Dear members and friends of the Sodality of Charity,
We had our traditional Gaudete Sunday St. Lucia procession on December 11. This time we had 15 Lucia girls in the procession. In 2020, the year the Sodality was started, the number of Lucia girls was 7, and in 2021 it was 12. Four of our Sodality girls have taken part in all three processions. Thank you very much to the participants, the Sisters who helped in arranging the event, as well as to some of the mothers of the girls for their help in preparing and purchasing the dresses. It’s the events like this which show to the parishioners, and to all Traditional Catholics, that the light of faith is still burning.
St. Lucia processions have been very popular in Sweden and Finland. But in recent years these have celebrated with much more light than faith. In Sweden the St. Lucia processions are more and more stripped from all religious elements. Many parents, usually those who are Muslims or atheist, do not want their children to participate in this tradition, because St. Lucia is associated with Christmas. So more and more, elves and gingerbread men have replaced the Lucia girls, Christmas songs are abolished, and the themes of the feast are light and hope, rather than Christian faith, for which St. Lucia suffered martyrdom. Besides faith, also the Swedish language and culture are disappearing, because every fourth resident in Sweden has a foreign background and every third has at least one parent born abroad. We might not see Lucia processions there for that long, at least not those celebrating the heroic martyrdom of St. Lucia.
The day previous, on Saturday, December 10, we had the long anticipated White Elephant Gift Exchange. The gifts of the older girls were laid under the blue Advent tree, and the gifts of the younger girls under the white Advent tree. This is a nice way to present a friend a gift, and one purpose of the Sodality is to offer the girls of our parish a way to stay in contact with their friends.
I looked some statistics how the Americans appreciate the presents they receive. Funny enough, 23% of people labeled their own friends as a source of unwanted gifts. In-laws took the second spot on the list with 14%, and parents come third with 7%.
There’s much talk about the commercialization of Christmas, but I don’t want to judge it too harshly. It seems that those who themselves lack material goods, are ready to make the biggest sacrifices. How much an average American spends on Christmas depends mostly on the region he lives in. And surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the median domestic income. Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana top the list with average spending of over $1,000, despite having some of the lowest average incomes. The “scrooges” live in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. They are stuck at the very bottom of the list, spending an average amount of $700.
What is more worrying is that 45% of Americans say that they are willing to go into debt to make themselves happy. Also, 41% will do it to make their kids and spouse happy, while 44% will go into debt to make another friend or family member happy. Over half of them (60%) claim they would add their new holiday debt to the debt they already have, which could potentially lead to bankruptcy. That should serve as a lesson for us during Advent, that it is only that sweet Baby of Bethlehem Who can truly make us happy in this world, and especially in the next.
On our website you can see photos from our December meeting gift exchange. One of our members also recorded the girls’ procession in and out of the church. You can watch that video online and see photos of this event on our website. I also made a short video which commemorates the big events of our Sodality in 2022.
Christmas is here very soon. What present we can give to Baby Jesus? Bible gives us the answer: “My son, give me thy heart.” (Proverbs 23:26) The reason He was born was that the schemes of the devil would be made vain, sin would be defeated, and the gates of Heaven would be opened. I’ve tried in my Sodality apostolate to tell the young Traditionalists, that as horrible thing that sin is, and we should of course oppose it with zeal, God’s love and charity are always much, much greater. St. Peter, who exhorted his hearers to be strong in resisting the evil things of the world, also wrote these beautiful words: “But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves: for charity covereth a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) We are meant to live our lives here on this earth loving God, obeying His commandments, and doing acts of charity to our neighbor, so that when we die, we can go to Heaven right away to be with Jesus and Mary.
I want to close this year by reminding everyone, especially our younger readers, that it is perfectly possible to live through one’s whole life without ever committing a mortal sin. It’s hard, but that’s why prayer and the Sacraments of the Church are there, to help and strengthen us to remain faithful. Our Lord tells us: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) He would never have given this command to us, had He not also given us the means to its fulfillment, especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. And prayer and acts of charity are the means we do penance from our sins so that we need not fear even the punishment in Purgatory.
Even if someone has committed many sins, a contrite heart and good confession are able to remove not just the judgment, but the punishment, too. The famous Dominican preacher St. Vincent Ferrer was well-known for his fire and brimstone sermons, warning people that their sins are taking them to hell. Once a man who had stayed away from Church and the Sacraments for years, was moved by one of his sermons to repent. He went to make his confession to St. Vincent, confessed many mortal sins, and knowing the priest’s reputation, expected a very harsh penance. But to his astonishment, St. Vincent merely said: “All right, for your penance, fast every Friday for one year.” In those times of late Middle Ages, it was not considered a very heavy penance. “But Father,” the man objected, “didn’t you hear how many and great sins I’ve done? You can’t possibly assign me such a light penance.”
“In that case,” St. Vincent replied, “I’ll make it even lighter. Instead, for your penance, recite the seven penitential Psalms.” When the man still tried to raise objections, the Saint kindly reproached him: “You my son need to start to trust to the great mercy and clemency of Our Lord.” And then he pronounced the final sentence: “Your penance shall be one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory be.” And on that very same night, the man died, and St. Vincent saw him being taken straight to Heaven, without even going to Purgatory. His true and perfect contrition was all it took to defeat sin and punishment, and like the good thief, he got to hear the words of Jesus: “Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) If we can with our little acts of charity show to people, how love of God has defeated sin, then the apostolate of our Sodality has done some good.
I said the monthly Mass for our Sodalists on December 1, and an extra Mass in thanksgiving to St. Joseph for protecting our Sodality and its members in 2022 on Ember Saturday, December 17. Have a blessed and merry Christmas, and if you please, say a little extra prayer to St. Joseph in thanksgiving of this year.
Yours in Christ and Mary,