To Black Catholic Monthly Home Page

Featured Article: Grave Conversations. Grave Consequences. - Three crosses. Three women mournfully watching as men struggle to remove three nails. They lay the limp body onto the lap of his mother. Cold arms. Cold chest. Cold legs. Stabat Mater. Hours before, on the Via Dolorosa through the streets of Jerusalem, I heard soldiers command a burly African from Cyrene (present-day Libya -- 1500 miles from Jerusalem) to help the Man of Sorrows carry his cross up Calvary Hill. Read Full Story

 African American Catholic Bishops
 Congress Directory
 Board of Trustees
 NBCC Staff
Parish Search
 Find a Parish in your State
Black Catholic Newsletter
 The Jubilee Year of Mercy
 The best kept secret of the Catholic Church - its social teachings
 The Influence of College Experiences on Women’s Vocational Discernment to Religious Life
 The difference between a hoarder and a clutterer
 How not to say the wrong thing
 Peer Pressure: Its Influence on Teens and Decision Making
 9 Inspiring Quotes on Chastity to Help You In Your Battle for Sexual Purity
 Recommended Reading:
The Name of God Is Mercy
 Author Spotlight:
Fr. Tony Ricard of the Archdiocese of New Orleans
NBCC Spotlight
 NBCC Servant of Christ Award presented to Our Mother of Mercy School president at Congress XI
 Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853)
Upcoming Events
 Help Save the World through the 33 Days of Divine Mercy Consecration
Beginning March 1, 2016
 Annual Augustus Tolton Lecture
March 1, 2016
 Marriage On A Lampstand
March 3-5, 2016
 Young Adult Retreat
March 4, 2016
 National Medical Association (NMA) 2016 Health Policy Colloquium
March 4-6, 2016
 29th Annual Acacia Awards Celebration
March 5, 2016
 Unbound: Freedom in Christ Conference
March 10-12, 2016
 Equal Justice Initiative's (EJI) Annual Benefit Dinner
April 5th, 2016
 Xavier University of Louisiana ICBS
April 6, 2016
 The Oblate Sisters of Providence’s Womens’ Retreat
April 9, 2016
 The Black Catholic Convocation for the Archdiocese of Washington Parishes
April 30, 2016
In The News
 Low Number of Black Americans Following Religious Life
 In Memoriam: Leon Henderson
 Because of God's Mercy
 To be Saved, Anatok (an African-American and Religious Landmark) Needs Help TODAY
 Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
 Annual MLK Mass honors service, showcases diversity
 Remarks of President Barack Obama - State of the Union Address As Delivered
 Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers (BICM) Seminar
 Watch Interviews of Black Catholics speaking of their experiences concerning the Church and Civil Rights
 Visit WeAreSaltAndLight to educate your network about Catholic social teaching and tradition
 Light and shadows: Skin bleaching in Uganda
NBCC Media
  Visit the NBCC Media Center
  Listen Live to Vatican Radio
requires Real Audio)
 Site Links

NBCC Featured Article

Faith Engaged During the Advent Season

Implementing the Pastoral Plan of Action during Advent

Article Index

View Featured
Article Index

The Church is Not Yet Dead: An Interview with Dr. Shannen Dee Williams

Our Black Shepherds

Remember How He Spoke To You

Quadragesima-A Pilgrimage of Faith

I’m Going Home like a Shooting Star! - The legacy of Sr. Thea Bowman

A Different Kind of Martyrdom

We joyfully announce the ‘Daniel Rudd Fund for African American Catholic Ministries’

Let the Spirit move you

Reflections on Race in America Today

Full of the Spirit: Five spiritual gifts of African American Catholics


“Mercy Is the Lord’s Most Powerful Message!” Pope Francis and the Compassion of God

Black Catholic Teens Transformed by 2013 March for Life Trip

The Journey to Rome

Faith Engaged During the Advent Season

“Free Your Mind!”: True Worship and Christian Liberty

NBCC welcome's Immaculee' Ilibagiza as the keynote speaker for Congress XI

Mediation For Parishes

The Purpose Hidden Church

Prayer For Healing Your Family and You

Excerpts from "Beginning a conversation: Towards strategic and systemic change in the African American community through the lens of ministry"

