From the Bishop: December 2020

From the Bishop: December 2020

By: Bishop Francis I. Malone

We now enter into that time of year filled with Church and family traditions.  By the time you are reading this article, Thanksgiving with all of its traditions, even those that were modified due to the pandemic, are behind us.  Which leaves us having begun the season of Advent, anticipating the commemoration of the birthday of the Savior.

Christmastime has always been my personal favorite time of year.  Even from my childhood, no family celebration exhibited more joy than Christmas.  I grew up with our family embracing the Christmas time in its fullness – not celebrating too early – and not removing the visible signs of Christmas until the Feast of the Epiphany and the end of the Christmas season.  I can even recall the sadness I felt one December 26 when I was walking in our neighborhood and a family had already discarded their Christmas tree.

Most families I know have their own traditions.  And while it may seem strange in our commercialized world today, there were no signs of Christmas in the Malone family until December 24th – absolutely nothing.  The weeks preceding Christmas were filled with reminders that we were in the Advent time – a series of four Sundays in which we were reminded of the coming of Christ and preparing our hearts and souls for when He came. Once Advent arrived, our annual tradition was marked with cleaning the house, washing the windows, and making the house presentable for when Christmas arrived.  There was “glee” in our house on the morning of the 24th of December, when (and only then) signs of Christmas appeared:  our white Christmas tree and the lights and tinsel that decorated it, the string of lights stapled in the frames of our front windows, and the wreath on the front door welcoming visitors to our home.  There was the “smells” of Christmas, especially the Christmas foods that we would enjoy on Christmas day. Special attention was given to the mantel over our fireplace where the crèche was reverently displayed – even with all the other decorations in the house, the little statues depicting the birth of the Savior had center stage. And when all was said and done, the sound of the vacuum cleaner finishing off the last details of cleaning and readying.

I remember that it was early to bed on the 24th – a night we did not complain about going to bed, and the nervous energy of anticipating Christmas morn.  Magically, sometime between those early hours when we made our way to bed and the very early hours of Christmas morning, our house was filled with presents and toys and music and lights. And even though our artificial tree and our decorations were used and reused every year,  the sight of them appearing on the 24th was as if we were seeing them for the first time – what joy!!!

Now, those are all the visible signs of the season that celebrate the beginning of our salvation, but it was the custom of making a good confession before Christmas arrived, and without question, attending Mass on Christmas day that made everything perfect.

As your bishop, and this being my first Christmas as a bishop, what I want for you and for your family is a “perfect” Christmas in the spiritual preparation we undertake to prepare to celebrate the birth of the Savior, as if we were celebrating it for the first time.  As the days approach for His arrival once again, may your Christmas in this year of great troubles and concerns be filled with joy – and peace – and the awareness that Jesus is always with us, even and especially now.

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