Celebrate Advent with Printable Resources for Catholic School Students
The hopeful season of Advent begins the Church’s liturgical year and prepares Catholics for both the birth of Jesus and Christ’s second coming at the end of time. This article reviews the significance of Advent and highlights seasonal opportunities for faith formation, whether in Catholic schools or at home. It includes two free printable resources designed for use with Catholic students: a kit to construct a paper Advent wreath and an Advent calendar that marks the days with activities and coloring. Integrate these resources into religious education or share them with families to use at home during Advent.
The liturgical season of Advent is a time of expectation and preparation for Catholics. Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” Advent is anticipatory; it prepares the Church to celebrate the Christmas season and looks forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. The Advent season is also penitential in nature, inviting Catholics to prepare through the practices of prayer, penance, and almsgiving.
A Hopeful Beginning
Each liturgical year celebrates the life and paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. It is fitting that the start of the season of Advent also marks the beginning of the liturgical year. As a season, Advent commemorates the historical time before Jesus was known to us—a time of waiting. The remainder of the liturgical year commemorates the events of the life of Jesus Christ, from his birth at Christmas, to his life and ministry in Ordinary Time, to his paschal mystery and rising to new life at Easter, to the feast of Christ the King at the liturgical year’s end. Our celebrations of Advent reflect this expectation and invites Catholics to prepare their hearts for the arrival of Jesus Christ.
Prayer, Penance, and Almsgiving
During Advent, Catholics are called to pray, do penance, and give alms. Here are ways that Catholic students can take part in these practices in the context of your community during the Advent season.
Prayer, a conversation with God, is both personal and communal. Prayer takes many forms. It can encompass traditional prayers of the Church or original prayers. Daily efforts to pray during the season of Advent can be all of these. Provide special opportunities for your community to come together for prayer and reflect during Advent, with prayer services, time for contemplation, and invitations for faculty, students, and families to compose or share original prayers.
During the season of Advent, celebrating the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation helps create a “clean heart” and openness to God’s mercy before the Christmas season. If applicable, encourage students and families to attend an Advent penance service.
Almsgiving entails donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. As a community, identify a particular cause that you can invite students, families, and faculty to support during the Advent season. Coordinate with the organization to identify key needs that your community can safely help meet. Organize a drive (whether donations, food, funds, or volunteers) to fulfill that need during the four weeks of Advent.
The Advent Wreath
Though it has a changing start date, the season of Advent always begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve, December 24th. In 2023, Advent will begin on December 3rd. Though this season includes all the days between the 3rd and the 24th, the four Sundays are special days that mark each week of the Advent season.
The Advent wreath is a longstanding symbol and tradition of the Advent season. A continuous evergreen circle, it contains four candles: one for each week of Advent. The first, second, and fourth candles are violet or purple (a liturgical color that signifies prayer, penance, and sacrifice), while the third candle is rose or pink (a liturgical color that signifies joy). A purple candle is lit on the first, second, and final Sundays of Advent. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent. This special Sunday is also known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “rejoice” and is a reminder of the joyful Christmas season drawing nearer.
The free Advent Wreath Kit includes printable craft materials and instructions to make a paper Advent wreath. Once assembled, display the wreath in your community during the Advent season and “light” its candles each week.
Three Advent Wreath Kit Ideas for Catholic School Leaders
- Complete the activity as a staff development opportunity. Integrate the activity into an Advent prayer service for staff that includes professional learning about the season and ways to teach children and families about it. The activity could be completed collaboratively in person or virtually with synchronous and asynchronous elements. Teachers could then use completed wreaths in classrooms or homes during the season.
- Provide the kit to teachers to offer a weekly Advent wreath activity in their classrooms with students of all ages. The finished wreath could be part of a bulletin board or prayer table throughout the Advent season.
- Pass the kit on directly to your students and their families as a seasonal resource to support family faith formation at home during Advent. Invite families or older students to share photos of their completed wreaths to display on a virtual or physical bulletin board in your community.
The Advent Calendar
Another Advent tradition, Advent calendars are used to count the days of the Advent season in anticipation of Christmas. Advent calendars date back to the 19th century and remain popular with Christians today in many forms and formats around the world.
For a simple activity designed for use each day of the Advent season, download the daily Advent Coloring Calendar. You might print a copy for each student to take home or provide large copies to teachers to post and use in individual classrooms. One page includes an activity numbered for each day. As activities are completed, students or classes can find the corresponding number on the sheet and color the image. The calendar includes traditional Advent activities, saints’ feast days during Advent, prayers, penitential practices, sacraments, and Scripture.
Begin or Build on Advent Traditions Today
The season of Advent is filled with expectation and hope. Advent offers Catholics so many opportunities to prepare for the coming of the Son of God. Begin or build on Advent traditions in your community as you integrate daily opportunities for celebration, prayer, penance, and almsgiving with the resources included in this post.
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