December 3, 2010

Priest to lead Advent gathering for parents and students on Dec. 6 at Bishop Chatard High School

By John Shaughnessy

When the request was made, Father Peter Marshall saw it as an opportunity to make Advent more meaningful for high school students and their parents.

“I’m always eager and willing to talk to parents because I think they have such a hard job in today’s society,” says Father Marshall, the associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis. “So what support I can give, I’m happy to do.”

Father Marshall agreed to give a talk called “The End of the World As We Know It”—a presentation about Advent that he will share at 6 p.m. on Dec. 6 at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis.

“When Jesus was born, that was really the end of the world at that point,” Father Marshall says. “The whole Incarnation shifted the way we relate to God. God became one of us and so opened the way for us to the Father.

“Advent really reminds us of that reality. It asks us to remember what the world was like before Jesus was born. It also points us to the future—to that time when the kingdom will be fully manifest, when the reign of Christ, of peace and justice, will be realized for everyone throughout the universe.”

Those thoughts can resonate with teenagers who have a lot of questions about heaven, the end of time and “what happens when we die,” according to Father Marshall.

He also offers two suggestions for how the Church’s teachings about Advent can be connected to the lives of high school students, deepening their appreciation of the true meaning of the Christmas season.

“A common practice during Advent is to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation,” the priest says. “It reminds us of the reality of God and sin in our lives. When we’re living with sin in our lives, it’s analogous to Jesus not being born yet.

“A second thing is that a lot of families and schools do service projects for the poor and needy at this time of year, including buying gifts and toys. The question to ask is, ‘Are we doing this because everybody should get a gift at Christmas? Or is this a way to further the kingdom of God on Earth?’ I think we should consciously be framing it with the second choice.”

Lyrics from one of his favorite Christmas carols also provide another context for the way that Father Marshall views Advent. He refers to the hymn, “O Holy Night,” and the lyrics, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

“That so nicely and concisely captures Advent,” he says. “We’re remembering the world before Christ was born. And right now, we labor under the burden of sins until he appears again. When we’re honest about the weight of living in the world, those moments of special grace, like Christmas, become even more meaningful to us. It’s such a beautiful reminder of what God has promised, and what he has already done in our lives.” †

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