Last week, when we were receiving donations and sending Bright Christmas checks to parishes and diocesan organizations, we received a remarkable letter that was published last week in the Readers’ Forum. Candy Ross wrote:
“My husband died in January of cancer and I haven’t celebrated any holiday or birthdays at all this year out of respect for him and because I just can’t. To ease the pain and to turn that grief into something positive, I volunteer my time to a soup kitchen on the holidays and donate gifts for the needy for Christmas at one of the churches I’m affiliated with. Grief is love with no place to go, I’m directing my grief and love to others. It’s like a hug – you give and get at the same time. It’s a win-win.”
After reading the letter, I thought that few of us have understood the essence of Christmas as profoundly as Candy. The very idea that grief can be transformed into love, that our suffering can be redemptive, is a deeply Christian notion. “Redeem” means to rescue, ransom, but it also means to pay the penalty incurred by another. The redemptive value of suffering is at the center of the economy of salvation. Candy Ross’ letter reveals her deep understanding of this Christian truth.
Here at The Tablet, we have been moved by the way so many of our readers decided to celebrate Christmas this year – by sharing what they have with the less fortunate. The Bright Christmas campaign has received over $90,000 this year and the checks are still arriving at our office. Like Candy Ross, many readers have shown a true understanding of Christmas. And we are grateful to each of you.
This past year, as we all know, has been marked by an abundance of suffering and scandal in the Church. In the light of the headlines we have been bombarded with for the last 12 months, the generosity with which our readers have donated to the Bright Christmas campaign is even more remarkable. Your generosity reminds us of something we already knew – the sins and crimes of a few can’t paralyze the Church. The Church’s mission, evangelization efforts and multitudinous number of charitable initiatives, are still needed. And we can’t stop working and helping to fulfill our duty as Christians, as Catholics.
Yes, it is harder to help with the mission of the Church when we read the horrible news we have read during the last few months. That is why the best present we have received at The Tablet this Christmas was the generosity of our readers. They showed us that the good the Church can do always outweighs the horror we have seen in the news.
This new year ahead promises a barrage of bad news and revelations of past crimes as many dioceses around the country will publish lists of priests and pastoral agents credibly accused of sexual abuse. But the coming year will also be marked by the realization of how much has been done already in the Church to eradicate abuse. In the horror stories we have seen – and others we’ll see this year – many times commentators fail to mention that there has been a radical change in the last two decades, and that the culture of abuse and cover-up is being gradually replaced by one of accountability and transparency.
In these difficult times, the support of our readers has been a comfort and a sign of hope. Let’s pray that the suffering of the last year will show its redemptive value in the months ahead.