An Old-Fashioned Christmas
with Catholic Social Teaching
What is an Old Fashion Christmas?
There are a lot of Christmas traditions, and for many Americans, the traditions are what make an old-fashioned Christmas.
Family knocking at the door a few days before Christmas? A classic movie like It’s a Wonderful Life? Decorating the tree, volunteering, Christmas shopping, a concert, lights, and singing loudly to Bing Crosby or Mariah Carey.
There are many things that make for an old-fashioned Christmas. But there is one thing the Church makes clear: Christmas celebrates the incarnation of Emmanuel – God with us. And it is no accident that God chose to reveal Himself in and through the family.
Today there are powers, large and small, attempting to redefine the family. But the importance of the “old fashioned” family remains the same.
An ‘Old-Fashioned’ Family
“[M]arriage and the family constitute one of the most precious of human values“. (Pope St. John Paul II, 1)
“Here we mean the family founded on marriage, in which the mutual gift of self by husband and wife creates an environment in which children can be born and develop their potentialities, become aware of their dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 39)
“We remain firmly convinced that the family is a gift of God, the place where he reveals the power of his saving grace.” (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 5)
Christmas doesn’t need presents, but it requires generosity. It doesn’t need music, but it requires joy. It doesn’t need strings of lights, trees, reindeer, or hot cocoa, but is best celebrated in a family.
Family “is the place in which life — the gift of God — can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 39)
The Meaning of Christmas
“In a few days we shall celebrate Christmas, the holy day which is so full of meaning for all children in every family.” (Pope St. John Paul II)
“The family constitutes…a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of its own members and of society.” (Preamble, E., Charter of the Rights of the Family)
This includes learning about the real meaning of Christmas.
And what is Christmas without God and the family – which is the image of God who “in his deepest mystery is not all by himself, but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love”. (Pope St. John Paul II)
Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human Dignity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.
This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image.
Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.
Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)