By Sister Nancy Liddy
For our Advent reading at Mount Saint Joseph, Sister Mary Matthias Ward has chosen Sister Melannie Svoboda’s uplifting book, “Hanging onto Hope: Reflections and Prayers for Finding God in an Imperfect World.” Sister Mary Matthias picks out selections from each chapter that are important (and sometimes entertaining!) to read aloud each morning at breakfast. This practice has helped set the tone for our beginning of Advent.
One of Sister Melannie’s friends told her, “Don’t read the newspaper!” when she heard she was writing a book on hope. Even though her friend was half-joking, many young adults are going without media news because they find it can be, in their words, “just bad news.” The availability of news with the daily repetition of so many things going wrong without an end in sight can grind us down – especially when we feel we can’t influence the outcome. Sister Melannie writes, “One of the main purposes of the free press is to call our attention to things that are not right, not good … to rouse people to action … to do something about an abuse, an injustice, a disturbing trend, a natural disaster, a war.” Our minds are expanded, but Sister Melannie reminds her readers that “the news is not a mirror of our world,” and to nurture hope we might have to work our way through a lot of bad news to find the uplifting story.
Recently, I was moved by the news of a young man who swam for 15 hours in the Gulf of Mexico after falling overboard from a cruise ship. He said his sheer will to live and strength from God kept him “staying positive” until he was rescued late on Thanksgiving Day. This is a dramatic example, but the story encapsulates, according to Sister Melannie, one of the first ways we can begin to nurture hope: “look for the good in life, the positive – even in small, everyday situations.”
Here are three additional suggestions for nurturing hope this Advent from Sister Melannie:
Surround yourself with hopeful people. Saint Angela needed 10 women for the foundation of the Company and reminded them to “rejoice in hope” for God would help them in everything.
Stay in touch with nature. Some Sisters living on the east side of St. Ursula Hall allow time to appreciate the sunrise each day. The Sisters in St. Joseph Villa enjoy watching the birds at their birdfeeder, and others walk out to the barn to see the cows and play with the cats.
Another way we nourish hope is through prayer. The very act of lighting a candle in the evening can be a prayer. To contemplate the “light in the darkness” as we as Christians celebrate the great mystery of Christmas.
Something to Consider
Saint John Paul II was the first pope to erect a Christmas tree in the Vatican in 1982. (The attached picture is of the lighting of the tree on Dec. 3, 2022.) He wrote, “As I looked out of my study window at St. Peter’s Square the tree has uplifted my spirit. When one looks at them, in a certain way, they begin to speak.” He also began a tradition of lighting a candle in his window during Advent as a sign of his closeness and solidarity with the Polish people under oppression in his native Poland.
What candles can we light? In what ways can we nourish hope in our lives and the lives of others this Advent and Christmas Season?