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 23, 1976 when Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien passed away.
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The Merry Catholic

by Bill Dunn

Well, December is here and you’re starting to stress out, aren’t you? I can feel the stress coming right through your eyeballs as you read this.

The Christmas season, which officially began the day after Halloween, is now kicking into high gear, and with it comes the inevitable stress of trying to cram 10 pounds of ho-ho-ho into a five-pound stocking. To paraphrase an Andy Williams holiday classic, “It’s the most STRE-ESS-FUL time … of the year!”

As Catholics, we have the added stress of trying to incorporate a little of the religious origins of this holy day into our holiday festivities. But things are so hectic, that seems to be practically impossible, doesn’t it?

Nowadays, the Christmas season is kind of like being swept away by a raging flood. Every year, we tell ourselves that we’re not going to get caught up in all the holiday nonsense, but then the season comes rolling in and even though we try to hold our ground, we eventually lose our balance and get washed downstream in a foaming maelstrom of too much food, too much drink, too much shopping, too much decorating, too much seeing ugly Christmas sweaters, too much cookie-baking, too much wrapping, too much of watching Christmas specials on TV and too much of “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer.” It’s just, well, too much.

The more hectic the Christmas season becomes, the less the “reason for the season” is present, both in our lives and in the culture. For example, in response to the threat of frivolous lawsuits a decade or so ago, school choruses stopped singing religious carols during the annual Christmas concert. But now they’re not even allowed to call it a Christmas concert; it’s a “winter” concert. And now they can’t even sing non-religious holiday songs, like Rudolph and Frosty, because apparently the lawyers for various atheist groups noticed that the Nativity passages in Luke’s Gospel are just teeming with red-nosed reindeer and talking snowmen.

The less Christ is present in Christmas, the more our culture fills the void with stress-inducing holiday season nonsense.

When Jesus was stressed-out and exhausted, he went up to the hills for some peace and quiet and prayer. When we’re about to be swept away by a flood (either real or metaphorical), we, too, need to head for the hills. We need to make some time for peace and quiet and prayer.

Oh sure, easy to say, but how do we make time when there already isn’t enough time to do all the holiday things everyone expects? Aha! Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things, but only one thing is needed. (Recognize that line? Someone pretty important said it a long time ago.)

The key to finding some peaceful time, which will allow us to keep Christ in Christmas, is to change the expectations. Make it clear to your friends and loved ones that you’re not playing the game this year. Tell them you are refusing to get swept away by the raging current of non-religious folderol that has become such a part of the modern, secular Christmas season.

Now, I’m not advising that you go all Scrooge on everybody. Go ahead and put up a tree, buy some presents, eat a few cookies, and play the Bing Crosby CD. But simply make it clear that faith and prayer – you know, keeping Christ in Christmas – are the most important aspects of this season. You just might be surprised at how many of your friends and loved ones want to join you on the quiet and prayerful high ground, away from the flood.

Bill Dunn is a freelance writer who resides in Torrington. His most recent book is titled The Gospel According to Morty. He can be contacted via his blog at

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.