As I came back from the renewal window, I saw a gentleman, half my age, in complete Greek Orthodox clerical garb. He didn’t look too happy being here on Christmas Eve either. But I felt so happy I couldn’t help but ask foolishly: “What denomination are you?”
Although a quarter of a century has passed since the deaths of his beloved grandmothers, Msgr. Steven Ferrari says he can still recall the upheaval in his family at the time. The winds of grief and sadness blew, the torrents of release and tears crashed against the rocks of faith.
Although having a day in Advent – and another in Lent – when churches are open in the different dioceses and everyone is invited to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation is a great idea, I cannot help but wonder if the need to have these extraordinary days is not the result of how almost inaccessible or forgettable the sacrament is during the rest of the year.
My 4-year-old granddaughter Charlotte is allowed to play with her family Christmas creche. The figures are virtually unbreakable, and her folks don’t care if the entire Nativity scene is rearranged daily, shepherds marching in lockstep toward the goldfish bowl or angels huddling together for a confab outside the stable.
Looking at the old black-and-white photo before me, I regarded the five young smiling people positioned near the baptismal font. One gentleman is proudly holding a three-month-old baby boy swaddled in white, while a still-in-his-20s priest with dark hair and moustache stands beside him. On the photo’s back is written the date and place: January 23, 1982. Blessed Sacrament Church, Jackson Heights, Queens.
The holiday season is the most stressful time for many adults. During Advent, which is supposed to be a time for quiet reflection and preparation to celebrate the most momentous event in human history, most people are scurrying around shopping, decorating, cleaning and planning for family get togethers. Children are writing letters to dear old Santa Claus and visiting the jolly old guy in shopping malls.
People can seem a little self-obsessed nowadays, with our endless selfies and social media posts. But during the season of Advent, the Church asks us to look at ourselves in a way that isn’t about vanity, in a way that’s truthful, honest and can change us for the better.
For the past 33 years, I had the privilege of coordinating The Tablet’s Bright Christmas Campaign. The drive is very simple: We ask readers to donate money that will be used to buy Christmas gifts for children who might not otherwise receive a gift at Christmas.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, working to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ “to bring good news to the poor … release to captives … sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18), as stated on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.
As we approach the 11th day of the 11th month, 100 years after the end of the First World War, let us ask the Prince of Peace to remove all prejudice, hatred and division from within our hearts.