December 20, 2002

Friar Jack's Catechism Quiz:
The Christmas Cycle
by Julie Zimmerman

Last issue we talked about the Catholic calendar's emphasis, through most of December, on Advent rather than Christmas. Well, for you Christmas fans out there, there's good news: while the secular celebration of Christmas ends Dec. 26 (when we all head to the mall with our returns), the Catholic celebration of the Christmas cycle still has a few weeks left!

Today's Catechism quiz focuses on the wonderful feasts that take place in the period following Christmas. You can find out more about the feasts -- and about Christmas itself -- at our Christmas Web feature. You'll find daily activities, an Advent/Christmas calendar and peacemaking ideas that run through Jan. 12, the final day of the Christmas season.

We continue to receive responses to Friar Jack's "Remembering Mychal Judge." Some of those responses are shared below, along with a comment on Friar Jack's column on "Awaiting Christ's Final Coming — With Hope!"


This Month's Quiz: (peeking encouraged!)

What four feasts or holy days occur after Christmas during the Christmas season?
When did the title "Mother of God" originate?
When are the 12 days of Christmas?
What is “Little Christmas”?
What are the names of the three kings?
What are some ways to celebrate the post-Christmas feasts?

Friar Jack's Inbox:

Readers reflect on "Remembering Mychal Judge" and "Awaiting Christ's Final Coming — With Hope!"


What four feasts or holy days occur after Christmas during the Christmas season?

The Feast of the Holy Family, honoring Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a family. It is celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas or on December 30 when Christmas falls on Sunday on Dec. 31.

The Feast of Mary the Mother of God, celebrated Jan. 1, commemorates Mary’s role as mother of God and her unique position in God’s redemptive plan. World Day of Peace is also celebrated on this day.

The Epiphany, the oldest of the Christmas feasts, is also known as Three Kings Day for the three magi who found the Christ Child after following a star to Bethlehem. It is celebrated on Jan. 6 and is the major holiday of the Christmas period in the Eastern Church.

The Baptism of Our Lord brings the Christmas season to a close. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Epiphany.


When did the title "Mother of God" originate?

The precise title “Mother of God” goes back at least to the third or fourth century. In the Greek form Theotokos (God-bearer), it became the touchstone of the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation. The Council of Ephesus in 431 insisted that the holy Fathers were right in calling the holy virgin Theotokos. At the end of this particular session, crowds of people marched through the street shouting: “Praised be the Theotokos!” The tradition reaches to our own day. In its chapter on Mary’s role in the Church, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church calls Mary “Mother of God” 12 times.

from Saint of the Day

When are the 12 days of Christmas?

The 12 days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day (December 25) and end on January 5, eve of the traditional date of the Epiphany.


What is "Little Christmas"?

In the Spanish-speaking world, Christmas Day is strictly religious. Gifts are exchanged on the feast of the Epiphany, also known as Little Christmas, when the wise men (or Magi) brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.


What are the names of the three kings?

Tradition names them Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The custom of blessing homes on Epiphany developed because the feast commemorates the time that the three kings visited the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Traditionally after the blessing, the initials of their names were written in chalk on the back of the door. They were enclosed by the year and connected by a cross in this way: 20+G+M+B+02.


What are some ways to celebrate the post-Christmas feasts?

Don't stop on December 25 as the secular season fizzles out. Plan some of your Christmas-season socializing with family and friends after Christmas Day. More important, find appropriate celebrations for the liturgical feasts of the season. For example:

Get all of the immediate family together for dinner on the Feast of the Holy Family. (In many families this will turn the day into a major event, especially if there are teenagers and young adults.)

On New Year's Day, when we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary and World Day of Peace, reflect on Mary's role in the Incarnation as you pray the joyful mysteries of the rosary for peace.

Take time on the Feast of the Epiphany, a gift-giving day in many Catholic cultures, to go through your wardrobes and toy chests and decide what you can now give away after all the new things you received at Christmas. You can also use the Epiphany to make decisions about how to donate your time and money in the new year.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord reminds us of our own Baptism. Take this day to reflect on how you have lived out your baptismal promises.

from Holy Day vs. Holiday: Making Christmas Less Commercial

Friar Jack's Inbox

Readers respond to Friar Jack's reflections on "Remembering Mychal Judge" and "Awaiting Christ's Final Coming — With Hope!"

