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Blue Christmas: How to Help Those Who Struggle During the Holidays

The holiday season is filled with joy, but can also be a difficult time of year for many people. Father Dave welcomes back friend of the show and USCCB Associate Director for the Laity Paul Jarzembowski to discuss his new book, “Hope for the Holidays: Finding Light at the Darkest Times of the Year.

Paul explains how his first book for Lent, “Hope from the Ashes,” inspired him to write another book for the holiday season. “I was working on my previous book and one thing I heard from a lot of people is, ‘How can I give hope? How can I make things better for someone else when I’m struggling with faith and hope, myself?’” he says. “Maybe you feel a little empty, maybe there’s seasonal depression; Maybe you’re just overwhelmed. Too much family, [or] too little family – it all depends on your perspective. I wanted to write a book to those people, so that we can infuse a little more hope. It is technically the season of hope, but sometimes we say it and we don’t actually feel it.”

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The Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” also served as inspiration for this book. Paul says, “I looked at all the different ghosts that visit [Ebenezer] Scrooge. I did my own reflection: What would happen if the ghost visited me, and what kind of hope would I find?” He reflects on the cautionary tale of the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” through the lens of the Gospel. “What happens if I’m not engaged in works of justice [now]? I kept going back to Matthew 25. Like, what if you didn’t see me hungry? That’s what the Scrooge story is essentially, it’s Matthew 25…’ ‘I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me; I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me drink.’ This is what the future could be.”

“That really shook me and made me think about social engagement and social justice,” he continues. “I find that people do give charitably and there is a sense of social concern around the holidays. What struck me to my core is [asking myself], ‘Am I doing enough?’”

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Paul notes how there are glimmers of hope this time of year that we can often take for granted. “People give more, they feel better about charitable giving and service around the holidays. People go on more retreats and go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. People get together with their families they haven’t seen all year,” he says. “I wanted to write on that hope and help people kind of expand on it.”

In addition to “A Christmas Carol,” he infuses other elements of pop culture into the book, including the movie “Die Hard.” Paul says, “That is in the chapter on the ‘Ghost of Christmas Present,’ or basically, how do we find God and all things? I had my dad in mind when I was thinking about this, because ‘Die Hard’ is his favorite Christmas movie. So I’m going to show how God can speak in all ways; God has something for everyone, including ‘Die Hard.’”