by Sr. Maria José da Silva, MMM Brazil 21.12.2021
Here in Brazil we would like to share with you one of the most enjoyable experiences that happens yearly among the Christian families in our Catholic church. There are many ways to prepare for Christmas. One of them is participating in reflections for nine days before the birth of Jesus. Here in Brazil we call it “Novena em Familia” or Family Novena. This tradition started 50 years ago with a Redemptorist religious priest. It is a tradition that is now present in all dioceses and Christian communities from the north to the south of Brazil.
The first step is to form groups of three or more families who live close to each other. They prepare their houses in turn to receive the group daily for the nine days. Everybody participates in all the encounters. Secondly, the content of the material is prepared each year according to the Gospel passages narrating the Story of Mary. Each novena starts with the reading, followed by a simple sharing among the group about the Gospel or a personal experience based on the reading. The reflection is to help the families to pray and to get into the meaning of the Christmas experience. The novena among the families follows with a concrete action, connected with what the Gospel spoke to them. They can choose to help a poor family, to offer gifts to children in need, or to help an elderly person, etc
The purpose of the nine days of praying together as a group is to help the families to enter the proper meaning of Christmas. Christmas is not only shopping or buying gifts, eating and drinking, but being in solidarity with those that are suffering. It is an opportunity for us to learn that celebrating the birth of Jesus is not disconnected from reality. The families become more compassionate and appreciative of what they have received during the whole year.
Accompanying Mary during her preparation to give birth to Jesus connects women to their own role as mothers and promotes the care for each other. These days all reflection is also connected with what is happening around the world. Covid19 has changed many lives and helped some of us to ask crucial questions: what am I doing to bring meaning to life and to the world I am living? It is time to come close to our well being and creator of everything. God is the God of hope, and never abandons us, like a mother cannot forget the life in your womb. Let us pray that each one of us can answer like Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Mary answered, “May it happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her. With that confidence in our hearts we prepare to celebrate our Christmas experiences.