Black Catholics: Vocal and Visible via Today's Media

In The Beginning, There Were Black Catholics

The Legacy of Cardinal Joseph Ritter continues on Indy's West Side

Become a Friend of the National Black Catholic Congress

Pastoral Letter: "What We Have Seen and Heard" Celebrates 25th Anniversary

View Featured
Article Index

Faith Engaged During the Advent SeasonIt is now several months since Congress XI in Indianapolis has ended. More than two thousand participants cooperated with the Holy Spirit so that they may continue to be properly equipped and empowered to evangelize. Unfortunately, I could not attend this historic assembly because I was recuperating during my medical leave, which has now ended. However, I am a witness that the impact of those days continues to reverberate throughout the Church and among Black Catholics in the United States in particular. The joy that was experienced in Indianapolis has spread throughout the nation after diocesan delegations returned to their homes. Now it is our task to fulfill the Pastoral Plan of Action issued by Congress XI. 1 As Advent draws near, this article will describe the liturgical season and its relationship to selected sections of the Pastoral Plan of Action.

Celebrating the Advent Season

There are three perspectives to consider as we observe the Advent season. First, we are preparing for the celebration of Christmas, which is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. The Eternal Son of God came to share in our humanity from the first moment of His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 1:26-38). God in Christ came to share in our humanity so that we may have a share in divine life (cf. John 10:10b; 2 Peter 4:1).

Subscribe to our
FREE Bi-Monthly
Black Catholic
email newsletter.


The significance of this great exchange of gifts must be our focus. God offers Himself wholly and unconditionally so that we can be liberated from the power of sin and death. This divine gift empowers us to live in relationship with God and within the human family in ways that are truly human. We have been created in the Divine Image (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; Colossians 3:10). Therefore, we seek to offer ourselves wholly and unconditionally to God. When we continue to hold on to those things that hinder up from doing so, God looks at us with love and invites us to let them go (cf. Mark 10:21).

The second perspective is to recognize the many ways in which Christ comes to us now. The offering of Holy Mass, moments of prayer alone or with others, participating in faith sharing groups, reflecting on Sacred Scripture, being engaged in serving others, and the witness of our brothers and sisters who are striving to live according to our common baptismal vocation and their distinctive vocation within the Church 2 are several ways in which the presence of the Lord is already here.

The last perspective of the Advent season reminds us to remain alert in preparation for the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory. The African American spiritual, "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning," reminds us, "children, don't grow weary, for the time is drawing nigh." 3 Despite the efforts of some to make predictions, Jesus teaches that we will not know the day or the hour of this event (e.g., Matthew 25:13). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that when that day comes, "We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which [God's] Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God's justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God's love is stronger than death." 4

Life and Dignity of the Human Person

Celebrating the Advent season reminds us that God has given us a great dignity and a glorious destiny. A reflection of the second section of the Pastoral Plan of Action, "Life and Dignity of the Human Person," is appropriate. 5 We are to respect the inherent dignity and worth of the human person at every stage and in any condition of life. This is good news to proclaim whether we are supporting someone in a crisis pregnancy, devising strategies to insure that our Catholic schools grow and prosper, reaching out to those who are ill, affirming the contribution of our elders, providing a hand up for the poor, or fighting against violence in our neighborhoods. As the Pastoral Plan of Action notes, these and other efforts are reflections of a "comprehensive approach to life issues" that Black Catholics advocate for the good of society. 6

The National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life is supported by the major Black Catholic organizations in our country. In addition to this resource, parishes can work with diocesan respect life offices and the national pastoral plan for pro-life activities.

The Catholic Church in the United States sponsors spiritual, educational, health care, and social service institutions that promote the dignity of human life for the benefit of millions, whether they are share our faith or not. Let no one fool themselves with believing that the Catholic Church is only concerned about getting a baby born.

