The “Rules” for Christmas as a Catholic?

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently issued a document entitled, “The Obligations of the Faithful.” This document is meant to guide those who adhere to their teachings for the coming Christmas obligations because, as you are aware, it falls on a Sunday.

Partly it reads, “The faithful are bound to observe the obligation of Holy Mass for Christmas at the Vigil Mass or on Christmas Day. Thus, the faithful have two obligations back…[they] also need to fulfill the obligation for Christmas on Christmas Day. The time for Vigil Masses for Christmas is no earlier than 4:00 PM, without exception (ref. Christus Dominus, January 6, 1953).”

With all the trouble in the world: wars, genocide, thousands killed in Gaza, children without parents or homeland. The plight around the world as Jews are being intimated and threatened, they are still somehow focusing on the ‘rules and regulations’ of Christmas, while we are focusing on the crèche

I have often said that the issue with the Catholic Church in general is that we tend to focus on all the ‘rules and regulations’ and seem to neglect the love and the grace of God parts. This is the case in point today.

This Christmas in 2023 will come and go but it will have a lasting impact on me personally. You see, this is the first Christmas in my entire life that I am an orphan. I began my life as an orphan. My mother who birthed me was only 13 years old at the time that she was pregnant, and back then, the church just hid her away in a convent until she gave birth, and returned her back to school as if nothing ever happened. Nothing more was ever said; I was declared an orphan, and my mom and dad adopted me and raised me. They gave me the gift of a wonderful childhood and they taught me the value of family and that’s why this year I grieve deeply because for the first time I am without my mom and dad. And that’s why I think this year it is even more of a miracle that I get to give you the gift that I never had all through seminary and all through my priesthood: the gift of being with your family on Christmas day!

So, what would I like for you this year? What would be the gift if I could give you a gift of any size or proportion or cost, what would it be? Well, my gift is exactly what I’m giving you! On Christmas morning I want you to be at home, wherever home might be. I want you to realize that God is there amid you, even if you aren’t inside of sanctuary of a church, because God knows the value of the sanctuary of the home. And, if you are lucky enough to still have your mom and dad, I would like you to create your own crèche scene. I’d like you to huddle together, if only for a moment and enjoy one another’s company, and gaze upon the star on the top of the tree and listen to the angels as they come through the radio or streaming through your television. I’d like you to realize the miracle that you and your family are part of and how the story of God would not be complete without you. As Pope Francis said recently, ‘whether simple or elaborate, the same every year or constantly changing, a Nativity scene echoes “the beauty of our faith,”. And so, yes, it does. 

I’d like you, in other words, to have a very Merry Christmas, and I’d like you to do it this year without feeling any guilt for not attending mass. I’d like you follow the rules I used as my image instead and frost cookies, deck the halls, and be of good cheer, all with those you love. The church will be here when you get back. (You can remember us with a gift this year by Clicking Here. It is a way to honor your connection to us and still be close, even if far away!)

I do hope to see you on Christmas Eve, and if you are traveling away from us here, please know that all our prayers for a blessed nativity are with you wherever you might find yourself when Christmas welcomes in a brand-new year.

From us, to you, and to all those you love, and hold close this year, I wish you a blessed and happy Christmas season.

Monsignor +Jim

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