Rev. Desmond O’Donnell, a Catholic priest who also happens to be a psychologist and author, is calling on Christians of all denominations to acknowledge that they have "lost Christmas" and abandon the word altogether. Father O’Donnell argues that the term “Christmas” is now bereft of any sacred meaning. "We've lost Christmas, just like we lost Easter, and should abandon the word completely," he argued, according to the Belfast Telegraph. "We need to let it go, it's already been hijacked and we just need to recognise and accept that."
Fr. O'Donnell, who worked in Australia for 28 years, currently ministers a congregation County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland told the newspaper, "I am not seeking to take anything away from anyone, I am simply asking that space be preserved for believers for whom Christmas has nothing to do with Santa and Reindeer,” He added, "My religious experience of true Christmas, like so many others, is very deep and real - like the air I breathe.” He acknowledged that people who do not share Christian beliefs, also “deserve and need their celebration too.” He said. “..it's an essential human dynamic and we all need that in the toughness of life."
"I'm just trying to rescue the reality of Christmas for believers by giving up 'Christmas' and replacing it with another word." Father O’Donnell predicted consequences of the Church should it not seek to relabel the feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. "It will mean that secularisation and modern life will continue to launder the Church," he said. He said that the secularization of the holy day is well underway in many parts of the world. "It's like watching the same movie over and over again - the Protestant Churches are battling too."
Fr. O’Donnell said that for many people, God represents someone to blame for their troubles or a crutch to lean on. The reality, said the priest, is that “...'Christmas' no longer means Christmas." His latest book is titled To Love and Be Loved.
In Uruguay, the 25th of December is a national holiday which the government has dubbed “Family Day.” Likewise, Holy Week -- which is a time when faithful Christians prepare for the celebration of the commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ -- is called “Tourism Week” by the government in recognition of the fact that many citizens choose to go on vacation instead of church. Uruguay has had a succession of socialist governments; the country has a low church attendance rate. Approximately 41 percent of Uruguayans have no religious affiliation, while even those citizens who do affiliate with a faith tradition rarely attend services.
In Ireland, while 78 percent of the population identify as Catholic, a growing number of Irish consider themselves unaffiliated to any faith. The statistics with regard to Mass attendance varie. However, a report by the Association of Catholic Priests suggests that the rate of attendance for Sunday Mass is 35 percent when both Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic of Ireland are calculated together.
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.