Father Eugene Hemrick

For some, the Christmas season is a time of joy, while for others it’s a time of sadness or stress. For most of us, it never quite measures up to the white Christmas of our dreams or the one we think we should be having. Could it be that we don’t know where to capture its real spirit?

An excellent means for changing this can be found in Father John Dunne’s book “Dark Light of Love.” In it, he quotes Nicolas Malebranche, who writes, “Attention is the natural prayer of the soul.”

Father Dunne explains that “attention can be a relation with God and with others and with all living beings. It is by way of attention that we walk the road of union and reunion. Attention is how we find our way through the dark night of faith, attention to things happening, to signs, to the heart speaking, to the way opening up before us.”

One of the undesirable side effects of our times is that we live in a world full of distractions. These distractions leave us with little time to pay attention. These distractions have created less introspectiveness on our part, heightened inattentiveness and dulled our sensitivities. Spouses, children and friends often become a blur as we rush through the day, especially during the Christmas season.

Problems may plague us, yet we never seem to take time to listen to what the heart tells us to do to fix our problems. We need to ask, Is life merely a series of passing events? Do we fail to enter into life more deeply because of inattentiveness? Do we ever think of how much we miss out on because we’re rushing? When last have we truly stopped to smell the roses? Have we found time for our loved ones and imbibed the wonders of God’s creation?

Father Dunne speaks of union and reunion as outcomes of paying attention. Implied here is the forming of relationships in which we put aside our self-interests and give full attention to others, to those who mean most in life. We need to unite with them. This attention forms the heart of real friendship, of true love or cherished comradeship.

Most important, forming a relationship with God is at the very heart of the heavenly Christmas that we dream about and deserve because it forces us to focus our attention on our heavenly Father, its creator.