Dona Nobis Pacem

The Christmas vs. Holiday tree controversy is threadbare and tedious, even in Rhode Island.   Going into the last week of Advent, it is advisable to avoid other combustible topics unrelated to the season: brevity and simplicity this week.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ: the rest is accoutrement. This is a particularly difficult focus to maintain in 2011. George Will once wrote in an honest, low moment, “Christmas will soon be at our throats.”  Regardless of Black Friday, marketing that begins in October, tinsel, flash, dreadful derivative music and parties, our little family prefers to keep the gift giving thoughtful, but minimal, sing perennially moving traditional carols, hold candlelight processions led by the little ones to the crèche my father-in-law built and my mother populated with exquisite hand painted ceramic figures of the Baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, sheep and shepherds, camels and kings.  Simplicity in this thorny time of year is our hope; attaining simplicity is an annual struggle.

Two Advent readings resonate this year and convey two most valuable Christmas lessons. The saints speak most eloquently.

 The first reminds us to seek out peace, even and especially when chaos and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) threaten to overwhelm.  From Thomas à Kempis’s classic, Imitation-of-Christ “A man who lives at peace suspects no one.  But a man who is tense and agitated by evil is troubled with all kinds of suspicions; he is never at peace with himself, nor does he permit others to be at peace…  Above all things, keep peace within yourself, then you will be able to create peace among others.  It is better to be peaceful than learned.”

The second Christmas message is that every human being we encounter has intrinsic worth as their birthright and must be treated with dignity and respect irrespective of the accidents of nativity, appearance, intelligence, equanimity or station.  The eternal human soul is existentially dearer than church or planet or universe or any ephemeral thing.   From a sermon by Blessed Isaac of Stella, a 12th century abbot:  “Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb.  He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith.  He will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.”

So to each of you precious souls reading these words and to those you love: Merry Christmas, a peaceful, simple Christmas season and a blessed 2012.

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.      Garrison Keillor


Filed under Personal and family life

5 responses to “Dona Nobis Pacem

  1. Greg

    In your usual manner you have caused me to reflect, which is why I suppose you write this in the first place…..nicely done again. I do look forward to your writings and I hope you continue, especially in light of the coming events……….go Ron!!
    Anyway…………it’s Christmas again and we have so much to be thankful for, my hope is that everyone can find and enjoy the peace and contentment of the season.

    “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night… And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people
    And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger
    And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the LORD hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger”
    Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men


  2. Rob Amaral

    Nice post Jack.. Your bruther-in lore.. Robbit


  3. Rita

    There is a great deal for the Parquette family to be thankful for.

    First and foremost, the recovery of our little Ellie from a potentially long term, even fatal condition. It was such a scary time, it seems to be over and she is gaining weight and looking so healthy… She’s standing up in her crib and pulling herself up and managing to get around the house in various crawling, scooting and commando crawls. She’s a joy and loves music, rocking back and forth to most anything she hears and also singing…the Parquette side apparent there. It’s such a joy and a blessing to be a grandparent!

    Then there is Gianna… She went to her first live production of the Nutcracker this past week and was totally taken in by the magic of a live performance with lots of real mice scampering around and growing Christmas trees et al. Christmas through the eyes of a child is the very best!! She loves to visit the manger scene we have. It’s a treasure as Jack mentioned above as my Dad made the stable barn and Jack’s Mom had painted the ceramic figurines with in. She looks as it for long periods of time…

    Then there is Jack’s job… In this difficult environment, he has one and we are grateful.

    At Mass this past Sunday our Priest was sharing a story of a few folks who had needs this Christmas that our parish helps out. The requests were for things like hats and mittens, a warm coat, and then one ten year old boy asked for a set of sheets for his twin bed. No requests for IPods or other gadetry we can’t seem to live without today… It gives us all perspective on what’s important.

    Then there is the coming marriage of our beautiful “baby of the family” Meg this summer to Marty Gilbert. We couldn’t be happier for both of them. It’s funny how I will often slip and refer to my little granddaughter Gianna as Meg on occasion. She just brings me back very quickly sometimes to our little Meg. God is good.

    May the Christ child be welcomed into your hearts this Advent and Christmas season.

    Merry Christmas,


    • Angela Marie

      Beautiful Mom! There are so many gifts that I take for granted every day. The gift of children help to remind me to slow down and appreciate the seemingly little things. My children truly are the kiln in which my character is formed these days. I find myself often sad, frustrated and at the same time grateful that the girls daily help to show me my faults. I am forced to face them head-on in the most uncomfortable, even at times public, ways. So this is why marriage is called a vocation? OK God—what impurity do you want to bring to light in me today…..
      Thankful especially this Christmas for the wisdom and loving acceptance that I receive from my parents, husband, siblings and friends—there is nothing one could wrap in paper that comes even light years close to that. A merry, blessed, joyful and peaceful Christmas to all.


  4. Diane Caracciolo

    Exquisite! Jack, I think you are one of the best writers I have ever known! Thank YOU for sharing your thoughts and traditions with us! Blessed Christmas!


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