Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Chair of the Council for Communications of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, has launched a specially commissioned 2016 Advent Calendar on the homepage of the Irish Catholic Bishops' website to coincide with the beginning of Advent on Sunday 27 November. The calendar has daily and reflections, films, music, quotations, listings and other features.
Launching the calendar, Archbishop Eamon said: "The season of Advent marks the beginning of the Catholic year and the time of spiritual preparation for the Lord's coming at Christmas. It is a time of waiting, conversion and hope. Advent also prepares us for the second coming of Christ at the end of time. As Christians, we must always be prepared for the coming of the Lord - 'You must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do no not expect' [Mt 24:37-44]. Preparation does not happen at once but over time and so each day of Advent amounts to a period of time which allows us to journey and reflect on the joy of the Gospel. Our online calendar is a helpful resource in this journey."
Archbishop Eamon continued: "This year, the beginning of our Catholic new year coincides with the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy which we celebrated as a universal Church at the invitation of our Holy Father Pope Francis. Across Ireland, in parishes, schools, religious communities and places of pilgrimage, hundreds of special gatherings and events took place to mark the Jubilee Year and to emphasise its key message - that the name of God is mercy; that God's mercy is available to all, and we are, in turn, called to be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful.
As Pope Francis prayed at the closing of the Jubilee Year in Rome, I pray that the graces of this special year will continue to work in the Church and that people will feel more and more welcome in their Church. The door to God's mercy never closes. There is always a second chance to turn back, to say sorry, to ask forgiveness and to make amends. Advent offers us a perfect opportunity to reflect on mercy, forgiveness, and conversion. As Pope Francis puts it: God never tires of casting open the doors of his heart and of repeating that he loves us and wants to share his love with us ... From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it. Every time someone is in need, he or she can approach it, because the mercy of God never ends (Misericordiae Vultus n25).
I welcome the inclusion of content from Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) and his new Apostolic Letter Mercy and Peace in this year's Advent Calendar. I invite everyone during the Advent season to visit and to reflect on the information provided on our online calendar, especially the themes of love in the family as well as mercy and peace."
Archbishop Eamon concluded: "As Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of our Lord, I encourage the faithful, notwithstanding our hectic schedule over the coming weeks, to make time to pray - alone and with loved ones - and by so doing to draw nearer to Christ."
The 2016 Advent Calendar will also include: · The words of Pope Francis taken from his 2016 Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), his letter marking the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy Misericordia et Misera, his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si' (Praise be to you), his daily homilies from Casa Santa Marta and his Twitter feed;
· Mass Readings and Saint of the Day;
· Advent videos: blessing of the crib in the home, blessing of the advent wreath in the home, prayer when lighting the lights on the Christmas tree, family
· Advent music;
· Information on saints during the Advent such as Saint Nicholas;
· Video and text reflections from Pope Francis and Irish bishops
· Family prayers (mother and child, children, grandparents, parents and godparents);
· Prayers for the season: for families in need, for those suffering neglect and violence, for Irish emigrants, for those in prison, for those who are sick, for
refugees and migrants; for Christians suffering in the Middle East and Iraq and for those in difficulty here in Ireland;
· Faithbytes: Short extracts from the Bible, the Catechism (including the Adult Catechism published by the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference) and Share the
Good News. · Resources for Advent and Christmas from Veritas, including a book of the day recommendation;
· Advent events in dioceses and parishes;
· Information on Trócaire's Global Gifts for 2016;
· Food Bank appeals from around the country such as Crosscare in Dublin and information on the work of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul;
· Advent and Christmas messages from Irish bishops in preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord.