TODAY   |  December 25, 2013

Cardinal Dolan on finding faith during the holidays

The Archbishop of New York talks to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about returning to the true meaning of Christmas.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> of celebration it cab little bit easy to forget what the holiday is actually all b joining us now his eminence, timothy cardinal dolan, the arch archbishop of new york and member of the college of cardinals.

>> merry christmas to you and everybody, matt. what a joy to be with you.

>> let's start right with the true meaning of christmas . we celebrate the birth of the baby jesus .

>> you got it.

>> and so as you take to the lectern today what is the most important thing that you want to communicate to the people in the room?

>> you just mentioned it, what this holiday is all about, what this holy day is all b last night at midnight mass at st. patrick 's, you got the empty crib. i had the honor of carrying in the baby jesus . we put that baby in that empty crib. now the message is this, matt. within all of us is an emptiness. there's a gap. we all admit that. there's something missing. we are always a little restless. and only god, only things etern eternal, can fill that and jesus is the son of god. he fills the gap.

>> it's interesting you say that for all the celebration we also hear at this time of year it can be the hardest time of year for people. they feel lonely, they feel depressed, they feel hopeless and i always thought if they got back to the true meaning of christmas , you find brotherhood and hope in churches and synagogues.

>> there, you got t you should have preached last night, st . peter's.

>> hardly.

>> that is the message. all we got do is admit that we say, lord, god, there's something mising in my life, there's a gap, there's a void, there's an emptiness there's a hole there i have tried like the dickens to fill that and i can't seem to do it on my own. maybe i need to turn to you and maybe you're gonna fill what's missing in my life there it s that is the meaning of christmas .

>> you are a block from us here on fifth avenue and st. patrick 's cathedral.

>> uh-huh.

>> if you walk out the front of st. patrick 's and turn to the left or the right are you are in the heart of one of the most popular shopping streets --

>> you got it.

>> -- anywhere in the world. that the time of year, for the people in some of those stores, christmas takes on a different meaning. does bother you?

>> no and you know why? yes, it could bother me, here is the interpretation i give it, matt. 99% of those people who are frantically shopping are shopping for other people. they are not shopping for themselves. so, at least i'm saying, let's make lemonade out of lemons here, yeah, we got people in there shopping all the time but at least they are drive bine a sense of gift, a sense of sharing, a sense of giving. so, that in itself is pretty good. all right? so i don't know if i'm -- that's how i try to justify that, or else i would get upset thinking why are people crowding these stores? they ought to be in st. patrick 's.

>> can we go back to childhood for a second?

>> sure, you can.

>> talk to me about your upbringinging in the midwaepsd christmas in particular. what's the tradition that stands out to you, your people writes your family?

>> christmas eve , i think every christmas eve , yesterday, matt, my dad, we didn't have all that much money, we didn't know it as kids. mom and dad really provided for us well. but on christmas eve , he was a member of something called the st. vincent depaul society, which almost every catholic parish has it, a quiet hem bell group of men and now women, thank god, who help the poor in very non-discreet -- non-showy ways. christmas eve , he says to me, tim, you want to go with me? we have a couple deliveries. and we got these boxes of food and a toys and clothes and thinking where are we going? i was kind of hoping it was for us, seeing it in the back seat. and go to this area, baldwin, missouri, where i grew up, right outside of st . louis. i didn't even know it existed and it was really poor. and wes very visit three houses, he had a list of his houses. and when i saw, matt, first of all i saw my dad's sense of duty that on christmas eve this was his on blick gachlgs and number two when i saw their sense of joy, that somebody was caring for them, somebody was taking care of them, when i saw their father, who were kind of -- when my father walked in, those fathers were relived because they thought, ah, i haven't let my children down because there's going to be something for them, i will never forget that christmas eve experience.

>> favorite christmas carroll do you have one?

>> " silent night ." i like that.

>> i have traveled to italy with you, favorite christmas meal?

>> i like the turkey. i like the repeat of thanksgiving.

>> see, turkey, stuffing

>> come on over. what are you doing later?

>> you know, i may join you for that big year for the catholic church , you and other cardinals gathered in rome during the conclave and like theed a new pope.

>> you were there.

>> francis. extraordinary time since then.

>> tremendous.

>> here is a guy who was named man of the year by "time" magazine and "the advocate," the gay and lesbian paper.

>> i did not think that happened. i'm glad it did. he has taken the world by storm. people keep asking me, maybe you were about to, am i surprised? i'm surprised that he is even more effective than we thought this is the man we wanted. this is the man we hoped for. when we talked about what characteristics we should see in the next successor of peter, the next pope we talked about the very characteristics that he is doing. you know the brilliant thing, matt, he is doing it naturally, spontaneously. he doesn't have some marketing expert coming in saying, oh, holiness this is what we need now for you to do he just does it naturally, it is part of his person. i thank you is part of the simplicity, humility and sinner is that won the heart of the world.

>> been an amazing time.

>> a blessed christmas .

>> cardinal dolan.

>> see you soon, all right?

>> my pleasure. merry christmas . and