Report from Louisiana: Christmas Cards

SHREVEPORT – One of the small joys I get from the Christmas season is receiving Christmas cards from friends and family spread across the country. I love the colorful envelopes, the pretty Christmas stamps, and the cards themselves: glittery snow, red Santas, cherubic angels, foil stars, the works.

I find in years when Thanksgiving is late and Christmas seems so quick, there are fewer cards in my mailbox: people run out of time for the task.

One of my childhood memories is of my mother going to the stationery store, selecting the annual Christmas card, and having them imprinted.  When they arrived, ready for addressing, she would pull out the address book and sit at the dining room table with stamps, pens, and get to work. Some recipients would get a brief message or note, and then she would address each envelope in her beautiful, perfect script. That handwriting got shakier through the years and eventually she quit sending cards altogether with the exception of a very few. Mom had a red and white felt Santa, trimmed in sequins, that hung on a door and we tucked all the cards inside Santa’s beard, which was a pocket.

With my own cards I am less formal. I select a box or two at the store that reflect my mood of the moment and in each I usually write a brief message. My cards this year reflect Santa in a pirogue as he poles up to a wooden swamp cabin, Spanish moss hanging overhead. Some years I opt for the traditional Christmas scenes, other years Snoopy.

I’ve never been one to send the generic Christmas letter but we do have some relatives who write three page epistles to tuck into their cards about every doctors appointment and children’s report card that happened through the year.

And it seems that almost every year there around this time there is a touching story of a terminally ill child who only wants Christmas cards and then the hospital is inundated with thousands of cards.

In more recent years, it seems Christmas cards have morphed into cardstock covered with photos of the sender’s beautiful and prosperous year. Many of these include photos of people dressed in khaki and white standing on a beach somewhere, everyone in matching shirts and color coordinated. The selfie-card is a close relative of the three-page Christmas letter.

The tradition of Christmas cards began in 1843 with Henry Cole according to The Smithsonian and has evolved through the years:

Cole hit on an ingenious idea. He approached an artist friend, J.C. Horsley, and asked him to design an idea that Cole had sketched out in his mind. Cole then took Horsley’s illustration—a triptych showing a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor—and had a thousand copies made by a London printer. The image was printed on a piece of stiff cardboard 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches in size. At the top of each was the salutation, “TO:_____” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.” It was the first Christmas card.

As we celebrate Christmas with our families and friends this week, I wish you all a Merry Christmas from Louisiana and I hope you have a wonderful and blessed Christmas.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

I’m old enough to remember when “Is the Pope Catholic?” was a Rhetorical Question

One of the advantages of actually reading scripture, having been brought up by devout Catholics and having a faithful priest is that if a Pope says something like this:

The first is all. In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak. I have to live consistent with my faith. And it will be my testimony to awaken the curiosity of the other who says: “But why do you do this?” And yes, I can speak then. But listen: Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing. If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus. Proselytism is not done, the church does not grow by proselytism. Pope Benedict had said it, it grows by attraction, by testimony. Football teams proselytize, this can be done. Political parties, can be done there. But with faith there is no proselytism. And if someone says to me: “But why?” Read, read, read the Gospel, this is my faith. But without pressure.

emphasis mine

I can reference the opinion of a higher authority in the Church (again emphasis mine):

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.  When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Go, therefore,  and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Matt 28:16-20

Furthermore I recall a fellow named Paul who said this:

I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by (the) grace (of Christ) for a different gospel (not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach (to you) a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed!  As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ

St. Paul to the Galatians 1: 6-10 Emphasis mine

Now I don’t pretend to be anywhere near as well trained and educated in theology than the Holy Father nor more familiar with scripture as a whole but as a person with a Computer Science Degree I can certainly read and comprehend a plan set of instructions with the best of them.

So while the Holy Father’s words on living your faith and setting an example are well taken I think I’ll decline to share his advice to judge those who choose to spread the Gospel in the very way that the apostles were instructed by Christ.

Incidentally if you told me as little as ten years ago that I’d hear a Pope say something like this I wouldn’t have believed you, but I’m not worried.

Given the Catholic church survived the Romans, the Huns, the Rest of the Barbarians, the 1st Islamic Invasion, the Black Death, Napoleon, Hitler & the Cold War it’s certainly going to outlast Francis we’ve had 2000 years of Popes and lately we’ve had a good run of saintly ones so I guess we were overdue for a Lemon.

After all Lemon Pope is still the Pope until God decides he isn’t so I will endeavor to give all the respect that the chair of Peter set up by Christ himself deserves trusting that God knows what he’s doing even if I don’t.

And don’t forget pray for the Pope remembering that he is no more and no less deserving of and in need of the mercy of God than anyone else.

Update: Forgot to give a hat tip to Insty here, my bad.

Update 2: Lemon Pope? sounds like a song…

Lemon Pope very iffy

And his message ain’t so sweet

but the truth of the old Gospel

Is impossible to beat

I’m here all week, try the veal.