This season ‘in a particular way, invites us to consider the restoration of the family,’ Sister Miriam James Heidland writes in new journal.

Sister Miriam James Heidland’s latest book, Behold: A Guided Advent Journal for Prayer and Meditation, invites readers to transformation this Advent season. Like her Lenten prayer and meditation journal Restore (released in January 2022), Behold takes readers on a journey of inner healing, this time with special emphasis on the members of the Holy Family.

As Sister Miriam notes in her introduction to the book, “Advent, in a particular way, invites us to consider the restoration of the family. … The more we can allow God to heal us as children and parents, the more our families will take on the likeness of the Holy Family.”

With beautiful illustrations by Josiah Henley to introduce each week of Advent, the book guides readers into meditation on our relationship with our mothers alongside Mary as Healer, our relationship with our fathers alongside Joseph as Protector, our childhood with the Child Jesus, and on the restoration of our families with the Holy Family.

The format of Behold is simple: Each day opens up with a prayer or Bible verse from the day’s readings, moves into a short meditation, provides room for readers to answer a reflection question based on the meditations, and ends with a prayer. Drawing from the deep well of her spiritual motherhood as a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and her involvement in healing ministry, Sister Miriam is not afraid to ask thought-provoking questions. For example, in the St. Joseph section, one of her questions is, “Where do you need the gift of masculine perseverance in your life today? How have you experienced masculine perseverance in the past?” In the Child Jesus section, she asks, “What is your experience of play as a child and now? What are ways you connect with and express your playfulness today? What does Jesus want to say to you in this?”

In the “How to Use this Journal” section that follows the “Introduction,” Sister Miriam shares that “Behold is for anyone who desires to experience the Advent season as a healing journey that leads you to explore the crevices of your heart. The season of Advent is the ideal time to step back from your life and evaluate where you stand with God, yourself, and others.”

Most inspiring for this reviewer was Sister Miriam’s intention for Behold to be utilized in a group setting. “There’s something special about taking this Advent journey with a community, whether that community is your entire parish, a small group, or your family,” she says. Though sharing in a group certainly requires vulnerability, how beautiful that readers are invited to mirror the Holy Family by gathering with others, whose presence reminds us we are part of the Body of Christ. Sister Miriam also notes that the book works well as a tool for personal reflection and prayer.

To supplement Behold, Sister Miriam has created a series of videos to accompany the four weeks of Advent and Christmas, which can be found on Ave Maria Press’ website. She points out that this time of year, when we are gathering with family and friends, can be difficult for some. Family is precious; it is also the place where, because families are made of fallible humans, some of us have been wounded.

“Every single one of us this side of heaven has places in our heart where we need to be brought into wholeness and communion, and quite frankly where we ache for it,” Sister Miriam reflects in the introductory video. “And so, what the Lord desires to do is … to bring us home.” In resting with the Holy Family and meditating on our own families this Advent, the hope is that our relationships with both our families and the Holy Family will be strengthened, healed and restored.

Advent is a season of preparing room for Jesus. What better way to prepare our dear Lord room than coming into deeper communion with those God has placed in our lives? This path to deeper communion may require our fiat to healing. Let the joyful, tender Sister Miriam be your guide along this journey, so that your heart may be stretched, grown and more fully opened in preparation for his coming at Christmas.

Lindsey Weishar writes from Kansas City.