Editorial – Silent Night, a Prayer of Thanksgiving

Marnie McAllister

In 1966 Simon and Garfunkle released a song that set an audio track of the 7 o’clock news to the beloved hymn Silent Night.

The result of Silent Night/7 O’Clock News is a juxtaposition in sound and theme. The newsreader’s urgent staccato reports on the Civil Rights movement for open housing, the murder of nurses in Chicago, a drug overdose and the Vietnam War. 

The news report alternately clashes and blends with the harmony and lyrics of Silent Night. The peace and tenderness of Christ’s birth and the reality of the human condition, laid bare in news format, rings in the listener’s ear.

The song, available online with a quick Google search, is a prayer and it is beautiful.

It communicates something true about us and the world — that we can at once pray for peace and eternal life and grapple with our earthly condition.

But because it’s Christmas, and Christmas should be a time for celebration, here’s another setting for Silent Night. This one is a prayer of thanksgiving and notes some of the good that has emerged amid the bad in 2017.

Silent night, holy night…

While refugees and immigrants have been the target of discrimination and executive action, Catholic Charities of Louisville and agencies around the country have partnered with Catholics and other volunteers to offer assistance and welcome. We give thanks for those who are welcoming and pray leaders recognize the dignity of these brothers and sisters.

All is calm, all is bright…

Hurricanes, earthquakes and now fires have ravaged different parts of the world around us. But people have contributed abundantly to relief efforts. The Archdiocese of Louisville contributed nearly $400,000 to recovery efforts related to Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma and the earthquakes in Mexico. We give thanks for this generous response and pray these gifts lift up people affected by the disasters.

Round yon virgin mother
and child

Thousands of women courageously shared their stories of sexual harassment and abuse by men in powerful positions, shedding light on a culture that has kept women vulnerable and afraid for generations. We give thanks for their courage and pray their bravery will clear the way for the next generation of women.

Holy infant so tender and mild…

In Iceland, it was reported, nearly 100 percent of mothers screened for Down syndrome during pregnancy choose abortion. Reaction to this report led families and people with Down syndrome to share the joy of their lives publicly. We give thanks for their witness and pray that these special children will be allowed to live the lives they were created to live.

Sleep in heavenly peace…

Racism has flared in the United States in large and small ways. From white supremacist rallies to everyday bigotry that still festers in our culture, we are not free from this scourge. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken a stand on the issue and formed a permanent committee to address it. The issue is also part of the national conversation again. We give thanks for renewed awareness and pray that this attack on human dignity dissolves into a deep love of neighbor.

Sleep in heavenly peace…

For those of us who have lost loved ones this year, the holidays may be especially difficult. Catholic Cemeteries here in the Archdiocese of Louisville has helped hundreds of people connect the holiday season to their departed loved ones by providing free personalized ornaments and a Christmas tree at Calvary Cemetery. Since the creation of this Tree of Remembrance in 2015, hanging ornaments in honor of loved ones has become a tradition for many families. We give thanks for this tradition and pray that all who lost a loved one find peace during this holy season.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and peace in the new year.



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