Advent Retreat

This Advent, we invite you to join our community in the opportunity for self reflection and prayer. The Deepest Gifts is a four week self directed retreat that provides resources such as Scripture, art, music, readings, and prayer, that draw us deeper into the Advent Season through the gifts of hope, waiting, peace, and love. Enjoy works from Arts and Faith, readings and prayers from several Sisters of St. Joseph, readings from writers such as Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, poets like Jan Richardson, music from various artists, and reflections from Director of Mission Integration Cara McMahon '95. Please click on the links below for each week and enjoy a journey that seeks to bring your senses alive and enliven your spirit to the deepest gifts during this Advent Season. 

Advent Retreat 2021

Gospel Reading: Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken,
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.

For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.

Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Gospel Reflection:

The Gospel reading that begins our first week of Advent is one that doesn’t feel like the Christmas story that we all look to during the Advent season, but it is one that allows Scripture to remain relevant in our lives today, as we connect to the hope of the coming of the Savior into the world. What is the relevance? It is that Luke’s Gospel reminds us that the coming of the Savior is also yet to be! Each of our days, we are called to focus and refocus our attentions on the Truth amid our broken world. Our days throughout the last, almost, two years of pandemic, and our ongoing divides among citizens, neighbors, and families, are calling to us that our hearts not be filled with such “drunkenness and anxieties”, but rather, we must get busy and prepare the way of God to be with us. This first week of Advent is a calling to each of us to recognize that no matter the challenge for us to recognize and respond to God in our daily lives, or the obstacles in our society toward God’s justice and peace, we must focus and refocus to manifest God’s presence into the world with compassion, passion, and authentic love for one another. Only then, can we stand before our God with a genuineness required for the welcoming of a Savior! 

The deepest gift of hope …

A Visual Reflection:
Arts and Faith

A Reflection of Sound: 
Tenth Avenue North - I Have This Hope (Official Music Video)

Readings for Reflection:
“Advent: Gestating Hope Into Reality"

Reflection Questions: 

  • Where do I feel that I am at with hope? Do I have the kind of faith that finds solace in hope, or am I struggling? Why, or why not?
  • What is something that I am challenged by in order to love my dear neighbor, whether it be a family member, friend, or stranger?
  • What is one concrete action that I do to prepare my life, the path, for the birth of Jesus? How can I purify my heart and spirit, be honest about my impurities, and have a positive impact on dear neighbors around me?


“Advent Wreath”
Let the flame of our Advent wreath reflect the fire that burns deep within us drawing us to move wholeheartedly into the evolving future of our Earth, our community and all life.
Let the flame of our Advent wreath evoke the passion of our hearts in seeking the lost, the abandoned, the troubled and the grieving.

Let the flame of our Advent wreath spark the dry places of our world, setting ablaze the fire of divine compassion, love and mercy.
In God’s Holy name I pray,

(CSJ Brentwood)

Gospel Reading: Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

    A voice of one crying out in the desert:
    “Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight his paths.
    Every valley shall be filled
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
    The winding roads shall be made straight,
    and the rough ways made smooth,
    and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Gospel Reflection: 

This week’s Gospel reading presents us with who we are called to be, not unlike John the Baptist, the faithful are messengers of the deepest gifts for our world, Christ-filled gifts, of hope, love, liberation, and peace. And much like the gift of waiting, of longing, the work of making way for the Savior is not an easy “fix.” We long for the Savior, and in the meantime, we act as messengers like John the Baptist. The work is part of the waiting, and it's often found in the service of others. There are many ways in which we can help smooth the rough ways for others.

Longing, or waiting, is a journey that provides us opportunity to work on our own selves, to grow more self aware, to make right the wrongs in our relationships, and to grow deeper in a sense of how we grow the Kingdom of God. Perhaps the most simple acts help to guide us to the deeper ones. Smiling at others around us. Looking at our homeless community in the eye with the kind of dignity that God provides each of us. Being gentle with family members who are struggling with mental and emotional health issues. Making time for prayer, praying the goodness of all others in our world, especially the most vulnerable. Doing whatever it takes to make the world as right and good and just as it could be, in preparation to welcome a Savior! 

The deepest gift of waiting… 

A Visual Reflection:
Arts and Faith

A Reflection of Sound: 
New Christian Worship Songs 2019 With Lyrics - Best Christian Gospel Songs Lyrics Playlist
Christy Nockels -The Thrill of Hope - Advent Hymn (Lyric Video)

Readings for Reflection:
“Advent Longing” - Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

“Anticipating the Advent of Our God” -Betty Berrigan, CSJ

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you respond to having to wait for something in your life? How can you “wait” in a more meaningful way and not consider it a waste or a frustration?
  • What are messages that you have received throughout your life that have moved you, touched your heart, challenged your being, impassioned your spirit, while waiting? 
  • How can I encourage my loved ones to slow down and appreciate the wait?
  • In what ways does God call you to make use of the Advent Season to do good for our world?


Work through me today God, so that I may be a channel of your Light in the world. Help me to have faith in you, Jesus, so that I can bring your mercy and love to those in need. Help keep my eyes fixed on you.

Grant me the courage and awareness to help someone who is blind, or deaf, or lame or sick or poor so that they have the Good News given to them through my actions. Help me to be Your light! Amen.

