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Hopeful Preparations

Another Advent is upon us, and with it comes another opportunity to prepare for Christmas. It took too many years for me to understand why preparing during advent is important, and too many more to make good plans and actually prepare. This year, as every year inevitably does, feels a little different. As I reflected on the reality of our first semester at the Jesuit Spiritual Center, I could not help but notice that my life has been a series of preparations since the shutdown last March.

We have spent countless hours preparing and planning online content, equipment, activities, reflections, prayers, and games for our retreats. We have meticulously written out witness talks, activity processing pieces, blog posts, and online content. We have met as a team day after day, planning out our schedules and work tasks. We prepared our buildings to accommodate socially distant retreats. We updated our retreat offerings to reflect our new reality. We adapted the experiences we offer to make them safer without sacrificing the engagement and invitation to participate and reflect for our young people. We did all of this with the constant threat of illness, quarantine, cancellation, and shutdown. We did all of this with a spirit of hope.

It is very fitting that Christmas comes at the end of the year, and Advent is an opportunity to look back in order to look forward. 2020 has felt like one long Advent; like a period of preparation for our future. Did you ever notice how ‘advent’ is the first part of the word ‘adventure’?  What an adventure this year has been! It saddens me how many people have chosen to focus on all the negative things that this year has brought. Certainly, 2020 has brought many challenges to us. It has altered our reality, permeating into so much of our daily lives, and has turned so much of what we are used to upside down. It has been fraught with division, anger, frustration, and has brought out the worst in all of us at various times.

But 2020 also has been a series of opportunities, one after another, to look forward with hope and determination. At every challenging junction, my team and staff members worked hard to keep our ministry alive. We innovated, adapted, and accommodated more than we ever have. We fought for what is right, necessary, holy, and true. We strived to bring God into the lives of His people. We endured many storms, and brought our retreats to more places this year than ever before.

Personally, 2020 has been a great year of change for me. My family moved across the country in the middle of the pandemic. I moved out of the Rock House to live on my own for the first time in my life. I created, planned, and led my first retreats from start to finish. I learned how to use new equipment, software, and techniques to create content in new ways. I trained my first set of interns. I met new and amazing people that have changed my life for the better. I got to live out some of my greatest dreams and hopes in both my personal and professional lives. Despite its challenges, struggles, and darkness, 2020 has been a fantastic year full of opportunity for me.

I look forward to our lives after this pandemic. We have had a long time to prepare ourselves. Perhaps this Advent is a good time to think about how we are going to move forward with our lives after this is all over. What have we learned? How have we become better? Have we grown closer to Christ? Have we grown closer to other people? Have we invited the loving Spirit into our lives and shared His message, truth, and love with everyone that we’ve met? How can we continue to prepare for our lives in the future? What have your hopeful preparations been? What will they continue to be?

This Advent, let us prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, and invite Him to stay with us as this adventure continues, and as our extended Advent comes to its inevitable conclusion. May God’s blessings continue to fill our lives and bring us closer to Christ and one another.