Fr. Peter Daly
January 2, 2007
A friend of mine calls the Advent/Christmas season the “winter Olympics.”
From the beginning of Advent to New Year’s Day, we sprint from one liturgical and parochial event to another.
In January, we hardly have a chance to catch our breath before we jump right into the “spring Olympics” of Lent and Easter.
Shortly thereafter come the “summer Olympics” of confirmations, first communions, graduations and weddings.
In one ten day stretch from the fourth Sunday of Advent to January second, I celebrated mass 31 times. That is an average of three times a day.
I had eight Sunday liturgies, four Christmas liturgies, two New Year masses, four funerals, ten weekday masses and a wedding.
I had to preach at practically all of them. Thank God for our deacons who took the burden off me a bit.
At the end of those ten days, I was drained.
No one was more tired of the sound of my voice than I was.
On top of all those 31 liturgies, there were the seasonal parish events and obligations. These included children’s plays, extra confessions for Christmas, adoration, decoration, and celebration.
Is this wise for the parish priest?
I don’t think so.
In all of our preparation for Christmas there is hardly any time to reflect, read, study or pray. Not the example we should be setting for others.
My friends who are priests and ministers in other denominations, think that we are nuts to get so over extended.
As we have fewer and fewer parish priests and bigger and bigger congregations, priests are getting worn down. This past Christmas season I felt like a liturgical machine. One just can’t celebrate the liturgy eight times in two days with freshness, energy and insight. It is not physically possible or spiritually wise.
So here is a suggestion for our preparation for the great feasts.
Let’s try stillness. Let’s try doing nothing for one day in preparation for all our great feasts.
“Be still and know that I am God,” says Psalm 46.
“Only in God, will my soul be at rest,” says Psalm 62.
“For you O Lord, my soul in stillness waits, surely my hope is in you,” says the refrain of a modern Advent hymn by Marty Haugen.
Maybe we should prescribe a day in Advent for quiet longing. Maybe there should be time in Christmas for simple peace.
There would be no public liturgy that day. Just private prayer. Everything would be cancelled.
Silence could deepen and feed us all, especially the priests. Then the next time we have to celebrate 31 liturgies in ten days, we would have something more to say.
Silence already is part of our Catholic prayer life Eucharistic adoration. There we don’t feel the need to talk. We let God speak.
Recently we had an interfaith meeting at a Quaker meeting house. We heard about their lack of liturgy. How they sit in silence and wait on the Holy Spirit. I found it strangely attractive.
Big liturgical celebrations are wonderful. But somewhere in the preparation for our feast days we need something else. We need silence.
Then we would be better trained for the “winter Olympics.” Let the games begin.