There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
As we pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie
It’ll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives
These things are the wonderful things we’ll remember throughout our lives
(Sleigh Ride, Leroy Anderson)
Nathaniel Currier was born 27 March 1813 in Massachusetts, son of Nathaniel and Hannah Currier. James Merrit Ives was born in New York in 1824; his father had been superintendent of Bellevue Hospital.
The two men met for the first time in 1852 — and the rest, as they say, is history.
Between the founding of the firm and its dissolution in 1907, Currier & Ives produced more than 7,500 different lithographs that sold more than a million copies.
Persistently used for greeting cards and more, avidly sought after by collectors, Currier & Ives lithographs are among the truly iconic images of an America gone by. [I would add — especially in our Christmas imagination.]
Except for the Leroy Anderson original, this is my favorite rendition of Sleigh Ride, by another American classic:
• • •
THE DEATH OF CARDINAL LAW
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Cardinal Bernard Law, the disgraced former archbishop of Boston whose failures to stop child molesters in the priesthood sparked what would become the worst crisis in American Catholicism, died early Wednesday, the Vatican said. He was 86.
…Law was once one of the most important leaders in the U.S. church. He broadly influenced Vatican appointments to American dioceses, helped set priorities for the nation’s bishops and was favored by Pope John Paul II.
But in January 2002, The Boston Globe began a series of reports that used church records to reveal that Law had transferred abusive clergy among parish assignments for years without alerting parents or police. Within months, Catholics around the country demanded to know whether their bishops had done the same.
Law tried to manage the mushrooming scandal in his own archdiocese by first refusing to comment, then apologizing and promising reform. But thousands more church records were released describing new cases of how Law and others expressed more care for accused priests than for victims. Amid a groundswell against the cardinal, including rare public rebukes from some of his own priests, Law asked to resign and the pope said yes.
This article at Crux explains why the Vatican thought his funeral mass at St. Peter’s was the right thing to do, despite objections from many on this side of the Atlantic who are still furious over the abuse scandal.
• • •
A MOST UNIQUE AND WONDROUS GIFT
VILNIUS, Lithuania – Lithuania has given Pope Francis a Christmas present invisible to the naked eye: a Nativity scene where baby Jesus is smaller than a human cell.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite on Friday looked through a microscope to see a replica of the crib at Vilnius’s downtown Cathedral Square, a copy of the nativity scene that was given to Francis by Lithuanian diplomats earlier this month.
She said it took three months for Lithuanian scientists and students to create the minuscule crib from a 3D scan of the life-size crèche, reducing it 10,000 times.
• • •
One of the most beautiful Ave Maria settings that I enjoy at Christmas time is the contemporary version written by Franz Xaver Biebl.
Biebl was a German composer of classical music. His best-known work is his Ave Maria (1964), which sets portions of the Angelus as well as the Ave Maria. The piece was brought to the United States by the Cornell University Glee Club in 1970. The ensemble met Biebl while on tour in Germany, during a recording session at a radio network where Biebl was music director.
Here is Cantus singing this glorious, moving piece, to the honor of the Theotokos:
• • •
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads
A Visit from St. Nicholas, Clement Moore
Boy, will their grandkids be mad! I don’t think it was “sugar-plums” the kids were dreaming of.
An elderly couple, Patrick Jiron, 80, and Barbara Jiron, 83, from northern California, were on the road to Boston and Vermont when they got pulled over by sheriff’s deputies in Nebraska. Noticing a strong odor, the deputies asked if they could search the truck. The couple consented, and when they did, they found over 60 pounds of marijuana, as well as multiple containers of concentrated THC worth more than $300,000. The Jirons said they were transporting the pot to be given as Christmas presents. And you thought your grandparents were cool.
Needless to say, the old folks are in trouble, the contraband was confiscated, and the grandkids will be disappointed.
• • •
A COUNTRY WITH CHARLIE BROWN’S CHRISTMAS TREE
ROME — If the paragon of all Christmas trees is the one in front of the Rockefeller Center in New York — first erected, mind you, by an Italian in 1931 — the prize for most pitiful must go to the one that stands in Rome’s Piazza Venezia this year. Just days after it was put up, it began to gray and shed its needles, and soon it had become nearly see-through. The tree cuts so sad and forlorn a figure that it has been nicknamed Spelacchio, or Mangy.
Spelacchio arrived in Rome early this month from the Trentino region, near Italy’s border with Austria, and what with transport expenses and decorations, the 70-foot fir is estimated to have cost Italian taxpayers 48,000 euros, or $57,000. It’s not clear what has ailed it. Maybe Spelacchio was unsettled by the trip; perhaps it was ill on departure. By way of explanation, Antimo Palumbo, a tree historian who was standing by Spelacchio’s side on Friday morning, pointed at the concrete all over its roots. “You see that?” he told me. “They decided to pour the concrete to keep it steady, but that killed it instead.”
There isn’t enough time, money or political will to replace the tree, and so Spelacchio the Mangy will stay in Piazza Venezia through the holidays, and for many locals it has already become a metaphor for what’s wrong with the city, and the country.
• • •
MEANWHILE, AT YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD MEGACHURCH…
• • •
THE REMINDER WE NEED THIS CHRISTMAS
…Christmas is wherever Christ is. Wherever Christ is, it’s impossible for it not to be Christmas! For only with Him come the gifts of Christmas: forgiveness and eternal life, peace and hope. He didn’t come to perfectly happy families where nothing ever goes wrong. He came bring life to deserts, water from rocks, joy to mourners.
Wherever Christ is, there is Christmas. Wherever a Christian tells someone alone and ashamed that they are forgiven, there is Christmas. Wherever a brother in Christ holds the hand of the dying and gives them the body and blood of Christ, there is Christmas. This can happen everywhere and anywhere and anytime! Wherever Christ is doing His thing, that is, His Church is doing His thing, there is Christmas in all of its splendor and glory!
…Christmas is wherever Jesus is.