A Season of Giving

The Advent season offers a special time of giving, when we are invited to support the work of the many Catholic ministries that serve the needy in our community.

For instance, showing Christ’s love and hope to others is what Catholic Charities does.  As the largest nongovernmental social service provider in the Washington area, this “good works arm” of the archdiocese serves 100,000 men, women and children each year in the nation’s capital and in the five surrounding Maryland counties.

Through Catholic Charities’ Christmas Gift Program, people may help provide gifts for children in local families served by Catholic Charities, or help support the wide range of outreach provided by the agency in 63 programs in neighborhoods throughout our community.

Catholic Charities also recently launched its Joseph’s Coats of Many Colors Drive.  Local Catholic parishes and schools are collecting coats for Joseph’s Coat Closet, located at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Southeast Washington.  In mid-November, swimmers from three local Catholic high schools helped kick off the coat drive, including Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, a sophomore at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda. Swimmers from archrivals St. John’s College High School and Gonzaga College High School in Washington also joined the drive.

These are just some of the ways people can share their blessings with others, and through the warmth of their hearts, help bring warmth to their neighbors in need this winter.

In addition to our social service ministries in the archdiocese, many of our parishes have special giving campaigns during the Advent season.  For example, historic St. Patrick Church in downtown Washington will be collecting toys for needy girls and boys in our area through Dec. 9.

Parishes and schools sponsor toy drives and children’s Masses to mark today, December 6, the  feast day of Saint Nicholas, a fourth century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor.  Not much is known about that good bishop who has inspired the modern figure of Santa Claus, but we do know that Saint Nicholas was a man of love and charity, and that legacy has inspired gift giving for children in different countries and cultures around the world.

In this first week of Advent, we, too, can continue the legacy of this much-loved saint by preparing our hearts and homes for the coming of Jesus at Christmas through acts of love and charity.

Pope Benedict XVI has said that Advent and Christmas offer the faithful the chance to renew their lives and focus on the needs of others as they prepare to receive the greatest gift of Christmas – Jesus.  To help Catholics spiritually prepare for Christmas, the Archdiocese of Washington has again launched its “Find the Perfect Gift” campaign, distributing 12,000 yard signs to parishioners and promoting that message through social media, radio and TV ads.

Blessed by the gift of Christ’s presence in our lives, we are called to share that gift with others.  Two thousand years ago, the gift of Jesus changed the world forever.  Christ’s love and hope are gifts that we can share with others throughout this Advent and Christmas season and on every day of the upcoming New Year.

As Pope Benedict noted in his homily during the Papal Mass at Nationals Park in Washington in 2008, “Those who have hope must live different lives! … By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way toward that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his church and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior.”