Adapted from: Sister Jane Comerford, CSJ  (Latham, New York)

Gospel Reading: Luke 3: 10-18
The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

Gospel Reflection: 
In this Gospel, the faithful are being called to attention in a way that reminds many of us; parents, teachers, mentors, and elders, that we are responsible for the formation of faith in our youth and in our children and in our students. There is not only the learning in the books, but the formation of ethical and moral people who bring about peace and joy through the service and love of others. There is an essential question that John is pointing us toward, how can we find the ordinary in the sacred, and the sacred in the ordinary? We are not called to be heroes or saviors ourselves, John is direct and clear that we are in the Advent Season to prepare; to practice a justice and mercy that does not cheat, that shares our abundance, and always aware that we are removed from any of that which oppresses another. This is what is meant by living our faith, by bringing Christ into the world … the sacred into the ordinary and prepares the way for the Savior … we are called to this each and every day until the Kingdom is made real on earth, until there is PEACE on earth and let it begin with me. 

The deepest gift of peace ...

A Visual Reflection:
Arts and Faith

A Reflection of Sound:
Imagine (UNICEF: World Version)

Readings for Reflection:
Creating Advent Peace in Your Life
Make Advent the Peaceful Season

Reflection Questions:

  • What does your lifestyle say about your faith in Christ? Do you share, truly share, with those who live in poverty or experience marginalization? 
  • How do you treat others who live differently or believe differently to you? Do you practice a loving approach to those who you may find challenging in your life or in the world?
  • How can a reminder of your baptism play a role in this Advent Season? How might you need to remind yourself of baptismal promises in order to connect in a real sense to God’s presence in your life? 


God ever gentle, ever caring, you call us home from the exile of selfishness to the freedom of justice, the balm of healing, and the joy of sharing. Make us eager to join you in your holy work, as friends of strangers and victims, companions of those whom others shun, and as the happiness of those whose hearts are broken. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (CSJ of Medaille)

Gospel Reading: Luke 1: 39-45
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

Gospel Reflection: 
Setting the scene; it is two strong women who share deep kinship and joy at the Good News and salvation that Mary carries with her. These two women, Mary and Elizabeth represent the roots of our lives, the love from which we are formed and brought into the world. Mary’s faithfulness to God and trust in God’s plan is an inspiration for us to trust all things with our God, and yet, there is a responsibility on our part; to live our lives with love … like a mother has for her child to be brought into the world. 

Where there is need and ugliness, we are to seek deeper into our own resources and bring about love; as though we carry salvation with us. And root and re-root ourselves in the heritage and traditions of our faith that continue to remind us that Love is everything. So, be kind, be giving, be as sacrificial for the goodness of the Christ among us, before us, around us, and beyond. 

The deepest gift of love … 

A Visual Reflection: 
Arts and Faith

A Reflection of Sound: 
Do They Know it's Christmas Band Aid 1984

Readings for Reflection:
On Faith, On Justice - Caitlin O’Halloran
Lit from within,
glowing steadily,
my spirit is a mere ember,
not a flame.
It could be coaxed into a fire,
or snuffed out.

Faith is a fickle thing.
I want to believe
in something
but I can’t make sense
of this world
as it is.

So much evil
in the hearts of so many.
So many bad acts unpunished.

When I was younger
I believed in justice.
That, just like gravity,
Justice was
an unstoppable force,
a law of the universe.

Now I just pray
that the world is not
quite as awful
as it seems.

I look desperately
for those silver linings,
the moments where I
take a breath and forget
and life just feels ordinary again.

Where I’m From - Jan Richardson
I am from orange groves
and old Florida,
from a house my parents built
in a field my grandfather gave them.
Black-eyed Susans grew there in the spring,
so thick we played hide and seek
simply by kneeling among them.

I am from a town
with more cows than people,
from Judy and from Joe,
from generations that have grown up
in one place.

I am from peanut butter and
honey sandwiches every morning,
from my grandmothers’ kitchens,
from Thanksgiving feasts in the
community park,
from Christmas Eves in the
white painted church
among the pine trees.

I am from the dictionary we kept
by the dinner table
where we ate words like food,
from hours and days in libraries,
from miles of books.
I am from the path they have made.

I am from solitude and silence,
from the monks and mystics who lived
between the choir and the cell,
from the scribes bent over their books,
from parchment and paint,
from ancient ink and from gold
that turned pages into lamps,
into light.

I am from women less quiet,
women of the shout and the stomp,
testifying wherever they could make
their voices heard.
I am from Miriam and Mary and Magdalena
and from women unknown and unnamed,
women who carried their prayers
not in books
but in their blood
and in their bones,
women who passed down the sacred stories
from body to body.

I am from them,
listening for their voices,
aching to hear,
to tell, to cry out,
to make a way for those
yet to come.

Reflection Questions: 

  • How do you remember who you are and where you come from, differently at Christmas time? Remembering family traditions and religious traditions?
  • What roots you? Who is your foundation?
  • How can you foster greater love in some area of your life in need of more love?
  • How does God call you to recognize a better sense of simplicity and focus on the meaning of Christmas as well as acts of service that keep Christ alive in the world?
  • How do you carry Christ in the world, like mothers carry with such great love, the children who they will bear? 

In this Advent of Expectation, we ask that you draw us together in service, that the path we follow might lead us from a stable to a glimpse of eternity. 
In this Advent of Expectation, we pray that Love will be born in all who wait and in all who call on God’s name.
In this Advent of Expectation, help us to trust that when our hearts are heavy and the destination seems so distant we may know you as Emmanuel - - - God with us.
In this Advent of Expectation, we pray for those who inspire and support us as Joseph companioned Mary. 
In this Advent of Expectation, may the homeless, the refugees, and all those in need, know the presence and peace of God: God-with-us.
In this Advent of Expectation, we pray that those who have died and those who grieve will be enfolded in the love of God. 
Jesus, Son of Joseph, we pray,
(From the Sister of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania)