One of my favorite parts of Advent is celebrating the lives of the saints! Below is a list of some of the saints - we celebrate them in just one week! - that help to enrich our time of preparation and inspire us to live our lives in a holy way to bring honor and glory to the coming of the newborn King of Kings!
December 6th - St. Nicholas Feast Day. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and merchants. One of his legends is that he had heard of a family with three daughters and no money to pay for their dowry. Around the time of 300 BC, this means that the daughters would have been sold into slavery. St. Nicholas didn't want to see the girls sold, so he tossed bags of gold coins through the window of their home - legend holds that the gold coins landed in their shoes or stockings! Now, we lay out shoes the evening of December 5th. Children will frequently find gold (chocolate) coins and candy canes in their shoes the next morning. This is a wonderful and fun way to celebrate the virtue of generosity!
December 8th - The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is the day that we recognize our Blessed Mother as having been conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. Mary was conceived without sin and we celebrate her Immaculate Conception nine months before we celebrate her birthday in September. We honor Mary's conception because we honor the life that she led and the "yes" she gave to the Archangel when she agreed to be the mother of Jesus. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day of Obligation.
December 9th - The Feast of St. Juan Diego. Juan Diego was a Mexican convert to the Roman Catholic faith. In fact, he is the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas! Juan Diego would walk long distances - over Tepeyac Hill - to receive religious instruction from Franciscan missionaries. On his hurried way to Mass on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, he had a vision of a radiant woman. In native tongue, the woman explained that she had the honor of being the mother to Jesus and would like a chapel built on Tepeyac Hill where a pagan temple once was. St. Juan Diego went to the Bishop and relayed Our Lady's message. The Bishop was hesitant and asked for a sign. Days later, St. Juan Diego appeared to this Bishop with flowers in his tilma (cloak). When he opened his tilma to present the flowers to the Bishop from Our Lady, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was reflected on his tilma as the flowers dropped to the floor.
December 12th - The Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was the evening of December 11th St. Juan Diego delivered the flowers in his tilma as a sign for a new chapel to be built in honor of Our Lady of Tepeyac Hill. It was the same evening that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is recognized by over 8 million Native Mexicans. Her gown is adorned with stars and at her feet is the crescent moon. Millions of Native Mexicans converted to Catholicism because of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Millions of pilgrims from around the world travel to Tepeyac Hill to honor Our Lady at this Marian apparition site. On October 12, 1945, Pope Pius XII declared Our Lady of Guadalupe to be the Patroness of the Americas. Fun ways to celebrate our Lady of Guadalupe are to listen to Mariaci music or Mexican Christmas music, feast on Mexican food for the day and celebrate with a piñata and Mexican hot chocolate.
December 13th - St. Lucia's Feast Day. This day has always been a special day to me, but it became even more special just over two years ago when my little niece, Lucia, was born. Happy namesake day, Lucia Kathleen! St. Lucia, also called St. Lucy, lived in the early 4th Century; she was a martyr due to the persecution of Christians in Syracuse. There are a lot of legends surrounding St. Lucia. One thing, however, remains constant. She loved God more than anything and was burned at the stake because of this. Lucia means "light," as such, she is known as the patron saint of light. Some traditions are to have the oldest girl in the family deliver breakfast to her family, while wearing a wreath of light. This is because it is told that St. Lucia used to wear a wreath of candles around her head so that she could see as her arms were loaded down with supplies for the poor Christians hiding from persecution in the dark catacombs. My family celebrates St. Lucia's feast day by waiting until this day to light some of of Christmas lights. It is also a day that we donate food to the poor and deliver gifts to our neighbors, all in honor and remembrance of St. Lucia.