Confront with Joy

“It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush…”

Fr. Andrew Greeley, Woman’s Day, Dec. 22, 1981.

There are two books on my wish list for Christmas (or my birthday, which follows a week later) this year. Both contain two of the best examples I can think of right of the point made by Fr. Greeley above. The first book is by Fr. James Martin, Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life. I’ve read one of his other books My Life with the Saints and list it among my favorites. As he points out in this video, this book is not a joke book. It is an attempt to “bring joy, humor and laughter into the spiritual realm. To remind you that faith leads to joy… to show you why laughter is a great outgrowth of a healthy spiritual life.” As he points out, and I saw while thumbing through it at the bookstore the other day, it is not just a book for Catholics. There is something here for people of all faiths: Buddhists, Protestants, etc. Besides, look at this photo (from another great book that I own) and tell me Catholics don’t have a sense of humor.

As for the second book on my wish list, I’ll be writing of it later today in my Friday Five.

The other point made by Fr. Greeley is that we are to go forth into the world. To transform it by our example and not running from the secular. I can think of few greater instances of this than when a Eucharstic Procession is held. Our Newman Center at the University of Nebraska has done this before, though I’ve as yet been able to attend. But I’ve witnessed others and the reactions from those in it, bystanders, and from within myself are often incredible. The video below was sent to me by my friend Fr. H in an email in which he told me that he knew some of the participants shown in the video.

The monstrance which is used to carry the Blessed Sacrament is one of six that were blessed by Pope John II before his death to mark the celebration of the Year of the Eucharist. “God In The Streets of New York City” depicts the contrast between the everyday chaos of the busy streets — complete with traffic, construction and police cars — and the peaceful presence of Jesus. There is always an opportunity to meet Jesus face to face. It poses the question: Will you recognize him?

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