BY CARRIE NANTAIS | November 30, 2016
I wanted to write about the importance of taking time to prepare during Advent. I wanted to write about the importance of a faith community to support me and my family during the pressure and busyness of the Christmas holiday (read = consumerism). I had similes and metaphors on the beauty of the burning flame—the candle—at a time when sunlight is minimal and days feel shorter. In fact, I had it almost all done and was ready to hit the send button. But then things changed, in the burst of a different kind of fire in the darkness: the shot from a handgun.
On Tuesday, November 22, 2016, a Wayne State University police officer, Collin Rose, was shot while patrolling the south-eastern edge of my neighborhood located just outside of midtown Detroit. He died a day later from his injuries. And this experience changed what I wanted to write about. Because all of a sudden, my thoughts were with his family and friends, his fiancée, two days away from Thanksgiving and now in mourning. It’s much harder to contemplate a time of gathering, laughter and closeness when the heavy weight of grief lays over us like a wet, wool blanket on a cold night.
Advent is a time of preparation: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. But for what are we preparing? The arrival of Jesus, God with Us. A newborn star lighting the evening sky. A sign of hope for the future. The belief that God so loved us that God chose to become human—to take on our cloak of fragility as the ultimate act of love. But what is this world like now that God is entering anew? A time of turmoil, confusion, violence and yes, suffering.
I cannot know why young Officer Rose was killed, nor can I know what was in the mind of the shooter. What I can know is that my neighborhood, my community, organized a candlelight vigil to honor the memory of this officer’s service to keep us safe and supported when we are at home. My kids waved to this officer when he drove by with his K-9 service dog, Wolverine. It is hard to explain to young children why hard things happen—but I still think it’s important to do. And so when people in our neighborhood were walking around in the dark holding candles, it provided the perfect opportunity to share with my 6 year old son why that was happening. Because we need light, even small ones, in a time of darkness. Because bad things happen… but they don’t remain. Because God cares about us ever more when we are in need, hurting or alone. He understood this immediately—of course, what young child likes to walk into their room when it’s dark?! What child doesn’t want to hold hands or get a hug when they feel alone or sick?
Advent is a time of preparation, yes. But it is also a time to remember that God seeks to be with us, directly in our human condition. Let’s do our best during this season to remind ourselves, our children, our families, that God seeks to know what it’s like to be human. Both the dark, and the light, of that reality.
Just Parenting, a blog published by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, provides a framework for discussion around the intersections of parenting, faith and social justice from the perspective of parents touched by the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola through Jesuit schools, parishes, and other organizations.
Carrie Nantais, M.Div., MA, currently lives in Detroit, MI with her husband, David, and two sons, Liam (age 6) and Theo (age 3). She is completing her PhD in Clinical Psychology in May, 2017. Her areas of interest include: integration of spirituality and psychology, forgiveness, trauma and resiliency and women’s health issues. When she takes care of herself, she enjoys yoga, being creative, singing loudly in the car and laughing with her family.