Catherine Doherty, who is currently being considered for a cause for canonization, was the founder of the Madonna House Apostolate. Wikimedia Commons

Speaking out: Small ways to celebrate Christ

By  Monica Sifert, Speaking Out
  • December 22, 2017
This time of transitioning from Advent to Christmas is a time when you can truly evaluate how well you prepare for Christ’s coming.


With the help of Catherine Doherty’s meditations on Advent, I am inspired by her humble ways and her special traditions.

Doherty, who is currently being considered for a cause for canonization, was the founder of the Madonna House Apostolate. Going to Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont., near Madonna House in Combermere, allowed me to discover this woman’s amazing life in her work, faith and spirituality.

A friend recently told me about a book Doherty wrote about her own Advent traditions.

In one tradition, Doherty talks about how her mother used to wear a bracelet of bells at the beginning of Advent, a reminder that we should be making our hearts ready for the Holy Infant.

As Christmas drew closer, Doherty’s mother would wear a string of bells on her knees so that everywhere she walked, her children could hear her around the house and be excited for Christ’s birth.

The bells Doherty’s mother wore were a parallel to the bells that the donkey wore around his neck carrying Mary to Bethlehem. They symbolized the first church bells.

Doherty says she introduced this family tradition into her own Madonna House Apostolate. People tell her that it has helped their imagination of the Nativity and is a good reminder to make ready their hearts to welcome Christ’s coming.

The bells are the sound of joy and jubilation of Christmas that would be increasingly heard throughout Advent.

Also in this meditation, Doherty talks about the significance of the donkey that carried Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The donkey is the humblest of creatures. It is a servant to the lowly peasants and represents humility and obedience.

The donkey, along with the Holy Family, was also denied a place for rest. The donkey was necessary for travel. His breath was necessary to keep the family warm in the stable.
It is a reminder that we must do any little thing that will bring us closer to God. We must take every opportunity to be humble and do something for God. We must each carry out God’s will, but all in a unique way.

For me, Doherty’s meditation on the donkey and the Nativity has helped me understand more what Advent is, how and why we need to prepare for it and see the beauty in the Holy Family. It has helped me see that Advent can be understood simply and humbly in small ways.

(Sifert, 21, is a third-year student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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