Friday 19th January 2018

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

The Christmas Letter: A Gift Of Love

December 25, 2017 Featured Today No Comments


For sixteen years, I taught seminars in literature, composition, history, and Latin to homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. Students attended one or more of these two-hour seminars every week, and then returned home with anywhere from four to seven hours of work, depending on the particular class in which they were enrolled.
Our focus in the literature and composition seminars was the essay. The students wrote prodigiously, and I in turn graded prodigiously, sixty to eighty papers, journals, and reports every week. This labor-intensive approach was grueling for both students and teacher, but paid big benefits, annually creating a crew of fine young writers.
Occasionally, we took a break from the essay, writing instead a short story or poem, or a piece of impressionistic prose. Of these exercises, the most meaningful was the Christmas letter.
The week before our Christmas break, I would enter the classroom on Monday bearing a box stuffed with envelopes, Christmas stamps, and a supply of blank and lined sheets of paper. Over the next four days, with the exception of the Latin classes, I would ask the students of these various seminars to take a piece of the paper — their choice of blank or lined — and using their best composition skills, write a thank-you letter to someone who had helped shape their lives for the good.
“You can write a parent or parents,” I’d say. “You can write a sibling, your grandparents, an aunt or uncle, your Scoutmaster, a coach, your pastor, a favorite teacher. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you share with them what they have meant to you. Use specific examples of ways they’ve helped you. Show them — don’t just tell them — how important they are in your life. You have a chance to give a great gift to someone for the cost of a piece of paper, an envelope, and a stamp, so let’s write.”
As they finished, and after I’d helped some of them find the addresses for their recipients either by a phone call home or by looking online, the students would fold their letters, place them inside the envelopes, and seal them. At the end of the last class on Thursday, I would drive to the Post Office, where I would shove about 120 Christmas letters into the mailing slot.
Some parameters applied to this letter writing. First, I forbade the students to write to me or to their friends. (Several had written classmates the first two years we tried this idea, and had turned the exercise into a joke.) I promised I would deliver the letters unread and sealed to the Post Office. Finally, I instructed the students to ask as they were writing if they had questions about spelling or points of grammar.
This exercise provided a moment of learning for many of the students, especially for those who had rarely written a letter on paper. Some of them addressed their envelopes upside-down. Others knew nothing of tri-folding letters. In every class, two or three young people left the recipient’s name off the envelope, or put the street address, city, and state all on the same line. As I collected the letters, I would take a moment with the student to correct such mistakes.
So we learned how to write and send a letter.
But this exercise offered a much greater lesson.
In writing their Christmas letters, the students discovered the incredible power of words set down on paper in truth and gratitude because of the responses they received from those to whom they wrote: the eighth-grade boy whose teary grandfather had called his daughter, the boy’s mother, to tell her this letter was the greatest gift he could have received for this particular Christmas; the tough-minded coach who told me the letters of two students had made his Christmas come alive; the lonely aunt who had opened her letter on Christmas morning per the instructions her niece had penned on the envelope and who had wept for joy that on this day of the year someone had told her how much she was loved.
The students also learned what appreciation means to adults. Unlike young people, who receive trophies merely for participation, who are praised just for making an effort, and whose failures are often brushed aside by parents anxious to boost their children’s self-esteem, most adults are rarely the beneficiaries of frequent praise.
The mother who daily rises at dawn, feeds and clothes half-a-dozen children, drives them hither and yon to various activities, cleans house, prepares suppers, gives baths and reads books to the little ones at bedtime, and who may on top of all these duties work a part-time job, is rarely applauded by any audience other than her husband.
That husband, who knocks himself out every day trying to keep his family in bed and board, whose boss’ idea of praise is, “Good job, now try harder to get the Smitherman account,” who comes home whipped from work but lends a hand with washing the dishes and plunking children into bed, receives praise as scant as that given his wife.
For that husband or that wife, to open a letter from a child expressing gratitude and love is an event.
Finally, the students, at least the ones who put themselves heart and soul into this project, learned that the best gifts don’t necessarily arrive in boxes and wrapping paper. They learned there is a better present than some electronic gadget bought at Best Buy, jewelry or sports equipment from Amazon, skiing trips or dollar bills.
They learned that the best present is love.
And surely this is the greatest lesson of Christmas itself. After all, what lies at the heart of Christmas if not love? We celebrate Christmas because on this day human beings received the greatest of all gifts: the Father who made the ultimate sacrifice and sent His Son to redeem us from a dark world, that Baby in a manger who split human history in two, who was born, lived, and died for us. That newborn was, in a sense, a living love letter sent from heaven promising us grace, hope, and eternal life.
Unlike so many other Christians, whose Christmas comes to a screeching halt on December 25, we Catholics are just starting the party. Some of us celebrate Christmas from Christ’s Nativity to the Feast of the Epiphany, while others extend the revelry all the way through Candlemas. Whatever the case, the Church encourages us to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ, to thank God for His love letter from Heaven.
Christmastide also seems the perfect time to express our gratitude to those whom we love and treasure. So if you wish, you have plenty of time to write a Christmas letter of your own. I encourage you to do so. Your words may brighten a moment, transform sadness into joy, or deepen your fellowship with a friend.
Who knows? You may even bring fire and beauty to a soul in darkness.

