Christ is Born! A Happy, Holy, Grace-Filled Christmas to All!

Dear friends,

From all of us in the Department of Evangelization, we wish you and your families a very happy, holy, and grace-filled Christmas!

As we gather with families and friends to celebrate this great feast of our Lord’s birth, let’s be mindful of those who do not enjoy those same blessings and let’s share the joy of the Gospel with all we encounter.

With gratitude and prayers,

John, Monica, Pat, Craig, Edward, Julie Grace, Johanna, Stacy, Deacon Presberry, Mike, Chris, Karen, Sarah, Chris Duck, Natasha, John Fredy, Angelus, Ruth, Rosanne, Deacon Bill, Lia, Ligia

The Missionary Magic of the Season

It seems that every year, before the Thanksgiving turkey is fully digested, we are suddenly surrounded by the music, decorations, and sentiments of Christmas. Along the way, almost every advertiser taps into the “magical” quality of the holiday season and encourages us to do one thing: buy stuff.

And my inner curmudgeon always responds with a big “Bah humbug!”

What gives all these corporations the right to reduce this holy season to nothing more than an annual sales strategy? To eclipse Advent with endless Christmas ads? And then to cut off our 12-day celebration of the real Christmas season right when it’s getting started?

But then I have to admit: complaining about the commercialization of Christmas never helped much with our mission to make disciples. As with all things, our call is always to let our “missionary impulse” transform how we live out the Christmas holiday season.

On the one hand, we know that Christmas does not begin right after Thanksgiving. We know that Advent has only just begun. We take this time to prepare for the coming of Christ to the stable in Bethlehem and for his return in glory at the end of time. We know that Christmas without Advent is like Easter without Lent: it loses its true meaning and spiritual fruitfulness. We know this, and we can live this out in many ways in our families and parishes and schools, as many of us do.

But on the other hand, many of our brothers and sisters only know a commercialized version of Christmas … and yet they still love it. There exists a profound, purely human attraction to this Christian holiday – this “holy day” – an attraction to a uniquely “magical” time of the year, set apart from the every day struggles and routines. This attraction is one more proof that we all yearn for something that gives our lives meaning and transcendent value, something that can only be expressed in special music, decorations, feasting, traditions, rituals, and gatherings. And this is where we see an opportunity for evangelization.

Whenever we have the chance, we should simply offer them what every human heart desires: to be known, loved, and forgiven. In a word, we should offer them an encounter with Jesus Christ. We can invite them into God’s family, where we know that the “magic” of Christmas is not an empty sentiment used to sell things: it’s the atmosphere of a mysterious love story between God and his people, a story that happens to be true and have a very happy ending.

There are so many ways we can do this at Christmas. Just one example: all of the more active parishioners in one parish decided that they would stop complaining about the crowds at Christmas who sat in their front pews. Instead, they chose to do two things: first, to sit in a hall nearby and participate via live video so those who only came for Christmas could have the best seats; and second, to volunteer for all kinds of hospitality ministries to make everyone feel welcome and at home. In this way they were able to share their joy with those seeking the true meaning of Christmas and thus made their own joy “complete.”

What might you be able to do in your parish to share the joy of knowing Jesus Christ with others this Christmas?

Mission Matters: November 28, 2017

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Opening of the Museum of the Bible; #ShareJesus; Young Adult Evening Prayer with Abp. Lori Read more

“25,000 Young Witnesses”

Have you ever heard 25,000 Catholic youth and their adult leaders praising God? Or bathed in the silence as they all kneel before the Most Holy Eucharist in Adoration? Read more

Mission Matters: November 14, 2017

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: USCCB 100th Anniversary Mass; Bishop Barron at the Basilica; Life is Beautiful Save the Date; Young Adult Evening Prayer w/Abp. Lori; Event for Prison Ministry Volunteers and Those Interested in the Ministry; WYD in Panama Read more

When Prayers Go Up, Blessings Come Down

On July 24, 1990 the Black Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month. In November, we celebrate the long and storied history and heritage of Black Catholics. There is one Black Catholic in particular whom we pray will be declared a saint. Her name is Mother Mary Lange. Read more

