Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Advent’s invitation

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published December 7, 2017

Not long ago, Brother Hugh’s family was here. We have a house reserved for the families of monks when they come to visit, so on a weekend afternoon I headed down to the house with my fellow monks, Philip, Augustine and Cassian.

We had a good time, sitting around the dining room table talking and laughing. When it came time to leave, we started on our way back to the church, where vespers would soon begin. I had my little Nikon Coolpix camera with me, and when we got outside the house I stepped away from them, turned toward them and asked if I could take their picture.

Augustine said, “What do you want to do that for?” I guess he was just surprised that I wanted to take pictures of guys that I see every day, seven days a week, 360-odd days a year. “Well,” I replied, “because it will be impossible to take the same picture tomorrow.”

I have no idea where I got that line from, but it was a good one. Augustine thought so too. So I took several pictures, and I am glad I did. They came out quite well.

This Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. We will, over the next four weeks, be hearing a lot about being vigilant, being prepared, being ready for the coming of the Lord. The church encourages us to apply to our lives, as best we can, an attitude of watchfulness and a conversion of heart that frees us to be open for the new and hoped-for coming of the Lord.

It is something we should not put off. Not unlike the little decision I made with my Nikon to take an on-the-spot series of photographs, it seems to me that it is important that we do what we can today to be loving, patient with ourselves and with others, and watchful for opportunities to be helpful to others. It takes practice and some time to develop an attitude that is on the lookout for opportunities to be of help (or to photograph three unsuspecting monks).

I like the pictures I took that afternoon. And I love Advent. When I look at the pictures now, I will be reminded that life is a constant invitation to have one’s heart ready to express itself as best it can.

Any act of kindness will do. And I suppose the use of one’s camera will do the trick, too. But most important is the Advent message to do it today—for it cannot be done once this day is past.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at