What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: December 20, 2007
“Do you miss Chicago?” It’s one of those questions I am asked repeatedly.
With the rather abrupt weather change that occurred last weekend and the first typical Atlanta December temperatures coming quickly after an extended period of abnormally warm weather, a number of people suggested that our mild winter blast must have reminded me of a Chicago winter. There is no comparison between Chicago’s winter weather and our recent cooler temperatures. And no, I don’t miss Chicago’s winter. In fact, in the 14 years that I have been away from my hometown, I can’t say that I have ever really missed Chicago.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my hometown and I am very proud of my Chicago heritage, but I have found new places to call home and new friends and new traditions that have filled my heart with joy both in the Diocese of Belleville and especially here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Besides, what one really misses most in former homes are not the sights and sounds and places or climate, but the people.
Like so many of you who have moved here to Atlanta from other places, it’s the people from earlier homes that we really miss and rarely ever the location itself. It’s the memories of other moments with family and friends that fill the heart with nostalgia and warm reminiscences. And Christmas is perhaps the season most identified with memories from the past. We all have our treasured recollections of Christmases past when we were with family and friends in other locations and in other times.
It is perchance those memories that bring people in such extraordinarily large numbers to churches on Christmas—the heart always seeking to recall the happiness of childhood or earlier moments when we celebrated Christmas as kids with parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors and friends. The wonder of Christmas reminds us all of the blessings that we have—or it should remind us of those blessings.
No, I don’t miss Chicago because the Mystery of Christ has always been alive in the new communities that I have discovered and in the lives of the new friends that I have made, and renewed in the new experiences that I have gained in places far removed from my hometown. No, I don’t miss the super cold winter winds that make our Atlanta temperatures balmy by comparison. No, I don’t miss the stores on State Street or the Art Institute or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the museums or the ethnic restaurants or communities. These were treasures that I had as a young priest and bishop and I give thanks to God for all of them. But they have been replaced by the gentle weather of winter in Atlanta, the shopping at Lenox, Phipps and Perimeter, the wonderful restaurants of Buckhead, the vibrant parishes in North Georgia that welcome people of every language, race, culture and background. It is here that I will celebrate the most wonderful Christmas with you and your families.
The past is a treasure—the present a blessing! Merry Christmas, my dear sisters and brothers!