Tips For Writing
A Letter Of Love

Go the old-fashioned route. Use the USPS instead of your email. These days, a personal note arriving in the mail is in itself a rarity and already a gift.
Unless your script is atrocious, compose the letter by hand. The reader will better feel your personality and your thoughts through your written words.
Show, don’t just tell, the recipients why you are grateful they are a part of your life. Relate some specific incident that reveals your gratitude.
Anyone in your life is eligible for such a letter. Do you tell your wife every day you love her? Wonderful! But a letter, a piece of paper bearing your words of warm affection, perhaps accompanied by flowers or her favorite chocolate, is special. It’s an event, a celebration.
If you have children old enough to write such letters, include them in the project. Make a party of it. Pour some hot chocolate or hot cider, distribute the paper, pens and pencils, and envelopes, and let them go to it. (Even for younger kids, a letter is an option: You take dictation and write down their thoughts.)
For men in particular: No need to worry about getting all sticky and sentimental. Unless it’s to your wife or sweetheart, or maybe your mother, just tell the ones you are writing you are grateful and glad for their presence.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

‘Catholic’ Georgetown to Offer LGBT Housing to Students

Georgetown University, founded in 1789 and ostensibly a “Catholic” school, will offer a “gender & sexuality” housing complex for students starting in the 2018-19 academic year, which will operate as a residential center for homosexual, transgender, and “q

Catholic Bishop: “Abortion is a Uniquely Intimate Form of Violence With Bitter Public Consequences”

The “March for Life” this January, like every January over the past several decades, reminds the nation that killing an unborn child is never a private matter. Abortion is a uniquely intimate form of violence – but violence with bitter…Continue Reading

Vikings quarterback lists winning pass as 3rd best life-moment, behind finding Jesus

January 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) –  Vikings Quarterback Case Keenum said throwing the game-winning pass in the last few seconds of Sunday’s championship game against the New Orleans Saints was only the third best moment in his life. Keenum’s first best…Continue Reading

On the purpose of politics and the salvation of souls

“Beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal creator of all things, today became our Savior by being born of a mother. Of his own will he was born for us today, in time, so that he could lead us to…Continue Reading

Don’t let fear keep you from welcoming the stranger, Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2018 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a special Mass Sunday for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis said that while it is normal to be afraid of the unknown, we can’t let…Continue Reading

Notre Dame could face legal investigation for flip-flopping on contraception coverage

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, January 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A group of over sixty Notre Dame alumni attorneys has written an open letter to the university’s president, Father William Jenkins, CSC, to protest the university’s decision to continue the dissemination of…Continue Reading

Poland: Marches of the Three Kings Draw 1.2 Million

Under the motto “God is for everyone”, 1.2 million Poles in more than 660 cities and towns in Poland and abroad joined in the March of the Three Kings. This year’s event was accompanied by fundraising “Kings for the East”,…Continue Reading

Bishops’ letter on sexual identity prompts LGBT counter-lobbying

Washington D.C., Jan 5, 2018 / 12:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several Catholic bishops’ call for clarity and compassion on sexual identity issues such as transgenderism drew the ire of a dissenting Catholic group which is part of a well-funded LGBT…Continue Reading

Rural Minnesota Catholic parish dismisses musicians over gay marriages

For weeks now, a Catholic parish in the rural St. Croix River Valley north of the Twin Cities has been praying through turmoil, brought by a trio of startling dismissals. On one hand, even many of the most distressed don’t…Continue Reading

Trump replaces Obama-appointed gay ambassador with family man: report

MADRID, January 3, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Trump Administration recently installed a new Ambassador to Spain. The former Obama appointee who was a pro-LGBT openly gay man ‘married’ to a man was replaced with a family man who has a…Continue Reading

Former bishop of Charlotte’s Catholic diocese dies at 90

Bishop William Curlin, who presided over the rapidly growing Catholic Diocese of Charlotte from 1994 to 2002, died Saturday at Carolinas Medical Center. He was 90. The cause of death was cancer, which he had battled for years. Curlin was…Continue Reading

Pope takes 27 candidates a step closer to sainthood‎

Pope Francis has authorized 12 decrees on miracles, martyrdom and heroic virtues of 22 men and 5 ‎women. ‎ by Robin Gomes Pope Francis on Monday took 27 men and women a step closer to sainthood.  The Pope received Card. Angelo Amato,…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love


  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading


Today . . .

">45 years of legalized abortion . . . When will our Country Awake?

