Don't Forget the Advent Saints!

by James Martin, SJ

During the season of Advent, most of our attention is focused, quite rightly, on the story of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This wonderful liturgical season also offers other stories, ones that often go overlooked: the stories of the saints.

For many people, the lives of the saints seem, frankly, boring or irrelevant. That’s not surprising given the way they’re often depicted in churches: either as bland plaster statues that make them look dull or as figures in dramatic stained-glass windows that make them look superhuman. The saints were neither. A quick look at the lives of two “Advent saints” shows that they were truly human people who led fascinating lives.

Take St. Francis Xavier, whose feast we celebrate on December 3. When you’re writing your Christmas cards, you might think of all the letters that the great missionary sent back to his Jesuit brothers in the sixteenth century. These letters were widely circulated and they thrilled Europe with tales of wonderful new peoples in Africa, India, and Japan. Or remember the feast day of St. Ambrose on December 7 when you’re thinking about being forced to do so much Christmas shopping. He was forced to do something, too: In the fourth century he found himself in a church in Milan during a time of religious controversy. The crowd suddenly shouted, “Ambrose, bishop!” He was acclaimed and appointed as bishop even though he wasn’t even baptized!

Other wonderful Advent saints include St. Juan Diego (December 9), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), St. Lucy (December 13), St. John of the Cross (December 14), and St. Peter Canisius (December 21).

So don’t forget to mail your Christmas cards early, and don’t forget about the lives of our amazing Advent saints, too!

 James Martin, SJ

James Martin, SJ

James Martin, SJ, is associate editor of America magazine and a prolific author, writer, and editor.

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