“Behold, our King comes.”
On the opening evening of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary’s Advent Novena, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson shared that Advent is a time of anticipation, of the coming of the Christ child. But the prayers of the Mass remind us that the season of Advent is about two comings of the King — His birth at Christmas, and the second coming: the day He returns to Earth at the end of time.
“What hangs in the balance between these two events is our own will; our own choice of whether or not to submit to the King,” he said in the homily Dec. 4. “As we recall what He has already accomplished for us, and look forward to its victorious consummation at the end of time, we are given this time in between to be sure that our hearts are ready to meet Him.”
The Advent Novena at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is a tradition that dates back locally to at least the early 19th century. Each evening of the nine-day novena includes prayer, Scripture, a homily and hymns. This particular novena has traditionally been sung in the churches and seminary chapels of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) and in the chapels of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Records indicate that the novena was performed as early as 1819 at St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perryville, the site of the first seminary of the Diocese of St. Louis and operated by the Vincentians. The style of novena was originally compiled by Father Carlo Antonio Vacchetta, an Italian Vincentian priest from Turin, Italy. Modeled on the Matins and Vespers, the novena also includes a singing of seven prophecies of the coming of the Messiah; a canticle, which from Latin means “little song,” with lyrics from biblical or other holy texts; and a singing of the Magnificat, known as the Song of Mary.
In preparing our hearts for Christmas and what he called the “final day of victory,” Archbishop Carlson said we should ask ourselves what is the “yoke,” or oppressive power that keeps us from recognizing our identities as sons and daughters of the King.
“Whatever it is that you’ve come to think you need in order to be happy, or fulfilled or satisfied. Whatever it is that you think you need in order to be liked, or accepted or loved. That’s what the King has come to free you from,” he said.
Among those attending the standing-room-only first evening of the novena were Jenny and Jim Baur of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in St. Louis, and two of their daughters, Emilie, 22, and Annie, 13. The Baurs have made it a family tradition for the past several years, and look forward to it every year.
“The atmosphere and music is beautiful, and the reflections,” Jenny Baur said. “And we just love the people here too. It forces you to put it into the proper perspective and take the nine days and just be quiet. Everything stops for those nine days — there’s no shopping, none of that. It’s just a really good hour to sit and be quiet. I love sitting in the dark of that beautiful chapel.”
Their daughters echoed their mother’s sentiment, noting how they appreciate the time for some calmness and quiet. “I always feel more calmer and happy, hearing all of the singing,” Annie Baur said. “It’s so calm and peaceful, and I feel so good when I come out.”
Kenrick-Glennon Seminary Advent Novena
The annual Kenrick-Glennon Seminary Advent Novena continues through Thursday, Dec. 12. Each evening of the novena begins at 7 p.m. in the Chapel of St. Joseph at the seminary, 5200 Glennon Drive in Shrewsbury, and includes prayer, Scripture, a reflective homily and hymns led by the seminary choir. The homilist schedule includes:
Thursday, Dec. 5: Father Charles Samson
Friday, Dec. 6: Father Fadi Auro
Saturday, Dec. 7: Father Kristian Teater
Sunday, Dec. 8: Bishop Robert J. Hermann
Monday, Dec. 9: Father Paul Hoesing
Tuesday, Dec. 10: Deacon Zachary Griffith
Wednesday, Dec. 11: Father Jason Schumer
Thursday, Dec. 12: Father James Mason
The novena also is live streamed each evening. Visit kenrick.edu/novena to watch online.