Weather prevented Mary Bielski from coming to Wisconsin to give a presentation on Advent at St. Joseph Church, in Rice Lake. Instead, she spoke to attendees from her home in New Orleans, via livestream presentation.
Catholic Herald Staff
National speaker Mary Bielski offered a reflection for the Rice Lake cluster’s Advent Adoration service on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, held at St. Joseph’s Church.
Although weather prevented Bielski from coming to Wisconsin from her home of New Orleans, via video presentation the speaker offered her sincerest apologies and hoped to still “create an environment of encounter with God,” making use of technology.
“It’s so interesting how God used the craziness of our everyday life,” she shared, recounting the details of the unsurmountable challenges she faced in trying to make it to Rice Lake in person.
Bielksi described the full circle of emotions she cycled through – from anticipation before the event to creative resourcefulness to find alternative travel; to anger and discouragement at her plans being stifled and not wanting to disappoint attendees. She ended up sitting on the floor of the New Orleans airport in surrender.
“OK, Lord, this is where I am,” Bielski said, retelling her final moments before embracing God’s call to “something more” through the experience.
She invited listeners to begin the evening with the internal posture that her sitting on the floor in a public airport conjured in the imagination. She asked the audience to find parallels with similar situations in their own lives and how they are in themselves Advent opportunities to prepare the way for Jesus.
Speaking on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Bielski called Advent “the season of our Lady.”
“God often comes in unexpected ways,” she said. “But in his greater plan it causes us to stop and sit and find him among us.”
Bielski, who holds a master’s degree in Theological Studies, has spoken to more than 100,000 adults and teens, giving missions, retreats, conferences and ministry training.
In her video presentation, she spoke about how easy it can be to lose the meaning of Advent in all the preparations for Christmas.
Quoting Isaiah, chapter 40, and the call to prepare the way of the Lord and to make straight his paths, Bielski reflected on three distinct comings of Jesus as written about by St. Bernard of Clairveaux.
They are: first, the coming of Jesus incarnate; second, his coming into one’s heart; and third, the second coming of Jesus as prophesied in scripture.
In regards to preparing for the second coming, Bielski spoke strongly.
“It’s no joke. We’re preparing for a banquet – something so beautiful and wonderful.”
She related her personal experience of struggling with depression and anxiety as a teenager and how, once she encountered the love of God in a real and personal way, “It revolutionized the very way I saw God.”
“In the midst of the darkness, God didn’t send a flashlight,” she said. “He sent his son.”
Bielski invited listeners to, like Mary, keep their eyes set on the greater story of redemption.
She claimed to speak prophetically for a moment and said, “I believe there are hardships coming. We’re in a season of shaking.”
Then, referring to a talk she has given about Haggai’s prophesy in the Old Testament, she said the “shaking” has a purpose – “So that only what is unshakable will remain.”
“God is allowing things to be shaken so that everything that doesn’t belong will fall to the ground,” Bielski continued, describing a tree being pruned of dead limbs. “We were not made for dead branches – we were made for life. We were made for his holiness. We were made to walk in him.”
Bielski reflected on how God’s fullness and omnipotence “can bring joy even in the most unlikely of places.”
She quoted St. Pope John Paul II’s words about the liturgy of Advent, how its goal is understanding the full meaning and mystery of Christmas. That it is not just a commemoration but a historical event each year that can bring about real personal renewal.
“It is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be this advent,” she read. “It must be a vigilant waiting, a vigilant preparation of the final coming of Jesus. The transformation of our minds to welcome the Lord, not only with our creeds but with our hearts. We must learn to recognize him in our everyday life – God with us, Emmanuel.”
Then quoting Pope Benedict XVI, Bielski added, “Advent is concerned with a connection of remembering of hope that is necessary for all man. Advent awakens in us the profound emotional memory that brings about our own emotional healing.”
Bielski moved on to reflect on the parallels and differences between Zachariah and Mary in Luke’s Gospel – the appearance of angels, the invitations received and the distinct tonality of their responses. She explained that in the original Greek the word “question” is stated differently by both protagonists – doubt versus a desire for understanding.
Moving toward an invitation to stand in the truth of God’s fidelity and experience the joy of surrender, Bielski posed the following questions:
“Where in your life do you struggle to believe in God’s faithfulness? Where do you struggle in your life to believe that God is who he says he is? Where do you struggle with receiving his love in your life?”
The speaker acknowledged the need at times to listen to one’s emotions. “But we stand up in our faith,” she asserted. “Say yes to his promises, not to our despair. Yes to his hope, not to our fears.”
In the final portion of the talk, Bielski reviewed four steps for Advent preparation: challenging and renewing the mind in faith; abiding in God through prayer; repenting to align one’s heart with his; and to open one’s heart to receive him.
As part of the third step, Bielski illustrated her point through the image of a storm that stirs up the waters and brings debris from the seafloor to the surface. She explained how that cleansing helps to clear the heart, to bring Christ back to the center. She also alluded to its correlation with John the Baptist’s heralding to prepare the way by leveling hills and raising valleys.
To conclude, Bielski shared another personal experience of consciously listening to and matching the rhythm of God’s heartbeat. Breathing deep and clapping a two-beat pattern, she prayed, “Heavenly Father, I ask that the rhythm of your heartbeat would come and unite to our hearts.”
She invited participants to use their imagination to contemplate the Nativity scene, then led a spontaneous prayer of offering to exchange gifts with the Lord. All the while, she clapped the heartbeat rhythm to immerse listeners in an experience of connection and surrender.
The recording of Mary Bielski’s Dec. 8 reflection at St. Joseph Church in Rice Lake is accessible via the Four Parishes/One Faith Catholic Cluster Facebook page or at stjosephricelake.org/advent-adoration-Wednesday-december-8/.