The last weekend of the year is for the family. We save this weekend for the Family of the Lord, that is, the Living God who entrusted himself to a mother and a foster father and counted on them to care for Him and teach Him. All that the Lord allowed Himself to need, he trusted His family to provide.
We too rejoice in these days in our families. Those on whom we depended for everything, and who depend for everything upon us, are at the center of our schedules in these days after Christmas and before the new year commences to grind away. This is what I think of when I think of “quality time.”
I want to ask you to join me in thanking our family member here in the parish for all they did that you may or may not have noticed to bring so much beauty to our family Christmas. Our church decorating team, who gives of their limited Christmas Eve hours, and the Holy Name men who assembled the outdoor crèche, and to the “arrangers” who arranged for things to be beautiful in the rectory as well as the church.
The choirs, musicians, and their director; the leaders of the Children’s Liturgy; the ushers; and all the Extraordinary Ministers who helped distribute Holy Communion, especially at the vast Vigil Mass Christmas Eve. I am particularly grateful to my altar servers, who are awesome in their skill and service, and who make our Masses so good without drawing attention to themselves. That is a gift! All of this is true service.
Our sacristy team – first, second, and third string, all of them mobilized – and staff worked like fiends, or at least elves, to handle all the logistics. Picture what you would have to do if nine hundred people were coming to your house for dinner! Then do it four more times.
I also want to ask you to I would like to ask you to join me in thanking two priests who have helped me in these last weeks when I was guarding the fort alone: Msgr. Thomas Olszyk, of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, who helped with several 6:30 Masses (6:30 in the morning!), before he headed back to Wisconsin to visit his family; and Father William Gurnee, who helped with weekend and weekday and Christmas Masses, and kept me company over Christmas Eve night to boot. He’s my hero!
Also, while we are meditation on family this weekend, I get to thank my family for coming to visit me. Normally I dodge off after Christmas to inflict myself on my parents and at least one of my sisters, but not this year. Can’t. Only one here. So, Mom and Dad decided to check and see if I was faking my excuse, or truly was holding down Fortress Saint Bernadette solo. As usual, they’ll be lurking inconspicuously, so good luck finding them, but join me in thanking them for working to keep up my morale!
I also want to thank you for all the care and patience you have shown me personally over the last few weeks. The gifts and goodies, the cards -- especially the ones with pictures, and double-especially the ones with newsletters (I really read and enjoy them all!) -- and for the invitations and encouraging words. I appreciate the sympathy for being on my own this year, and am grateful I have the opportunity to be your priest.
There is no better way to nurture your own family ties, to thank and earn the gratitude of those who give you most and count on you most, than to come together to the Holy Mass. In this great Family Feast, we receive the very life of our souls and our selves, and to receive Him together unites us in flesh and faith. The frequent family dinner table is second only to this feast in building up what makes family, family; that includes gratitude.
And so as you offer your thank-yous to everyone who gave to you in recent weeks, join me in giving thanks to everyone who made it possible and beautiful and delightful to do what we the Church do that no other family can do, that is, in the Holy Eucharist on the feast of Christ Himself, give thanks to God.