Mission Matters: October 31, 2017

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Young Adult Evening Prayer w/Abp. Lori; Event for Prison Ministry Volunteers and Those Interested in the Ministry; March for Life 2018; Day of the Dead; Vespers for Families Who have Lost Children Through Miscarriage; Given; WYD in Panama; Sharing the Convocation 2017 Read more

Psalm Tones

One of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had since moving to Baltimore from Indiana has been chanting Morning Prayer with a group from St. John the Evangelist in Long Green Valley (Hydes). Last winter, Msgr. Richard Cramblitt shared with me that he had a group of parishioners who prayed Morning Prayer daily in the chapel. For Lent, they hoped to begin chanting the Office. I was intrigued. Read more

Mission Matters: October 17, 2017

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Vespers for Families Who have Lost Children Through Miscarriage; Rites for Pastoral Care of the Sick; Given; Young Adult Evening Prayer w/Abp. Lori; WYD in Panama; Sharing the Convocation 2017 Read more

Building a Culture of Life: It’s Essential to Who We Are

Five things you can (and should) do during Respect Life Month: Read more

Mission Matters: October 3, 2017

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”:  Share the Journey: Week of Prayer and Action; Respect Life Month; Given; Word on Fire Digital; Compassion Fatigued?; Sharing the Convocation 2017 Read more

Do What You Can With What You Have

Recently, I had the opportunity to join missionary leaders from across the country at the Missio Convocation hosted by the Pontifical Missions Society of America. These leaders came from a wide variety of backgrounds including Focus Missionaries, men and women religious, parish and diocesan leaders, many from Hispanic communities, as well as those who have served in long-term volunteer experiences around the world. We discussed the realities of today that seem to revolve around social media and technology raising awareness of issues across the globe, the art of busyness and being over committed, as well as the difficulties of simply making authentic friends. We listened to each other’s thoughts on how we can work within these parameters of life and bring the Joy of the Gospel to those around us. The struggles of parish life, church systems and structures, and personalities in leadership are very real and often get in the way of active participation from parishioners. Naming these realities brought focus to our conversation.

While a number of the participants had participated in oversees mission opportunities both long and short term, I have not had this experience and wondered where I stand in this mix of missionary action. Though I have worked with high school students rebuilding homes, fixing stairs, and cleaning yards, I never quite considered that ‘missionary’ work. I might have been on mission to get a job done but I would not consider myself a missionary.  However as I wrestled with this, the thought kept coming to me that being a missionary does not necessarily mean going to a poor far away country or a rough and tumble ghetto in another state. If that is true, then, what does it really mean to be a “missionary” and to live with a “missionary heart?”

As I reflect on situations and circumstances that God had placed before me I notice that quite often I may dip a toe into being missionary but my courage lacks conviction and I fail to go all the way. While I might offer a beggar on the street corner a bottle of water, I will not engage them in conversation or ask them their name even though I see them every day.

It was not until conversations at the Missio Convocation that I realized I was missing the mark in these everyday encounters with others. It brought to mind remarks that Bishop Brennan had once shared at a meeting about connecting with people in a practical missionary way. He reminded us to pray for them, fast once a week for them, offer up something that is a sacrifice or our personal suffering for them, and ask the Lord for a “desire and the courage to speak to them simply” about our personal journey of faith. “Speak to them simply” – this continues to sit on my heart as together we work as an Archdiocese to build Missionary Disciples. We do not have to have grand experiences in other countries or faith stories worthy of keynoting a large gathering. We are called to speak simply. We are called to use the experiences that God has offered to us as a way to connect others to Him.

As my time at the Mission Convocation came to an end, my small group of Lay Ecclesial Ministers from around the country concluded that we must equip ourselves in prayer to do what we can with what we have and share that with others joyfully. This simple but effective approach was embodied just days later by Sr. Margaret Ann from Miami-Dade county who got out her chain saw and started cutting up the debris blocking the street after Hurricane Irma came barreling through. She did not wait for emergency crews. She just grabbed that chain saw from the school where she is the principal and did with she could with what she had.

With a missionary heart, go and do what you can with what you have. That’s all the Holy Spirit needs to transform the world.