Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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MsgrLiptak_TNQ. Is it really true that our Pilgrim forefathers once actually prohibited the celebration of Christmas here in New England?

A. Not only was Christmas once outlawed here in New England, but, after reading the signs of aggressive secularism and materialism, it could happen again.

The Christmas celebration was introduced to North America by missionaries (e.g., the French "Blackrobes") and immigrants both Catholic and protestant. Spanish settlers here (e.g., in Florida) celebrated Christmas as early as the 16th century; the French in what is now Canada, during the 17th century.

Nonetheless, the Puritans who settled in New England viewed Christmas largely as a "papist" invention. In Boston, Christmas was an ordinary working day until at least 1856, and laborers who refused to work on Christmas Day were either docked in pay or, in many cases, dismissed from their jobs. Father Francis X. Weiser, whose historical survey I rely upon in this area, recounts that factory managers or owners would even schedule earlier work hours than usual (e.g., beginning at 5 a.m.), deliberately to prevent their Catholic personnel from attending Mass. And up to 1870, in Boston, public schools were in session; among penalties for noncompliance was public dismissal.

Immigrants from, first, Ireland, France and Germany; then from southern and eastern Europe, really turned the tide, as it were, in publicly observing Christmas in America. All of them brought the Christmas Crib or Manger; the Germans, especially, transplanted the Christmas Tree. The Irish emphasized Christmas candles in windows. And all carried with them their traditional Christmas carols (e.g., Adeste Fideles, Silent Night) as well as legion Christmas foods and other customs (e.g., "Christmas Angels," the blessing of unleavened wafers known as Oplatki; the placing of straw under tablecloths).

Of course the Christmas Liturgy is another chapter. It includes the Midnight Mass, plus the "three Masses of Christmas," plus the ringing of special bells for the hour preceding midnight. There is also the custom of placing a statue of the Infant Christ in the Manger before Mass (or during the Liturgy of the Word).

Because of various forces hostile to Christianity (or to religion in general) arrayed against the celebration of Christmas today, Catholics have a special calling not only to defend Nativity customs, but especially to embrace them in their homes, neighborhoods, towns and cities.

The Christmas story, as related by St. Luke, bids us all to "be not afraid," in the words of the angel. Take a stand; be not afraid. This is a very holy time of year; Christmas needs safeguarding.

 

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.