US Catholic Faith in Real Life

10 simple ways to keep faith and family central this Christmas

Help children find the holy in all parts of the holiday season.

By Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck |
Article Lifestyle

It is hard for a baby in a manger to compete with eight reindeer and Santa holding a huge pack of gifts. The anticipatory pause of Advent—quiet and dark blue—has a difficult time holding a candle to the glitter and colorful lights of a city’s exuberant holiday decorations. But what if we don’t need to compete? What if we can help our children find the holy in all parts of the holiday season?

For immigrants escaping crisis, holiday travel is a necessity

Like Mary and Joseph, Central American migrants need a safe place to stay in an unfamiliar city.

By Joseph Sorrentino |
Article Justice

The Christmas story is one of forced travel, of uncertainty, of a search for a safe place to stay in an unfamiliar city.

For Joseph and Mary that safe place was a manger in Bethlehem after learning there was no room for them anywhere else. For many Central Americans that place is La 72, a shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico.

An unlikely antidote for a male-centered world? Hallmark movies.

Romances validate what women bring to the table.

By Pamela Hill Nettleton |
Article Culture

Often, the acting is awkward, the plots shopworn, the wardrobes odd, and the holiday decorations tacky. The scripts are hardly witty and what passes for humor amuses only the characters on the screen. And for some reason everyone’s hair always looks a little goofy.

The stories are so formulaic that apps have been built to generate fake Hallmark plots if you just plug in a few nouns. 

What do the Magi bring to the Christmas story?

From the archives: It's not what we know about the Wise Men that makes them so intriguing. It’s who they become in our imaginations.

By John Shea |
Article Your Faith

In the mid-1960s a Roman Catholic cardinal and a priest who was a scripture scholar found themselves seated at the same table at a dinner party. The cardinal immediately put forth his grievance. “You know, Father, there are some scripture scholars these days who are saying we don’t know how many Magi there were.”

“I’m not one of them,” replied the scholar.

“I’m glad to hear that . . .” The cardinal did not have a chance to finish,

“There were six.” The scholar opened the palm of his hand and shrugged his shoulders in a “what can I tell you” gesture.

A nativity collection shows how different cultures imagine Christmas

Claretian Father Richard Todd’s nativity collection invites us to see the God who is with us, among us, and for us.

By Jerry Bleem, O.F.M. |
Article Culture

The first biography of St. Francis of Assisi, written by fellow friar Thomas of Celano, recounts an event in the Italian town of Greccio in 1223 that continues to influence the material culture of our Christmas festivities. According to Thomas, Francis wished to “enact the memory of that babe who was born in Bethlehem: to see as much as possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he rested on hay.” Francis described his idea to a friend, a nobleman named John.

Was Jesus born on Christmas?

It’s not a trick question.

By Alice Camille |
Article Your Faith

It sounds like a trick question akin to “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” Of course Jesus’ birth is Christmas Day. But did the Incarnate Word arrive on December 25? I’d say there’s a 1-in-365 chance. 

Embrace the holy mess of Christmas

Families aren’t perfect—but neither is Christmas.

By Emily Sanna |
Article Lifestyle Your Faith

My father hates Christmas. We have a picture of him lying on my parents’ couch, wrapped up in a blanket, wearing both a Santa hat and a look of utter mournfulness.

For most of my childhood and young adulthood, this was something to tease him about. How could you hate Christmas? What part of gift giving and receiving, good food, and family is not to like? How could anyone not like the music, the celebration, the candles, and the hushed holiness of the Midnight Mass?

Last year, though, I started to understand where my dad was coming from.

Sleep in heavenly peace? Jesus was born in anything but.

Christmas happens in the here and now, among those for whom there is no room at the inn.

By Sister Rhonda Miska |
Article Your Faith

“Do you think Christmas really happened that way?” I asked my friend Brian one cold winter evening at the Catholic Worker farm as we gathered wood for a Christmas Eve bonfire. 

A baby is coming to shake up our world

Baby Jesus isn’t just a cuddly cute bundle of life.

By Alice Camille |
Article Your Faith

Advent is a wonderful season because it’s all about waiting for a baby. Who doesn’t love babies? Religion is sweet when it concerns a tiny bundle of life we can hold in our arms and upon whom the very hope of the world depends. More people would sign up for church membership if it were all as lovely and cuddly and charming as this.

But be forewarned: The baby is a thief.

Advent: How to make the waiting worth it

From the archives: Take time this year to observe Advent among the worry, hurry, and frantic activity of the holidays.

By Alicia Marland |
Article Lifestyle

In the middle of June, on a bright, hot, green, snow-is-the-furthest-thing-from-my-mind day, my middle daughter looked across the breakfast table and asked, “Mommy, when is it going to be Advent?”

She was quite serious; Easter and Pentecost seemed a long time away. Surely it was about time Advent rolled around again. Or at least so she hoped. She was, to say the least, disappointed when I explained she had an entire summer and fall to wait before Advent peered over the horizon.