We are so thrilled to announce the release of the 2017 Catholic Advent Journal from Blessed is She! Advent begins a brand new year within the Church. We are invited to reset, restart, and refresh as we prepare to celebrate the most joyous occasion of the birth of Our Lord. Advent beckons us to reflect on our lives and our relationship with Jesus. Are we preparing His way? Are we waiting on Him with joyful hope? This short but mighty season within our liturgical year grants us the opportunity to pray with John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30). In the Beginning seeks to facilitate this deep dive.
A Catholic Advent Journal for Women
Written specifically for women, this Catholic Advent journal walks with us through the season of Advent, offering reflection on Scripture, a space to journal your thoughts and prayers to God, a small activity that can help you live liturgically in your daily duties, and more. We sat down with the author of In the Beginning, Laura Fanucci, to chat about her inspiration, her process, and the heart behind this beautiful work.
In the Beginning: An Interview with the Author
1. Tell us about the meaning behind the name of the Advent Journal.
“In The Beginning” has two meanings. First, it reminds us how Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical year in the Church. We don’t always think about Advent in that way because January holds the place of “New Year” in our minds. But the truth is that we’re called to begin anew with God during Advent with all the enthusiasm that we bring to a new calendar year.
Second, the journal takes us through the beginning of each Gospel to learn what it can teach us about preparing our hearts for Christ during Advent. We often hear from the infancy narratives during Advent and Christmas (the stories surrounding Jesus’ birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke). But I wanted to dig into all four Gospels and learn what Mark and John also had to teach us about Advent. It was a delight to discover the connections between the beginnings of all four Gospels and the spirit of Advent.
2. How does it feel to “live” Advent before the rest of us? How has your past year influenced the way you entered into this writing about Advent?
It did feel a bit funny to be writing about Advent in the spring and summer! But it was such a gift to think about the beauty of this liturgical season during a time that wasn’t filled with Christmas shopping and wrapping and cards and parties. I could hear the Advent invitation to slow down and seek God in a new way.
I was also very pregnant when I wrote this journal! So it was a lovely connection to think about the stories of Jesus’ birth in new light when I was preparing for another birth, too. I could connect with the awe (and hardship) of Mary’s bearing Jesus in a physical way, and I saw all over again what a gift her fiat and sacrifice gave us.
3. Is there an image, song, or verse that inspired you throughout the writing process?
I mention in the introduction to the journal that when I was a little girl, my dad used to tell me the story of the world by saying, “In the beginning, there was a TREMENDOUS explosion!” It was his beautiful way of telling me the story of creation in Genesis by describing God’s words of “Let there be light!” as the powerful burst that might have been the Big Bang. I loved those words as a child, and I always knew that when my dad smiled and said, “In the beginning…” there was going to be a wonderful story that followed. The words of Scripture are like that, too: the beginning of Jesus’ life is like God speaking anew, “Let there be Light!” Because the Child who comes at Christmas is the Light of the world. So I kept those words in my mind as I wrote—praying that the joy and delight I felt as a child listening to my father would come to each woman who prays with this journal, too.
4. What role, if any, did Our Lady play in inspiring this journal designed for women?
I always think about Mary during Advent. When my husband and I finally learned we were pregnant after infertility, it was December. So I have always had a soft, sweet spot in my heart for how Mary became a powerful part of my Advent expectation from that point on. I prayed a lot while writing the journal that I could simply be a channel for whatever words God wanted to speak to the women who would use it. And Mary was part of that intercession I prayed for, that we would all be able to journey with her through Advent, to welcome Christ into our lives following her amazing model of love.
5. Many of us find moving through Advent prayerfully to be a challenge. It’s the end of the school semester, and holiday festivities and responsibilities can feel overwhelming. How can this Catholic Advent Journal be an aid and guide for us to truly enter into the Advent spirit?
As I was writing, I tried to keep in mind how busy December always becomes—especially for women who are often doing the bulk of the planning and preparing for all the holiday celebrations. I felt strongly that this journal would not feel like one more “to do” to cross off our list during that busy time of the year, but rather an invitation over an obligation.
So I intentionally built in moments of peace and quiet within the “activities” of the journal (sometimes saying, “Do nothing and just listen to God in the silence for 5 minutes!”) because I felt God calling us to remember that Advent is a time of prayerful preparation into deeper intimacy with Him. I designed the journal to be a realistic and fruitful companion for busy women.
6. How is the Advent Journal structured?
Each week we journey through the beginning (the opening chapters) of one Gospel. So each day has a Scripture passage, a short reflection, a question to journal about, an easy activity idea, and a closing prayer. I wanted to give women a variety of ways to enter into the spirit of the Scripture, so that they could develop a prayer practice with the journal that fits their needs and life.
7. What themes do you reflect on most throughout the Advent Journal?
I try to look at the beginning of each Gospel with fresh eyes. Often we think we know these familiar stories so well—the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity. But there is always so much to learn from Scripture. So I keep encouraging us to go back to the beginning and open our hearts to see how God is speaking to us through the Word in new ways in our lives today.
8. What is it that you hope women learn and experience from In the Beginning?
I hope women hear God’s call to enter into Advent with an open heart. Not to think of the journal as one more thing to do during December, but to see it as a daily reminder of their own belovedness in the eyes of the One who delights to be with them in prayer. My hope is that any time that a woman spends with this journal will offer her the peace and joy that is always waiting for us in the quiet when we come to God in prayer.
Have you claimed your copy of this year’s Catholic Advent Journal yet? Don’t miss out, click here to get yours!
Laura Kelly Fanucci is a mother, writer, and project director for the Collegeville Institute at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. She is the author of several books including Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting and the co-author of Living Your Discipleship: 7 Ways to Express Your Deepest Calling. Laura writes about parenting as a spiritual practice at her blog. You can find out more about her here.