Today is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I am not present with you this weekend because I am spending it with my family. Nearly every year for the past 30 years when my brothers and sisters began having families of their own, our family has had the tradition of celebrating “family Christmas” on the Sunday after Christmas, which most often is the Feast of the Holy Family. My mother is a very understanding, selfless, loving, and wise person. Several years ago, as my brothers and sisters began to marry and have children, she knew that they would want to be together on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to spend some time with their families and then spend some time with their in-laws, and perhaps start some new traditions of their own. She also realized that I usually arrived home on Christmas Day, exhausted after a long drive and a short night preceded by several Masses (including Christmas Eve, Midnight Mass, and Christmas Day). In addition to that, my mom was always one to emphasize and celebrate the whole season of Christmas. So, one year, she proposed that everyone celebrate with their families on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day without the pressure of having to arrive at “home” at a given time on Christmas. She invited us to come to her house at any time that would be convenient throughout the day on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Whoever stopped by would have the opportunity to talk, share a simple meal together and exchange gifts. And then she suggested that we all meet for “family Christmas” on the following Sunday, and thus developed the tradition of gathering on the Feast of the Holy Family. With six children, my mom was never alone on Christmas or Christmas Eve because each year one or more of my brothers and sisters’ families would join her at Christmas Eve Mass at our home parish. For many years we gathered at my mom’s house that Sunday after Christmas, but as the family continued to grow, my brothers (who had larger houses) began taking turns hosting “family Christmas.” One year, my family even came out to my house in Bay City in the midst of a great snow storm (and some of them, including my mom, spent the night there). This year we are celebrating together on the Saturday after Christmas, the Vigil of the Feast of the Holy Family. As many of you know, my mom has been in a Nursing Home for over a year. This is her second Christmas there, and the first year she probably won’t be able to leave the Nursing Home and join us for “family Christmas.” As I am writing this bulletin article three days before Christmas, I am grateful that I will be able to spend time with my mother on Christmas Day and extend my visit with her for several days afterwards. I am also looking forward to spending some special time with the rest of my family, too.
I would like to extend a special thank-you to all who helped out in any way to make the Christmas liturgies special celebrations. Thanks to all who served in liturgical ministry as Sacristan, Altar Server, Lector, Psalmist, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and Minister of Hospitality. Thanks to those who served in music ministry and those who helped enhance the environment of both the Saint John Paul II Parish Church and the Saint Matthew church site. Thanks to those who took tags from the Advent Angel Giving Tree and provided gifts to those in need. And thanks to all those who worked with preparations behind the scenes: preparing and delivering flowers to the homebound, donating “extras” for those in need, preparing the Advent Angel Giving Tree gifts for distribution, helping out with mailings and bulletins in the parish office, visiting our homebound, caroling at the Nursing Homes, and anything else I may have forgotten. Thank you all so much for sharing the gift of yourselves.
In addition to the above thank-you, I would like to express my appreciation to all who remembered me in a special way this Christmas with cards, cookies, candy, baked goods, gifts, prayers, well wishes, and words of affirmation and appreciation. I am deeply grateful to you for your support of me and my ministry. May God bless you for your generosity and kindness.
Please don’t forget to join us for our holy day Mass on Thursday, January 1. We will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God on Thursday at 10:00 AM here at the main worship site. Please note the liturgical minister schedule for that liturgy in today’s bulletin.
I wish to announce to you that last week Dennis Burns resigned his position in Maintenance at Saint John Paul II Parish. Dennis has worked for Saint John Paul II Parish for the past 6 months, and previously for 2 ½ years at Saint Josaphat Parish. We thank him for his contributions and dedicated service to the parish and the Church of Saginaw. We extend Dennis best wishes as he pursues future endeavors.
In today’s Gospel, Joseph and Mary take Jesus to Jerusalem (to the temple) to present him to the Lord. Simeon, to whom the Lord promised he would not die until he had seen the Christ, and Anna, a prophetess “advanced in years,” who worshipped at the temple night and day, were present. Simeon was moved at seeing Christ and he prayed the following: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace...for my own eyes have seen your salvation.” Those words are a portion of the Canticle recited or sung at Night Prayer (Compline). The Gospel tells us that Anna also spoke; giving thanks to God, she spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. What a powerful experience seeing Christ had been for both Simeon and Anna! If we keep our eyes and our hearts open, we, too, will see Christ every day, not in the flesh as Simeon and Anna did, but through sacramental signs, in our prayer, and through other people. As we do experience Christ, hopefully, we will have something to say to about how blessed we are and how blessed all of us are each time we see the face of the Lord in our midst. When we encounter him, we will know his saving power and God’s great love. This week, think about some ways in which you have experienced the presence of Christ this Christmas Season. Try to write your own canticle in praise of God for those experiences.
Blessings on your Christmas Season!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