I hope your tree is still up! The Christmas season runs through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (January 12). It was always so depressing to me to see peoples’ trees on their lawns on December 26, with tinsel billowing from the dried branches in the frosty air, waiting to be picked up and taken away. This year, I hosted my family at the rectory for Christmas. For the last month, my sisters have been on me: “You better have a tree up!” As I sit here typing this letter (Dec. 17), I still do not have a tree up. While I am all for a tree, given the busyness of the last six months, it will likely suffice that the tree needs to happen next year, once I am even better situated and can plan ahead.
In recent years, it really fell to me to assist with the Christmas tree at home. At Christmastime, as a seminarian, I enjoyed a rather long break at home, and found myself helping my mom with much of the decorating. “No one does it quite like you,” would be the Catholic guilt laid upon me. Giving shape to the tree and the arrangement of the lights quickly became my responsibility. I believe our tree is twenty years old this year. I suppose a story for another time is how we went from a “live-tree family” to an artificial one (or permanent tree, as I see it advertised more and more as of late). “Even Santa won’t know the difference,” I remember was printed on the box. Whether your family is for real or artificial, white lights or colored, there remains something beautiful and almost sacred, about this annual affair of putting up the tree, never without its price of time, energy, (aggravation), and expense.
Though Christmas trees play no part in scripture and have only in the last few hundred years become a Christian Christmas tradition, the evergreen reminds us that God’s love is constant or “ever green” through all the seasons of our lives. The lights on our trees both welcome and reflect the one who comes as Light of the World. Treetop stars recall the guiding light of the star of Bethlehem. Our tree ornaments – precious symbols of fond memories and relationships – wordlessly chronicle our own family histories.
It is fitting then, that our homes are adorned with beautiful trees during the holidays, for they are sacred signs of God’s life-giving presence among us. Indeed, the Christmas tree encapsulates the central truths of our salvation like few other symbols. We see in it the Tree of Life, first offered to Adam and Eve; the Branch of Jesse, promising the Messiah; the tree from which Jesus’ cross was shaped, pointing to salvation; and Jesus, the Light of the World, bringing light even now into the darkness of our world.
To reinforce the sacred character of our household Christmas tree, putting it up and taking it down should become a yearly cherished ritual rather than just a task to check off our holiday “to-do list.” I will be the first to admit: while I never mind putting it up, I loathe taking it down! (Ask Fr. Tom at St. Brendan when I finally got around to that – let’s just say, Lent was nearly over). We should savor the fragrance of live trees and lovingly shape the artificial ones. We should ponder and share the memories connected with our favorite ornaments and gaze peacefully at the lights of this “tree of life” on quiet December and January nights.
Throughout the remainder of this Christmas season, and in the New Year of 2020, may the fortune of good health and the rich gift of family and friends be yours. May forgiveness and reconciliation be received and extended, too, that you might be crowned with an increased awareness of the Father’s abundant love.
Your brother in Christ,
Excerpts on the Blessings of the Christmas Tree was written and edited by Steve Mueller, All Saints Press © 2019
SOCIAL JUSTICE/ST. AUGUSTINE – There will be NO meal served at St. Augustine in December.
BLOOD DRIVE – Our blood drive is this weekend. Walk-ins are welcome. You can still schedule your appointment online at redcross.org.
FAMILY FAITH FORMATION RESOURCES – Copies of the January 2020 Take Out Magazine and Celebrating Sunday are available (one per family) in the kiosk and on the table in the narthex.
SOCIAL JUSTICE COLLECTION – Next weekend, ushers will be in the Narthex to accept your donations to the Social Justice Fund.
SOCIAL JUSTICE FUND – For November 2019, we collected $371.59. Our expenses for November were:
|Meal at St. Augustine (Sept.-Nov.)||848.02|
Thank you for your support.
FOOD PANTRY NEEDS – With only one distribution left in 2019, the pantry has served 1629 people with the equivalent of 14,842 meals. We are no longer accepting egg cartons. Thanks to all who support the pantry!! Our good work could not happen without you!
