This year's Christmas letter. On the Last Day of Christmas.
As an undergraduate at a liberal arts university, I was introduced to many of the classic works of Western Culture. Through this exploration of Homer and Augustine, Michelangelo and Monet, Bach and Bob Dylan, I was meant to gain insight into a single but enduring question: What does it mean to live a good life? I find I am wont to revisit the same line of inquiry as Christmas continues and a new year begins.
I have never been much inspired by Black Friday Sales, but I find I am still very much a consumer. I have more things than I need: guns, bows, fishing poles, clothes, and since last February, a new vehicle. I have found pleasure in all of these, though my pleasure diminished dramatically when the sparkplug for the fifth cylinder of the new pickup incinerated and fell inside the engine.
Over the summer, with thirty-some other locals, I made a pilgrimage to Rio de Janeiro. Prodded, crushed, trampled, lost, and sometimes the victim of foreign-tongued invective, I saw the statue of Christ the Redeemer, I stood in the surf on Copacabana Beach, and I listened to the Pope as he called each of us to be better disciples of the Lord at home. Having acquired something viral, and with sand in my hair, sand in my bags, and sand everywhere else, I hacked and coughed and sneezed my way back to Spearfish, glad to have gone, and gladder still to be home.
Since Rio, God has brought into this world a new healthy nephew, and He has taken from this world a weak and sickly grandmother. Fish were caught and released, pheasants shot and eaten, storms have blown, drifts have melted. Sins have been forgiven, the sick have been anointed, lovers have wed, widows have mourned, and the sacrifice of Calvary has been renewed day by day at the Holy Mass. Even these, however, taken by themselves, do not constitute the good life.
St. Paul instructs the Thessalonians in his first epistle to them, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks always.” I am struck again and again at all for which I have to be thankful, all for which I ought rightly rejoice. God gives so generously, even to the point that He would give Himself first in a manger and then on a cross. In return, he asks very little: just everything. It is in this realization that I begin to see how the good life must be lived. When so much has been given to me out of God’s love, how can I but give it all in return? I fail at this goal often. I remain proud and selfish. I continue to sin. So often I love poorly. But Christ is at work in me. In a life that is exceedingly busy, regularly punctuated by long committee meetings, and frequently interrupted by someone needing something, I am learning more and more to abandon myself, to give myself, to lose myself in Christ. And I find that I am exceedingly happy. I love my people. I love my parishes. I love my priesthood.
So, thank you. I am truly grateful for you, for your warm sentiments, kind regards, and everything that you give me. You are among the things for which I offer thanks to God. Know of my prayers for you during this Holy Season.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Tyler Dennis