A Merry Canisius Christmas

Amid the final preparations for Christmas, it could be easy to miss today’s feast of St. Peter Canisius, a 16th century Dutch Jesuit whose example and wisdom the church acclaims in hailing him as one of the 33 doctors of the church, saints who made preeminent contributions to the teachings of the tradition.

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At a time when grave incivility ruled relations among the Christian divisions, Peter emerged with an approach that is instructive for dealing with conflicts today. Instead of engaging in attacks on others, he simply asserted for what and with whom he stood. His clarity-with-charity approach to controversial topics parallels St. Francis de Sales’, his contemporaneous brother from France who is also a member of the elite fleet of doctors of the church.

Undoubtedly, as we gather with family and friends over the Christmas holidays, issues of tremendous conflict will emerge. Many address these matters with a win-lose, competitive aggression that sometimes lacks the Salesian gentleness that emanates from the swaddling clothes of the Holy Infant, whose birthday gathers us in the first place. With culture wars raging about keeping Christ in Christmas and insisting that “Merry Christmas” is the necessary greeting for the season, perhaps the primary way to mark Christmas is to maintain gentleness and charity in our holiday interactions and beyond.

“In all things, charity,” insisted DeSales. It is little wonder when we remember that Emmanuel means, “God is with us.” When God is with us, how could we advance anything but charity?

Merry Christmas!