Today, on the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, we're delivering a message: you're being watched. But before any panic sets in, remember it's not a bad thing. Kerry Trotter explores the intercession of both saint and Santa, and how a little gnome on a mantle doesn't hold a candle to the blessed.
We're just now regrouping from a season of entertaining, feasting and celebrating. Yet, new Word on Fire blog contributor Father Michael Cummins tells us about a Christmas feast tradition so powerful and Christ-like that we should strive to emulate it all year long.
A good meal with friends creates a human space in one’s life that not only nourishes the body, but also the soul and spirit of a person. This is why feasts are so important. For a special feast we set aside time from the rush of life, we give attention to decoration and setting, we invite those we love and care about and together we sit down for a fine meal and for valuable and rare time to be present to one another. In the utilitarian rush of our world, a feast can even be a subversive action where we conspire in love to say that there is so much more to life than what can be measured and commodified.
For 30 years now, the Community of Sant’Egidio in Italy has been holding such a feast (the Pranzo) every Christmas day. For its first Pranzo, the Community hosted around 50 friends, made up of the poor, the elderly and the physically and mentally handicapped. This year it has been determined that the Community hosted over 150,000 people around the world for the Pranzo. At the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the pews inside the church were set aside and tables and chairs set up and friends gathered together for the meal. In New York City, a few Christmas dinners took place for the elderly in nursing homes and for the easily forgotten homeless. In parts of Africa, whole villages gathered together for the feast. In Johnson City, Tenn., the John Sevier Center (a low income housing center) provided the location for the Christmas Pranzo where 55 persons were served...
Believe it or not, not even Jesus Christ himself was spared the tangled dynamics of a less-than-perfect family. It sort of makes our own little familial eccentricities a little easier to handle, doesn't it? Ellyn von Huben looks back at the Christmas season with her own wonderfully human brood, and gets us thinking about what it means to be blessed, rotten fruit and all.
Broken branches and rotten fruit. Those words kept bouncing around in my mind after Mass on Sunday. The priest was preaching on the Holy Family and the tangled family dynamics into which our God chose to be born. Being born of a mother free from sin and raised by a foster father beyond reproach, our Lord, when he became fully human, was not spared the fully human family experience.
There are no perfect families. Anyone who says his family is perfect is lying. Or has at least excised those on the family tree who would tarnish the image and excluded those whose presence at gatherings might crack the façade of perfection. To hear the limitations of what is found in all families is not only an interesting take on how we regard the Holy Family, but also a wonderful antidote to be delivered at the time of year when we are often deluged with the unavoidable Christmas Family Newsletters. (I can’t be the only person who enjoys listening to David Sedaris read from his book "Holidays on Ice" while wrapping gifts. Hearing “Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!”is a special comfort before facing the mail)
Why begrudge people their accomplishments and happiness? I don’t. I really, really don’t. But…there is that temptation to compare ourselves to the perfection presented by the mass produced letters. And that leads to the temptation to self-pity. Plus, there are things better left unshared. I didn’t include a note to my friends the years when we have encountered bankruptcy, fleas, prolonged neurologist visits, and a variety of other soul searing events. Oh, and how about when I found out that my late grandfather once served time in prison? That could make for a newsletter that would stand out.
We have had a happy Christmas. There are many wonderful things that I could ‘brag’ about. It is the things that I would leave out that are still weighing on my mind. 2012 has not been the easiest of years. (and here I succumb to the temptation to look back on other bumpy years with a wistful sigh and see those years as ‘good old days’.) The economy has been bumpy and having 5 out of 6 of our children living at home has made for a unique drama that is a combination of Downton Abbey meets the Rabbitte family from Roddy Doyle’s novels. Tight quarters make life interesting. Let’s just call it interesting...