This year, because of my mother’s death in September, I received more cards than usual, with many notes of sympathy and prayers. I spent three days rereading them all, and I must say it was overwhelming to swim in this floodtide of goodwill and cheer, joy and personal love. Priests give and receive so many Christmas cards because we become a father to tens of thousands over the years. The gift and mystery of the Catholic priesthood is poignantly manifest in the heartfelt cards we receive. I’ve known many of these children for 30 years, and each Christmas I see them growing up, having children of their own, and burying their mothers and fathers. Each year they send their love from their families, parishes, colleges, radio networks, convents and monasteries. From Los Angeles to Rome to Rio de Janeiro to London to New York the cards pour in every Christmas with good news and sincere love. Patriarchs and matriarchs smile over their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in these cards; mother superiors and father abbots ask me to pray for their communities, and kids who used to misbehave in my schools and youth groups include photographs of their gowning families. Widows and widowers, and many who are living alone after divorce or never having been married, all send their love and greetings, asking for and promising prayers. Brother priests pledge their fraternal charity from their various assignments around the country and around the world.
Christmas is over, and Lent begins, but the love of God continues. I thank the good Lord for these seasons, not only those governed by natural forces but also those guided by supernatural graces. Each year we relive the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, anticipating our own perfection in the life of the world to come.