The Signs, Saints, and Silences of Advent—to Help Us Grow Spiritually Guest: Colleen Sollinger, OCDS

Have you ever had the experience of arriving at Christmas and suddenly get this sinking feeling that you have hardly done anything to grow spiritually during the Advent season? Colleen Sollinger, our guest on Carmelite Conversation, helps us with some ideas on various ways we may prepare our hearts and souls for the Incarnation of Christ. What do the signs used in Advent mean and how might they help us? Have you ever considered asking a Saint or Advent figure to accompany you thru the season…to prepare in imitation of them…or gain insights from them? How beneficial is it to practice silence …and silent prayer during this time? It’s never too late to begin…just begin!

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Scripture: Jn 1:29, Mt. 3:2, Mt. 3:8, Lk 1:38, Lk 1:45, Lk 17:21

Website Articles: “Degrees of Perfection” by St. John of the Cross;

“This Is Your Brain on Silence” by Daniel A. Gross;

“Good Feet, Courage and Tenacity of Spirit” by a solitary bird;

“By the Manger in the Morning Prayer Journal” by Elizabeth Foss;

Books: “The Little Way of Advent: Meditations in the Spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux” by Fr. Gary Caster; Servant Books.

“St. John of the Cross Advent Saint” by Rev. John Saward; publ. by Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia, PA.

“The Music of Silence: Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity for Everyone” by Elizabeth Ruth Obbard; New City.

“Divine Intimacy” from Second Week of Advent, by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen; Tan Books.

True Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a Message for Christmas 2016

It is always important for each of us to take deliberate steps to make the most of our preparation for the Advent Season. In this particular conversation, Mark and Frances present an interesting idea of one way we can begin and continue that preparation. Drawing from previous conversations on the prayer of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, they reemphasize the request of Elizabeth to have the Holy Spirit bring about within her another incarnation of the Word. This very prayer of course evokes the scene of Mary and the Nativity, which we can all reflect on at this time of year. For Elizabeth, Mary’s silence and courageous acceptance of her mission, from the Annunciation to the Nativity, is the very model for interior souls, those souls who wish to be the resting place for God within them. With this as a backdrop, Frances and Mark then go on to explain each of our roles as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, Christ who is born within us, but of whom we are also members. They provide supporting scripture verses and other sources, including the Catechism and Papal documents, to explain this important teaching on our participation as members of Christ’s mystical body. Finally, as it is clear that the heart is the very center and support of the physical body, Christ’s Sacred Heart is the very center of our spiritual lives. If then, we are to ‘incarnate’ the word in our very person, we must also understand the importance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and its role in our spiritual lives. This program provides a very good means of building on the theme of incarnation and leading to devotion to the Sacred Heart, as an Advent preparation for the arrival of Christ.

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Scripture: Lk 1:35; Eph 4:15-16; Rom 6:4-5 1; Cor 12:3; Rom 8:26; Eph 1:9-10; Col 1:24

Encyclical: Mystici Corporis Christi: Pope Pius XEE on the Mystical Body of Christ

Cathechism of the Catholic Church: #790-791

Books: “The Complete Works: Elizabeth of the Trinity, Vol. One” Trans. by Sister Aletheia Kane, OCD; ICS Publications.

“God is Love: Saint Teresa Margaret: Her Life” by Margaret Rowe; ICS Publications.



Interview of Co-Host Mark Danis on a Week with the Friars…in Preparation for Advent

Taking time off from our regular routine and getting away to specifically ponder and pray features prominently in growing in the interior life of the spiritual journey. The Advent season is a perfect time for all to detach from the world and focus on the life of Christ in our soul. Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen said “The Spirit of the Advent liturgy, commemorating the age-long expectation of the Redeemer, will prepare us to celebrate the mystery of the Word made flesh by arousing in each of us an intimate, personal expectation of the renewed coming of Christ to our soul. This coming is accomplished by grace; to the degree in which grace develops and matures in us, it becomes more copious, more penetrating, until it transforms the soul into an alter Christus.” Co-host Mark Danis is interviewed in this program regarding his recent visit for a week with our Discalced Carmelite Friars. He shares some of his thoughts and experiences. We can profit from his sharing and get more inspired to dedicate this Advent season to a deeper preparation for the coming of Christ into our souls in a more intimate way than ever before. Will we make room in the “inn” of our souls for Christ to come in?

