Editor’s Note: A friend asked us for some thoughts on the campaign to remove Christ from Christmas by doing such things as changing the local school calendar to read “Winter Recess” instead of “Christmas Recess.” Perhaps the following comments might be helpful to those of our readers who are faced with a similar situation.
It is hard to believe that a country founded on Christian principles, that refers to God five times in the Declaration of Independence, would in recent years have succumbed to a campaign by a few individuals to remove the Founder of Christianity from the public square. It is hard to believe that fellow Americans would object to celebrating the birth of Christ on public property, or that three members of a school committee would revise the school calendar so that the “Christmas Recess” would become the “Winter Recess.”
Do children really get time off from school because of Old Man Winter? Or is their break a recognition of the birth of a rather famous Child 2,000 years ago? That Child’s birth has had a profound impact on the world, so much so that every time the anti-Christmas folks write a check, the date on the check is based on the birth of Jesus, not the birth of Old Man Winter. Our calendar recognizes many historical figures, but none of the stature of Christ. No other historical figure has his birthday celebrated throughout the world.
When you try to defend the traditional meaning of Christmas, you are accused of being divisive, but aren’t there many fundamental issues today about which people are divided? Aren’t we supposed to air our views about issues in public in an effort to persuade others to support our position? Isn’t that what a free exchange of ideas is all about? If it’s okay for the anti-Christmas folks to try to remove mention of Christ from the public square, why isn’t it okay for those who believe in Christmas to have their say?
But if you insist on calling the December vacation a “Christmas Recess,” you will be told that this is unfair to the tiny minority of people who don’t like to hear Christmas mentioned. But what about the vast majority of people who want Christmas celebrated? Don’t their views count? And why should the view of a tiny minority of Americans prevail over the vast majority? Is the word “Christmas” so offensive to their ears that they can’t stand to hear it mentioned? Or are they bothered because the first part of the word is “Christ”?
Our country has always respected and protected the views of the minority, but not at the expense of the majority. It’s not as if those who believe in Christmas are trying to force those who don’t believe into going to church on December 25, or buying gifts, or setting up a manger scene in their homes. We are simply saying, “If you don’t like Christmas, fine. Don’t acknowledge it or celebrate it. But leave those of us who love Christmas alone. Let us pay public honor to the Child for whom Christmas is named. Perhaps He who is also known as the ‘Prince of Peace’ will bring peace to our communities and neighborhoods and schools.”
Is it coincidental that since prayer and Bible reading were removed from public schools (at the behest of one atheist!) we have seen our schools transformed into war zones? Where students are not allowed to pray or hear about the moral values on which this country was built, but are subjected to the promotion of behavior that all civilized societies have condemned? Where children cannot take an aspirin without a note from parents, but they can be handed condoms or shipped off to an abortion facility without either the permission or even the knowledge of their parents?
The three people on the school committee who have imposed their anti-Christmas views on the whole town are no doubt sincere, but they are sincerely wrong. Contact these members…and tell them you want the time off around December 25 called the “Christmas Recess,” as it had been for generations. Jesus is the reason for the season, and to toss Him aside is not only wrong as public policy; it is also foolhardy for Christians to do so. They risk the judgment of the One who said, “Whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father” (Matt. 10:33).
Q. Our pastor will be leaving our parish after nearly 20 years of service in 2014. In the next few months, parishioners will convene with the Archdiocesan Placement Board, the Office for Human Resources, and a bishop to express our wishes/desires for what we hope for in a new pastor. I plan to attend and speak at this meeting and would like your comments on what the board, Human Resources, and bishop want to hear from parishioners that truly could impact their placement decision. Our church, like many other Catholic churches in the Chicago Archdiocese, is struggling financially, attendance is low, and many Catholics have left for other denominations. Your advice here would be greatly appreciated to revitalize our Church, beginning with new leadership. — D.P., Illinois.
A. While we don’t know the exact situation in your parish, the fact that your pastor has been there for nearly 20 years might explain why attendance is low (which affects the finances of the parish) and why many Catholics have left the parish. It is easy to get in a rut when one is in the same parish for two decades, when one gets in the habit of doing things “the way we have always done them,” and when one discourages new ideas and new volunteers. That’s why pastors should be moved, say, after two six-year terms.
Having said this, what you are looking for in a pastor is a holy and prayerful man whose primary role is the care of the souls entrusted to him because the parish exists, says Vatican II’s Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church, “solely for the good of souls” (n. 31). Among other things, says the same document, pastors “should preach God’s word to all the Christian people,” bring the people “to a full knowledge of the mystery of salvation through a catechetical instruction which is adapted to each one’s age,” and arrange for “the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice to be the center and culmination of the whole life of the Christian community” so that “the faithful are nourished with spiritual food through the devout and frequent reception of the sacraments and through intelligent and active participation in the liturgy” (n. 30).
The document also says that pastors “should be mindful of how much the sacrament of Penance contributes to developing the Christian life and, therefore, should make themselves available to hear the confessions of the faithful,” that they should “take pains to know their own flock” by visiting “homes and schools to the extent that their pastoral work demands. They should pay special attention to adolescents and youth, devote themselves with a paternal love for the poor and the sick, and have a particular concern for workingmen. Finally, they should encourage the faithful to assist in the works of the apostolate” (ibid.).
These would be the points to make when you attend the meeting with archdiocesan officials. Then you and your fellow parishioners should pray fervently that they will send you a pastor who has all of these qualities and, once that pastor is in place, you should offer him your prayers and support so that he may be able to accomplish all these goals.
Q. It is reported that St. Jerome appeared after his death and said that out of 10,000 people who had died that day, he was the only one to get to Heaven. A recent Gospel quoted our Lord as saying that only a “few” get to Heaven on the narrow road, while the road to Hell is wide. What is the Church’s thinking on the proportion of people who will reach Heaven? — R.B.K., Virginia.
A. The quotation you are referring to comes from chapter 13 of Luke where Jesus, responding to the question, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?,” answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” The Lord will say to those who stand outside knocking, “I do not know where you are from….Depart from me, all you evildoers!” (See also Matt. 7:13-14.)
The Church has never attempted to quantify how many of the “few” will get to Heaven, or how many of the “many” will wind up in Hell. We will have to wait until Judgment Day to find out, but in the meantime let’s make sure that we are among the “few.”
As for the statement attributed to St. Jerome, we don’t know whether it’s true or not. But if it is true, many of the 10,000 who died that day may have gone to Purgatory, which means they will eventually get to Heaven.