, as we see scenes of war and need, we should reflect on our own lives.

In what ways do I contribute to peace in my circles of influence? In what ways do I address the needs that I see in my own community? In what ways do I open wide the doors to Christ in my own life and family? In what ways do I maintain my energy for the “taxing mission” of the church? In what ways do I respond to the voice of Christ in the temple of my heart?

These are all appropriate ways to maintain a spirit of reflection and waiting during Advent. And if you need still a little more encouragement and help, then ask St. John Paul II, our holy advocate in heaven:

Prayer to St. John Paul II

O, St. John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your blessing! Bless the church that you loved and served and guided, courageously leading it along the paths of the world in order to bring Jesus to everyone and everyone to Jesus. Bless the young, who were your great passion. Help them dream again, help them look up high again to find the light that illuminates the paths of life here on earth.

May you bless families, bless each family! You warned of Satan’s assault against this precious and indispensable divine spark that God lit on earth. St. John Paul, with your prayer, may you protect the family and every life that blossoms from the family.

Pray for the whole world, which is still marked by tensions, wars and injustice. You tackled war by invoking dialogue and planting the seeds of love: pray for us so that we may be tireless sowers of peace.

O, St. John Paul, from heaven’s window, where we see you next to Mary, send God’s blessing down upon us all. Amen.

(Henry, his wife, Dr. Patricia Cabral, and their five children belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Reyes wears many hats as a business owner, doctoral student and candidate in the deacon formation program for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but he says his most important hat is building his domestic church as a stay-at-home dad and homeschooling his three oldest children.)