Countdown to Christmas

November 22, 2011

HOUSTON — If you trust the timing of shopping mall décor, the countdown to Christmas allegedly began weeks before Halloween. But Catholic Christians rely on a far different calendar to get ready for Dec. 25. 
Advent – the four Sundays and weekdays preceding Dec. 25 – is the Church’s season leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Marking the start of the Church’s liturgical year, Advent is considered a time for Christians to slow down and ponder the incarnation of God. 

Looking for ways to prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming as a babe in Bethlehem and remember that we are waiting for His return? Below is a roundup of opportunities for prayer, service and quiet activities in the Archdiocese during Advent. Use this day-by-day Advent calendar to guide your faith journey in the coming weeks.
What steps will you take to prepare your heart and mind for the Lord this Christmas? 

Sunday, Nov. 27

  • On the First Sunday of Advent, attend Mass and hear the changes to the spoken and sung parts of the Liturgy as the implementation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal begins. The structure of the Mass hasn’t changed, but the updated language is meant to raise the bar for Catholics’ full participation in the Mass. Reflect on the importance of being present and engaged during Mass.
  • In the evening, bless an Advent wreath at home and light the first candle. Customarily, an Advent wreath is constructed from a circle of evergreen branches and four candles (three of the tapers are typically purple, and one is rose). The candles represent the four weeks of Advent. According to lore, the wreath has its roots in a Germanic tradition of embedding candles amidst a wheel of greenery – signifying the triumph of light over darkness.

Monday, Nov. 28

  • Attend an Advent mission from 7 to 8 p.m. at St. Michael Catholic Church, 1801 Sage Rd. in Houston. The evening gathering, featuring Passionist Father Cedric Pisegna, will begin this evening and continues from 7 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 29 and 30, as well. There is no admission to the retreat, which is built on the theme, “Come and Encounter Jesus.” Call 713-403-4122 for details.

Tuesday, Nov. 29

  • Help a disadvantaged family by donating new and unopened food items for Christmas Dinner boxes distributed by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The following donations are needed: canned yams; marshmallows; corn; boxes of stuffing; gravy; instant potatoes; rice; beans; dry milk; muffin mix; cake mix; frosting; sprinkles; mints; jello; fruit cocktail; cranberry sauce/jelly; and holiday decorations. Bring donations to the John L. Food Depot at 6654 Gulf Freeway in Houston or call 713-862-2605 for more information. To volunteer with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul during Advent, call 713-741-8234 or email Volunteers are needed to stock shelves at the Food Depot in Bellaire, assist with the Resale shop at the Gulf Freeway facility and pack food boxes at both locations throughout Advent.

Wednesday, Nov. 30

  • On this Feast of St. Andrew, remember the example of one of the first 12 apostles. Andrew inspired his brother to follow Jesus. How can you encourage vocations to religious life and the priesthood? For motivation, visit the website of the Archdiocesan Office of Vocations,

Thursday, Dec. 1

  • Today is World AIDS Day, when the world community remembers the impact of HIV/AIDS on the global family. According to Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Intenationalis, the Catholic Church provides care for one out of every four people in the world living with HIV. Interested in a World AIDS Day prayer or supporting Catholic Relief Services’ AIDSRelief Project, which provides antiretroviral therapy to 132,000 people (including 100,000 children) living with HIV? Visit
  • Consider making a Jesse Tree, adorned with ornaments representing key persons in salvation history leading to the birth of Christ, from Adam and Eve to Joseph and Mary. This popular Advent activity is a way to remember Jesus’ ancestors, beginning with Jesse, who is often seen as the first person in the genealogy of Jesus. The ornaments on a Jesse Tree are often handmade, and those placed on the tree later in Advent represent the “O Antiphons."

Friday, Dec. 2

  • Need some silence? Attend an overnight Advent Retreat at the Cenacle Retreat House, 420 N. Kirkwood in Houston. The retreat begins this evening at 7 p.m. and ends at 5 p.m. on Dec. 3. “My Soul in Stillness Waits” will be led by Sister Mary Guido, r.c. To register, call 713-497-3131 or visit
  • If you’re hoping to start some holiday shopping, visit St. Nick’s Market at St. Anthony of Padua School, 7901 Bay Branch Blvd. in The Woodlands. Gifts, Christmas music, cookies and coffee will be featured through Dec. 3. Call 281-296-0300 or visit for details.

Saturday, Dec. 3

  • Today is the Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuit priests. He gave up a promising career as an academic to spend his life traveling and living among the poor, serving those in need in India, Malaysia and Japan. How does St. Francis Xavier inspire you to sacrifice one of your wants to help someone in need?
  • For those desiring an afternoon of prayer: Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Angleton is hosting a half-day of prayer and reflection on the mystery of Christ’s presence in the Liturgy. Pat Kerwin, Director of Spirituality in Ministry for the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, and Tim Dyksinski, Most Holy Trinity Church’s Music Director, will present. For more information, call 979-849-2421.

Sunday, Dec. 4

  • The Archdiocesan celebration honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe will be held on this Second Sunday of Advent. A procession featuring matachines, mariachis and thousands of participants begins at noon at the Downtown Chancery, 1700 San Jacinto in Houston, and ends at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo will lead a Mass at 5 p.m. at the Convention Center. This is the 39th year the Archdiocesan Guadalupana Association has hosted the event. 
  • In the evening at 7 p.m., “The Light Shines,” an evening of Advent worship and Adoration, will be held at the University of St. Thomas, 4000 Mt. Vernon in Houston. For details or to purchase tickets, email or call 832-209-2190.
  • Sister Mary Dennison, r.c., and Connie Longsworth will hold an Advent Mini-Retreat at the Cenacle Retreat House, 420 N. Kirkwood in Houston, from 2 to 5 p.m. Participants will explore the meaning of Christmas through the Advent Scriptures. To register, call 713-497-3131.

  • Don’t forget to light two candles on the Advent wreath.

Monday, Dec. 5

  • Procrastinate on putting up Christmas decorations. Consider keeping the ornaments and house adornments sparse until closer to Christmas day, so that the spirit of “Advent waiting” can take hold during the weeks prior to the actual Christmas celebration.