By Father Sean Kilcawley, director, Family Life Office
The advent season is once again upon us, and for many it is likely to be busier than ever. In addition to the normal pace of the kids’ sports, plays, and other activities, we are planning trips to see relatives, trying to get our shopping done, decorating our homes and churches for the holiday season. If we aren’t careful, we will put up our Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and advent wreaths without stopping to reflect on the why we are doing so.
Why do we take these four weeks to prepare to celebrate the incarnation—the coming of God into the world? Shouldn’t it be to intentionally prepare for the Lord’s coming? It is precisely to focus our attention on Jesus’ coming into the world—not only his first coming, but initially we focus on His final coming at the end of time and the end of our lives. If we want to truly be prepared to greet him, above all we must focus on the way He enters into our lives each day.
One of my favorite things about this season are the Christmas plays that young people perform, and my favorite character is the innkeeper. Inevitably, a few of the most animated children get to play innkeepers who insistently slam the door in the face of St Joseph, the Blessed Mother and the Savior in her womb: “NO MORE ROOM!” “GO AWAY!” “WE DON’T HAVE ROOM!”, “GO SLEEP IN THE BARN!” The Innkeeper almost always gets the best laughs, and if we stop to reflect, this character also provides us with a most profound Advent meditation.
In his final Christmas homily as our pope, Benedict XVI reflected precisely on this innkeeper asking the questions, “do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself?”
These are the fundamental questions of the Advent season. Are we first and foremost creating a space for the Lord in our hearts? Are we creating space for him in our minds, or are our minds too full of “other stuff” to take time for Christ?
Our Holy Father went on to say, “We begin to do so when we have no time for God. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full.” Isn’t it true that the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. At a minimum, are we constantly looking at screens instead of at one another?
What can we do this Advent Season to make room for Christ in the Inn of our hearts? Here are a few suggestions: Set aside all technology for specified times. Take the time to talk with one another, to play a board game with your kids, or to go for a 10-minute walk with your spouse. Each time you pass your Advent wreath, offer the simple prayer: “Lord, help me to prepare a space in my heart for You.”
Another specific way to not only prepare a space but to protect the space in our children’s hearts is to ensure that their hearts and minds are protected from the anti-love, anti-Gospel, anti-family messages in the media they consume.
In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis reminds us that, “In the family we can also learn to be critical about certain messages sent by the various media. It is sad to say, some television programs or forms of advertising often negatively influence and undercut the values inculcated in family life” (274).
During these weeks of Advent I will be providing tips on a step-by-step approach to making your homes safer and protecting your children from the anti-Gospel which can crowd the “Inn of our heart” and keep us from fully welcoming Jesus. This week’s tip: Set up filtering on your home Wi-Fi network.
Filtering keeps much of the anti-love content available on the internet out of our homes. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the average age of exposure to online pornographic content is only 8 years old. It is now common for a high school senior to have been viewing pornography for 10 years by the time he or she graduates, and anecdotally most report that there was no filter on their home Wi-Fi network.
Filtering for home Wi-Fi networks is free through a service called openDNS. For more information and a video tutorial on setting up filtering on your home Wi-Fi network please visit the diocesan website. Click on FAMILY LIFE, INTERNET PROTECTION, and TOOLS FOR PARENTS and take this first step toward preparing the space in your home to welcome Christ not only at Christmas, but each day of our lives.