It’s amazing what a month can do. Per usual, I took some time over Christmas and the New Year to step back from making videos, to relax and plan ahead. By this time of year, I’m usually a bit burned out and need a break. Come January, I’m back with big ideas and new videos.

This year is no different. I’m happy to share with you some news that I think could quite exciting, not just for me, but also for many of you.

Unfortunately, I’m also quite saddened by recent events in my life (and the life of the friars) to share something very sad.

Because I know that some people like their good news first while others like the bad news first, I’ve decided to create two videos, released them at the same time, and let you decide when you want to watch them. I’ve posted them both below, and they will both go live on Wednesday at 5:00pm.

Here’s the bad news:

Here’s the good news:

 

For many people, December 25 is the most important date of the whole year because it is the date on which Jesus was born. Interestingly enough, most early Christians would disagree.

For one, the celebration of Jesus’ birth was not celebrated for at least 150 years after his death. The idea of commemorating someone’s birth, rather than death, was a particularly pagan practice. Christians, keeping with Jewish tradition, were more interested in commemorating Jesus’ death (because, you know, the whole rising from the dead thing) and have continued the practice til today: we do not remember the birthdays of saints, but rather the day they entered eternal life through death.

For those that did celebrate Christmas early on, the date was highly flexible. Some celebrated it in December, others in January, even others in May. While some will contend that December 25 is the actual date of Jesus’ birth, the early Christians almost universally deny this: they recognized even then that the date was lost to history, and that whatever date was chosen was not the real one. A simple look to its description in scripture shows that it was far more likely to have taken place in the spring.

Far more interesting to early Christians was the Annunciation, the time when Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit. A somewhat lesser feast for us today, it should give us pause: if we believe that life begins at conception, wouldn’t the true celebration of the Incarnation—God becoming part of creation—be the Annunciation, not Christmas? While the feast did not become a universal celebration of the Church until centuries later, the recognition of its date on March 25 preceded, and ultimately inspired, the date for Christmas.

So, how do we get the date of December 25 if it is not the actual date on which Jesus was born and early Christians didn’t seem to care that much? This week’s Catholicism In Focus looks to answer just that.

As I’m sure you know, one of my favorite things about being a Franciscan and a priest is answering questions. I love to hear what people are interested in and I love being able to work through difficult answers. Frankly, it’s why I started writing the blog and posting videos in the first place.

This week, I answer a handful of questions submitted by the Internet about faith, the Church, and being a priest. If you have any questions, be sure to post them on Facebook, Twitter, or the comments section of this video.

It may seem like an extremely simple question. Sunday is the Lord’s Day. Of course we go to Church on Sunday.

And yet, when I asked someone recently about how our Sunday obligation related to the Sabbath, they didn’t know how to answer. You see, in the Old Testament, God ordained the 7th day the day of rest. After six days of working, we were to observe the Sabbath just as the Lord had. That day was not Sunday. The seventh day is actually Saturday.

So why do we celebrate on Sunday? Are we ignoring God’s commandment by working on Saturdays? And what gave us the right to change the day? In this week’s Catholicism In Focus, I answer all of these questions and more.

For centuries, it was absolutely against Catholic law for someone to be cremated. Why was this, and what changed the Church’s stance today?