Advent Child

By Genie Guterch, RSM

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A blog in remembrance of Florence Trahan, RSM by Genie Guterch, RSM

For nearly 22 years, Florence Trahan, RSM served as a retreat and spiritual director on staff at Mercy by the Sea. In remembering Florence, there are a number of intrusive thoughts to bring her to memory:

Gifted and grounded,
compassion and strength to be present authentically to different persons and needs,
the ability to make each person seen and known, 
the color purple,
“the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and  singing”,  
grounded in Catherine McAuley’s vision of union and charity and compassionate service,
and her special concern for women, 
spiritual director, spiritual formation, sabbatical, 
joy, peace, gentle, Shalom, “I, wisdom”, Advent, the metaphor of the rose


I would choose Advent child.  Florence’s December birthday brings Advent, waiting and joy to memory. 

In 1987, I invited Florence to the Mercy Center as a retreat and spiritual director with a challenge to deliver some new programming.  Since the first weekend of the first week of Advent in 1987 until 2009, Florence invited us into the Advent Season.

She died unexpectedly on November 25, 2009 and her 2009 Advent retreat entitled “Where is my Heart?” was there on her desk, ready for that following weekend, unfolding the following themes  -  “Where Today is My Heart?  What Gives Me Hope?   What Fills Me with Joy?  So Full of Deep Joy!”

And so as the first Sunday of Advent stretches before us in 2019, do we look with hope and reassurance that “the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah…." Jeremiah 33: 14

A few years ago I transcribed many of Florence’s Advent retreats.  The writings can be found in the Florence Trahan, RSM Memorial Library at Mercy by the Sea.  The following are a few Advent reflections gleaned from her Advent retreats in her own words:

“Advent and preparation for Christmas, for the coming of Christ, always involves waiting, allowing time to form the bloom we so eagerly desire to see emerge.”

“The metaphor of the Rose is a very beautiful and tender one.  It speaks of Jesus springing from the delicate stem of Mary, but also from a long line of ancestors who believed - who struggled, who made mistakes, but who always returned to the God of the Covenant, who promised them a savior.  The song quietly reminds us amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.  That’s when the flower came - amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.  Advent - half-spent night.  Not there yet but waiting in hope.  That’s when the rose came forth.”

“Christmas is the gift of God’s love for us made visible in Jesus.  Advent is our expectant waiting for new and deeper realization of this gift within us.  And as we realize this we move deeply into faith, hope and love….Look at each person around you. See the face of Christ in that person’s face and welcome the God who comes and comes and always continues to come.” 

“I have wonderful reason to hope when I remember that the gift of Jesus’ life in me is always present, always available, if I stay awake.  Awake means alive in Christ Jesus.  I wake up to who I really am --- God’s beloved who every Advent wants me to grow in that awareness.”

“So Advent is an invitation to walk in the light in the midst of great darkness --- to walk in hope, that Jesus will come to me in a new or deeper way this Christmas, will stir up the dying embers resting in my heart, into a vibrant flame of hope that lights my path.”

“Advent is about a prophetic voice that sings in the darkness, sings of the promise of the glory of God. We are always in Advent, always in the process of recognizing and becoming who we truly are.  You and I, truly alive, are the glory of God.”

“When we know in our very bones that when we laugh, God is laughing; when we shed tears, God shed tears; when we work, when we play, when we struggle to grow, the Spirit of God always at work in us, always laboring in us, is bringing Christ to birth.  We are astonished at the Mercy of God, the hospitable Mercy of God, knocking down all our barriers, our doubts, our fears, and bringing new life over and over again in our midst.  We may not be able to put a name on it, but we sense it in our very being.”

“As we prepare to go forth from here, to set out as Mary did, on our own Advent journey, we hear Elizabeth’s words ringing in our ears: ‘Blessed are you who trust that God’s promise to you will be fulfilled.’”  Luke 1:45 

“I ponder the longing in my heart. Does it reveal to me that God longs for my love more than I can ever hope or imagine?  Help me, O God, to wake up to the truth of your Advent longing for me, your longing that this year more than ever before, I will be caught up in your love, and wait for Christmas with a new heart, with quicker steps and with a wonder at the realization that you truly are One with us.”

As the season of Advent 2019 stretches before us Florence’s questions still intrude today.

“Can I trust God’s love for me, and God’s promise to speak through me?  And if I am not there yet, can I wait for that kind of faith to be renewed in me?  That is the true Advent waiting, in faith, in hope, and in love.”