Dear Friar Jack: I read and enjoyed the article in the ST Anthony Messenger about Fr Mychal. I think people should leave judging others up to God—only Our Father in Heaven can know what a person's intent is in their lives. The current scandal in the Church is a sad thing and again—I think it is up to God to judge. I am an old woman and have seen too many lives destroyed by people assuming too much.—Nancy

Dear Friar Jack: Just a note on your response to the questions of Father Judge's sexuality. I also believe that one can be a good Catholic, and in Father Judge's case a good Franciscan, regardless of sexual orientation. I am a gay man who struggles with the hostility I sometimes feel from the Church, even though I live according to its teachings. I made no choice in the matter of my sexuality; I am who God made me, and I am thankful to Him for that.—Rob

Friar Jack responds: Thanks for your honest and thoughtful comments as you look at your own identity before God. May you continue to be thankful to the loving God who made you as you are and continue to serve him in a spirit of honesty, generosity and prayerfulness.

"Dear Friar Jack: I enjoyed your wonderful article on Advent.You very appropriately reminded us that Jesus is the ultimate standard for how we should live our lives. However, your comments on how we will be judged and what we must do to prepare for that day, also gave the impression that salvation is obtained through our own efforts...Holy Scriptures clearly tell us that Salvation is by God's grace through faith and not of works least any man should boast. ...It is because we are sinful human beings and are not able to meet God's standard in and of ourselves, that Christ came to the world to be our redeemer. It is because of what he did on the cross that we have the hope of heaven. —Paul

Friar Jack responds: I did not mean to imply that our own works will save us. Yet I do believe, as Jesus teaches so dramatically in Matthew 25: 31-46, that our compassion and concern for our neighbors in need are very important signs that we are acting in the spirit of Christ's teaching. I certainly agree with you when you say with Holy Scripture that salvation comes about by God's grace and is not caused by our human works. Our good behavior or charitable deeds are not the cause of our salvation. Our salvation comes from God's free gift of saving love, as you indicate so well. Our efforts to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters are rather the consequence (not the cause) of God's saving love for us. Our efforts are important in showing our grateful and faith-filled response to God's free gift. I hope these comments, though brief, suggest that we see things similarly.

Send your feedback to Wish your loved ones a blessed season with Christmas and Epiphany e-cards from They're Catholic, beautiful and free!

Friar Jack's E-spirations
Catholic Greetings Premiere
Saint of the Day
Catholic Sampler
Your E-mail Address:


A Message From Friar Jack

Welcome! I hope you'll enjoy all of the news about what's happening at, as well as my "musings." By the way, I am a real Franciscan friar. You can find out more about me here.

Prayers for Feasts
By Charles Singer; Translation by Colette Joly Dees

Does your holy family need some new prayers? Then Prayers for Feasts may help you celebrate the Church's liturgical feasts this year. A beautiful book with charming illustrations.

Friends of the Crèche

Friends of the Crèche is a new group with noble aims. Focusing on crèches helps keep the Incarnation central to any celebration of Christmas.

NEW Faith Formation Update

A new free monthly e-newsletter for catechetical leaders. The focus is parish catechesis beyond textbooks and classrooms. Click here to find out more.


Lovely Catholic e-cards for the feasts of the Holy Family and the Epiphany!

"Each day
holds the promise
of new birth."

Check out Catholic Greetings for all your upcoming "holy day" e-greeting needs!


Catholic SAMPler

Do you like to try things before you buy them? Stop by for FREE samples from new book and audio products.

The Incarnation: Why God Wanted to Become Human
By Kenneth R. Overberg, S.J.

God is a gracious God, sharing divine life and love in creation and in the Incarnation (like parents sharing their love in the life of a new child). Such a view can dramatically change our image of God, our celebration of Christmas, our day-by-day prayer.
The Incarnation: Why God Wanted to Become Human

The Cosmic Dance: Seeing the Sacred in All of Life
By Joyce Rupp O.S.M.

Joyce Rupp invites us to deepen our relationship with all of creation in a new audiocassette, The Cosmic Dance. Acquire a deeper appreciation of these sacred dimensions that surround us.

God's Promise to David
By Virginia Smith

God's promise wasn't made just to David nor his genetic offspring nor even his Israelite people, but rather to us all. Find out about this kingdom promise.
The Tricky Twists and Turns of God's Promise to David


Think Green This Christmas

Thinking green isn't for Christmas only-just as Christmas isn't simply about a baby. Be more "green" this Christmas season and throughout the year. Check it out!


Every Day Catholic

New! Conversation Corners have come to Every Day Catholic. Also, the Every Day Catholic poll asks "Spending time with Scripture helps me grow in faith…" Submit your vote today!


If you want to know more, try our St. Anthony search engines.

St. Anthony, Help Me Find...

Merry Christmas from all of us at the St. Anthony Messenger Press family of e-newsletters:


 -- Free samples, news and special offers from St. Anthony Messenger Press Friar Jack's E-spirations Faith Formation Update: Ideas and Resources for Catechetical Leaders Saint of the Day Web Catholic: Links and News for Catholic Webmasters Catholic Greetings Premiere