From Father's Desk

Friends in Christ,

In September, God blessed me with a labradoodle puppy. I named her Gracie Mae, since she is a gift to me. Gracie is spunky and sweet, and likes to make grunting noises as she gnaws her bones. Quickly I realized the unforeseen ways she altered my solo existence. Leaving the house for a walk now requires a list of items, including poop bags! Over these past two months, together we have made adjustments and have now formed a life together.

Since March we have all endured a host of alterations to our routines brought on by an invisible virus. Have you gotten all the way to the store without a mask yet? (Now I keep one in the car, with a bottle of hand sanitizer too!) Handwashing, mask-wearing, social-distancing, quarantining - and a host of other compound verbs that were not in our vocabularies last Advent. We have learned a new watchfulness, a new vigilance. While personally, I am beyond words like “crisis” and “unprecedented,” we cannot deny that our lives have changed. Hopefully, we have adapted to the temporary “new normal.” Now is the time to maintain our vigilance despite “pandemic fatigue.” Collectively, we have released much more stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, than in many “normal” years.

As Advent 2021 begins, our Lord invites us to be vigilant, to watch, to stay alert and be aware. I am not sure how long humanity can keep vigil. The Gospel today  names the four turns of the night watch because no one is expected to keep watch all night. Rather than alertness about touching our faces and minding our social bubbles, our Advent message focuses on Spiritual Preparedness . “Are you prepared?” is the question we ask ourselves this Advent. And I imagine, many who thought they were prepared, find themselves feeling unprepared.

The deepest form of preparation is not stockpiling bleach and toilet paper, but the formation of virtue to live in holiness of life. Virtue is not virtue until it is tested. Our heavenly Father has certainly been testing our virtue. Have we been found wanting? In moments, I have. Do you recognize your own shortcomings? Advent is the time to prepare, to sharpen our spiritual senses, and be especially attentive to the work of the Lord.

Isaiah the Prophet poses the question, “Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” Good question. Why does it take so long for people to turn to you, my God? I fear they will never learn the most important lessons. Show us our blindness, Lord. Isaiah continues with great longing, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you…” Yes, Lord! Intercede for us. Show your face! As the pandemic drags on, we seek your assistance, not for a cure, but that the world may turn to you and be saved. Isaiah has deep faith in the promise: “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!” Yes, sweet Lord - find us doing what is right and just in your sight. May we learn the lesson of this trial, that life is grounded not in consumption but in virtue. Your invitation is to continue to grow in love of God and neighbor. This time has only heightened that acuity.

Lord, grant us the spiritual acumen to seek growth in virtue and to be prepared in our hearts for what is to come. Preparation, adaptation, stasis, repeat. Such is life, such is the spiritual life. Recall the words of Saint John Henry Newman, “To live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Yours attentively,
Fr. Wilson