Saturday, January 11, 2020

Putting up a fight

Corine helps Father Russo identify
all the families on the Parishioner Tree.
Both easier and harder is taking down the Christmas decorations.  Easier, because it goes more quickly as everything simply goes back into its box, whereas in putting them up first one had to find and open all the boxes for a given project, then arrange and array every element just so.  Harder, in that all that was so festive and attractive and enjoyable to display, and promised so many beautiful times to come, yields to a remarkable barrenness with only bleak and wintry prospects.
It’s that time around the rectory.  The magnificent balsam fir that was in our dining room came down today, having been stripped of its glory yesterday.  The weeny little tabletop tree in my sitting room came down the day before that, along with my creche scene and other festive touches.  The Santa hat on the bust of Pope John Paul II in my office gave way to his customary Nats cap.   But the progress stopped in the reception office, as the villagers there put up a bit of a defense around the Parishioner Tree.
You see, the last days of the Parishioner Tree are the best, as only now is its full glory revealed.  All the photo cards that came in since Thanksgiving of current parishioners and former parishioners find a place on its boughs, so it looks rather naked when it goes up right after Immaculate Conception, but heavy laden by Epiphany. 
It is a great way to get to know the current members of our parish family, so someone who has been here a few years – say, Corine – can hone her knowledge of family names and relationships; while somebody new to the place – say, Fr. Russo – gets a bonanza of information and imagery to help him learn who is who.  
But it’s also true that former parishioners still send cards from their new places, whether that be Buffalo, Charlotte, or Pittsburgh, or just Bowie, Clarksburg, or Olney.  Those cards can spark stories and explanations laced with affection.  
Fr. Berhorst would benefit from the parishioner tree, but he left for Missouri in mid-Advent, after it had been up for only a few days and had only five or six cards on it.  He will be back this weekend, but I am afraid that will be too late.
Like all the others, the Parishioner Tree is coming down.  Something about that reception area makes it dry out faster, almost as if all the people who enjoy looking at it somehow take some of the life with them.  In that regard the tree is like the Cross of Christ, the real Tree of Life that yields its life to fill up our life.   
We can save all the cards for Father Berhorst to appreciate when he comes back.  But to take down the Parishioner Tree, we are going to have to get past Carol, who doesn’t want to let it go yet.  It is going to be a lot more hard than easy to take down this particular Christmas decoration.
Monsignor Smith