The holidays are fast approaching, and Father Dave welcomes Father Agustino Torres, CFR to discuss his new devotional to help center ourselves for Christmas. His new book is called, “Prepare Your Heart: A Guided Advent Journal for Prayer and Meditation.”
Father Agustino describes his affinity for Advent. “It’s probably my favorite liturgical season. There’s so much there; so many traditions, so many good things about it,” he says. “I wanted to paint the scene that instead of us inviting God into our picture, for us to enter into God’s picture…not just going back to Bethlehem, but going back to Nazareth where Joseph and Mary prepared themselves for the coming of Jesus.” He explains how the daily devotional aims to help the reader see God in the ordinary, though it is difficult during this busy season.
He describes the nativity scene as one way to help center us and explains the history of this ancient devotion. Father Agustino explains, “In 1283, St. Francis of Assisi put together the first nativity scene in the town of Greccio, [Italy]. If you go there today, [I] highly recommend it; they have nativity scenes from all over the world…What an article of inculturation this has been for so many people, it’s so approachable.”
“In his time, there was a trend in theology to conceptualize Christ,” he continues. “These are the years right before the Renaissance, right before this whole rebirth in art and architecture. St. Francis, in the scholars’ opinion, was a catalyst to emphasize that God became man. What does this exactly mean? For Advent, it’s an emphasis that God became a baby.” In our modern world, he says how setting up a nativity scene is to “bring Bethlehem into our backyard” and into our real lives.
Part of Father Agustino’s devotional focuses on the Holy Family in Nazareth, and what details we can imagine about the early life of Christ. “There are so many things that were unseen and untold, but Jesus grew there. There’s something about holiness, silence, and hiddenness,” he says. “To ponder, what was it like to have a meal at the holy house with the Holy Family? Joseph dusting off sawdust from his hands and Our Lady [cooking], I’m convinced the food was delicious…but just to enter into there.”
He notes the importance of the Holy Family for those with broken relationships in their own human families. Father Agustino says, “I was speaking to a psychologist friend of mine who is Catholic, and he was talking about how a lot of people are carrying a lot of wounds from their upbringing. He said, ‘In some ways, we just need to go to the Holy Family and ask [them] to adopt us.’”
Father Agustino offers some concrete ideas to help ground us in Christ during Advent. One suggestion is to get your shopping done early so that you can create space in the season. He also says to find a small group of friends to help hold each other accountable, whether just a weekly check-in call or prayer. He says, “If you have a family, say, ‘Look, we’re going to do this prayer on Sunday meals in and for Advent.’ That’s bold, that’s adventurous. We have to put ourselves out there, we have to plan it; We have to be intentional.”