From the Pastor: Christmas 2020
So here it is, a day or two after Christmas and everyone is sharing stories about how their family managed to cope in this most strange covid year. Since I usually don’t have time to sit down and chat after Mass (giving out penances and absolution does not count as “chatting”!) I will have to leave you with this written account of how my Christmas went. Obviously, with Christmas on a Friday and the bulletin needing to be out before the staff took off for the Holy Day, I had to write it before any of the described activities took place. Of course, these time warps happen around here all the time, so you should be used to them by now.
Christmas Eve was pretty busy around here. After the second morning Mass, there was, as normal for a weekday, Adoration and confessions. The confession lines had been long all week and the day before Christmas was no exception. Everybody and their brother wanted to be spiritually clean for Christmas, thanks be to God! After the Benediction, there was a large group of people waiting by the sacristy to have items blessed, most of which were going to be given as presents. Of course, even before I got done with the exorcisms and blessing of the various items, there was the all too often heard cry of, “Father, the toilet is overflowing!” The answer to the reply, “Which one?” determined how to fix it. It was the easy one. “Jiggle the handle,” I called back and continued casting demons out of some items on the table. “Make a note to exorcize the bathrooms, too,” I thought to myself. By the time I was finished the noon church bells were ringing. I headed over to the rectory office to plagiarize a little more from the Church Fathers, I mean, to finish preparing my sermon.
Probably 15 people came to the door bringing (more) homemade cookies, spiced nuts, and/or trail mix covered in white chocolate as they wished me and the staff a Merry Christmas. I certainly am not complaining, for that is what I ate for all of my meals last week and I probably have enough left for another week as well! Look at how thin Kim and Mark are and you know who really gets the goodies marked, “To Father and the staff, Merry Christmas!” The phones rang pretty constantly, too, as people kept calling to ask about the Mass schedule. I think Mark got tired of telling people that “That’s right, Midnight Mass starts at 12:00. No, midnight is not too late to hold Midnight Mass. Just because your parish up north always has it at 9:30 pm doesn’t mean that that is the traditional time...” He got good at figuring out where the callers were visiting from. “No, Father doesn’t celebrate the ‘Children’s Mass’ dressed as Santa Claus. You’re from Detroit, aren’t you?” “Your priest always gives general absolution before Christmas Masses? Let me guess. Chicago?” “You want to know which Mass is the shortest so that you can get in and out quickly? I thought you New Yorkers were all in quarantine!” And so passed the afternoon and evening.
A few of my family members came to Midnight Mass this year. Even though Aunt Irma was just here for Thanksgiving, she came back again anyway. It is always good to see her. I was going to re-introduce her to everyone before Mass because some of the new parishioners have never met her and some have even had the audacity to question her existence! But she showed up late and, since it was a candlelight Mass, it was too dark for anyone to see her. I know a few of you spoke with her after Mass when she handed you one of her computer tablets so that you could safely Zuum without needing masks (she still hasn’t figured that one out yet). She was also pretty vocal about the Vatican’s Nativity set, so if you heard a lady ranting about how her local boys and girls club had been ripped off by not getting credit for their work, you now know who she is. She claims that some of the special needs children back home had participated in a “Go Big or Go Home!” Beginners Porcelain class where they each created larger than life-sized characters whom they either admired or feared. “Little Jeremy, whose dad is on death row, made the ‘Darth Vader as an Executioner’ statue. Camille, who was born without legs, created a dog missing those appendages and other children followed her lead when making barnyard animals. Frankie follows Space X launches and so made a spaceman. Suzie made a chunky flying monkey from Wizard of Oz. Shawna made a soldier to honor her deployed older brother. Mary and Joseph are really just giant Weebles the Casimir twins put together...” And the list went on and on until Aunt Irma ran out of breath. “They never expected these to be Nativity figures,” she was telling everyone who would take her tablet and listen. “People would stop making fun of the pieces and calling them ‘ugly’ if they realized that these were first attempts at art by physically and mentally handicapped and abused children, not professional artists.” I was proud of her for defending those poor kids. I was equally relieved that this topic kept her from explicating her views on the recent CDF and USCCB letters on vaccinations.
I have many more Christmas stories to share, but there is no more room in this column. I hope your Christmas was as good as mine!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka