What Advent means to me

CAFOD volunteer Trevor Stockton, from St Anthony of Padua parish in Wolverhampton, reflects on the significance of Advent in his life, past and present.

Trevor Stockton speaking at a Romero Mass in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham
Trevor Stockton speaking at a Romero Mass in St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham

Advent was a word I didn’t know about until I started going to church in my teens. The period before Christmas and Christmas itself really took on a new meaning for me thereafter.

Before then, as a child in a working class family in the 1940s, Christmas was simply all about having a few treats that we didn’t get all year round. Having an ordinary stocking filled with nuts, dates, a tangerine and other similar luxuries was amazing.  A few, and I mean a few, simple presents followed by a family Christmas meal made the day. There was no television and the day continued with playing games. So, the weeks before Christmas were spent in anticipation of this special time.

Now, Advent means trying to put the religious significance into perspective against a backdrop of a society which seems to see Christmas as a purely commercial, money-making, money-spending time, whatever the cost to self, others and the environment.

Follow our Advent calendar for daily reflections on the Scriptures throughout the season

After I have had the annual tussle with myself about the negatives of this commercial approach, Advent’s true significance to me is as a time of preparation for the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus – who forms the basis of our Christian faith.

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World Gifts: why I’m asking for alternative presents this Christmas

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Bernadette in Nicaragua with CAFOD

Bernadette Goddard took part in the Step into the Gap programme last year. In this blog she describes why the work of partners in Nicaragua inspired her to ask for World Gifts as Christmas presents this year.

As Christmas approaches every year I am asked the question what would I like. It’s a double question for me as my birthday is just five days before Christmas, on 20 December. Each year I receive many gifts, often ones which, if I’m honest, I don’t need or use. In previous years I’ve asked for things which would be useful. Last year I was about to embark on a life changing trip with CAFOD to Nicaragua and people helped with my kit list, buying me useful items to take with me such as torches and plug adapters! This Christmas I have decided to appeal to family and friends on social media to buy World Gifts.

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World AIDS Day 2015

On World AIDS Day, Montserrat Fernández, Programme Officer for Central America, tells us how our partners in Guatemala are supporting women, men and children living with HIV.

The first time I met a person with HIV was in 1990, 25 years ago, in Canada. Since then, through my work with CAFOD in Central America, I have met dozens of girls, boys, women and men living with HIV, all of whom have enriched my understanding of how to live with dignity and with strength. On World AIDS Day, I want to share with you just one of the many stories from these individuals who have inspired me so much.

Gimena and David’s story

Gimena and her husband David are both living with HIV. When their baby boy was born, Gimena was breastfeeding him, unaware of the risks of transmitting the virus through her milk. They were not sure at that stage whether or not he was HIV positive because all newborns have antibodies from their mother, which means an HIV test shows positive, even if the baby is not infected himself.

Gimena and David, Verapaz Guatemala
Gimena and David

Gimena said: “The doctor told me: ‘Don’t breastfeed him any more.’ I started praying, asking God to save my baby.

“A year and a half later I said to God: ‘It’s going to be your will, not my desire.’ They tested my son, and after a time they told me: ‘Congratulations Mrs Gimena! Thank God! Although you breastfed him for four months, his HIV test result is negative.’ The doctors shouted and hugged each other, saying: ‘The child is well!’ I wept for pure joy.” Continue reading “World AIDS Day 2015”