Daughter of St. Paul Sr. Kathryn James Hermes is the author of the best-selling book Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach as well as a number of other titles. Everything she does or writes has one focus: giving people the tools for joy by radically shifting their focus through Presence. She works with individuals online at pauline.org/heartwork, and her newsletter can be found at pauline.org/sisterkathryn.
This year, instead of resolutions, I began the year with practices. In today’s conversation with Jeannette, I share a practice I recently began: doing everything as if it were potentially the final time I would have the privilege of doing it. In our conversation we talk about what I learned after just a few days of doing this and why I think it is more effective than New Year’s resolutions.
January is the time when we think about resolutions for the new year, for a new me. By this time the regular spate of articles debating the worth of making resolutions has just about ended. What I want to offer you are four conversations about setting a solid foundation to a new year, a foundation that focuses on practices for the present rather than resolutions for the ideal future image we have of ourselves. We discuss why resolutions sometimes don’t work, and I share my four criteria for effective resolutions.
During this month we will be sharing in the podcast some effective practices I’ve started and how they have made a difference almost immediately in my live. And we’ll explore new perspectives from poets, authors and saints that will help us retain the newness of the New Year.
Enjoy this conversation between Jeannette and I. Welcome to the New Year 2020. May it be filled with much grace.
Okay, I admit that the title for this article is a little startling. We are celebrating Christmas, right? Check your calendars. It is still December. Look outside. The liturgy is talking about Christ’s birth and the stores are boasting Christmas specials.
But I couldn’t resist not sharing with you an insight into the glory of Christmas that I discovered in a very old book The Mass Through the Year by Aemiliana Lohr.
We are not the shepherds who were startled from sleep by choruses of angelic delight eagerly awaking a slumbering world to the unexpected and truly wondrous news that the mighty Savior lay waiting for them in a manger. No. We have read the Gospels. We know Jesus’ story. We’ve heard his parables over and over again. Each Lent and Easter we’ve commemorated his death and resurrection, and in Baptism we’ve died with him and have risen with him….
The Church can’t see the child in swaddling clothes laid in a manger without remembering the memorial of his other birth from the tomb.
The solemnity of the birth of the King Christ was in view of the day on which his power and rule would be solidified as he rose from the dead and ascended to his place beside his Father in heaven. …
It was just a small photo my dad texted me the other day. Around the tiny pine cone tree that stood proudly on their kitchen table he and mom had strung an equally tiny string of white lights. For what is a Christmas tree without lights?
What is Christmas without the star blazing in the night, announcing the glory of the news of the Messiah’s birth?
As we drove home after dark Sunday with strains of music from the Christmas concert performed by our choir still in my heart, I felt an almost child-like wonder at the lights that stood as solitary sentinels in the darkened windows of the homes in our neighborhood. House after house was trimmed in light. In just a few days we will decorate our own convent with nativity scenes and a tree, with symbols of the Christmas story…and with light.
I still remember near our convent in Metairie Al Copeland’s house on Folse Drive that attracted carloads of visitors from near and far in December to see the thousands of lights that filled every inch of their yard. The owners moved out in October while their property was prepared by a professional Christmas decorator with a unique theme for this December extravaganza of light which brings out the wonder in both kids and adults alike.
We turn on the lights after dark. Lights are more visible in the night. It dispels the night. Stars are only visible in the night sky. So even as Christmas is celebrated with lights, on a deeper level it is so because there is darkness.
St Augustine wrote:
Wake up, O human being! For it was for you that God was made man. Rise up and realize it was all for you. Eternal death would have awaited you had He not been born in time. Never would you be freed from your sinful flesh had He not taken to Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. Everlasting would be your misery had He not performed this act of mercy. You would not have come to life again had He not come to die your death. You would have perished had He not come….
I think about the Christmas season’s tug of war over the rights of the public visibility of Christmas language and display, as well as people who feel their rights to express their faith openly are being taken away. I wonder if we Christians are missing the point altogether.
As Christians who reverence the Other who accepted and forgave us, experiencing the other as a good and not a threat should be the hallmark of our common living. It is true we now live in a society where we cannot assume that others share the same foundational beliefs about the good of humanity as we.
Nevertheless, it has always been the human experience that many different voices need to converge in a dialogue in which we consider the “Other” one with ourselves, a dialogue in which we are all together trying to come closer to truth. Christmas teaches us that truth, more than each group vying for power in an argument, is more correctly seen as a relationship.
ENJOYED THIS PODCAST? HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…
– Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.
– Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace.
– Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.