Holiday season time for people to renew commitment to serve

A gathering on the evening before Thanksgiving in the restored Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City had dimensions of service and gratitude.

President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, was among those addressing the gathering Nov. 24.He praised the beauty of the restored cathedral and congratulated those who spearheaded the restoration. Also, he commended Bishop William K. Weigand of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese for encouraging a spirit of service among many in the community.

President Monson noted that the holiday season is a time for people to renew their commitment to the service of others. He said the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are rich in tradition and persuasive in motivating people "to serve better our God and our fellowmen. Within the heart and soul of every Christian is a desire to alleviate suffering, to satisfy hunger and to provide shelter - particularly when the need is known."

He cited an example in which a newspaper report stated that the Utah Food Bank's freezer was empty, except for one frozen turkey. "This was just a week before Thanksgiving," President Monson said. "Within 24 hours, men and women of every faith rallied and donated to the food bank 2,300 turkeys."

President Monson noted that Bishop Weigand and his associates are an integral part of the spirit of cooperation of members of all denominations in the Salt Lake Area. "We have seen great progress made in eliminating the weakness of one standing alone and substituting, therefore, the strength of many working together," President Monson said. "Some call it common cause - others, a united effort. Perhaps, the Spirit of Christ alive in men and women would be more appropriate.

"When we serve, when we give and when we lift, we come closer to Christ the Lord," President Monson said.

He recounted the grief experienced by the miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, a character in "A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens. In the story, Scrooge is haunted by night visions of his partner, Jacob Marley, who had been dead for seven years. President Monson recited a portion of the story, which is 150 years old this month:

"Marley's ghost said to Ebenezer Scrooge: `Not to know that any Christian spirit, working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused. Yet, such was I. Oh, such was I.' "

After a fretful night, Scrooge awakened to discover anew the freshness of life, the power of love, and the spirit of a true gift.

President Monson urged those attending the service not to misuse their own opportunities for service. "As we listen for the sound of sandaled feet and reach out for the Carpenter's hand, the spirit of giving and lifting and serving are readily found," he said. "We will find our opportunity to serve and to build and to give."

He quoted Rev. 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him. . . ."

"This holiday season," President Monson declared, "we should listen for the knock of Christ, then welcome the spirit of Christ into our hearts and our lives."

President Monson also extended congratulations to individuals who received honors and blessings from Pope John Paul II for their work in helping restore the 84-year-old cathedral, which was rededicated last February after extensive renovations.

One of those who received a papal blessing is Elder Jon M. Huntsman, regional representative of the Kearns Utah Region. He was the only Latter-day Saint who served as one of four co-chairmen on a team to raise funds to restore the cathedral. Papal blessings were bestowed also on the other three co-chairmen of the fund-raising team: Jack W. Gallivan, Ian M. Cumming and Richard W. Kieffer. A framed certificate was presented to each of the four men, who helped raise a total of more than $9 million for the restoration.

Three Salt Lake residents received papal honors for "outstanding service to church and society" for their efforts in connection with the cathedral's restoration project. Honors were announced earlier this year by Pope John Paul II for: Irene Sweeney, who was named to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem; and Richard J. Howa and M. Ray Kingston, who were named to Knights of the Order of St. Sylvester.

Membership in the orders is granted only by the pope. Recommendations were made by Bishop Weigand through the Vatican ambassador, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, in Washington, D.C.

At the gathering, Bishop Weigand said many people are turning from public service "in pursuit of purely private gain. . . . The institution of knighthood reminds us that dedicated public service has been regarded by our civilization as among the highest human achievements."

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