Our parish youth group met this past Sunday. Paul and I are on the advisory committee that helps to plan, prepare and chaperone the teens’ events. We began our Gaudete Sunday celebration by attending Mass together as a group, families and teens together. The teens were invited to carry the Rose-colored Advent Candle to the front of church during the entrance procession and to place it in the Advent Wreath. As they stood in front of church, their beautiful smiles lit up the house of prayer as much as the flames flickering on the Advent Wreath!
That evening we gathered again at church to pray at a Taize Prayer Service. During that hour of beautiful chanted hymns by candlelight, our group of 15 teens and several other family members were blessed by peaceful Taize chant and prayerful silence. As I sat in front of the Holy Family Icon, I prayed for my own family. I asked God to bless us with our own special form of holiness and I felt joy well up inside of me as I focused on my blessings, knowing that God heard my prayer and would help us to model our lives on that of the Holy Family.
As we left the church to walk over to the parish center, flakes of pure, white snow were silently falling from the night sky. I felt it was a gift from heaven, God’s own way of silently rejoicing.
Upon entering the parish center, our group decorated Christmas cookies that I had baked earlier in the week. My sixteen-year-old son, John, spontaneously arose from his chair, embraced me, and said, “I love you, Mom!” Our youth minister, standing nearby, became teary-eyed at that sight. She spoke of how her four-year-old son is very open about showing affection and she only hopes that he will continue to be affectionate well into his teen years. I cannot remember any time when I had ever felt so proud. That moment was followed by another beautiful sight, as I saw my daughter Mary climb into 14-year-old Justin’s lap to snuggle during a Christmas movie.
I know that God answered my prayer that night, and in an immediate way. My children love Paul and I, and they love each other, and there is nothing holier than that! I often ponder the mystery of how God could come to bless me with five wonderful children and a loving spouse when I so often let Him down with sin. I catch myself in mistakes over and over again, especially mistakes of harshness towards my children, and coldness towards my husband, and yet, they keep showering me with nothing but love and warmth. My family is a reflection of God’s love for me through their generous gifts of loving words and actions that they share so frequently and openly. It is a Joyful Mystery and all I can do in response is rejoice! Gaudete!