Merry Christmas from Fatherhood Etc.

Evergreen branch with red berries covered in snow. (@2007 by Julia Ozab)

Photo: Julia Ozab (© 2007)

The Proclamation of Christmas from the Roman Martyrology (traditionally chanted before the Gloria at Mass on Christmas Day):

Today, the twenty-fifth day of December:

Unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth, and then formed man and woman in his own image.

Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.

Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah;

Thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges;

One thousand years from the anointing of David as king;

In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.

In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.

The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace,

Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.

Today is the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Amen.

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Today is also the last day of the Online Advent Calendar. I hope you enjoyed it:

December 25

 Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.

Decorating Day

Anna with reindeer hat and Christmas tree

Photo: Julia Ozab

The First Sunday of Advent in our house doubles as “Decorating Day.” This is a compromise between the prevailing culture and my own tendency to procrastinate.

You see, I’d like to attribute my reluctance to put up decorations early to my insistence to celebrate Christmas at Christmas and not four to six weeks earlier. I’d like to say it was a long-standing tradition in my family to respect the liturgical calendar and let Advent be Advent.

I’d like to say that, but I’d be lying. My upbringing was marginal Episcopalian (emphasis on marginal) and the decorations usually went up the Sunday before Christmas because my mom was as great a procrastinator as I am: and my dad didn’t care either way.

The decorations did stay up through the Twelve Days of Christmas. As lackadaisical as my mom was about getting the decorations up, she was equally insistent that they came down by Twelfth Night (January 5th). Leaving them up on Epiphany was unlucky.

Leaving the tree standing wasn’t unlucky, as long as the ornaments were down, so the tree was often up until March.

I continued this tradition when I moved out on my own. I had a little tree that I set on my end table and some ornaments and decorations from my childhood, and on the Sunday before Christmas (at the earliest) I would put them out. Once I started going to church regularly I claimed I was following the Liturgical calendar and resisting the encroaching commercialization of the season. My church decorated on Sunday afternoon—after the last Advent Eucharist—and so did I.

But really, I was just procrastinating as always.

Once Julia and I were married, we needed to find a compromise. She, like most organized people, put up her decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving. I, like most procrastinators, put mine up at the last minute (yes sometimes even as late as the 24th). Our original compromise: the Third Sunday of Advent—Gaudete Sunday—in keeping with the theme of the day: Rejoice!

We did this for a few years, but then I began to wonder: were we waiting too long? After all, Advent and Christmas are a set. Liturgically, they form what’s called the Nativity Cycle—Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany—one of the two major liturgical cycles of the year. The Paschal Cycle—Lent, Easter, and Pentecost—is the other. Each is a coherent whole, breaking into usual counting of weeks that the church calls Ordinary Time, each both should be observed as a whole: preparation followed by celebration. And decorating for Christmas is a way of preparing for Christmas.

So now we decorate at the beginning of Advent: The First Sunday of Advent to be exact: our Decorating Day.

The only caveat: Baby Jesus doesn’t arrive in the nativity until Christmas Day.

And the countdown to Christmas continues. Today’s selection is in honor of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, and a reminder to prepare our homes and our hearts for Jesus’ arrival:

December 3

Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.

Five Minutes, Five Thank Yous

It is said that the the simplest and most appropriate prayer is two simple words: “Thank you.” These are my five “thank yous” to God for today:

Julia on our honeymoon

Photo: David Ozab

1) For a wife that knows what I’m going to say before I say it and sometimes what I’m going to think before I think it. For a connection that goes beyond words; a connection between two souls.

Thank you.

Firefighter Anna!

Photo: Julia Ozab

2) For a daughter whose imagination never fails to delight me. I could listen to her play for hours with all the little voices she makes, and could watch her make faces in the mirror for hours too.

Thank you.

Photo: Ben Franske (CC BY-SA 3.0)

3) For a roof over my head and a refrigerator full of food. So many people don’t even have that much, and despite the rough stretch we’ve endured over the last few years we’re still doing ok.

Thank you.

Line outside Toys R Us on Thursday night

Photo: KEZI 9 News

4) For online shopping, so that Julia could get a start on Anna’s Christmas list in the comfort of our home last night while others waited for hours online. Just think: if the people who stood out in the cold all afternoon waiting for the doors to open at 8 p.m. had stayed home too, maybe the people who had to work last night could have had a Thanksgiving evening with their families instead. That would be something everyone could be thankful for.

Thank you.

RG3 fist-bumps with a kid

Photo: Getty Images

5) For the Redskins and Robert Griffin III, who finally gave me something to cheer about by beating the Dallas Cowboys 38-31. You don’t know how many Thanksgivings the Cowboys have ruined for me over the years. This was one I could truly enjoy.

Thank you.

Five Minute Friday

Happy Thanksgiving!

