Why Advent? Guest Post by Michael Gonzalez

By Michael Gonzalez, Graduate Student in Baylor’s Department of Political Science

Ah Advent, the season set aside by the Church to prepare us for the great Feast of Christmas! To most Catholic imaginations, the word likely brings to mind the cutting of Christmas trees, the hanging of wreathes, the eating of good food, and resting by the fireside—or some such happy yuletide preparations. For students, it means the end of exams and a return to home; for teachers it means frantically grading exams so that one can return to home. For just about everyone, it’s probably safe to say that Advent represents a fairly happy time to make preparations for ‘the big day’.

Advent properly understood

How does the Church mark the beginning of this joyous time? Let’s revisit the Gospel from the First Sunday of Advent:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert!… you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

Now that’s odd, isn’t it? Just as we’re all happily gearing up for Advent, the Church gives us a Gospel where Jesus rather seriously admonishes his followers to be vigilant and wary. He compares himself to the master of a house, and us to servants and guards on duty—not to revelers.

Maybe the second Sunday’s Gospel will bring a more appropriate message. Let’s check there as well:

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as the acknowledged their sins…

When we consider the Scriptural passages given to us by the Church in the Liturgy during Advent, we have to wonder whether our presentiments about this season reflect the reality taking place.

When Christ refers to his Second Coming, he speaks of a dramatic event for which we must constantly prepare ourselves. He calls for us to lead ‘examined lives’ as Christians, and not to simply “eat, drink, and be merry” as if in ignorance of the Master’s return. St. John the Baptist calls us to “make straight” the paths of the coming Lord. Many of the Early Church Fathers interpreted this as a reference to God’s “paths” in each of our souls. How ready are each of us to receive Christ when he comes to us through the Feast of Christmas (let alone in weekly or daily Communion), a festival that itself looks forward to the great Second Coming written of in the Book of Revelation (which we heard from last week)?

Advent a time of spiritual preparation

On one hand, it isn’t sinful or illegitimate to begin making our preparations for what really is a most happy and festive upcoming day. At the same time however, those preparations need to apply to more than just decorations, food, and presents.
A great majority of us at Baylor are now wrapping up our final exams (even as a graduate student, I don’t escape that fated ordeal). By all means, breathe a sigh of relief as you pack up for home, no matter how you think you did on your tests. That trial is over; there’s nothing you can do at this point but humbly accept that you did your best. However, as Christians, the Final Exam par-excellence is ever on the way. As Catholics, the Church gently but firmly reminds us of this reality in the readings she provides for us. She shows us in many of the Psalms and First and Second Readings God’s merciful love and consideration. At the same time, she gives us very compelling Gospels to remind us never to take our salvation for granted.

Christ came to save all, but we must actively accept his love every day. Just as human friendship requires labor and sacrifice, friendship with God requires that we make daily interior efforts to draw closer to Him.

Advent is the season set aside by the Church to prepare us for the great Feast of Christmas. It is the season wherein we are called to prepare ourselves to meet Christ in Bethlehem, where we should realize that all our papers, final exams, and career plans—good though they may be—are little more than the straw of a manger in the long run of things.

Ways to prepare for Christmas

Follow the Church’s Liturgy, pick up a spiritual reading such as a life of a saint, take up an extra prayer and penance for the season, or even just set aside some extra time each day in silence to be still and draw closer to God. Think about listening to (and reflecting on the words of) the Church’s beautiful Advent hymns such as the Rorate Caeli.
Take this Advent season to enjoy the well-needed break from the semester. But amid your holiday preparations, keep in mind the Holy Day that is approaching, and soberly remember that now is the time to “prepare the way of the Lord” and to “make straight his paths” in your soul.


How SLS18 will Transform Baylor Students: an Interview with Eric Goetz


40 Baylor Catholic students are preparing for Student Leadership Summit 2018 (SLS18), a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) conference that’s set to take place in Chicago in early January. FOCUS Missionary & Team Lead Eric Goetz offers some insight into what the leadership conference is all about and invites you to consider supporting this transformative experience for Baylor Catholic students. Continue reading →

5 Ways to Get the Daily Mass Readings


“Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” – St. Jerome

Feasting on the riches of Scripture is a daily must, both at Mass and outside of Mass. But reading the daily Mass readings is a good start and foundation of your day, whether you can get to daily Mass or not.