Give President Trump Credit for Protecting Pro-Life Doctors and Nurses From Abortion

I am sometimes asked how religious people could vote for a man with the personal history of Donald Trump. Consider this Smith on the Election, but I always answer that I think it was an act of self defense. The Obama Administration had been very hostile to the free exercise of religion–even to the point of trying to force nuns to participate in contraception coverage–and Hillary Clinton threatened to be even worse. And now, Trump…Continue Reading

Canon lawyer calls for Amoris Laetitia’s 8th chapter to be ‘withdrawn’ on EWTN show

January 16, 2018 ( – Fr. Gerald Murray, a regular commentator on EWTN’s news program The World Over, told show host Raymond Arroyo in a recent interview that the infamous chapter 8 of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia is in “error,” and that he hopes it will be “withdrawn” by the pope. Murray, a canon lawyer, also condemned the interpretation of Amoris laetitia published by the Argentinean bishops of the Pastoral Region of Buenos…Continue Reading

Dutch abortion activist: Pope Francis honoring me is a ‘confirmation’ of my abortion work

January 15, 2018 (Lepanto Institute) – On January 12, OnePeterFive and The Lepanto Institute reported that Liliane Ploumen, a Dutch politician and international abortion activist, was received into the Order of St. Gregory by the Vatican in 2017 — a pontifical honor given for “meritorious service to the Church.” Multiple diplomatic sources around the Vatican have now confirmed to OnePeterFive and the Lepanto Institute that the award was given to Ploumen last year when she took part in…Continue Reading

U.S. Congressman: Pro-life ‘turf battle’ preventing vote on bill to ban nearly all abortions

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life groups and members of Congress are divided over whether on the day of the March for Life, the U.S. House should vote on a bill that would ban nearly all abortions, or instead a bill to ban infanticide after botched abortions. The Heartbeat Protection Act would make it illegal to abort babies whose heartbeats can be detected. “It’s the most protective incremental bill in existence,” said one…Continue Reading


Planned Parenthood Now Offers “Transgender” Hormone Therapy

ORLANDO, Fla. — Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, has expanded its services to offering “transgender” hormone therapy, according to a January 10 report from Liberty Counsel. Planned Parenthood’s 2016-2017 annual report states: “We’re expanding access to care — from pioneering research on self-injectable birth control to offering new services for our transgender patients.…Continue Reading

Chinese Government Destroys Major “House Church”

BEIJING (AsiaNews) — New details have come to light about the forced demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen on January 9. The faithful have also released a video of the building being destroyed, while they were forced to watch from a distance as the walls, the tower, and the cross…Continue Reading

Toadies For Evil

By DEACON JAMES H. TONER “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Like the rest of us, priests are sinners — a fact made only too clear during the past two decades. At work is something I call the “Paired Power Principle,” by which…Continue Reading

Restoring The Sacred Humility In The Sacred Liturgy

By JAMES MONTI One of the most serious and endemic problems in how the sacred liturgy is celebrated in many parishes in our own age is a conspicuous lack of humility. Certain contemporary hymns seem calculated to drum into the congregation how supposedly holy, gifted, lovable, and prophetic they are, with scarcely a word about…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic… The Sexual Harassment “Crisis” — Time For Some Clear Thinking

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly]. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. Jesus is the king of the universe, so why did He choose to be born in a lowly stable instead of in a palace, or at least in an ordinary house? — R.S.. via email. A. If Jesus came into the world as a powerful king, or perhaps as a military warrior, or as a wealthy member of the…Continue Reading

Love And Obey The Lord

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Deut. 18:15-20 1 Cor. 7:32-35 Mark 1:21-28 In the first reading today God tells Moses that He will raise up a prophet like Moses for the people of Israel. We know there were many prophets in Israel; some have writings contained in the Scriptures, some are mentioned by…Continue Reading

A Theologian Responds To Fr. Chiodi’s Talk . . . Moral Relativism Ends In Justifying All Moral Disorders

(Editor’s Note: Please see page one for a LifeSiteNews report on December 14 remarks by Fr. Maurizio Chiodi saying that responsible parenthood can obligate a married couple to use contraception. Fr. Chiodi, a recently appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, based his theory on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia. He gave this public lecture…Continue Reading

“Ad Orientem” Dei Gloriam

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK We have all heard the saying that “he who hesitates is lost.” We don’t hear enough about the fact that dithering in the face of opportunity can also mean the loss of an immortal soul. How many priests hesitate every day to courageously proclaim the truth or to offer the traditions of the Church in…Continue Reading

The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… Confirmation: A Spiritual Coming Of Age

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 11 In previous lessons, we have learned that out of the seven sacraments instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ, three of them can be received only once in life, namely, Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. This is so because they imprint a “character,” that is, a spiritual, indelible mark that lasts forever, and, therefore,…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Raymond Penafort

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church has been blessed with a plethora of doctrinal resources, thanks in large part to Pope St. John Paul II. The Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the many encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, books, and letters continue to provide the Church with a solid foundation for learning and applying the truths of…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Marguerite Bourgeoys

By CAROLE BRESLIN Our Lord has no limits and conditions for persons whom He calls to sainthood. They may be the richest, such as St. Francis of Assisi, or the poorest such, as the children of Fatima. They may be powerful, such as St. Louis, king of France, or humble, such as our Lady. They may be the most brilliant,…Continue Reading