A Catholic approach to celebrating in times of suffering

At the end of 2019 there was so much anticipation for the coming year. I recall a sea of memes dedicated to the fact all major holidays in 2020 would fall on weekends, conducive to maximum celebration. Of course, in hindsight, we know that maximum celebration was not to be had – at least not in the presence of others.

Accessible voice, video, and virtual technology has offered us a semblance of physical presence in this year of isolation. But we are doing ourselves a great disservice if we continue to ignore the fact that virtual communication is simply not the same as physical connection. For many, the constant video calls are draining and reinforce feelings of isolation. It is okay to recognize and admit these feelings.

Perhaps you will use Zoom or Facetime to connect with family members on Christmas Day—Great! But if you still feel like something is missing, it’s certainly permissible to recognize that you desire and are called to more.

For nearly 9 months we have endured a series of lockdowns with unpredictable hopes of an end in sight. We’ve watched the news only to hear of more cases and deaths, and we’ve witnessed some among family and friends. Many have lost their jobs in the midst of restrictions, protests, and chaotic public discord from our country’s 2020 political environment. It’s certainly difficult to feel Christmas magic or the spirit of joy in the air in these turbulent times. 

So, as Catholics, how do we approach Christmas in a year that has been so gloomy and isolating? How do we celebrate a holiday that is inherent to familial unity through Christ’s birth, when we are told to avoid gathering together?

The simple answer is: we celebrate!

We distinguish Christmas from the rest of the year by how we decide to live it.

We dispose of our hearts to the glory and goodness of this most joyful season. 

We set this day and season apart from the rest of 2020. 

We unite ourselves through the liturgy, which embraces the inherent physicality of Christ’s presence in our hearts, bodies, and spirits.

What strikes your heart most this time of year? How can these things be used to share and celebrate the  coming of Christ into our world? 

Perhaps it is through an image of the Nativity or listening to holiday music where you see Christ most clearly. If you’re in need of inspiration, consider a Christmas Day reset by listening to that which helps you contemplate on the mystery of the incarnation. 

If you are able, and if it is currently being offered in your area, consider going to Mass (safely) at your parish, so that you can receive the graces waiting for you in the Eucharist; the Christ-Child Himself. 

While this Christmas may feel more like an extended season of Advent in our collective longing for an end to the pandemic, we know that even amidst this longing and suffering, Christ desires to meet us – and that is certainly something worth celebrating!

Mariah Buzza Author

Mariah Buzza has been a victim of the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church and uses her story to help others find healing through the teachings of the Church. Her writing reflects on why she is still Catholic despite the injustice she and others have suffered at the hands of priests and volunteers. She is employed by the Christ Medicus Foundation and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 with a Bachelor of Art degree in Political Science. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Divine Mercy University and resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her family.

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