Here’s a couple ways to make sure you’re getting your daily bread of the Scriptures.*

  1. Old fashioned paper: If you’re paper and binding kind of person, there are several ways to keep up with the daily readings:
  2. USCCB Daily Mass Readings Podcast on iTunes (also available online) -A great service of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Get the daily readings on your mobile device. It’s wonderful to hear them read out loud, and a little fun and interesting to hear the different readers (with different styles and accents).
  3. EWTN: The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) posts the daily readings as well as video of the readings/ homily on their YouTube channel. Downside: the video is usually not available until mid-morning, so if you are an early riser and like to have morning devotions with the daily readings, you might try one of the other options.
  4. Universalis: Free daily readings and liturgy of the hours (uses New Jerusalem Bible translation).
  5. Apps: There are several Catholic apps where you can find the daily readings, some free and some paid, all in English and some with other language options.
    • Laudate (Free on iTunes and Google Play) a fair app. The daily readings are just a web app connection to the USCCB site (and the text is a bit small), but it has a lot of things in one place. You can’t beat the price. English only.
    • Evangelizo (Free on iTunes and Google Play)– Daily readings in 10 languages.
    • Catholic Daily Readings (Free on iTunes, Google Play, and Microsoft Windows) – Super easy to use: open and it loads the readings. Plus it has a share function.
    • iMissal app (iTunes, $4.99, & Google Play, $3.99) – A decent app that has the daily readings (and full missal for Mass in English), as well as daily scriptures, prayers, and Catholic news. The audio readings require a data/ WiFi connection, and the saints feast days they list are sometimes incorrect, but overall of fair to good app experience.
    • Word Among Us – (Free for 14 day trial, $1.99/mo or $23.99/ year on iTunes or Kindle) Mass readings and reflections.

How do you get your daily Mass readings? Do you have a favorite Missal or app we missed?

*Most of these options use the American Mass translation, which uses the New American Bible.

Bear Awakening 15

BA14 group shot at end of retreat

Hello, my name is Jennifer Zambie! I’m from Austin, Texas and I’m a Senior studying Speech Pathology. When I was a freshman, I always heard upper classmen call St. Peter’s their second home, but I never understood what they meant until after I attended Bear Awakening.

I was raised Catholic, so when Baylor’s Welcome Week Church Fair came along, I headed straight to St. Peter’s booth because many high school friends had told me how great Father Daniel was (it’s true). I started attending St. Peter’s and joined a Bible study. But, when the semester got busy, I became one of those people who showed up right on time for Mass and left as soon as the final song ended. My faith and prayer life became a Sunday-only thing. The bare bones faith wasn’t fulfilling me, so I started looking for something more. My Bible Study leader kept talking about Bear Awakening and encouraged me to attend, so I did.

I went on Bear Awakening the spring semester of my freshman year, and it 100% changed the way I practiced my faith. Awakening showed me two very important aspects of my faith I was missing: COMMUNITY AND COMMITMENT.

First, community: Because of that powerful weekend, I met the community of St. Peter’s who welcomed me with open arms. I met people from every class, major and hometown that were praying for me and who put aside countless hours to plan for this retreat. I saw how much joy and energy these staffers had in the middle of a crazy semester, and for the first time I felt that I was missing something from my faith. I wanted that unfailing trust in God and the life giving friendship that were apparent in the community. They encouraged me to grow in my prayer life, attend Mass, go to Confession, join other ministries and share the Gospel with not only people on campus, but also the world. This retreat and the friendships that have followed taught me how to live out my faith daily.

Second, commitment: During that weekend and the weeks after I realized that the closeness to God I felt on the retreat was not just a one weekend thing but something that can be lived out every day through the Sacraments, prayer, and friendships. Bear Awakening inspired me to make a deeper commitment to my faith and helped me figure out how exactly to fulfill that commitment. It helped me grow from a Sunday only Catholic to an everyday Catholic. My college journey and, more importantly, my faith journey would look exponentially different if not for this incredible retreat.

Now, fast forward to my senior year (what?!?). I am the coordinator for Bear Awakening 15 and I’m writing to persuade you to sign up for the retreat!

“But wait Jennifer,” you might be saying. “You told us how cool Awakening was, but you didn’t tell us WHAT it was!”

You’re right. Whoops! Okay… what is Awakening? Awakening is a weekend-long retreat put on by college students for college students. The retreat is based on Catholic teachings, but it is open to anyone who wants to grow closer to God to “re-awaken” the fire of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t matter where you are in your faith journey, you are welcome here and we want you here.

