A word from Pope Francis ~ “When God comes, he always calls us out of our house. We are visited so that we can visit others; we are encountered so as to encounter others; we receive love in order to give love.”
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 Monday we will shift into the second part of the season, setting the stage for our celebration of Christmas in a little over a week. 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, I would like to share with you 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 family recipe (like mom’s lasagna), 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 recent 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. As this is our final full week before our Celebration of Christmas next Tuesday, our parish Advent Reconciliation Service will take place on Monday at 7:00pm. Additional priests will be available as confessors at this service. Additional times for the Sacrament have been scheduled for Wednesday following our Masses from 7:30-8:30am, 12:35-1:30pm and later from 3:00-5:00pm and Thursday following our Masses from 7:30-8:30am and 12:35-1:30pm. The regular Saturday time of 8:45-10:00am will be our final scheduled time before Christmas. Please note that no Reconciliation times are scheduled on Monday, December 24th.
Saturday, December 22nd marks the third anniversary of the death of Bishop Joseph L. Imesch, the third Bishop of Joliet. Bishop Conlon will celebrate a Memorial Mass at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet on Sunday, December 23rd at 11:00am in memory of Bishop Imesch , as well as for the priests and deacons who have died during the past year – Fathers Ernest Norbeck, Henry Wilkening, Thomas Sularz, Dennis Settles and Denis White, and Deacons Roy Anderson, Alan Symonanis, Bart Federici, Anthony Schubert, Jesse Pagliaro, Frank Bina and Frank Annerino. We prayerfully remember Bishop Imesch on his anniversary as well as each of the priests and deacons who have died this past year.
The celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th were very moving celebrations. Next up is the Simbang Gabi Filipino celebration this Friday night. We will gather for Mass at 7:00pm and continue the celebration in the Ministry Center. All of our non-Filipino parishioners are welcome.
Many of our college students have already made their way home for their Christmas break. Congratulations on a successful completion of your Fall semester. We are very happy to have you home with us!
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