SOCIAL JUSTICE FUND 2019 – The Social Justice Fund supports a number of ministries including the Food Pantry, AERC, Buy Once, Give Twice Fair-Trade Sale, CEPROSI, St. Augustine Meal, and the Neighbor to Neighbor Meal (in partnership with the Endowment Fund). In addition, the Social Justice Fund provides financial assistance for families in need within our Willoughby Hills community, in the wider community through the Lake County Community Network and other Catholic parishes, as well as nationally and internationally through Catholic Charities, USA and Catholic Relief Services. This year, the Social Justice Fund has contributed $31,068.99 to assist our brothers & sisters in need. Thank you for your support of the Social Justice Fund!
WELLNESS RUN SUPPORTS THE PANTRY – Classic Lexus, the Cleveland Clinic, and the City of Willoughby Hills sponsored the 6th annual “Wellness Run/Walk” in October 2019. This past week, Matt Dietz, General Manager at Classic Lexus, presented the food pantry with a check for $3458.27 (see the website for pics). We are deeply grateful for the continued support we receive from the community. If you’re at Classic Lexus, please say thanks to Matt!
JAIL MINISTERS NEEDED – St. Noel is part of a 5-parish team that leads Sunday night communion services in the Lake County jail. We are in need of additional ministers for 2020. We always serve in pairs and training is provided. Please consider God’s call to this important ministry and contact Anthony if interested (440-946-1128).
MARY’S HANDS PRAYER SHAWL MINISTRY – now has a sufficient number of Prayer Shawls (blankets and mini-prayer squares too) for anyone in your life who is in need of spiritual healing of mind, body, or spirit. There is no cost for these items. You can obtain a Prayer Shawl, blanket, or prayer-square from the parish office during office hours. Simply fill out a request form, select your item, and the prayer team will continue to pray for the recipient at each of their gatherings. Prayer Shawls are a beautiful way to surround those in need with God’s healing love and the loving presence of our parish community. We thank the anonymous donor for “Our Lady of Fatima” relic medals. The medals are attached to the mini-pocket prayer squares. Upcoming meeting dates are Tuesday, Jan. 7th from 11a.m.-12:30 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 25th from 9:30-11:00 a.m. in the Resurrection Room. Donations are always appreciated. For more information, please contact Joyce Puin 440-473-1238, Nikki Rini 440-823-0413, or Candice Minello 440-336-0991.
HOSPITALITY COMMITTEE – needs volunteers to serve coffee and doughnuts on Saturday at the 5:00 p.m. Mass. The commitment is for once a month beginning in January 2020. Anyone interested in helping, please call Betty Louis (440) 942-4009 or the St. Noel Office at (440) 946-0887.
PARISH SPAGHETTI DINNER/TALENT SHOW – The parish spaghetti dinner is scheduled for January 26th This means another year of first-rate entertainment at the talent show. Any parishioner, including adults, are invited to perform. We’ve had musicians, poets, comics, gymnasts, dancers, singers, cup stackers, checkers masters, and more. Please sign up on the kiosk to register your act!
THEOLOGY ON THE ROCKS – Join us on Monday, January 13th at 7:00 p.m., 1414 Riverside Dr., Lakewood, for our speaker, Fr. John Manning, who will discuss the History of the Diocese. Fr. Manning is a judge in the Tribunal office, a delegate for retired priests, and is part of the faculty at Saint Mary’s Seminary where he is the Associate Professor on Church History. Register in advance – $12 per person www.theologyontherocks.wixsite.com/west
SEEKERS RETREAT – The 2020 Seekers’ Retreat for Young Adults is scheduled for January 31-February 2 at the Bethany Retreat Center in Chardon. See the flyer on the kiosk or contact Sr. Kate Hine ([email protected]) for details. This beautiful retreat would be a wonderful gift to yourself or the young adult in your life.
CLEVELAND RETROUVAILLE WEEKEND is scheduled for January 24-26, 2020. This is a Lifeline for Troubled Marriages. Has your marriage become unloving or uncaring – your relationship cold, distant – thinking about a separation or divorce? Are you already separated/divorced but both of you want to try again? Then the Retrouvaille program may help.
RETROUVAILLE, which means rediscovery, is supported by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, but it is open to couples of all faiths. This program consists of a weekend experience for couples and six follow up sessions. A registration fee of $150 is required to confirm your reservation. For more information concerning the program, or to register, please call Marce or Liz Gliha at 440-357-6580 or 1-800-470-2230, or go online to www.helpourmarriage.org.