The Third Sunday of Advent – already! During the first part of Advent, our Sunday and daily Scripture readings have shown us how Jesus fulfilled Israel’s longings by his compassionate ministry. He challenged us to do the same. On Saturday we will shift into the second part of the season as we look to the past and remember the first coming of the Lord Jesus. We will begin to retell the story of the events leading up to Jesus’ birth as one of us. We are setting the stage for our celebration of Christmas. While many of us can’t wait for Christmas to arrive, there are some among us who wish it would never come. In view of that, it is time to share with some thoughts on “holiday grief.”
For many of us, the holidays are a joyful and welcome time. Special celebrations are loaded with family traditions and cherished memories. Traditions create roots and connect us with our past, no matter where we might find ourselves this year. But for those who have experienced a significant loss, traditions can magnify the pain of the loss. Losses such as a deceased family member, close friend or even pet, changes due to a separation or divorce, or the loss of old rituals like everyone “coming home” or being present (including those currently serving in the military), are all intensified during the holidays.
One of the most common difficulties with grief is that we often expect ourselves or others to recover quickly following a loss. The common pattern seems to be that it takes a minimum of one full year before we can even begin to return to what we might consider “normal life.” In regular, everyday circumstances, the holidays can be emotionally and physically draining. But for those who have experienced a significant loss of one kind or another, the holidays are very vulnerable times. Nothing feels the same. What used to be anticipated with much joy is now dreaded. Memories are triggered by the simplest things – a special Christmas carol, the smell of holiday foods, or a cherished Christmas ornament – just to name a few. Sometimes it might be years after we have experienced a loss when something familiar takes us back to our time of grief. It is as if a dark cloud suddenly descends upon us in the midst of a joyful celebration. We find ourselves wondering, “What is wrong with me?” The honest answer is “nothing!” Grief works that way.
If we have experienced a significant loss in the past few years, we need to be patient with ourselves and with the pace at which we grieve. Talking with someone we trust about what we are feeling can be helpful. Being flexible with past traditions is also very important. Traditions may need to be changed. In the year following my dad’s death, we put the Christmas tree in a different spot in the house. Things aren’t the same as they used to be and feeling the need to recreate the past is often not very helpful. New traditions may actually be just what we need.
Those of us who have not experienced a significant loss in the past few years need to be attentive to those among us who have. One of the best gifts we can give to those who are grieving is permission to talk about what they are feeling. Tell them you want to hear the old stories again and to keep the memory alive rather than pretend that nothing has changed. Space in which to grieve can be a priceless gift.
I hope that these thoughts are helpful. Whether we have experienced a loss, or are with someone who has, it is important to be attentive to our own needs and those among us.
Advent is one of those ideal times to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our regular times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation are on Saturdays, following the 8:15am Mass – 8:45 until 10:00am (or later if necessary). We have added additional Reconciliation times on Friday. December 16th following the 12:05pm Mass (12:35-1:30pm) and on Wednesday, December 21st and Thursday, December 22nd. Our parish Advent Reconciliation Service will take place on Monday, December 19th at 7:00pm. Additional priests will be available as confessors at this service. Please set this date aside to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for the Feast of Christmas.
This week we have two major celebrations taking place in our parish. Monday, December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas. It is a very significant feast day for our Hispanic brothers and sisters. Our parish celebration will take place on Monday evening with Mass at 6:30pm and a fiesta that follows in the Ministry Center. Friday, December 16th, our Filipino brothers and sisters will gather for Mass at 7:00pm for our local Simbang Gabi celebration. The celebration will continue after the Mass in the Ministry Center. These special ethnic celebrations are deep-rooted celebrations of our faith and welcome all of our non-Hispanic and non-Filipino parishioners. I join with our Hispanic and Filipino communities in inviting you to join in these celebrations this week.
This weekend we have the opportunity to respond to the annual Retirement Fund for Religious appeal. This appeal assists the over 60,000 retired religious men and women living in our country with the costs of their living and health care. We will tithe 5% of this Sunday’s collection to the Retirement Fund for Religious national appeal.
A “Closing Report” has been prepared for the Diocese of Joliet 2016 Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. Copies of that report are inserted in this weekend’s bulletin. While the report estimates that we will exceed our 2016 parish goal by $277, our current situation is that we still have a way to go. Thank you to the 1041 donors who have made pledges surpassing our parish goal of $171,242. While we have surpassed our goal in pledges, changing individual circumstances can prevent some from fulfilling their pledge. As of our last report, $158,854 has been paid towards our goal. We still have $12,388 in pledges to be paid to reach our parish goal. Please be sure to continue making your final monthly payment towards your pledge. We successfully reached our parish goal over the past two years. It would be sad if we fell short of reaching our goal this year after two successful years. Again, thank you for your generosity.
These are busy days ahead of us as we continue our preparations. They can also be beautiful days as the anticipation level rises in our young and young-at-heart people. God can be found in both the activity and in the quiet. I pray that we will be able to recognize God’s presence among us in each moment. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy