Would you buy your priest dinner this Christmas?

I love Christmas. It is that sacred time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and when we truly give thanks for the many blessings he has bestowed on us. It is a wonderful time of great joy for me as I get to spend time with my children, grandchildren, friends and loved ones. At this time of year I often think of the incredible gifts I have received in my lifetime and how grateful I am for God’s mercy and love.

For me, Christmas is also a time when I reflect on the needs of the less fortunate and Advent helps me to consider ways I can lend a hand to someone in need. Throughout my business career I have often prayed for God’s guidance as I worked to provide for my family and the success of my professional endeavors. Now as my children have grown, I am constantly thinking of new ways I can be a true servant of God and “serve rather than be served.” I trust that many of our Catholic faithful across the archdiocese are going through a similar experience, especially given the incredible hardship so many people and families are experiencing this year following the economic decline we have witnessed these past many months.

Our priests help us to reflect on the gift that is given to us in the Nativity. This time of year is when our churches swell with the faithful who experience that special feeling that comes when we celebrate Christmas as a community. We are reminded of the many gifts we have received in our lifetime, big and small. Many of my favorite gifts have not come in a nifty wrapped package with a pretty bow; they often are treasured experiences or people that inspire us or someone we love in a special way. Perhaps it was the birth of a child or when we passed through a difficult phase in our life guided by the reassuring words of a priest.

Just as we need our priests to help us better serve Christ they need us to support them in their lifetime ministry. In many ways, as Catholics, we are extended members of each other’s families. In our commitment to serve the Church and in support of our priests, each year at Christmas we take up a collection that provides retirement and health care benefits for all the priests of the archdiocese. There has been a tremendous amount of work done over the last year to manage these funds to make sure these funds are stabilized for future generations of priests. The cardinal has made this one of his top priorities, the priests of the archdiocese have been working towards this goal and many of our parishioners are supporting this effort.

At Christmas, I often consider the inspiring words of parish priests who over the years have comforted me with encouragement about Christ’s love, challenged me to be a better Catholic each and every day, and who have taught me about the power of prayer and sacrifice in my daily life.

I also reflect on some of the priests that have touched my life and those of my family, such as the priest who married us, the priests who celebrated all the baptisms, first Communions, and confirmations for my children and now my grandchildren. I can still see the eyes of Father Bill after he gave my wife the anointing of the sick.

This Christmas please think about the priests who have been there at special times in your life. When I consider all the individual priests who were there for my family and me throughout the years, I think about this Christmas collection differently. Ask yourself what you can do to celebrate and support the work of our priests. When the Christmas Collection is taken this year, perhaps you can think about honoring those priests who have been in your family’s life over the years. I know that I will.

We know times are tough. If you’re not sure what your level of support should be, perhaps consider how much it would cost to treat a priest that you admire to dinner and contribute that amount. Overall, please join the cardinal and your fellow Catholics giving what you can in this important effort. Thank you and God bless you and your family at this very special time of year.

Joseph D’Arrigo is the Executive Director of the Priest Pension and Healthcare Funds at the Archdiocese of Boston.