December and Advent are both times of darkness, but we are used to dealing with that darkness.  This year has seemingly enveloped us in a different kind of darkness, and it has lasted far longer than 4 weeks.

The pandemic has been a big part of that darkness.  Our halls were dark and nearly lifeless for nearly three months.  Even when we reopened in June, reduced numbers, postponements and cancelations kept the hallways dark and nearly lifeless far too many days each month.

Another contributor to the darkness was the number of deaths this year.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans died from COVID, in addition to all those who died from the “usual” causes.  Regardless what caused the death, many grieving families had to grieve in isolation, without the customary social rituals, which only added to their darkness.

St. Anthony’s was not spared from the darkness of death, as the light of at least four dear friends vanished from our sight in 2020: Fr. Ron Smith, Fr. Werner Wolf and Fr. Marty Pable who all served here at various times during the more than fifty years of the Capuchins’ retreat ministry, and Fr. Bob Streveler who was a resident and volunteer here for the past several years, all died this year.  We miss their light.

Yet, Advent teaches us that even in the darkest time of the year, the light is still present.  In fact, over the course of the weeks of Advent the light grows, and as this circle of light grows, the darkness dissipates and we see more clearly a way forward.  The first candle in the circle is the light of HOPE, then the light of PEACE, then the light of JOY, and finally the light of LOVE completes the circle.  This year, our circle of light brings us:

HOPE that vaccines will soon break through the darkness of this pandemic, and HOPE that those who have died are now lights shining brightly in heaven.

PEACE in knowing that the light of Christ overcomes all darkness, and that even in the darkest of times all will be well if we place our trust in God.

JOY in knowing the light of the Lord is always near, always here with us, and we have nothing to fear even in the darkness.

LOVE, which is the very essence of God who created both darkness and light, and LOVE which is the very essence of Jesus, the light of the world, is always ours because nothing can separate us from the LOVE of God in Christ Jesus.

For all the ways God’s light pierces our darkness so we can move forward in HOPE, in PEACE, in JOY and in LOVE, we say Deo Gratias!