Dear friends in the Lord,
As I write these words, I think that many of you know that I am convalescing from a mild case of COVID-19, which seemed to come right after the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I am very grateful for all of the prayers and greetings and support that I have received from all of you. I honestly do not know where I caught this, as I have always been very careful with the wearing of a mask in the Liturgy and other ceremonies, and have taken other precautions. I cannot emphasize the importance of the mask and other precautions such as gloves, and hand sanitizer. This would have been much worse without it. These are not political matters, or even a misunderstanding of Faith, or tempting God, but living out the Catholic concept of concern for the common good, which is always front and center for all of us these days!
In these days, here at home, I am taking some much-needed extra time to pray and read and to connect with friends, and these have been great gifts these past weeks. The piano rolls for my player piano which you see here, certainly represent the memories of Christmas past: as for example hearing “Gesu Bambino” and “Love Came Down at Christmas,” sung by the girls choir at St. Agnes Church in Springfield, Illinois, under the direction of Sr. James Marie OP.
However, the “presepio” in my chapel represent the new memories of this year for so many of us. The Italian “Presepio,” and the Hispanic “Nacimiento,” which I see at “La Bahia” in Orange, for example, represent the whole village coming to the infant Jesus. But this year, there will be so many more people who could be represented in the village coming toward the Christ Child. Did you know that in many Hispanic Nacimientos there is often represented the infant Jesus as a “doctor?” “El Santo Nino Doctor!” How appropriate for this year.
The idea that there are so many new people coming toward the Christ Child is well represented by my good friend Bishop McElroy in San Diego in recent column for his Diocesan people.
I am very grateful to work with Bishop McElroy as a friend, neighbor and coworker with the California Catholic Conference, and am happy to share some of his work, whose sentiments are mine as well.
God has sent many angels among us in these days of suffering. The medical staffs and first responders who have sacrificed so much to save lives, to console the bereaved and to present to our nation a new chapter of heroism to inspire us. The workers in vital industries who enter into dangerous jobs because we need to be fed, clothed and cared for. Family members who have exhausted themselves beyond measure for their children, parents and spouses. These and so many more are angels in our midst call us to profound reflection about the deepest meaning of our journey of life on this Earth.
Like Mary and Joseph, we are called to sacrifice and action in this season of Christmas. We are called to wear masks and socially distance as a commitment to the safety of others. We are called to give up many of our most enjoyable experiences for a time, so that lives will be saved and our loved ones protected. And we are called to make these sacrifices in the great hope that the end to this pandemic is dawning with the new vaccines that are the greatest gift to our world for this particular Christmas.
We celebrate at this moment the birth of a little child in a setting of hardship. And we rejoice because that birth is the fullest revelation of God’s unlimited love for every man, woman and child of every faith, race and culture.
Please remember that the Christmas season is for nearly a whole month, and Christmas does not end on Dec. 26, but even extends until Feb. 2, the feast day of The Presentation.
I wish a very blessed Christmas season of joy and hope and new life in Christ for all of you in this season and new year: “O Come Let Us Adore Him Christ the lord”! Thank you for all in these days.