Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Light One Candle
The Christmas spirit, 12 months a year

by Dennis Heaney

(From the Dec. 21, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Dennis Heaney Some years ago I came across a quote from Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale that describes the Christmas time for me: “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”

There is a special tranquility that seems to come each Christmas season. History tells us of wars that halted on Christmas day so the combatants could celebrate, often with prayers, singing and a meal. Even the vitriol that’s so prevalent among world leaders seems to moderate during the Christmas season.

It’s probably just my imagination, but even the pressure and push of Christmas shopping seems to have a gentler edge to it as people work their way through crowds trying to finish their last-minute shopping. There are still irritated and impatient shoppers, but I hear more people in the crowd saying “Excuse me” or “You go first” as they reach for the same item or line up for the cashier.

Someone once wrote that it would be so nice if we could bottle that spirit and then “pour” a little of it out during the course of the year. Each year I tell myself that I like the feeling of the spirit – in me and others – and I should try to hold a bit of it in my heart and spread it as needed in the New Year. But inevitably, once Christmas day is history, so is that palpable Christmas spirit.

Why is it so hard to keep that Christmas spirit going throughout the year? It takes some effort and requires thinking a bit more of the other person and bit less of ourselves, but why should that be so difficult? Actually, it makes sense that it’s easier to grow in peace and understanding when we focus less on ourselves and more on others.

It should not be difficult – or even anything less than habit – to be thoughtful to others in our words and deeds. Yet, we snap at family members who irritate us, or we honk the horn at drivers who do “dumb” things on the road. How much more effort would it take to just count to 10, or simply say, “I’ve got the Christmas spirit in January and I’m not going to lash out at that person”?

When the conversation turns to gossip about someone’s perceived (or even real) failings it’s all too easy to join in the discussion, but wouldn’t it be more true to the Christmas spirit if we defended the person being attacked?

During the recent elections two opposing candidates for Congress in Iowa ran a campaign that had no negative ads and no attacks on one another. They talked strictly about the issues. On one occasion, an outside group placed an ad sharply attacking one of the candidates. His opponent not only publicly apologized, but also went on to disown the ad and those who had ordered it.

The Christophers believe that every positive change in our world starts with one person. Carrying the Christmas spirit beyond the season and then “pouring” out that spirit during the year is not an insurmountable task. If we each did it in our own little world, it wouldn’t be long before it started rippling further and further into the bigger world. All it would take is one person to start the ripple and, in doing so, make this a “softer and more beautiful” world every day.

(Dennis Heaney is Director of The Christophers, an organization dedicated to the proposition that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. For a free copy of the Christopher News Note “Three Minutes to Make a Difference,” write: The Christophers, 12 East 48th Street, New York, NY 10017; or e-mail:

(Dennis Heaney is director of The Christophers, .)

Inland Register archives

Home | Bishop | Communications | Parishes | Catholic Charities

© The Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved