Embrace the ‘good news of great joy’

Archbishop Aquila

“Do not be afraid … I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11). The angels announced to the stunned shepherds, as they proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promise to the people of Israel.

It’s worth noting that the angels appeared to the shepherds at night, when they would have been on guard against the dangers of predators looking for their sheep. Likewise, when the magi arrived to pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews, they first encountered Herod, who later massacred the children of Bethlehem out of fear that a challenger to his throne had been born. Eventually, the threat of Herod’s wrath drove Mary and Joseph into hiding in Egypt, only to return to Nazareth when Herod had died.

With the passing of the centuries, it can be easy to recast Christmas as a time of utter peace and tranquility and forget the turmoil into which Jesus was born. In a way, this is comforting as we reflect on the state of the world and the Church today. Certainly, there is great uncertainty and moral poverty in many places. And yet, Christ’s birth is even more joyous because of the dark surroundings.

This past year has been both blessed and challenging for the Church.

We had the privilege of celebrating the 25th anniversary of World Youth Day in Denver on August 11th and the beginning of the More Than You Realize discipleship initiative. The archdiocese also closed the local phase of the Cause for the Canonization of Julia Greeley, completed the construction of the Prophet Elijah House for retired priests and opened the Annunciation Heights youth and family camp.

On the other hand, the Church and the archdiocese have been dealing with the Archbishop McCarrick scandal and the fact that some bishops covered up the sexual abuse of minors. At the same time, the broader culture has also become increasingly hostile to faith, while becoming more accepting of beliefs and activities that are contrary to our faith. This can be seen in the aggressive advancement of gender ideology, the abandonment of the common good in favor of a more tribal and divided society, and the willingness of many to cast aside the unborn, the immigrant, or the elderly.

It is this world — one that is both broken and dark yet filled with the potential for great good — that needs to hear the proclamation of the angels at Christmas: “Do not be afraid … I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.”

We all need saving, which is clear from the fallen state of us all. It is truly good news that Jesus was born and continues to come to us in each Eucharist and the other sacraments. His sacrificial outpouring of love for us should cause us to boldly trust in his love and provision for us as we seek to build up the kingdom in our life.

Let us make our own the words of Pope St. Leo the Great as he preached about Christmas. “Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all.”

May you and your family’s celebration of Christ’s birth be one that fills you with hope, joy and peace, so that the world can experience through your works of mercy and love the good news of salvation in him. In the midst of the darkness around us, may we the bring the light and joy of the Gospel to each person we encounter!

Celebrate Life March

As we look forward to the new year, I invite you to join me in celebrating the gift of life and salvation through your prayer and lived example.

One specific way you can do this is to participate in the Celebrate Life March on January 12th at 1:00 p.m. at the State Capitol. This will be preceded by a Mass at the Cathedral at 11:30 a.m.

For more info visit:

respectlifedenver.org.

COMING UP: Catholic Baby University prepares parents for the real deal

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Heidi and Jim Knous had no idea that something like a Catholic childbirth education existed. But not long after finding out the great news that they were expecting their first child, Brady, they came across an article in the Denver Catholic introducing Catholic Baby University — a program designed to teach expecting parents the nuts and bolts of both childbirth and Catholicism.

“I think it’s special because it gives you an opportunity to step back from all the registries and baby shower… and to really take time to come together as a couple to think about this vocation, what parenthood is … and how you want that to look for your family,” Heidi said.

“I think there’s a lot of distractions when you’re about to have a child,” Jim added. “Everybody knows it’s going to be tough and you’re going through a lot. Everybody’s trying to tell you, ‘You should do this, you should do that.’ But Catholic Baby U really gives you a solid understanding of what having a child is going to be like and includes the values that we learned as a family in raising a baby in the Catholic faith.”

Jim and Heidi Knous and their son Brady, are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. (Photo provided)

 

The Catholic Baby University holistic program for parents — offered both as a weekend retreat or a six-class series — is the result of the partnership between Rose Medical Center and the Archdiocese of Denver and was inspired by the previously-founded Jewish Baby University.

The classes touch on topics dealing with childbirth instruction, postpartum experience, baby safety and the Catholic faith — and they are taught and facilitated by certified birth and safety instructors, mental health professionals, and members from the Office of Evangelization and Family Ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Statistically, people become more religiously involved when they have children, so we want to respond to people’s desires to reengage their faith with the coming of their child,” said Scott Elmer, Director of the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver and also a facilitator of the program, in a previous interview. “We want to be there to welcome them, celebrate the new life, and give them the tools they need to incorporate God into their home life.”

For Jim and Heidi, who are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, the experience of having both the childbirth and Catholic aspects in this preparation did not disappoint, as they learned from each one.

“It was a great opportunity to come back and think about things from a basic level again and how to bring our child into the faith — things that you haven’t necessarily thought of or how you would teach a child something, [like praying],” Heidi said.

“Something we learned [that really made me reflect] was that the bond between me and Brady and between Heidi and Brady are very different. It happens at very different times,” Jim shared. “Right away when Heidi finds out she’s pregnant, then her bonding with Brady already starts all the way until Brady’s born. As a dad, it doesn’t start until he is born and I’m actually holding him.”

Heidi assured the concept of “gatekeeping” also helped them prepare for parenting better.

“[Gatekeeping] is when, as a mom, you get really wrapped up in, ‘Only I know how to change baby diapers, only I know how to feed the baby, only I know how to do this,’” Heidi explained. “And I am someone who I could’ve seen thinking that I could be the only person that knew how to take care of [my child]. But gaining that understanding helped us co-parent a lot easier from the very beginning because I was aware of it.”

“I would tell [expecting couples] that Catholic Baby University is a great place to start, to gain community, to meet other people that are in a similar place that you are in; having people in the same room who are just as excited, just as terrified who also want to learn,” Heidi concluded. “It’s just a really awesome opportunity to take advantage of.”