Book Review by Ann Jonas, Tradebook Buyer - CSB/SJU Bookstores
this review was published in the St. Cloud Visitor
Waiting in Joyful Hope: Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas by Robert F. Morneau, Liturgical Press, 2010, 105 pp, $2.00
Joyful Meditations for Every Day of Advent and the 12 Days of Christmas by Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny, Liguori Publications, 2010, 128 pp, $6.99
Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Benedict by Judith Sutera, OSB, Liguori Publications, 2010, 116 pp, $10.99
The true purpose of Advent--to prepare for and celebrate the coming of Jesus--can sometimes be overlooked by all the hustle and bustle of shopping, baking, and other holiday preparations. Three books have recently been published to help with spiritual preparation and reflection for the Advent and Christmas seasons.
The Liturgical Press has been publishing an annual edition of Waiting in Joyful Hope: Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas for a number of years. Bishop Robert Morneau, pastor of Resurrection Parish in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, has authored several of these editions. This small, inexpensive book begins with November 28, the first Sunday of Advent, and goes through the Baptism of the Lord. Each day the Scripture readings from the daily Mass are listed, along with a brief quotation from one of the readings. Bishop Morneau offers a wise and helpful daily reflection on the Scripture readings and then asks a few related questions for meditation. He ends each day with a short prayer. The little book fits in a purse or pocket and provides an excellent guide for a meaningful Advent and Christmas season.
Joyful Meditations for Every Day of Advent and the 12 Days of Christmas encompasses all three liturgical years (A, B, and C), beginning with the first Sunday of Advent and ending with Epiphany. Unlike Waiting in Joyful Hope, this book can be used every Advent and Christmas, as the pages aren't dated for any specific year. The book's format is similar to Morneau's, with the listing of the daily Scripture readings, a brief quote, and a short reflection on the readings. Each day offers one question to ponder and also follows with a prayer. In this book, each day's entry ends with a suggested action or "practice", such as "I will ask God to bless someone I find irritating, threatening, or unworthy of respect." The book is slightly larger than Waiting in Joyful Hope and gives the reader practical ways to have a more faith-filled holiday season.
Judith Sutera, OSB, uses the Rule of Saint Benedict as the basis for her Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from St. Benedict. Her approach follows Saint Benedict's instruction; she states that "in Advent, as always, Christians must struggle to see God in the mundane, to understand the unity of all creation, to maintain a mindfulness that makes all life a prayer." Sutera's book has three parts: the readings for Advent, the readings for the twelve days of Christmas, and formats for evening prayer. Each "day" in the book, Advent through Epiphany, begins with the words of Saint Benedict, and is followed by a related short excerpt from Scripture. A prayer, which pertains to the quotation and Scripture excerpt, is included, along with a suggested daily activity to apply the messages to one's daily life. The last part of the book offers two formats for incorporating the earlier material into a longer liturgical observance, which could be used in a group or individually. Sutera, who is a member of the monastery of Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas, has put together an inspirational and accessible handbook to help make the Advent and Christmas season more blessed.
All three of these books offer the reader some spiritual sustenance for the Advent and Christmas seasons. Whether you are seeking a short reflection or something a bit longer, they offer us some wonderful options to deepen our prayer life and make the holiday season more holy.