Let me start off by saying that I am very religious. Raised Catholic, attend mass at St. Mary's Church almost every Sunday, and teach first grade Faith Formation at the parish every Saturday morning.

Seeing this "holiday-themed" billboard from American Atheists is very disturbing for some. "Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness sake. Happy Holidays!" The ad features Santa with his finger over his lips as if to say "your secret is safe with me." Even though these campaigns were only in Colorado and North Carolina, the sentiment is nation-wide. The American Atheists program director, Nick Fish, said his group aimed to combat stereotypes.

I would never say that someone is a bad person or a bad Catholic because they do not attend mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. You can be a decent human being and not very religious. I do not disagree with that aspect of the ad. I would never press my beliefs on another, either.

What I greatly disagree with, however, is cheapening the practice of attending mass on this precious day of peace, which honors the Prince of Peace. Every year, someone from my parish dresses up as Santa and walks down the aisle to greet "baby Jesus" in the manger. He kneels down, and says a prayer as a tranquil "Silent Night" plays in the background. In this reverent moment, parishioners reflect on the season of Advent and the true meaning of Christmas:

It's not the presents under the tree or in the stockings. It's not the feast on the table. It's the loved ones with you, the kindness you show others, and trying your best to carry that attitude and gratitude all year long. You don't need to go to church to feel this way, but that's the way my family celebrates. There is nothing wrong with that.

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