(With the holidays upon us, we asked friars how they stay focused on Advent and tune out the distractions of the season. Here’s what they had to say.)

Alex Kratz, OFM
Detroit, Mich.

Sadly, Advent can be a time of stress instead of peaceful preparation for the coming King, but I ask King Baby Jesus in prayer to help me keep up with everything coming at me. It works. Paradoxically, the extra work of writing Christmas cards is a relaxing outlet for me to thank, greet or encourage the people in my life that have been a “Christmas blessing” to me throughout the year – even before Christmas has come.

Baby Jesus in mangerTim Lamb, OFM
Cincinnati, Ohio

Once I entered the Franciscans I left all the trappings of the season behind me: the decorating, planning and going to parties and dinners, and buying presents and on and on and on. In the void I developed an attitude of prayerful waiting. I use reflection books, increase my prayer time and note the passing craziness of the world and rejoice in the emptiness of all that was and the promise of what will be.

Ed Gura, OFM
Southfield, Mich.

One way in which I face, embrace and find peace during stressful moments is through the wisdom of the parable of the Storm on the Lake. I see Jesus in the boat with me during the storm on the sea. He calms the waves and wind within. Within I am at peace though the storm continues around me.

many candles litJohn Barker, OFM
Chicago, Ill.

I’m fortunate that I don’t typically get stressed out during Advent, but I do have trouble staying focused on the season, especially when the semester is busy wrapping up. One thing that helps me stay in the season is to attend solemn vespers on Sundays. This is one of my favorite liturgies: so peaceful and so beautiful. It’s a great way to prepare for Christmas.

Joshua Richter, OFM
Santa Barbara, Calif.

To stay focused on Advent amid the stressful time leading up to Christmas, I continue my family’s tradition of the scripture readings from the Jesse Tree, which goes from the story of creation on the first day of Advent and ends with the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

Jerry Beetz, OFM

With the passing of my sister Dorothy in April and the selling of the family home, the holidays will be very different for me and my three brothers. After our parents’ passing, Dottie always made sure we celebrated the holidays with her in the family home. Now that she is gone and the house as well, we will have to develop a new way to celebrate. Tough time; prayers needed.

friar skiing

Br. John Boissy skiing

John Boissy, OFM

What I do to to help me stay relaxed is to not overschedule myself and make time to get outside and do things that help me relax and enjoy nature, such as hiking or skiing.

Al Hirt, OFM

I don’t find Advent really stressful. I do try to be more deliberate in carving out some morning quiet with some daily Advent reflection resource. WGUC (classical music station) is a mainstay in my relaxing.

Mike Lenz, OFM
Berkley, Mich.

During Advent I sense that time speeds along more quickly than usual. I try to spend more time in quiet prayer and reading. The hyper-activity and noise can spoil the days before Christmas. I do as little shopping as possible at this time. This helps me to keep Christ in Christmas. However, the biggest stress that affects me is writing Christmas cards. I wait too long to begin them. The old movies of childhood (Christmas Story, etc.) and the good old Christmas carols bring back relaxing memories of yesteryear. For Christmas many of us in our Detroit Cluster gather for Vespers, drinks and a delicious meal. Good memories. Then life gradually gets back to normal. Merry Christmas to all.