Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Best Way to Pray during Advent: Can you name a sacred place?

The liturgical season of Advent offers an abundance of beautiful, creative prayer resources. I can't think of a single religious organization that doesn't try to make its mark during this holy time. Is there one that stands out among the others in your inbox?  

For me, it's "Sacred Places of Notre Dame: An Advent Journey." Every afternoon, I receive a text message with a link to a video featuring a student, faculty member, or administrator who names and describes a campus location sacred to them. As written by the Alumni Association, "These places range from chapels and courtyards to libraries and locker rooms—and each one invites us to strengthen our faith and deepen our appreciation for our beloved campus." For those who love Notre Dame, these are a treasure trove of profiles and people, memories and messages. For those unaffiliated with ND, I think it's fair to ask, Are they relevant and relatable? Absolutely. Is their meaning lost? Definitely not. Here's why.

The very question—asking a person at any age to name a sacred place and articulate how/ why it is holy ground— is important. To me, hearing how an everyday place like the locker room, volleyball court or a small meeting room is the space where a person connects with God is both interesting and inspiring. Every testimony offers me spiritual nourishment. Each speaker raises questions we are all called to consider. What a great way to be with the Word of God during this season of waiting.

If I were featured (yes, that's a hint!), it wouldn't be hard for me to name a sacred place at Notre Dame. However, I say that because I've witnessed fellow alumni give their own testimony for the past three years. If I had been asked before viewing and praying with this resource, I hope I would know. But would I? Would you?  

While this Advent production is rooted in Notre Dame, it's bigger than that. It has to be. Why? The students will come and go, but the campus will remain. And yet, that same campus is ever changing, always growing. It is both tradition and innovation, history and what is to be. God's Word and God's presence, however, do not change. You could ask this same question in your school community or parish—and I do. It connects my own students to their campus in a special way. 

So let me share the three videos that I have played in class for my seniors. From them you will see why this is not only my favorite Advent prayer resource, it is also my favorite way to conclude the Fall semester of Sports and Spirituality. I have shown what is posted below and I invite my students to pray with the questions...and create their own. On our final day of class, we will join other Religious Studies classes for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Maybe one priest will be available in a small meeting room too. Peace.
Charity McDowell, a sophomore and science pre-professional major from Indianapolis, brings her faith to the courts on the Notre Dame volleyball team.

“To me, this is home, the place where my team and I work together as we strive toward our goal of excellence. Every day, we show up to improve and compete, but doing so as one team. These are lifelong friendships that we are building on this court, and that is very special to me. In a similar way, this place also allows me to strengthen my relationship with God.”

As we celebrate this Advent season, consider the places in your lives where you spend the most time. How can we transform these places, however familiar they might be, into our own places of prayer, so that we may glorify God in all that we do?
Josh Lugg, graduate student offensive lineman for the Fighting Irish.

“Putting on my knee braces, pants, pads, jersey and cleats can be a process, but it gives me time to mentally rest and spend time with God before flipping that switch to a fearless, competitive mindset. In a similar way, just as I have strengthened my relationship with God here, it is also a place for me to build relationships with my teammates.”

As we prepare for the birth of our Lord this Advent season, where are our places of preparation? How do they strengthen our courage and perseverance to take on the daily work we are given, so that we may glorify God in all that we do?
Assistant Director of Pastoral Care Outreach Rev. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., brings the sacraments to the students of Notre Dame.

“When I come to this room, I quiet myself down in preparation to hear confessions and to reunite those seeking reconciliation into God’s unconditional mercy and grace. At this moment I am able to help each student more fully accept God’s relentless forgiveness. Being with the students in this way is a great and wonderful blessing for me. It is to journey with them on their path towards holiness. The short time each week I have to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in this simple room is a gift.”

In this season of Advent, how we can serve those around us as a representative of Christ’s mercy and grace in the everyday surroundings where we may find ourselves?

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