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by Rev. Mark Connolly

As we prepare for the season of Christmas, I would ask that you try to cultivate one quality that many Catholics never achieve, the quality of serenity.

All of us, throughout the year, use the energy we have for our family, our job, our lifestyles, and then are asked to scrape up some extra energy for all the added responsibilities and obligations of the season.

As a result there is often more fatigue than enjoyment, more chaos and less peace or serenity.

No one wants to scrimp or be a scrooge during the holidays, but you cannot let, in the language of Alex Greenspan, "all irrational exuberance" ruin our holidays. Serenity has to be our goal during this festive and holiday season.

For years I have worked with AA people all over the country. With all the extra energy demanded of them, they cannot forget one point, they can never lose their serenity during this season, when alcohol is more plentiful than ever, when liquor flows more freely. They have to take not just one day at a time, but sometimes one hour at a time to achieve the serenity that helps them protect their sobriety. You and I might not have a problem with liquor, but we could all learn during this season the importance of taking not just one day at a time, but one hour at a time. If someone or something takes your serenity away, then you are partially at fault for allowing it.

During this season you have to develop a personal spirituality. How? By realizing the power of personal prayer in your life. If you are not anchored to God, if you are not grafted to Christ, then serenity will never be yours.

Prayer gives you an awareness of what your priorities should be. Prayer helps you to live with the unanswered problems of your life. Prayer helps you to realize that there are times when you don't have a solution for every problem. There is a word that has been used for centuries that helps us develop a sense of prayerfulness. It is the word "mantra". It is a personal prayer that is repeated over and over when the obstacles of life or family or marriage are overwhelming.

In the case of the alcoholic personality, man or woman, that prayer, that mantra used to help them cope with the disease of alcoholism is the prayer, "God grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two."

Next to personal prayer as a means of serenity is the mental habit of reflecting on what you have instead of what you lack.

Think of this and reflect upon it. This month at Sloan Kettering hundreds of people will celebrate the holiday on life saving machines, afflicted with cancer. Think of this, at St. Clare's many of the AIDS patients will never see another holiday season.

If we take all of our crosses and place them in the middle of the room, or even in this magazine, and you saw what others are carrying, you could thank God that your cross is not as serious as others. A self reflective person can prayerfully say, "there but for the grace of God go I." Through prayer and self reflection serenity can become a reality.

No matter what prayer or mantra you choose, serenity and prayerfulness are interconnected.

You might say "God grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two." Or you might say, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is darkness, let me bring light; where there is hatred, let me bring love."

Prayerfulness brings serenity no matter what crosses you are carrying. No one should ever invade your privacy and take away your serenity, husband, wife, children or in-laws.

A deep sense of prayer, a meaningful habit of self reflection on what you have compared to what you lack, these help us retain the peace of the season and the serenity that God wants us to have.

On entering the house, [the Magi]
saw the child with Mary
his mother;
and they knelt down
and paid him homage.
Then, opening their treasure chests,
they offered him gifts
of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 2:11

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