Home To Thanksgiving

George Henry Durrie: Home To Thanksgiving (Currier and Ives, 1867)

A feast of Thanksgiving links from some of my favorite writers (and one from me too):

Melissa Hart: Thankful for Little Things (Horizon Air Magazine, Nov., 2012)

Jonathan and our Kindergartener, Maia, dropped me off about half a mile from the Skinner Butte Park community center where race registration was taking place, promising to meet me at the finish line. I walked past Spandex-clad runners doing warm-up sprints and tried not to yearn for speed. Ospreys wheeled over the Willamette River, hunting for fish. In previous years, I would have been so focused on the race, I wouldn’t have noticed them . . . or the woman ahead of me struggling to carry two 10-pound frozen turkeys.

“Need some help?”

She stopped, panting. “Don’t you want to get to the race?”

The I uttered something I’d never said in years of running timed events. “I’m not in a hurry.” She handed me a turkey.

Rachel Held Evans: My “Biblical” Thanksgiving (from A Year of Biblical Womanhood)

I suppose it’s not a good sign when your copy of Good Housekeeping is stuck to the bathroom floor, covered in hair, toenail clippings, and dust bunnies, but by mid November I’d gotten so good at  cooking I figured God and Martha (Stewart) would cut me some slack on  the cleaning front.

Anne Lamott: What I’m really thankful for this Thanksgiving (Washington Post, Nov. 21, 2012)

We are going to have a small and motley Thanksgiving this year. Some years the gathering is slightly larger, but it’s still motley. This time there will be only a dozen or so of us.

Three will be very Catholicy Catholics, and a fourth will be a man who is just Catholic-ish. He loves Mary and wears scapulars from the Mission Gift Shop when under extreme stress, but he only goes to church every six weeks or so. When he arrives I’ll say, “Sinnerman!”

Robert Rummel-Hudson: Broken Thanks (posted at Support for Special Needs)

Some of us are in a place of acceptance, and others of us still shake our angry fists at the sky. Some of us embrace neurodiversity, while others fight to bring our kids some measure of the life that their unimpaired peers enjoy without so much as a thought. There are parents who are thankful for every day that their kids are alive, all too aware of how precious those days might be. Others of us are equally thankful for every day that we as their parents can be with them, ever mindful of our own mortality and the burning question, Who will take care of them when we’re gone?

For every disability parent who is thankful that their plane landed in Holland, there’s another of us with a lot of questions about why OUR plane landed in Mogadishu instead, or on Mars.

Alise Wright: Giving Thanks (Alise . . . Write!)

I’m thankful for kids who knock on the bathroom door and tell me a random science fact, who make up hilarious comics starring “Super Snake,” who have compassion, not only for other people, but for the earth and animals in ways that I often don’t, and with whom I can share a cup of coffee and writing woes.

This one is mine, from the last chapter of A Smile for Anna: Thankful for the Blessing (posted at DavidOzab.com)

“I am blessed, and I am thankful for the blessing!” the priest’s words caught my ear just I found myself drifting during the homily.

“I’ll say that again, now that I’ve got your attention.”

A scattering of laughter dashed around the room.  The priest was a big man with a booming voice and he knew when to use it.

“I am blessed,” the priest repeated, “and I am thankful for the blessing. I’d never heard that phrase before I came here nine years ago; the first time I heard it, it really struck me. . . .”

And a video from Father James Martin, S.J. on gratitude (from America Magazine’s YouTube channel):

Happy Thanksgiving! May you all be blessed, and be thankful for the blessing.

Today, Call Me David O’zab

Saint Patrick

Stained glass window from Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, CA. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY 2.0)

A list of ten random thoughts and observations on the Feast of St. Patrick:

1) I have a variant of this conversation every Saint Patrick’s Day:

“So are you Irish?”

“Can’t you tell by my name?

“Your name’s Irish?”

“Of course it is:  O’Reilly, O’Hara. O’Malley, O’zab!”

I get a chuckle every time, but my response is only half-joking. I really am part-Irish. The Fitzgerald part to be exact. I’m Norman Irish, which means I’m distantly descended from Vikings. Maybe it would be cooler to be Celtic, but the Fitzgeralds were traditionally labeled as “more Irish than the Irish themselves.” I can settle for that.

Fitzgerald Arms (Image in Public Domain)

2) I’m not just Irish anymore. Since I joined the Catholic Church last Easter I’m Irish Catholic. Does that mean I have to like Notre Dame? I will admit that they’ve grown on me a bit in the last ten years. I’m not sure if it’s Catholic solidarity, Catholic guilt (the university is named after Our Lady), or that their fans aren’t quite as obnoxious since the football team started stinking, but I just can’t work up the dislike I used to hold for them.

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Resolutions Redux

New Year chases old into history book

Cartoon by John T. McCutcheon, from “The Mysterious Stranger and Other Cartoons by John T. McCutcheon”, New York, McClure, Phillips & Co. 1905. (Public Domain)

Last year, I posted a simplified list of New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Write every day.
  2. Pray every day.
  3. Play with my daughter every day.
  4. Tell my wife I love her every day.

As I said at the time, the essence of this list is to . . .

. . . focus on the important stuff and leave the rest up to God.

I did a so-so job last year. With God’s help, I hope to do better in 2012 and in every year after that.

Blessings to you all and happy New Year.