The rector of the cathedral eagerly awaits Advent, his favorite season
The liturgical calendar is about to turn to the season of Advent, the favorite of Father Jean Ubel, rector of Saint-Paul de Saint-Paul Cathedral. Not only does it dive deep into its richness and meaning, but it also has the opportunity to recall fond memories of childhood.
“We had some interesting ways of preparing for Christmas when I was young (in Saint-Paul),” said Father Ubel. “We always had the Advent calendar and there was always a candy with every day. It was always fun to reveal that and see who got the candy.
Another tradition was to set up a manger and leave the manger empty. Then there was a unique practice that was designed to make a lasting impression.
“Every year on December 6, St. Nicholas Day, we received a Christmas tree at the table,” he said. “The idea was that by the time you move out one day, you will have enough (ornaments) to start your own tree. I remember one year the theme was wire figures, and mine was an altar boy. Another year it was woodcarvings, and mine was a Franciscan monk. So I think my mom was trying to tell me something.
His wish for priestly ordination was finally fulfilled in 1989, and Father Ubel spoke about what Advent meant for him before and after ordination in an interview with Patrick Conley, host of the “Practicing Catholic” radio show on Relevant Radio 1330 AM, for a segment starting at 9 pm on November 19th. The show will also air at 1 p.m. on November 20 and 2 p.m. on November 21.
Father Ubel also explained the practices of the Church during this season and offered recommendations on how people can enter the period of waiting and anticipation.
Believe it or not, a significant practice for Father Ubel is fasting. He is careful to point out that this is not the same as abstinence from Lent. Rather, it is a softer form intended to help him understand the central meaning of the Advent season.
“No candy, no nuts, no dessert,” he said. “I’m getting really hardcore this last week (of Advent). I’ve been doing it for the last few years, and I think it made a huge difference spiritually, to have that … feeling of hunger, longing for the Lord, the coming of the Lord.
This desire is reinforced by another of his favorite practices: chanting the “antiphons” during the last days of Advent. He does this during evening prayer, each day offering a different antiphon.
“The ‘O Antiennes’ start on December 17th,” said Father Ubel. “Throughout the last week before Christmas, each day at Church evening prayers – Vespers – a different ‘O Antiphon’ is used. And, they all have rich historical significance in the Church. And, they obviously form the basis of the hymn – my favorite Advent hymn – “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” So every day is another verse of this hymn. It is this last push (before Christmas). … This is a wonderful opportunity to enter the Old Testament, the yearning for the coming of the Messiah.
But, in the midst of the wait that the season favors, there are also festivals, such as Saint Nicholas on December 6 and Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. He recommends that families set up their nurseries on Gaudete Sunday, but with an empty nursery. It is important not to take the leap to Christmas by putting the baby Jesus in the manger, or singing songs clearly intended after the birth of Christ.
He recommends that people “delay” to celebrate Christmas earlier, but has the opposite view when it comes to coming to mass during Advent and Christmas. In fact, he expects larger crowds this year, based on conversations he has had with other priests.
“We’re probably anticipating all of the biggest crowds we’ve had in a few years,” he said. “Spiritually speaking, it is important to try to trust the Lord to make things right. We hope to have large crowds, but we also hope that we can handle them in a safe and efficient manner. “
To learn more about Father Ubel’s thoughts on Advent, listen to “Practicing Catholic”. Others on the program are Allison Spies, archdiocesan archival program manager, who discusses the difficult travel conditions faced by the first missionary priests in Minnesota, including the story of a priest who made the international news in 1860 because of his heartbreaking ordeal of being lost in a snowstorm. Our Lady’s school sister Lynore Girmscheid, coordinator of the American Bishops’ Retirement Fund for Religious of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, who discusses the next annual fundraising December 11-12.
Listen to all the interviews after they air on
Category: practicing Catholic