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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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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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