Possibly the best ever - Christmas, that is. I am not sure, but think it may have been my number-one favorite.
I think one of the things that contributed to that was its being on a Sunday. Only one massive holy day per week seems to work best for me! Not only that, but it seemed that an extra day appeared in there during the time of preparation. Friday the 23rd was all lagniappe for me. The offices were closed, and I had no appointments, but it wasn’t Christmas Eve yet. How great was that! I puttered and prepared, went to confession, and visited Cardinal Baum. I was still in bed early enough to get a good night’s sleep before the Big Weekend!
And big it was: I figure between twenty-two and twenty-three hundred people came through here for Christmas Mass – a cool thousand of them at the five o’clock Vigil Mass. My only regret was that I didn’t get to talk to everyone as they left the church.
Everyone who came noticed how well everything was done for the great celebration. It started the week before Christmas, when the pageants of school and Religious Ed were both super, and helped us all get ready for the coming feast. Bernie Werwinski and the Holy Name men put that cumbersome crèche together out front to show Christ’s birth to all who pass by on the boulevard.
Then, Christmas Eve morning, Elaine Vining, Kelly Weisgerber, and the church decorating posse moved will skill and vision and made the church worthy to receive her new-born King. Not to name names, but Norma, Margaret, and Dao worked for hours to get the details just right.
Then the sun set, the crowds came, and the pressure was on. Lectors, ushers, and ministers of Holy Communion made their schedules conform to the needs of the parish, and my servers were so good I wished someone were there to take pictures to send to the Pope! Our choirs were superb. Our music director Richard Fitzgerald, both choirs, the schola, and the instrumentalists made Saint Bernadette a center of glory to God in the highest. A terrific amount of work went into the preparing, and the presenting. We even had a little adversity to overcome there at the Midnight Mass! But our people made it look easy.
I am grateful to all of these for what they did for me, and for us all. And let me not forget to thank you for one major thing—your clear and confident participation in the Christmas Mass using the responses of the new translation! You were AWESOME!
The counters came in to do their work, which took a gratifyingly long while. The one penalty of having Christmas fall on a Sunday is financial: the offertory takes a hit. Reasonably, folks don’t double their giving even though Christmas doubles up with a Sunday. That may cost us fifteen grand, or more, in this year when we can ill afford it because, honestly, giving has been down. If you only gave once, it’s not too late to go back and cover that base – especially if you have anything to thank God for in 2011!
I did get one donation I was not expecting – a flat screen television. I had mentioned that we need some for our meeting rooms here. More and more resources – catechetical, organizational – are available now in video format, and we have more groups, meeting in more rooms, in the parish. So if Santa brought you a TV upgrade this year, and you have not yet decided what to do with the old one, if it’s a bigger flat screen that’s not too old, we could use it! Not to mention if you have a spare DVD player, other video accessories, or even (believe it or not) one small (portable) CD player, Saint Bernadette could use it! Most people don’t put out their wish lists after Christmas, but I’ll be happy with leftovers here. Please keep us in mind.
Because for Catholics, Christmas does not end, but begins on the 25th, we prolonged the celebration with our first annual (we hope!) Living Nativity on Wednesday evening. John Kirk and the men of Orate Fratres really gave us a treat there – more excitement than our front lawn normally sees.
I am grateful for a truly graced year, and a beautiful Christmas. I thank God that He let me be here with you for it, a part of your family and your festivity, because there is nowhere else I would have more enjoyed being for Christmas. And I thank you for letting me be there with you, at Christmas, at the turn of the year, and any and every other day. Thank you for letting me be your priest. That’s the best gift, and the best Christmas, I have ever had.