Another cool thing: Awakening retreats happen all across the country at various college campuses, and once you have attended an Awakening retreat; you can staff any other Awakening anywhere! As far as our retreat goes, this year Bear Awakening is in the Fall from October 7th to the 9th (don’t worry there is no football game that weekend).

It costs $30 to go, but don’t let money be a hindrance. We have scholarships available! Applications are open, and you can sign up here or pick up an app at St. Peter’s. What makes the Awakening experience so special? The combination of the sacraments, getting to know others and the community, learning more about the faith, playing games, eating food, friendly competition, and other activities are just some ways that make Awakening an unforgettable weekend. But don’t just take my word for it, sign up for Bear Awakening and see for yourself what the Holy Spirit can do!

BA14 banner.jpg

If you have any questions at all please feel free to email me at jennifer_zambie@baylor.edu. I look forward to hearing from you! Thank you for reading and God Bless!

At Last, Some Literal Orientation

At the beginning of the school year, this past week has just been one orientation after another. Important people you don’t know tell you important things you won’t remember. And, we hope, everyone sets off in the right direction.

The very word orientation has fundamentally to do with direction. Its Latin root—oriens—refers to the rising sun, and of course, the sun rises in the east. Hence an old word for the Far East is the Orient.

So after a week full of orientation at Baylor, maybe you seek out the chapel at St. Peter’s for some peace and quiet, something familiar, maybe just like home.

Only, you then notice that Father Daniel is celebrating the Mass—facing away from me? With his back to us?

You might feel a little disoriented, maybe even mildly offended. We even use the phrase ‘to turn your back on someone’ to describe betrayal. Plus, your priest at home probably doesn’t do it this way. Is that even Catholic?

It actually is. And the reason why has everything to do with orientation. When a priest celebrates Mass facing the same direction as the people, he is said to be saying the Mass ad orientem—toward the rising sun, towards the east.

This orientation is even written in the architecture of churches. Some churches, though not all, were built so that we all face east when at Mass. So it’s been for centuries. The beautiful gothic cathedral in Cologne, Germany, faces east, as does St. Patrick’s in Manhattan. And St. Stephen’s Cathedral, in the middle of Vienna, Austria, is actually lined up so that the sun rises exactly in front of it on the feast of its patron, St Stephen, on 26 December.

But architecture aside, still the question remains: why? Why face east? What does ad orientem actually mean?

It’s actually something early Christians learned from their Jewish elder brethren. Synagogues outside of Jerusalem were built so that worshippers faced the direction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the site of God’s presence on earth.

But when Christ came, he claimed to be the Temple himself. He is the Word made flesh, the incarnate presence of God on earth. (The place to look is John’s gospel, chapter 2.) With his advent, the long night of sin, death, and ignorance was over. The day that the prophets had long foretold had finally come, when God would dwell with his people in a new and decisive way.

Anyone looking for the dawn to come is inevitably going to be looking in one direction: east. As a result, the orientation towards East became associated with Christ himself.

What that means for us Catholic Christians is that the very direction we face at Mass symbolizes and expresses our hope in and love for God. Just as kneeling embodies humility, and genuflecting expresses respect and honor, even the very direction you face while standing is rich with significance. Even if your parish doesn’t technically ‘face east’, still the common orientation ad orientem of everyone at Mass—priests and laypeople alike—can be breathtaking to behold: a whole host of believers gathered, expectant, looking in the same direction, awaiting the coming Lord.

But maybe you find all this ad orientem stuff off-putting or strange just because it seems so impersonal. ‘With his back to the people!’ It’s true, it may look that way. But Father has no more turned his back on you than has everyone else who’s standing in front of you at Mass. The reality is, we’re all just facing the same direction.

At bottom, it’s about a common direction of prayer. Father actually will turn and face you from time to time—that’s when you know he’s talking to you. But most of the time when you’re all facing the same direction, that’s Father praying. That’s when we’re all praying. Ad orientem is about a common direction of prayer.

Prayer is a tough thing. If we’re honest, most of us would rather not do it. We’re comfortable with lecture halls, political rallies, and sporting events. We’re comfortable with what’s merely human.

But with prayer, we have to do with God, and Masses celebrated ad orientem remind us of that. We aren’t there to face a priest. We’re there to behold God. We share in the work of the Mass, but Christ is the reason we’re all there. He’s the one we’re waiting for.

