At the beginning of the Four weeks before Christmas, a season we know as the Advent, there is a nice sense of inner peace. I don't have any immediate family anymore, so I'm spared the frenetic store-hopping looking for presents. That's not to say that I do not remember many happy and a few not so happy years when I still had 'lots of family' or one big family (as in religious life, for example).
In the present, still living alone, as a "senior citizen" I often feel the loneliness of life, probably a result of also being very forgetful. "Senior Moments" are no longer sometime occurrences, they are all too frequent, and I am told they could become a way of life. There comes a time when one forgets what one said 10 minutes ago. Or even five. My life has become too sedentary, and so I still try to volunteer here and there, but one also pays more attention to the spiritual life.
I was always an impatient kid. You know kids like that. Every five minutes they've got to ask "Is it time yet?" Time to go buy an ice-cream cone, or, time to take out the dog, or whatever relives the kid's interest for another five minutes. And some parents are close to a nervous breakdown listening to their kids, I hope not mine. They are gone many years now, but I still think of them now and again. They had only one child: me! They wanted more kids, I remember hearing, but the timing of the beginning of World War II and the upsetting years that followed precluded further growth in the family. Maybe that was just as well. It was a lousy time to be alive. From 1942-1944, we lived in Nijmegen (Netherlands) in a large three-story building with a store underneath, mostly in the cellar those days, because of artillery shells being fired over our heads on the street above. All this is found in my biography: https://www.newlife-dmf-ofs.org/
There were shortages of food, not only because of the war situation but also because my mother was from Jewish origin although married as a Catholic. She was denied food for herself and for those she lived with. Why does all this come in my mind during these peaceful weeks before Christmas? Well, because I recently read a few books, one fiction, the other real, about a family's life, such as it was, in a German concentration camp. That sort of books aren't good for me to read as it brings back too many memories better forgotten. But I read them anyway. I read a lot, some very good stuff and some well-written junk. And some stories that are just sad because I must ask myself why it is that people still hate each other so. If they loved their brothers and sisters, how could they perpetrate the sins of a Holocaust on one another? Throughout the history of the existence of people, one has attempted to slay the other. It began thousands of years before the birth of Christ, and it is still going on. Jesus Christ was a victim of hatred, blind hatred for He never hurt anyone! The Jewish people and many others with them who suffered the attrocities of death camps were all innocent people. What could they have done to deserve such a fate? Some of my family on my mother's side, were murdered during that time.
But it didn't stop there. Man's hate is very present in some places in the world, and if we listen to the news we find out where. Those thoughts bring us back to Christmas, strangely enough, because Jesus Christ as a baby and as a young man traversed the lands of the Middle East where fighting never seems to stop. Why could people hate so much as to destroy their neighbor? It is senseless. War has never solved anything. It has torn families asunder, made hundreds upon thousands homeless, living in abject poverty. And you know the rest of the story.
Friends tell me that time is over. I should forget those evil times. But I cannot as I lived through it, and there are daily reminders of evil all around the world. There is also a lot of good in the world. There are people who have consideration for others. Some of the veterans I meet often have shown they are still suffering but they are some very good people. People I meet in Church are very good people. There are many who don't go to a church and they are good people too.
The weeks before Christmas could be beautiful and peaceful weeks. For many people they are just that. People who understand their obligations toward others, fueled by a deep and abiding love for God. With His Grace and Love, peace is possible. During these four weeks as we remember His Birth so many years ago in Bethlehem, let us with renewed courage and faith bring peace to our families, friends and loved ones. Then on Christmas Eve or Day, let us thank the Lord for all that He has given us! He has given us the means to be with Him eternally. Use the Grace He has given us, wisely.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
(orig. title "Two Weeks before Christmas")
A Gift of a New
by Fred Schaeffer, OFS 2019
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Five Franciscan Martyrs