One of the best things about the holiday season is spending time with family members and friends. Since Thanksgiving, we’ve been fortunate to spend time in the company of relatives from three states. In at least one of the cases, it is generally the only time the entire year we are able to gather with one another, unless we travel a long distance for vacation or for a special occasion such as a wedding.
It’s also a time when traditions are established or extended. I remember many years ago, when my wife and I were dating, being invited to her family’s home for Christmas Eve for the first time. It was a joyous affair full of stories, laughter and, most of all, seafood, as her Italian-American family observed the traditional “seven fishes” dinner complete with courses featuring smelts, baked clams, shrimp, lobster, linguine with clam sauce and many other seafood favorites. The first time I experienced the full menu, it jolted my taste buds, which were not accustomed to such offerings.
Naturally, as the years have passed, my palate has expanded and I eagerly await many of the fish favorites. It is a labor of love for my mother-in-law, who delivers course after course of delicious food, with the help of her daughters and other relatives. With all the food come the funny stories about Uncle Fred, Uncle Carmine and Grandma Rose, all of whom have passed from this table. We remember them all, as well as others who can’t be with us because it’s their turn to be with “the other side” of their family that year.
One of the caps to the festivities is a chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, with the younger family members, siblings and cousins, gathered close together, at dessert time.
Fortunately, the archdiocese treats its employees well, generally allowing us a day off on either side of Christmas, so that we are able to enjoy time with our families. At Catholic New York, our deadlines are slightly scrambled, but we figure out a way to make it work, even if it meant closing this issue on New Year’s Eve. We hope to send our pages to the printer long before the ball drops in Times Square.
Along with celebrations and family gatherings, thoughts of Christmas and New Year’s naturally put me in a reflective mood. Like many others, I’m sure, I think a lot about people like my dad, who is no longer around to share this special time of year with us. I sure do fondly remember his gentle, welcoming presence.
I wonder if this season also makes you think about your faith and relationship with God more than you usually would. Maybe because you’re spending a little more time in church than you normally would, or just because you may have a little more time to ponder the important things in life.
I certainly am, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the break of a new year is filled with new possibilities, or opportunities to renew old alliances and allegiances. If you are fortunate to have a little extra time in the first week or two this year, I want to encourage you to set aside some of it to reach out to God in prayer.
With the strife and discord that we face around us in many different arenas these days, people of faith should pray for God to reveal His will for our lives. He knows better than we do what is best for us. This is elementary to many Catholics, but it’s easy to become distracted with the unrelenting push and pull of modern life.
Let’s all get the New Year started the right way. I’m not going to ask you for anything, other than to keep reading Catholic New York. I hope you find it informative and helpful in living your life as a Catholic.