December 15, 2009

My Christmas Prayer List for 2009

By Father Thomas Berg *
I found myself in a Starbucks in Fishkill, New York last Wednesday afternoon. As I sipped my vanilla latte and overheard pieces of conversation and chitchat of patrons sitting nearby, I could not help being struck once again by the way our culture trivializes Christmas.  What always gets to me is that reduction of what Christians consider to be the pivotal event of human history - the birth of God made man- to little more than mind numbingly repetitive background music.

"Oh come let us adore Him... Christ... the Lord!"

And we sip our lattes.

Was I contributing to that trivialization by just being there?  Not sure.

Be that as it may, I was there reading a book which has quickly come to fascinate me: What Americans Really Want... Really by Dr. Frank Luntz, one of the nation's leading communication experts. Americans, writes Luntz in the Introduction, "are desperate for the political-economic-social elixir that will restore our 'peace of mind' or at least protect us from further harm." 

Now, in a very succinct nutshell, isn't that what Americans really want right now, especially this Christmas? I think Starbucks patrons of diverse worldviews and political and philosophical persuasions would agree with me that Luntz nailed it.

One thing, of course, is what most Americans want - really. Another is what we need.  Sometimes the two overlap; other times they don't. So, for what it's worth, here is my take on the latter. In past years I have referred to this as my "Christmas wish list," but that was very imprecise.  What follows is my prayer list for Christmas 2009. It's certainly not comprehensive, but hopefully you'll agree it's a good start. 

Let me begin by expressing my hope that, as a grateful nation, we will redouble our efforts in the New Year to support our veterans after they've served our country, and that they will all find peace and the help needed to readjust to civilian life.

And how could I not be mindful of the unemployed? May the good God guide all of them to secure and enduring employment.

And here is a petition very near to my heart: that those women who do not already understand it, will come to realize that their inherent dignity does not depend - as our culture continues to insist - on a putative “right” to abort their unborn babies. 

And speaking of the culture, the current fad of minimizing and mischaracterizing Western civilization's "exceptionalism" is getting a bit tedious, is it not?  We could use a resurgence of respect for - and genuine understanding of - the pillars of Western civilization that have fostered freedom, respect for human dignity and the authentic flourishing of persons everywhere. 

To that very end, I pray that God will save our country from misguided reforms and from unnecessary and even detrimental government intervention into the lives of its citizens, especially through policies which place the most vulnerable members of our society - the unborn and the elderly - at grave risk.

May we make progress in helping younger generations of Americans to break free from the grossly distorted understanding of human sexuality that presently shapes their understanding of relationships and marriage. And may God also uphold, inspire and direct our efforts to reaffirm again and again fundamental truths about the human person, most especially the unique status of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, the sanctity of all human life, and the primordial responsibility to follow the dictate of conscience and to preserve in our human communities the conditions necessary for the free expression of religious belief.

Which directs our thoughts and prayers in particular to persecuted Christians everywhere. May God give them strength to continue to be witnesses of Christ's love and mercy by fully and openly living their faith in spite of intimidation and injustice.  And we pray for all persons who are unjustly deprived of their freedom. May God especially inspire and sustain organized and efficacious international cooperation to abolish all forms of human trafficking.

But this Christmas we must also pray for those who suffer not from physical enslavement, but from a very specific moral bondage, namely for those entrapped by  addiction to Internet pornography.  Let's be aware of this, brutally honest about it, and help direct those afflicted to get the help they need.

Finally, may continued and promising scientific advances in stem cell research continue to uncover ethically acceptable alternatives to embryo-destructive research and curb the ideologically driven appetite to use human embryos as raw material for biomedical research.

Loving Father, hear our prayer. Amen!

SPECIAL NOTE: With Good Reason will not be published on December 22nd or 29th. The column will return on January 5, 2010. Fr. Thomas and the staff of the Westchester Institute wish all our Jewish friends a very blessed Hanukkah, to all our Christian friends a happy and holy Christmas, and to all a very blessed New Year.

Father Thomas Berg is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and Professor of Moral Theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie). More of Fr. Berg’s publications are available at

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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