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Examples for Advent

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Gregorio Borgia

On Thanksgiving Day, a Catholic priest from Nigeria was praising God for the opportunity to be in the United States. At a Catholic church in lower Manhattan, hidden in between courthouses and the New York Police Department headquarters, the Nigerian priest told us about his seminary classmate of his who is missing and assumed dead and about a village of Christians recently wiped out by Islamic terrorists in his home country. Be grateful for America and for freedom, he insisted. It was a needed reality check. With all this country's challenges, we Americans are still blessed.


During one of the first days of Advent, I came across a meditation from Father Alfred Delp in the book "Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings 1941-1944." While imprisoned by the Nazis, the Jesuit priest managed to write (and have smuggled out) some of the most peace-filled thoughts, drawing us beyond current evils, even in the midst of them.

Delp writes "(M)an must notice and feel that the longing for sun, for happiness, is only the foreground; that it is his affliction to hunger for something more ... There is no earthly event, power, or love that can bring peace to man's heart."

Advent is the time before Christmas to prepare spiritually for the memorial of the incarnation of God as a human in the form of Jesus Christ. In another meditation from prison, Delo emphasizes God's promise that he comes and to heal and save. Mankind's challenge, he says, is "to take this God seriously." He quotes Romans 15:13: "that you may overflow with hope." He says: "A person filled with confidence in God will profit from this tie and stand up to the test."

So much, Delp says, is about humility. "We need to fold our hands again, and bend our knees and bow our egos in adoration before God, so that His salvation can be effective in us and make us capable of being called and touched by Him."


Being in actual prison gave Delp a new perspective from which to speak with fierce credibility about the tendency of the person of faith to get caught up in the self-dependency and pride that Western culture has promoted in pursuit of worldly happiness and security, forgetting that there is more to life.

We are being called to something deeper. Newspaper businessman Jimmy Lai is in prison in Hong Kong today, refusing to plead guilty to trumped up charges seeking to silence his words about the cruelty of the Chinese regime. He said in an interview with Francis X. Maier for the Napa Institute: "When you lift yourself above your own self-interest, you find the meaning of life." A British citizen, he had opportunities to leave Hong Kong, but he said: "I am what I am. I am what I believe. I cannot change it. And if I can't change it, I have to accept my fate with praise."

Not unlike that missionary priest from Nigeria wanting us to see how blessed we are here, Lai knows he owes all that is good in his life to God. Like Delp in that Nazi prison, Lai in prison today is freer than most of us. On the outside, buying and stressing and somewhat utterly distracted, we have a lot to learn from them.


(Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book "A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living." She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan's pro-life commission in New York, and is on the board of the University of Mary She can be contacted at

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