Listen to or download the podcast.


Book: “Divine Intimacy” by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, Advent Week One; Tan Books.


This program originally aired just after the first Sunday of Advent. Here Frances and Mark explore a little about the meaning of Advent and the Liturgical Calendar for the Season. They discuss each of the four weeks of Advent and their individual focus on some aspect of preparing for the arrival of Christmas. They also offer a somewhat more challenging message about the coming of the Lord from a reflection written by a woman who understood that there are two Comings of Christ, and each individual Advent Season is designed to better prepare us for His eventual Second Coming. Finally, this program discusses some of the important symbols of the Advent Season, goes over the Mass Readings for the first two weeks of Advent (2015), and then offers some very practical advice on how we might individually prepare ourselves for the Coming of the Lord.

Simeon and Anna at the Presentation of Our Lord

There always seems to be a lingering question whenever we pass through the Christmas Season, can we really believe and did we really experience all that those readings from Isaiah say about the coming of the Lord. In this thought provoking conversation Mark and Frances reflect on the experience of Simeon and Anna, the two individuals waiting at the Temple who were able to recognize the arrival of the Lord. What was it about their preparation, their watchfulness and the state of their soul that allowed these two devout individuals to see what so many others at the Temple that day were not able to recognize. This conversation will also open up the scripture verse about the offering of the two turtle dove that Joseph and Mary presented as a thanks offering for the gift of the birth of the child Jesus. And, it will relate this story to our own faith journey and our call to make ourselves ready to receive what it is the Lord want to share with us on His arrival.

Spiritual Preparation

In the special time of Christmas it is always good for us to reflect on what it is we are doing to help prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. There is never any doubt that Christ will enter our world and our hearts, but in order to fully experience Him we must make preparations. It is so important for us to take time to do more than just prepare our homes, or our pantry for coming of the Lord, instead we must make time to prepare our hearts. In this lively discussion, Mark and Frances offer very practical advice on how we can avoid getting caught up in the worlds definition of what the season means, and instead focus on how we each, individually can make the most out of the precious gift the Lord wants to give us at this time of year.

The Incarnation of God 

In our busy preparations for Christmas, even our spiritual preparations, we can sometimes forget the most significant theological aspect of Christ’s birth, the Incarnation of God into our human lives. During this conversation Frances and Mark discuss some interesting historical facts regarding the use of the term ‘Incarnation’ in the history of the Carmelite Order. They then go on to speak about an interesting phrase in a Prayer by Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, which she wrote to the Trinity. In that well know prayer she asks: “Consuming Fire! Spirit of Love! Descend within me and reproduce in me, as it were, another incarnation of the Word that I may be to Him another humanity wherein He may renew His mystery.” This is a prayer very rich in meaning, especially as each of us is called to become another Christ and to Incarnate His life into our own. In this pre-Christmas conversation, Mark and Frances discuss how we can work to prepare ourselves to receive this ‘Incarnation’ in our own souls.

St. John of the Cross as Advent Saint

Many people may be aware that St. John of the Cross’ feast day is 14 December, and that alone might make him a perfect Advent Saint. But it turns our there are many other reasons why St. John of the Cross is the ideal Advent Saint. In this conversation, which focuses on the miracle of the Advent Season, Frances and Mark highlight some of the key themes in John’s writings that demonstrates the important the Incarnation played in John’s theology and spiritual teaching. This is a wonderful program to help prepare for Advent or to understand more fully the treasure we have in the gift of the Incarnation. It also introduces one of John’s lesser known poems, a loving tribute to the Blessed Mother.

The Infant of Prague

Many people are familiar with the Devotion to the Infant of Prague, but what not many people know is that this devotion actually began with the Carmelites. In this particular program, Mark and Frances discuss the history of this wonderful devotion and its association with the Carmelite Order. They also discuss the blessings and promises the Lord has made to those who practice this devotion. The Christmas Season seems a wonderful time to focus on the Christ Child, and the rich Devotion to the Infant of Prague is a gift that will continue to bless us throughout the year.