Friday, December 21, 2007

Ohio parish celebrates 'Blue Christmas.'

Today's issue of National Catholic Reporter has a brief piece on a worthwhile pastoral initiative being offered by a parish in Ohio:
For many people, Christmastime is a festive, frenzied blur of shopping, baking and merrymaking. But for just as many others, the holiday season can be a lonely, empty time, a time when loss, grief and loneliness come into sharp relief.

To help those who struggle during the Christmas season, one parish has designated a special liturgy that the lonely and the grieving can call their own.

Though it shares a name with an Elvis Presley song, the "Blue Christmas" Mass at the St. Thomas More Newman Center in Columbus has nothing to do with the King. It does, however, have everything to do with welcoming and offering healing to those who feel blue during the holiday season.

"It's a Christmas Eve Mass we do that is really for people who have a hard time with the holidays," said Paulist Fr. Larry Rice, director of the Newman Center at Ohio State University.

. . .

For the most part, "Blue Christmas" is indistinguishable from a traditional Christmas Eve Mass, but Rice said he has made some important adjustments to establish a different tone.

"There's a very clear and explicit welcome at the start that acknowledges there are people who struggle with the holidays," he said. "It's very low-key. We invite people to bring whatever they are struggling with."

Rather than including hymns that are joyful and triumphant and meant to be sung with full heart and voice, musicians select a repertoire that's quiet, reflective and primarily instrumental.

"Creating a peaceful atmosphere for folks is really important," Rice said.

The evening's preaching takes on a different tone as well, he said, "The homily is directed more toward the core, theological meaning of the Incarnation, of God joining us in all of our struggles and our pain."
I hope that other parishes have undertaken similar initiatives. Anywhere you go, you're likely to encounter people who struggle with Christmas on account of personal losses or difficulties, and the Church should reach out to them in a sensitive and supportive manner. Apparently the "Blue Christmas" Mass in Columbus has been working, as this will be its third year. I hope they keep it up.

I will not be having a Blue Christmas - hopefully I'll be having a White Christmas, though I have not seen the weather reports for Southern New England. I'll be going home tomorrow to spend the holiday with my family; I'm sure I'll be blogging from there, but until then I wish the very best to all my readers in these last few days of Advent. AMDG.


At 12/23/2007 11:44 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

This is an outstanding idea. I'd like to explore its possibilities in our parish. I think it's such a vital liturgical service to people who are grieving in particular, whether it be the loss of a loved one or a job or other life changing experience. Thank you for sharing this, Joe, and "Merry Christmas!" complete with a soft New England snowfall!


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