By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY – Advent should be a time when Christians keep track of the little blessings they receive each day, blessings that are signs of God’s love, Pope Benedict XVI suggested.

“To keep a kind of ‘inner diary’ of this love would be a beautiful and healthy task,” the Pope said Nov. 28 as he celebrated evening prayer to mark the beginning of Advent.

God enters the life of each and every person, Pope Benedict said.

But in daily life, most people seem “to have little time for the Lord and little time even for ourselves. One ends up being absorbed in doing things,” he said.

Taking a little time each day to recognize signs of God’s love reminds people that “God is here; He has not withdrawn from the world; He has not left us alone,” the Pope said.

Pope Benedict said that if people live each day with their eyes open to the signs of God’s presence, they will be filled with joy as they await the final coming of the Lord.

The Pope spoke about waiting and about Advent hope during his noon Angelus address Nov. 29.

“The contemporary world needs hope above all; people living in developing countries need it, but those in economically advanced countries do, too,” he said.

“Seeing so many false certainties fail, we become aware that we need a hope we can trust in and that is found only in Christ,” the Pope said. “Anyone yearning for freedom, for justice and for peace can stand tall and raise their heads, because in Christ freedom is near.”

During the evening prayer liturgy Nov. 28, the Pope used his new pastoral staff, replacing a similar one that had been used by Pope Pius IX.

The new staff with a cross on top is a gift from a Rome-based Catholic fraternal organization; it is 6 feet tall and weighs 5.5 pounds. The paschal lamb, a symbol of the risen Christ, is in the center of the front of the cross and the four Gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – are represented on its four points.

The Chi Rho – the X and the P from the first letters of Christ’s name in Greek – are in the center of the back of the cross and the four points feature doctors of the Church from the West and the East: Sts. Augustine and Ambrose and Sts. Athanasius and John Chrysostom. A ring around the base of the cross is inscribed with Pope Benedict’s name.