Thousands of years ago, the Psalmist likened the tabernacle, the place of God’s presence, to the sun, which, “as a bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber, hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way” (Ps 18.6 [19.6]). Today we all turn to watch the bride walk down the aisle, but back then it was the opposite. It was the glory of the bridegroom to break forth like the dawn and stride towards his bride in marriage.

The Church Fathers saw in that verse the figure of Christ: he is the decisive presence of God with his people. The apostles say that when Christ comes again, it will be like a wedding. Christ the bridegroom will burst forth again like the dawn for his waiting bride. What direction will that bride be facing?


-Adam Myers


A Message from the Worthy Grand Knight

Greetings all! My name is Sam Esparza, and if you didn’t get the chance to talk to one of the Knights last night, I’m going to tell you about what goes on in our chapter in preparation for Go Roman Week next week. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Knights of Columbus? Isn’t that the organization of old guys that dress up sometimes and have all those steak dinners?” While that seems to be the stereotype that has come about nowadays, that isn’t exactly the case. Yes, the commonality of parish councils seems to be that seniors make up the majority of them, but the Knights of Columbus is open to any young man 18 years of age or over. In fact, college councils like us were established to get young men more involved and to really understand this organization that we become part of for the rest of our lives.


Now this still leaves the question: What is the KoC? There are a lot of titles and accolades attributed to it: it is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, it has been called the strong right arm of the church, but the organization really started as an insurance company (believe it or not). Father Michael J. McGivney, our founder, established the Knights as a way to insure the families of Catholic men. This mission was devised as a way to take care of men and their families during a time when Catholic men were at risk of dying in their dangerous workplaces. What he did not foresee, however, was the rise of brotherhood among the men that joined. Now, over 100 years later, that brotherhood is close to 2 million strong.


Here at our Baylor Council, we have high hopes for this upcoming year.

Of course, Go Roman Week (Aug. 30-Sept. 2) isn’t the only time we focus on these important aspects of being Catholic men, we look forward to all the activities we can participate in this upcoming year. We plan to participate in more Pro-life activities like the Annual March for Life, weekly pro-life prayers, and partnering with Pro-life Waco for any other opportunities we may encounter. We look forward to our Social Events as well, such as the yearly trip we take to the Texas Stars Hockey Game, or our annual basketball cookout known comically known as Sausagefest. We look forward to everything we have in store this year, and to meeting all of the young men interested in joining our council.


Sam Esparza will be the Grand Knight for the upcoming school year. He is a senior, Physics major, from El Paso, TX.


Green, Gold, and Catholic

The Catholic Student Association of Baylor University is an apostolate unique unto both Baylor and St. Peter’s. It is the only chartered Catholic organization on Baylor’s campus, which allows it to work hand-in-hand with St. Peter’s and the greater Baylor community.

The mission of CSA is to provide service to the Catholic community and Baylor University by reaching out to all Catholic students, as well as those of other faith traditions at the university to promote moral, intellectual, social, and spiritual growth. We do this through activities which adhere to our three pillars: spiritual, social, and service.


Our spiritual pillar is the most fundamental. Through it, we find the basis for all of our activities. CSA gets the unique opportunity to be a large witness of Catholic spirituality on a traditionally Baptist campus. This past year, we instituted Catholic Prayer Nights, nights in which we essentially try to bring as much of St. Peter’s to campus as we can. Normally Fr. Daniel comes and hears confessions in one the chapels on campus while the rest of the community is lead in praise and worship music, quiet prayer time, or some other organized prayer.

Social events are, of course, always also another big hit. We have two major socials—one per semester—Christmas Coffee and Dia Del Catholic along with various other social activities throughout the school year. We think that it is important for our members to grow in fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ, not just in CSA, but also in the greater Catholic community.

We are not an explicitly service-based organization, like many of the other on-campus organizations. We do try to organize various service activities throughout the year including, Move2BU, Steppin’ Out, St. Peter’s clean-up, and feeding the homeless. This past year, in honor of the Year of Mercy, we began working our way through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Amongst all the denominations represented on campus, the relationship between Baylor and its Catholic students has probably been the one to note most. Next to Baptists, Catholics are the most largely represented denomination amongst all the student, faculty, and staff populations.

The Catholic Student Association is a way to show people that you’re green, gold, and Catholic.