Similar and Different

Today I read two posts about Christmas that really struck me. They were very different and yet they were very similar – and they were written by people who are very different, yet very similar.

The first post was up at Caminante, No Hay Camino, a blog written by my friend Lee. She is an Episcopal priest who lives in Vermont and she posted her Christmas sermon. One of the things that she addressed was the whole church-closed-on-Christmas-Sunday phenomenon.

Apparently the humungous churches in Texas decided it would cost too much to open their doors on Christmas morning. A spokeswoman for one of the megachurches said that 500 volunteers, along with staff, are needed to run Sunday services for the estimated 8,000 people who usually attend. She said many of the volunteers appreciate the chance to spend Christmas with their families instead of working, although she said a few church members complained.

The way some of the churches are getting around not having services today is clever: one enterprising church is handing out a DVD it produced for the occasion that features, in their words, a ‘heartwarming contemporary Christmas tale.’ Their spokesperson said, ‘What we’re encouraging people to do is take that DVD and in the comfort of their living room, with friends and family, pop it into the player and hopefully hear a different and more personal and maybe more intimate Christmas message, that God is with us wherever we are.’ That church considers itself a pace-setter and one that reaches out to the unchurched. They figure that the unchurched are not apt to come to church on Christmas Day anyway, especially since there are plenty enough services the night before.

The other post was written by Austin Fleming, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, who authors, A Concord Pastor Comments. He wrote about a tradition at his parish, Holy Family in Concord, MA.

We’ve a custom at all the Christmas liturgies in my parish of singing Silent Night before the prayer after Communion. It’s simple, it’s beautiful and even folks who haven’t opened their mouths through the whole Mass sometimes join in singing this carol.

As I told the people after singing Silent Night, “How good it is for us to be in prayer together. How important is the presence of each one of us for all the others and how important is the presence of us all for each individual.”

I was struck by the strong commentary on the need for and the importance of community in worship.These different posts, written by different people, with different points of view say something similar. They say something the same really – and that is that no one of us can make it on their own.

That is one reason I spend a lot of time in thought about God coming as a baby, who truly can’t just make it on his own! Even if the baby is God.

Food for thought, similar and different.


Christmas – It Is Not Over!

Sorry, I’ve been doing so much writing for my other blogs, that this one gets neglected. Oh well, what can you do!

Happy Day After Christmas. The lights tend to start coming down right away, the grey of winters sets in and everyone gets into their “Christmas is over” stage. Well I am here to tell you – Christmas is not over!

Now I realize that everyone who celebrates Christmas is not religious and that is no concern of mine. I wish you all peace, no matter who you are or what you follow. I would like to point out something that is important and that is this… Right up until Christmas Eve we were in Advent. Christmas Eve is when Christmas ends and (cue song here…) We now have this season that is Christmas to celebrate.

So prolong the joy, don’t yield to the bah humbug that December 26 might bring. The days are starting to get longer anyway, can’t you feel it? Well, maybe not just yet. Whatever you do, prolong the joy and enjoy every day!

Gosh, I’m awfully cheery for a Monday, aren’t I? Must be Christmas!

Are You Ready?

Here is the text of a reflection that I offered at St.Edward the Confessor during Evening Prayer on Tuesday. Check out the O Antiphons posts, which continue daily, at either Pastoral Postings or The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor.

At my home parish of St. Edward the Confessor, we have a beautiful tradition of offering evening prayer on Tuesdays during Advent and Lent. I was privileged to offer the reflection last night.

Typically the reflection is offered based on the Gospel or one of the other readings for that particular day. The spirit moved me to reflect on the Gospel, which was Luke 1:26-38. Typically the reflection gets posted at the Parish Blog of St. Edward, and I am also posting it here.


Here at St. Edward the Confessor we have a beautiful practice during Advent and Lent – Evening Prayer on Tuesday evenings at 7 PM. While we have thought about doing this outside of the liturgical seasons mentioned, we have not done so. And there is something special about bracketing these times when we are called to a particular kind of attention.

Last night I was privileged to once again offer the reflection and I am reprinting the text of my reflection here. Please note, if you were present, I do read from the script, but I do deviate from it as well. Thus – this may be slightly different than what you heard!

Thank you to everyone who has attended evening prayer so faithfully! Thank you to everyone who has come just once! Thank you everyone – presider, helpers, music ministers and other reflectors, for another beautiful season of prayer.

Are You Ready? A Reflection on the Gospel According to Luke, 1:26-38.

The question is everywhere… I am asked it and although I say that I am not going to ask it, I do… You know, you have said it yourself – I’m pretty sure you have either asked or been asked this at least once this week…

After all, we have this nice long Advent, the one in which that last purple taper gets to burn down a bit, just like the others, thanks to the fourth Sunday being followed by 6 entire days. More time to – get ready. Whatever ready means! Continue reading

Joy To The World…

No, the Lord has not yet arrived – that is Christmas and we are still in Advent. As a stickler for that sort of distinction, I thought twice about the post title. That said- you can see that I went for it.

My review of Fr. James Martin’s new book, “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life,”  (Harper One, $25.99) was published in yesterday’s Evangelist. I also present it for you here.

Have some humor for the holidays
“Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life” by Rev. James Martin, SJ (Harper One, $25.99)
BY FRAN ROSSI SZPYLCZYNHumor may be one of the least-used tools of evangelizing, but it’s never too late to begin.

The Eucharist is no laughing matter. However, Christ, present in the Eucharist, is the source of all joy. In his latest book, “Between Heaven and Mirth,” Rev. James Martin, SJ, explores this notion of joy in our faith.

Joy and happiness are often confused, but Father Martin clarifies the difference between them. It is easy to see that, with the cross as the focal point, we focus on suffering – and we are never directed away from the essential notion of suffering. This book brings forth the necessity of joy in the midst of suffering as essential to faith.

Consider these words: “You need not be a scholar of religion to see that anyone truly in touch with God is joyful.” As people who not only die with Christ, but rise up with Him as well, we are called to joy in a most profound way. What is more joyful than Christ risen?

This book is filled with examples of faith infused with joy – and no shortage of jokes. This joy is a pathway to a richer spiritual life and a call for greater awareness of God’s presence in all things.

Readers will find Scriptural references to well-known stories that might have been understood differently in biblical times and even seen as funny. This humor engaged and consoled many then and can do so now, as well.

What’s funny, for example, about St. Lawrence, martyred on a grill of burning coals? Apparently, he told his executioners, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.” St. Teresa of Avila once said, “A sad nun is a bad nun.” Father Martin employs the lives of many such saints to support his call to joy and humor.

Unhappy times in life are not ignored, either. Readers are asked to explore those moments with faith, reminded that happiness and joy are not to be confused. The absence of a cheerful happiness should not preclude our deep joy, which is rooted in the heart of Christ.

One chapter in the book is devoted to the Visitation as a study in joy. Another chapter explores the notion that a lack of seriousness is not sacrilegious, but a lack of humility can be a problem.

Is there a better path to humility than through laughter? Isn’t laughter a call to others to discover the source of joy?

Father Martin is very clear: All religious institutions need humor and laughter. Levity and belief are partners, reminding us that perhaps laughter is the most underrated and under-used tool in evangelizing.

This book is truly an invitation to an enlivened faith and Father Martin’s own tireless evangelizing shines through every page. Readers will not only find humor, but will also find Christ present in ways they may have never imagined.

(Mrs. Szpylczyn works at Immaculate Conception in Glenville and attends St. Edward’s parish in Clifton Park. She blogs at and on the websites of both parishes.)