My mammy is very good about sending me letters and small parcels of tea bags and chocolate from Ireland. I get excited when I know she has put them in the post, but it takes nearly two weeks for my precious goods to arrive! So I just have to wait. And I dislike waiting just as much as the next person. We will do anything we can to distract us from the difficulty of waiting. It’s easier to wait when we have something to keep us busy and take our minds off the present time that seems to be dragging on.

Is this what we’re experiencing now that December is upon us? The weeks in December seem longer than any other month of the year. We wait for Amazon to deliver, for lights to go up, and for the day that it becomes acceptable to wear our Christmas jumpers. We become busy with preparations to help pass the time.

In this season of Advent, we have begun a time of waiting. While waiting for Christmas day, we must make important preparations; not just putting up lights or buying the right gifts, but preparing our hearts. We can look to Our Lady who spent an entire pregnancy preparing for the first Christmas day. Like any pregnant mother, she knows what it is to wait. It is Our Lady who knows how to welcome the baby Jesus into a home, but even more so into our hearts. Jesus is coming and He needs a home made ready for Him. He wants to be born within each of our hearts, even if right now it seems like a messy stable. We can prepare as we wait for His birth if we allow Our Lady to help us. Walk with her and St. Joseph on the road to Bethlehem and allow Jesus to grow within us. Rest in the womb of Mary as Jesus did and allow her to form our hearts into a place fitting for Jesus. Allow Mary to prepare our hearts like she would have prepared the manger for Jesus to lay in. Allow her to hold us close and experience her love.

But how can we allow Mary in to help prepare us? Start by praying the rosary. Be the inn keeper that said yes to Mary and Joseph. “Yes, I can give you a place to for your baby to be born; it’s not much, but it’s all I have.” Jesus will meet us where we are, wherever our hearts are and with whatever we have to offer Him. He sees us along the road right now and is giving us a few more weeks to prepare for His arrival. Don’t become distracted to make the wait seem shorter, but rather prepare with and through Mary.

O come, O come Emmanuel.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-11-24-48-pmAnna Rose is a first-year missionary from Northern Ireland. She enjoys a good cup of tea, praying the rosary, and confusing Americans with Irish sayings!

Tips for Encountering the Homeless

We’ve all experienced it. You pull up to a stoplight and see a man or a woman with a sign, and you feel helpless. You want to do something, but what? Here are some simple things you can do in the 30 seconds before the light turns green or when you are walking by someone on the street.

1. Ask the Person’s Name

One of our friends on the street told us he went 4 months without hearing his own name. Ask their name and remember it. If you have time ask where they are from, hobbies, even how their day is going. Don’t worry that you might not be offering anything material! Your conversation and smile are great gifts too. If it’s your regular commute, remember your new friends name and say hello next time you see them. You’ll be amazed how his or her face will light up that you remembered.

2. Reach Out and Offer a Handshake
This simple gesture breaks a barrier and expresses that you recognize their dignity. One moment of awkwardness for you can be the highlight of the day for him or her.

3. In Lieu of Money…Give Socks/Water/Gatorade/Gloves
If you can keep some of these things in your car, they are often greatly appreciated! Socks are great to give. Water and Gatorade help avoid dehydration. Gloves, hats etc. are also great in the winter. Giving money is a personal decision that requires discernment. Gift cards can be a better alternative to cash. We prefer to give these items which are more personal instead of money in order to keep the focus on friendship. Your love and compassion is more effective than five bucks.

4. Offer Soft Food
Many of our friends on the street have teeth problems and can’t benefit from foods like granola bars or apples so soft foods like bananas or soft-baked granola bars are appreciated.

5. Offer to Pray For Them…And Mean It
We try to be another Christ to our friends on the street, but we accept we can only do so much. The rest we leave up to God in prayer. He loves our friends more than we ever could. While Jesus suffered on the cross, Mary Magdalene, Mary, and John accompanied him, but couldn’t relieve his suffering. We can be like them and accompany Jesus in the person of the homeless while they suffer, even though we can’t fix every problem.