Monday I was talking with an acquaintance on the West Coast about how our Christmas celebrations, his and mine, had been. The holiday was fun for him, because his seven-year-old niece was still young enough to enjoy its magic. In the course of the conversation, Michael confessed that he hadn’t gone to church that day. “I haven’t been to church since I was about ten or eleven; my parents just stopped going. We observe the tradition: it’s something we’ve always done as a family, and it’s a good time for family to get together. But church just isn’t part of it.”
There was nothing hostile or defensive about Michael’s comments. He wasn’t avoiding religion and he didn’t rail against those of us who pray. It’s just that a relationship with God wasn’t on his toolbar.
It’s so hard to get through to the secular mindset these days, that many of us give up reaching out. Whether in Liturgy or school or family, we’re content to tell each other the story of Jesus, knowing it’ll receive a welcome there.
While it’s essential to remind one another of this Word and grow in our own friendship with God, we, the Church, are sent by this Word of God incarnate to proclaim him to those whose faith seems unresponsive. We need to find ways to reboot it, to click on the relationship with God that’s not absent from people’s toolbar—only hidden.
That’s the reason behind the photos below. I admitted to Michael that at Christmas, nuns go a little over the top spiritually, at least compared with most North Americans. But anyone who even glances in our direction can’t miss the authenticity of it all. It flows strong beneath the surface, so that both at prayer time and party time, it bubbles up clear and fresh. Not perfect, but life-giving, just the same.
Yes, it’s Christmastime in the convent—all 17 days of it this year. Flip through the album, offer a prayer for us, and pass both the album and a prayer on to the Michaels—or Michelles—in your world.