Warriors must know when, and how, to rest. If they don’t know how to rest, then one way or another they won’t be warriors much longer.
I am spending the Christmas break at home with family and friends in Southern Louisiana, and it has been a blessed time. A welcome meeting with my bishop, coffee with my brother priests, conversations with my parents and other family and friends. This is how an extrovert like me recharges the batteries.
Or at least that’s part of it. The larger part comes from the fact that we are in the Octave of Christmas, and for a priest this is an especially blessed time on both the human and spiritual level. From the “O Antiphons” leading up to the Solemnity of the Nativity, to celebrating a Mass attended even by those with a tenuous grip on their faith, or rather those on whom Faith still has a tenuous grip, it is a great time to be a priest.
Much of our tired, over stimulated, and overanxious world still recognizes something different about this holy season. Sure, there is the materialism that for many has eclipsed the One who is the true Meaning of Christmas, but it seems like many whose faith is gone or almost gone still hum tunes composed by reverent Christians, songs which contain the Most Holy Name. There is a sense that work can wait, that there may be a chance to get a small gift for that brother we haven’t talked to in a couple of years.
I don’t want to overstate this, or to ignore the fact that for some who have not healed from painful events in their past this can be a difficult season as well. But overall, it is may be the last season in our post-Christian society in which there is still a little holiness left in the holiday. It is a time for rest and for hope — and for those who still hold their faith dear, it can be an especially fruitful time.
For pro-life and pro-family warriors, it is important to make the most of this time. For Catholics especially, the Octave is rich with celebrations of truly great saints—those for whom the Christ Child was truly the love of their lives.
The day after Christmas is feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. The readings recall the searing image of a young man absolutely on fire for Christ, unafraid to remind the Jewish leaders of their history of persecution of all the great prophets. For his love and witness, of course, he too was killed while Saul held the cloaks of the killers.
St. John the Apostle and Evangelist is remembered on the 27th. The apostle whom Jesus loved gave us the beautiful Gospel Word and the Book of Revelation is remembered also as the youngest of Our Lord’s apostles, the one who stood with Mary during the Passion.
The feast of the Holy Innocents is celebrated the following day, in a remembrance of great poignancy for pro-lifers. Remembering those young children killed by a jealous and mad king who hoped to kill the Christ, one can’t help but look around today and notice the same sickness affecting our culture. More than 55 million killed in this nation alone out of fear; and to think that our courts in a grotesque reversal of justice have sanctioned this massive and ongoing crime against humanity. This cannot continue forever.
Saint Thomas Becket, whose feast day we celebrate on the 29th, was also killed by the agents of a jealous king, for defending the Church’s proper freedom and authority.*
And yesterday we celebrated the gift of the Holy Family—the just man and grace-filled woman who alone could have raised Our Lord, the Word made flesh.
Can you imagine? That is, can you imagine what their home must have been like? It is a worthy meditation. We don’t get much detail from Holy Scripture — indeed, not a word spoken by Saint Joseph. But we can imagine the carpenter coming home after a hard day’s work to the woman he loved, and the Child who was both Savior and King, even as he lay vulnerable in a crib. We can imagine the very simple, small home, set in a neighborhood filled with extended family, the humor and the trials of a growing Jewish clan in a vibrant city.
This is the icon of the family—the purest window into heaven of what a family is, what a family should be. It is not a political argument; it is simply the truth. Our Lord saw fit to leave the interior life of the Holy Family to our imagination, with only occasional moments recorded.
Can you imagine? Well, you can and you should. In this Holy Octave of Christmas, the warriors of the movements to defend life and family owe it to themselves and to each other to rest and contemplate the Icon of the Holy Family. To remember the martyrs who defended the name of Jesus, who defended marriage, who innocently suffered the wrath of a madman. We remember the apostle closest to Our Lord, so dear to him, and so generous in sharing the Gospel with those who love Him.
We are not alone in this fight for life and family, my brother and sister warriors. We are given everything we need, if we know where to look, if we can take the gift of this season to listen to what Our Lord is telling us. How perfect that we find Him as a Child, weak and radiant, surrounded by love and holiness. We want the same for our own families and friends, even if, perhaps especially if, we fail too often in living up to this model of love.
Yet we are given the chance to rest in Him and to try again.
Peace and strength, my brothers and sisters! Let’s ask the Holy Family and the saints of this Octave to pray for our peace and strength as we try to do God’s will. And tomorrow, New Year’s Day, is the feast of Our Lady, Mother of God. How loved are we, that we are given another year, beginning with a remembrance of the maternal love of the mother of Our Lord?
In good time, we will return to the battle. Know that when we do, we will not be alone. As we begin a new year, let us also remember each and every day to give praise and thanks to God for all He has given us and live in the peace and joy He brings.
* This paragraph was altered after publication to correct an error–St. Thomas Becket was killed for defending the Church’s authority from King Henry II, not for defending marriage. We apologize for the error.