This year the first Sunday of Advent falls on December 2. For Christians, the Advent season is meant to be a time to cultivate a longing for God, and an opening of hearts to make room for God’s work among us and through us.
In his ministry, author Ronald Patrick Raab, C.S.C., serves among the most vulnerable members of his community. When he writes that “we ache for an Advent of prophetic change so that life can be different for us all, here and now,” his sincere ache comes from awareness of the challenges faced by our society’s marginalized people.
In The Unsheltered Heart: An at-home Advent retreat, Raab invites the reader to walk the path that Jesus walked, showing unconditional love to all. When we try to love in this way, our hearts sometimes will feel broken. There will be vulnerable people we cannot heal. The challenge is not to put up barriers—to continually pray for the heart to be open, unsheltered.
Raab creates a compelling vision of God dwelling in our hearts and enabling love to pour forth into our lives. Advent can be described as “the coming,” or a season of waiting, but we don’t always clarify for what (or for Whom) we are waiting. Is it for Christmas day and opening presents? That’s not the focus of the season—at least, spiritually speaking, it shouldn’t be. God already is immanent in the world. Yet, in this special season, space is made to express our longing for awareness of God’s loving presence, for reassurance and hope.
Each week of the retreat opens with reading and reflecting upon the Sunday gospel text. The revised common lectionary has a three-year cycle of scripture readings. This Advent the readings come from cycle C, emphasizing the gospel of Luke, as in the text of this booklet.
Silent prayer and reflection provides the foundation for the retreat. For those who would like to experience the retreat with a small group, Ave Maria Press provides a downloadable supplement. The booklet contains reflection questions as well as writing prompts, with space for responding in the booklet. (Some readers might choose to have a notebook for writing their responses.) The questions are nourishing and challenging, at times taking up the call of the prophets to care for the marginalized among us. Each days’ retreat concludes with an invitation to offer a brief supplication. Responding to the booklet’s text, a openhearted reader could have a transformative experience.
During this special season, may you find time to turn inward, to listen for God’s voice of compassion, and to offer sincere prayers of love.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received in exchange for this review.