Engaged in Parish Life and Evangelization

The Advent season is also a prime opportunity to reach out to those who are inactive or alienated from the practice of their Catholic Christian faith. In addition, other persons have fundamental questions about believing in God and belonging to a faith community. Even secular media outlets will mention the significance of Jesus Christ and Christianity in December. Therefore, let us consider the fourth part of the Pastoral Plan of Action, "Engaged in Parish Life and Evangelization." 7

The Church exists to evangelize (cf. Matthew 28:16-20). Consider the ways in which the parish community can reach those persons who have not worshiped in a church since Easter. Many parishes have been successful in identifying them in a non-threatening way, offering a warm welcome and an opportunity to learn more about the parish. Does your parish have a plan to speak to these persons whom the Lord will place in our midst? If not, how can you influence your parish to do so?

We are celebrating the Advent season during the "Year of Faith," which Pope Benedict XVI has called the universal Church to observe from October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013. October 11th was the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Holy Father writes,

"We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is 'the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; ... and also the source from which all its power flows.' At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers' witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year." 8

The Advent season is a special time of reaching out to those who are in need, such as providing food and gifts for those who cannot afford them. There are also people who will feel empty because what the world defines as the "holiday spirit" does not satisfy them. They will need to meet Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit in preparation for the holy days. The beneficiaries of your witness may ask about the reason that you have joy whether times are delightful or difficult. They may wonder about your motivation for giving to others even though you may be struggling. Now is the time to "be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you a reason for your hope" (1 Peter 3:15b).

The Pastoral Plan of Action invites us to become familiar again with documents on evangelization to help us to think about this mission:

Pope Paul VI,
Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975);

Black Catholic Bishops of the United States,
What We Have Seen and Heard (1984);

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization (1992);


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization (2012).

Faith Engaged during Advent

Our Lord Jesus Christ came to share in our humanity to heal the wounds of sin and division. The depth of God's love for us is shown in a marvelous way. God desires that the crown of His creation will flourish and live in true freedom. Placing our hope in God will never leave us disappointed! "[T]he love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). Love invites us to give of ourselves to others so that they will live according to their great dignity and fulfill their glorious destiny in Christ. Advent reminds us about the wondrous news of the incarnation of the Eternal Son of God. It is our privilege and responsibility to show how our celebration of Advent is connected to the concrete circumstances of life. Continuing to implement the Congress XI Pastoral Plan of Action is a valuable tool for remaining engaged in our faith during this season and every season.

Rev. Raymond Harris, J.C.L., a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore since 1994, has served in parochial, university chaplaincy, and seminary formation ministries. Today, he serves as the Associate Pastor of Saint Agnes Parish, Catonsville, and Saint William of York Parish, Baltimore City. He completed studies for a licentiate in canon law at The Catholic University of America in 2012 and serves on the Metropolitan Tribunal of his archdiocese.

Scriptural citations and endnotes are given as suggestions for further reflection.

  1. The National Black Catholic Congress, Inc., Congress XI Pastoral Plan of Action Instrument (Baltimore, MD: The National Black Catholic Congress, Inc., 2012) [hereafter Pastoral Plan].
  2. i.e., married life, committed single life, priesthood, diaconate, and the consecrated religious life.
  3. "Keep Your Lamps Trimming and Burning," in Lead Me, Guide Me-Second Edition (Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc., 2011) Hymn Number #699.
  4. Catechism of the Catholic Church #1040.
  5. Pastoral Plan, 9-10.
  6. Ibid., 9.
  7. Ibid., 12-14.
  8. Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Porta fidei #9. See also the Vatican website and the USCCB website and your diocesan website.


to top of page

Black Catholic Calendar Calendar Of Events Subscribe to "The Black Catholic Monthly" Newsletter News       NBCC Forum NBCC Forum Contact Us Contact Us

Web Design : Web Marketing : Web Management : Baltimore Maryland - SLEEPER Technologies
An STI Site | Web Design by SLEEPER Technologies
Copyright © 2003 | All Rights Reserved | Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without the expressed written permission of is prohibited.