A Parish Christmas

The Knights of Columbus put up the crèche for the living nativity on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Turnout was good, but there’s only enough work for a couple of guys. It’s really more of a social occasion—the unofficial start of Advent.

“Advent is a time of hope,” says Monsignor Scheyd, pastor of St. Aloysius. “It’s a time of preparation.” In our house, preparations take the form of decorations. I was impressed when the kids made an Advent calendar from two pieces of poster board. Less so when I realized we still hadn’t taken down the Halloween scarecrows and put a wreath on the door. Where did November go?

Last year we didn’t have the time or the energy to do any decorating. Baby Sally had just been born. This will be her first real Christmas. We haven’t discussed it with her in detail, but I sense she doesn’t want much in the way of material things. She’s still working on the basics—walking, talking, feeding herself. We should all be so unattached.

When Sally gets a little older, she can confer with Paddy. His Christmas list starts coming together around Labor Day. A little boy’s wishes are often not bounded by rationality. Five-year-old Paddy is hoping Santa will bring him a career at Pixar Animation Studios.

At nine, our Clara is an old Christmas pro. I worry that she’s starting to grow suspicious of this Santa business. I wish she would stay nine forever. This is the wish of all fathers.

Monsignor would like it if we could somehow extend the Christmas spirit of hope and caring throughout the year. He should talk to our Magdalena. No one loves Christmas more than she does, but it doesn’t have to be December for her to feel the spirit. She’ll sing “Frosty the Snowman” coming out of the town pool on July 4th.

(Frosty isn’t technically a member of our Church. Then again, James Joyce described Catholicism as “here comes everybody.” Don’t snowmen count?)

For Deacon Steve, Advent is less about Rankin & Bass then it is about prayer and Mass. “It’s a high holy kind of time,” he says. Deacon Steve enjoys reading the Church Fathers as part of the Liturgy of the Hours at this time of year. We’re lucky to have such a fellow in our parish.

Michael is a past grand knight of Father Stapleton Council #2287 and a man of garrulous good cheer all year round. He’s hoping the health of his 12-week-old granddaughter improves during Advent. If you don’t mind, say a prayer for the little angel.

This Christmas, Marie is hoping the young people she works with will stay close to the Church after they are confirmed. She is the director of religious education at St. A’s. “A nice new building for all my students would be nice, too,” she says with a little bit of a twinkle in her eye. Are you listening, Santa?

This is Bishop Caggiano’s first Christmas in Bridgeport. I hope he’s not too homesick for Brooklyn. Come to think of it, this is our first Christmas with Pope Francis as well. What a great and loving example both men are giving us of how to live a Christian life in communion with Church teachings.

There’s no better example of joyful preparation than the Holy Family. According to Luke, when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and Joseph, the news he brought was so awesome and confusing they didn’t know how to process it. They were only a young couple, just starting out. In today’s world we could imagine Mary telling Gabriel that the timing wasn’t so good.

“I’m not ready,” the modern Mary might say. “Joseph isn’t really established in his career yet, and I’ve still got a few things I want to do before we start a family.” But in her moment of difficulty, Our Lady offered up all her fears to God and gave us an example of trust and faith that we can truly live by. Don’t forget: Christmas is a pro-life story.

If our Church is indeed “here comes everybody,” then this Christmas, to paraphrase Tiny Tim, God bless us, everybody.

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