The following was written by Father Adam Kotas of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Crescent City.
Right before Christmas for the past few years a group of atheists puts up billboards in many states that read in part, “why are you celebrating Christmas, don’t you know it is all just a myth?”
My response to these self-proclaimed atheists is, “try living without the Christmas message of hope in times of trouble, in times of trial, in times of sickness, in times of death, in times of suffering!”
I feel sadness for the people behind these billboards for I know firsthand the results of atheism in the life of a person, a country, and the destruction it causes in the life of a family. I know this because I grew up under an atheistic system in my native Poland that strove to remove God from people’s lives.
My grandfather was one who embraced wholeheartedly the communist ideal of a life without God. When my brother, my grandmother, and I would be getting ready for Mass on Sunday morning he would get ready for work and he would ridicule us, proclaiming, “work is my god, work is prayer.”
My grandparents raised me while my parents left communist Poland in search of a better life in the United States. My beloved grandfather enjoyed special promotions as well as many perks from his avowed membership in the communist party, and he held important positions in our town. We even had a new tractor, something churchgoers could never get.
But all of this changed in one week when on a Tuesday he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which eventually killed him eight months later. He came home from the doctor subdued, sad, and depressed; without any motivation to work.
The following Sunday I walked into the kitchen and I saw my grandfather sitting next to the stove all dressed up, to which I exclaimed, “Why are you all dressed up?” He responded without looking at me, “I am going to church with you today.”
At that my grandmother jumped into the kitchen and grabbed me by the arm and removed me from the kitchen and told me to be quiet, not to ask any questions, and to just go along with it.
Well, from that Sunday on my grandfather attended church with us every single Sunday. He became a great inspiration for me, so much so that shortly after that experience I decided to join the seminary and become a priest.
Seeing what faith did in his life and the hope and peace it gave him moved me to want to share this hope and peace with other people. My grandfather made a good confession, turned his life over to God, and now I believe he is a saint in heaven watching over me, praying for me, accompanying me, and protecting me.
You see, at a moment like this in his life, and moments like this hit each of our lives unexpectedly, no communist manifesto and no atheistic ideology could have given him what he needed: hope.
Only faith can let you know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Faith is what leads me to believe he is having the time of his life in heaven now, for it gives me the assurance of things I cannot see.
This faith which we celebrate during this season of hope and peace is what tells me my grandfather is OK and that he is proud of me, watching over me, protecting me, praying for me, and waiting for me to join in the peace of heaven where he and I one day will rest in the loving palm of God.
Celebrate faith with your family this Christmas, but more importantly celebrate the peace and hope that we enjoy as people of faith in one nation under God. Only faith can let you know that you are not alone and that at the end, whatever happens, it will all be OK, for if God is with us, who can be against us?