Christmas 2016

Speaking of old-timers, these are the Jesuits who entered with me in 1956 at a 60th reunion.

Old age and Christmas season are a tough combination. The old Yuletide favorites?with their ?silver bells? and ?sleigh bells? and ?jingle bells,? their wistful ?I?ll be home for Christmas,? not to mention the familiar melodies themselves?are dripping with nostalgia. As if an old-timer like me, head packed with fond memories, needed any more reminders of happy days past and marvelous holiday seasons!

Spare me a reflective moment if you will. Guam is good, filled with new challenges and opportunities to reconnect with old friends, but my temptation these days is to build a spiritual cave and hide out there?to surround myself with memories of the ?good old days? and take comfort in flipping through the mental photo album from the beginning of the day until the end. The past (at least most of it) was so rich with ?sugar and spice and all that is nice? that no one would willingly abandon it. Especially not an old-timer who was fortunate enough to have such good friends and so many warm memories.

But the world doesn?t screech to a halt to accommodate the feelings of sentimental old-timers. ?Keep those legs pumping,? the old football coach used to tell his players. There are points to be scored and a game to win.

So the legs move up and down, and we take the field. Things go a lot more slowly than they once did, but there?s still some forward movement. A study on suicide in Micronesia to cap a 50-year set of data on the subject and to announce that the recent rates have dropped at long last. A follow-up study on the lives of the mentally ill identified in a MicSem survey 25 years ago. A week-long Catholic education conference on Pohnpei, the first held in three years. And now we work to complete a new video documentary, this one on the earliest settlement of the Marianas (an event that took place nearly 4,000 years ago and makes this island group the earliest one settled in Oceania). All of this not to recreate the past, but to make it relevant to us today.

Live in the present, I keep reminding myself; there?s still a lot of good to be done. There are personal injuries?even in the church, especially in the church?that need healing. Then, too, there are those who somehow remain blind to all they have been given. The bottom line, I suppose, is that everyone needs small successes to be reminded that some day in the future the blind will see, and the deaf will hear, and the lame will leap and dance. Even more improbably, immigration will become a dead issue as Syrians and Somalis take their place at the banquet table alongside bureaucrats from Homeland Security.? And peace will reign.

Lovely, isn?t it? Almost a fairytale. Yet, I grew up to believe that this is not just a dream, but a promise. So I try to keep those legs pumping, as the coach told his players.

Christmas blessings,


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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.