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A Season of Good News
By C.H.
Source: St. Anthony Messenger
Published: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
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“If it bleeds, it leads.”

Never was that journalistic philosophy truer than in 2010, which was something of a dire year for news events the world over. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the BP oil spill that wreaked havoc on our environment, flooding in Pakistan and threats of Qu’ran burning in Florida, we might be inclined to stay under the covers this Christmas and skip the seasonal festivities.

Economists assert that, according to statistics, our country’s recession ended in 2009, but that’s difficult to believe given our unemployment rates and a financial system that’s achingly slow to rebound.

But hope—that greatest of remedies—is not lost. For me, hope came in the form of my four-year-old niece, Cameron. Not long ago, she was showing me the yearbook she and her preschool classmates assembled. Leafing through the book, she carefully named all her little friends pictured and deconstructed the relevance behind the crafts and memorabilia glued to the pages.

I thought: This little girl knows nothing about a stressed economy. She’s unaware of growing terror threats, natural disasters or diseases. To Cameron, the world is still a beautiful and peaceful lace. Looking down at this little girl with an orange Popsicle ring around her mouth, I was, for a moment, in total agreement.

Joy to the World

Just as the year seemed awash with bad tidings, a light eclipsed the world’s skies for two days and shone boldly on a mine shaft in Chile.

On October 13 and 14, 33 miners, trapped 2,300 feet from the Copiapó mine entrance since August 5, began their slow but thrilling ascent from the depths of the earth. For those two miraculous days, the world seemed united in its focus on the men and their rescue. It was like Christmas morning for all of us.

The 69 days the men spent in the mine were surely desolate and maddening. Stuck in a dark, confined space and separated from their families by miles of earth, the miners battled claustrophobia, weight loss and tedium, armed with a few simple items: playing cards, the Chilean flag, figurines of beloved saints and a crucifix. Even in that impassable darkness, faith was their light.

For two days, their heroic rescue shoved news of our nation’s growing foreclosure rates out of the headlines. Gone—however briefly—were reports about unemployment or burgeoning threats of terror attacks. Instead, we saw the miners’ faces—tears falling from their sunglass-shaded eyes—as they embraced loved ones. With their rescue we, too, were rescued from apathy, and a year of bad news.

Spiritual Repair

With the Christmas season under way, it’s important to focus on news and events that boost the human spirit, not burden it. Some good news for us to chew on:

¦ According to the United Nations’ food agency, the number of people around the world suffering from chronic malnutrition dipped to 9.3 percent in 2010, the first time it has dropped in 15 years.

¦ New Jersey lawmakers have put an “anti-bullying bill of rights” into effect that might prevent future suicides such as that of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate filmed him kissing another man and broadcast the encounter online.

¦ In what appears to be a rebounding faith in our economy, a study by American Express’ Consumer Network shows that Americans plan to spend 11 percent more on travel this holiday season than last year.

¦ On the heels of American troops returning from Iraq, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and Taliban leaders have promised to meet for peace talks in hopes of ending years of war.

¦ Anuradha Koirala is a Nepalese woman who has rescued over 12,000 women and girls from human trafficking through her group, “Maiti Nepal.”

But the greatest news of all is often overlooked during the season. When engaging in mall wars with other hurried consumers, shopping for gifts beyond our financial reach, it’s easy to forget that Christmas isn’t about retail. It’s about redemption. It’s about stepping out of the consumerist vortex and focusing on the best news of all: the birth of Christ.

The warmth and humanity felt among our families is an offshoot from the Holy Family’s first night together—cold, huddled and hopeful. Salvation was given to us that night, and that is the best Christmas gift of all.

Priority Checklist

As the hustle and flow of the Christmas countdown reach a fevered pitch, it’s become all the more crucial that we focus on the true meaning and heartbeat of the Christmas season: the birth of Christ, the simple pleasures of family ties and the friendships that make our lives meaningful.

Jimmy Sanchez, one of the 33 Chilean miners, might have been far from family and home, but he was never far from God. In the earthen tomb that housed him for 69 days, his buoyant spirit is something we can all work to emulate this season.

“There are actually 34 of us,” the 19-year-old wrote in a letter sent up from the mine, “because God has never left us down here.” —C.H.


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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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