A couple of years ago I was delighted to be introduced to a new Advent tradition. The trouble is, I’m not really sure what to call it. It’s not really a game, but it’s an activity the whole family does together. Yet it’s very personal and prayerful as well. It’s a group as well as an individual thing.
I first heard about it on another Catholic blog, and then my spiritual director surprised me by telling me that in Europe, monasteries and convents all over used to practice this tradition, and in his order they still do every year. Since some religious houses have many people participating, his order’s version included many more “characters”. But my family uses the pared-down version which I’ll post below. (If you’d like the lengthier version, just ask and I’ll send it to you.)
It’s become my favorite Advent tradition, and honestly, I try to continue “being” my character all year long because it’s something I can really wrap my head and my heart around. It’s small, but profound and fruitful.
So it works like this: Print the following list of Advent/Christmas characters and every member of the family draws one. You trust that the one you draw is the one God wants you to have, and you spend Advent trying to practice the virtues that character best demonstrates. Tell the other family members who you drew, and you can gently encourage each other in this goal. But make it a matter of private prayer, and it’ll make Advent time well-spent.
Virtues: Meekness, humility, obedience, purity. Trust in God’s plan, surrender to His will. She cradles her Child in her arms, in quiet and joyful awe.
Virtues: Humility, leadership and trust in God. Chastity and patience. Faithfully guards Mary and the Divine Child.
Virtues: Steadfastness. Provide a steady light to guide weary pilgrims. A source of guidance and illumination. Be clear and bright in the darkened world.
Virtues: Proclaims the “tidings of great joy.” Always ready to tell the world about the Christ Child. A source of inspiration. Always obedient to the will of God.
Virtues: Long-suffering humility, gentleness. Patiently bears all burdens. He looks silently, in amazement. Be amazed for all those who are no longer amazed. Be reverent to the Lord!
Virtues: Hard work, diligence, patience and sacrifice. He offers the strength and warmth of his body to comfort the Child.
Virtues: Leadership, joy. Listens to God. Kindness to the lambs. Goodness, tenderness, watchful care. Lays down his life for the sheep.
Virtues: Docility, innocence, obedience and trust. Stop wanting to be great! He loves all that is little so much!
A little field mouse
Virtues: persistence, hard work, humility, awe
Always in such a hurry, scurrying about! But once the little mouse slips inside the stable and sees the Child, everything else becomes insignificant. Go to HIM often!
Virtues: Love, gentleness, warmth, steadiness
It was the Divine Child’s first resting place on earth, and how He longs to find a warm manger – full of love – in your heart!