WAVERLY (SNR) - To help make Advent a season of spiritual preparation, Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House will offer a weekend Advent retreat Dec. 16-18 with Bishop James Conley and Father Gary Coulter, director of the retreat house.
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” Father Coulter said.
“For thousands of years, humanity waited for the Messiah who would come to redeem us and restore our relationship with God; the books of the Old Testament are filled with yearning for this event. So the season of Advent is one where we too experience that same yearning,” he said, “both as a commemoration of a past event—the first coming of Jesus Christ as a baby in Bethlehem—and in anticipation of a future one—Christ’s second coming at the end of time.”
Advent is thus a time to recognize the spiritual longing for God and to be drawn into an ever-deepening relationship with him.
“Yet with all the shuffle of Christmas planning, shopping and anxiety,” he said, “we can lose sight of the spiritual preparation, joyful expectation, and prayerful penance.”
Father Coulter said prayerful penance may not be associated with Advent as often as it is with Lent, yet it should be part of one’s preparation for whatever lies ahead.
“We prepare for the Eucharist through the sacrament of reconciliation, through some penance that breaks down the barrier of sin between us and God,” he pointed out. “So we should resolve to spend time and energy in our preparation for Jesus’ birth. Advent is the season for preparing our hearts for the coming of the Word Made Flesh.”
Bishop Conley agreed.
“We live in such a busy world. The demands on our time are relentless and we can get caught in the rhythm of the world - unless we are still and carve out some time for the Lord,” he said. “We need to disconnect from the grid, unplug from the workday world, and spend some time with the Lord preparing for his coming.”
As both a great book for advent reading, and as the source he will use for the retreat, Bishop Conley recommended “Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives” by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Retreatants will be invited to read and meditate on the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ birth from Matthew and Luke, as well as the characters in the story, such as John the Baptist, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and wise men.
“I hope everyone makes some Advent resolutions that help to set this season apart,” said Father Coulter. “Set a daily prayer time, or attend daily Mass, do some spiritual reading and extra deeds of mercy, and of course, consider attending the Advent retreat with Bishop Conley.”
Father Coulter, ordained 17 years, is the director of Good Counsel Retreat House. The retreat house offers an atmosphere of prayer and recollection on a spacious acreage near Waverly. It offers 50 single rooms, each with a private bath.
Each retreat includes meditations by the retreat master, and opportunities for silence, prayer, adoration and the Sacraments. Retreats typically begin with a Rosary and Mass at 8 p.m. on Friday, and end with Mass on Sunday, followed by lunch.
Upcoming retreats in 2017 for men and women include Jan. 20-22 with Father Jay Buhman, and Feb. 3-5 with Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR.