Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
erry Christmas! There is a particular joy to the celebration of Christmas: colorful lights to decorate houses and trees, religious carols (i.e. “Silent Night”) sung with solemnity, popular music embracing the season (i.e. “The Christmas Song” sung by Nat King Cole), Christmas cookies, mistletoe, Christmas cards, visits to Santa and family dinners, just to mention a few.
The season really comes alive for children – and adults who love introducing the young ones to the magic of Christmas. Memories are being created that will last a lifetime, which is why I will always watch A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd. For many of us, he has the ability to touch the common experience that captured our youth. However, I will watch it just once – not the billion times that it is shown during the Christmas season.
The story is a memory of Christmas through the eyes of “Ralphie” and his desire for a Red Rider BB Gun (“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”). But, beyond the celebration of Christmas, it’s really about family, the growing relationships, the interactions – and, of course, the memories.
Remembering Christmas gives us an opportunity to examine the impact of our parents, relatives, teachers and friends who have helped develop our character and perception of the world around us. As a kid, we begin to discover the world is much bigger than we imagined, but our dignity is often protected by the family that surrounds us. A favorite pastime for my sister Penny and me is to reminisce about Christmas pasts, especially when we were kids. We would share those wonderful stories of family members and friends who represented love and generosity in our young lives.
Midnight Mass was always the major event. How could you have Christmas without baby Jesus? Unfortunately, Church is the one experience missing in A Christmas Story. It seems that what’s missing is a vital connection with the generous love of God in the gift of His Son, which is the love at the basis of all relationships.
Like A Christmas Story, gifts were exchanged on Christmas Day. It was a time to relax and enjoy being family. Some gifts were practical, others were to be enjoyed (those toys), and still others commemorative – celebrating a moment, event or a favorite theme (a Packers pillow, etc.).
This year, I received a gift from my sister, Penny, that is commemorative of the movie A Christmas Story. Remember when Ralphie’s dad received his crossword puzzle prize of a lamp in the shape of a lady’s leg covered by a fishnet stocking? He was so proud of his winning – “It’s a major award!” – and to the embarrassment of his wife, he placed it in the front window of his home. Apparently accidental, it crashed to the ground in the living room under the sheepish grin of his strangely satisfied wife.
Well, now the facsimile of that “major award” lights a window in my living room. If you see it, remember to be careful because it’s Italian, “fra-gi-le.”
As I celebrate my Masses and prayers throughout the Christmas season, I will remember you, my Love One Another community, family and friends, and the love that you have gifted into my life as a friend, cousin, brother, deacon, priest, bishop and archbishop. The child Jesus is a sign of God’s unconditional love, and an example for us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the December 25, 2018 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.