How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart? Psalm 13:3
Maybe you never thought of it, but a priest’s phone seldom rings with these words, “Father, I just had to call and let you know how wonderful my life is going today!”
No, more often than not, the person on the other end calls to deliver bad news — an elderly parishioner is dying at the hospital, a teenager has just been killed in a terrible automobile accident, a young mother has just lost her first baby, a son has just committed suicide.
It is not uncommon for a priest to preside at a wedding one hour and a funeral the next. He might drop in on a birthday party in the afternoon and anoint someone at a nursing facility on the way home. It is a sacred honor to be invited into people’s lives to share their joy and their grief.
Because of this, I am acutely aware that the holidays can be difficult for many people. For that reason, I will be celebrating another “Blue Christmas” Mass this year. I started this tradition three years ago because I saw a need.
Each year, as guests arrive, they tend to tell me why they have come:
“My husband died on Christmas Eve two years ago and I just can’t bear going to my parish with all the joyful music and happy families where we used to go together.”
“My wife died a few weeks back and I just cannot bear the thought of being in church where everybody is celebrating!”
“My daughter was killed in a car wreck on New Year’s Eve 10 years ago and Christmas is so painful for me because it was her favorite holiday.”
We have a low-key celebration with soothing Christmas carols and a message directed toward those who are grieving. We do not wallow in sorrow, but we also do not pretend to be
joy-filled. It is a time to sit with God, sit with grief, sit with fellow grievers and pray for those they miss intensely.
Here are two of my favorite quotes about grief:
“Tears have a wisdom of their own. They are the natural bleeding of an emotional wound, carrying the poison out of the system. Here lies the road to recovery.” (F. Alexander Magoun)
“All I know from my experience is that the more loss we feel, the more grateful we should be for whatever it was we had to lose. It means that we had something worth grieving for.
The ones I’m feeling sorry for are the ones that go through life without knowing what grief is.” (Frank O’Connor)
The “Blue Christmas” Mass at Our Lady of the Woods Chapel at Bellarmine University will take place at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Please remember this Mass is for the grieving. All others who want to come for a regular Christmas Eve Mass are invited to the one which follows at 6 p.m.
Father J. Ronald Knott