The first week of Advent – that small, still week of a single candle’s light – has been both calm and full of adventures.

The week started impressively with an ice storm on the eve of December 1st followed by a snow storm that lasted through much of the day on the 1st and caused the entire household to rejoice in the fact of having no pressing collective or individual obligations outside of the house. It’s times like these when we can truly enjoy the experience of our Capuchin forebears: the experience of being a cloistered community; of being a preserve unto ourselves, set apart from the distractions (and in this case the icy dangers) of the world outside our walls.  We took advantage of our snowbound solitude to decorate the res – aka the residents’ lounge aka the living room for those of us in residence here – for Advent and Christmas.

The Advent decorations were supplied humbly, yet nobly, by the fir branches downed in the wind and the snow that had ushered in the week of Thanksgiving. As the evening’s ice began shifting reluctantly to snow, I ventured outside with a flashlight and scissors to collect boughs for an Advent wreath. Coaxing the boughs to nestle in a roughly circular shape against the nails tapped into the segment of tree trunk that serves as my Advent wreath base was a sticky, but eminently worthwhile, project. Just Bob followed my lead and retrieved a few boughs for use as decorations in his office. What a joy and a comfort it is to know that Sister Fir Tree’s branches were not lost in vain – they continue to provide much beauty and aromatic delight in our house!

The Christmas decorations were supplied by all and sundry who live here. As a community, we have approximately 7,000 decorations, a surprising number of which we were able to display by utilizing not just the tree but also the light fixtures, the curtain rods, the chimney breast, the bulletin board (yes, we have a bulletin board in our living room – remember that our house once served as both a seminary and a friary), the window sills, the end tables, the coffee table, the top of Fr. Bob’s desk, and a mysterious bell-like object set into the exact center of the ceiling and conveniently outfitted with a hook. Among our decorations, we boast ten nativity sets, with an eleventh slated to arrive next week on loan for our use through the end of the season.

The next day’s sleepiness – the sleepiness of a snowy Sunday – was punctuated gratefully and gracefully by a community celebration of Mass and Blessing of The Advent Wreaths: both the aforementioned sticky, but lovely, wreath and the not-remotely-sticky-because-its-garland-is-artificial wreath that adorns our main chapel. The day came to a satisfying conclusion with a win for the Green Bay Packers, a novel for those of us (namely, Sister Chronicler) who find it difficult to follow a football game, and time for all to admire the freshly fallen snow, the Christmas lights, and the deep, necessary peace of a Day of Rest.

Monday saw us (or Just Bob, really!) digging ourselves out from the snow.

Tuesday saw the arrival of the Christmas Tree for our front hallway. A thousand blessings and a thousand thanks to Schumacher’s Family Tree Nursery for generously having donated our stately, magnificent tree! A careful inspection of said tree on Tuesday evening revealed that the partridge which has taken up residence (regrettably not in a pear tree) at Schumacher’s did, indeed, decline to stow away to St. Anthony’s inside our Christmas tree, in spite of his clear interest in my shoes.

Wednesday saw the arrival of volunteers whose efforts – in conjunction with those of staff and residents – transformed our house into Christmas! JoAnn G is marvelously talented with garland and ribbons and lights and ornaments, while Joe N is marvelously unafraid of climbing a ladder whilst carrying an oversized wreath for our oversized front doors. Meanwhile, Jackie K and Patrick C have marvelous patience with unruly strands of Christmas lights. My less-than-marvelous skills as a decorator were relegated – with my full blessing! – to the side of the tree that will remain facing the wall throughout the season. While we were not able, for reasons of both safety and convenience, to recreate the early friars’ habit of placing a tree in the middle of the refectory, we were able to set up a tree in the southwest corner of said room, from whence it beckons with a most delightful and cozy light!

Thursday was a day for catching up.

Friday was a day for testing the snow-shoe-worthiness of the heavy white blanket that mantles our grounds.
It proved itself to be worthy.
Worthy, too, was the purple-pink-fadingness of day into night and the solemn silver greeting of Sister Moon.

Deo Gratias!