Merry and blessed Christmas!
The English author and Catholic Apologist G.K. Chesterton once reflected on the birth of Christ with these words:
A child in a foul stable, where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
Chesterton was on to something. We all find our truest selves and our deepest peace in the place where the life of all took flesh and was born two thousand years ago. The event that we celebrate at Christmas each year is the key, the focal point, and goal of human history, for it tells us that God is near us, that He accompanies us in moments of joy and profound sorrow, and that as He “pitched his tent” among us in time He continues to dwell within us. In short there is something bigger and more beautiful in life than the difficulties we face, for our lives are engrafted into the higher and greater life of Christ.
We all know in our hearts that at times we are fearful of our weaknesses, inadequacies, and imperfections. We long for a sense of purpose in our lives, and rest for our souls amidst the chaos. As we gaze upon the Christ child, God in the flesh, we are afforded a holy wonder that can lead us more deeply into the mystery of human redemption, grant meaning to our lives, and an understanding of our ultimate destiny. In a world that is at times self-absorbed we are invited to adore something bigger than all of us, an event that stupefied the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem, captivated some of the greatest artists and thinkers of all time, and continues to move our hearts. As we gather for Christmas Mass this year our parish invites you to come and celebrate the great event that transformed creation and changed the course of human existence.
If you have been away from the Church for a short time, a long time, or never really attended Mass, please know that we sincerely hope you will pray with us this Christmas. Even if it has been many years please know all people are always welcome at St. Peter Claver parish. Without a doubt, it is true that sometimes leaders of the Church have not always fed the flock very well; indeed some have even caused great harm. At other times Church leaders may not have provided sound and challenging teaching and preaching that shows the depth and substance of Catholicism, and celebrated the Holy Mass in an irreverent or banal manner. Perhaps some have not been kind or welcoming. As the pastor of the parish, I apologize for that; we can and should do better. St. Paul said it well when he stated that we hold the treasure of our faith in earthen vessels. The Church is bigger than the failings of its members, leaders included.
If I can be of assistance please let me know. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, it is an event that celebrates our own new birth. Our parish is a place of refreshment that offers nourishment for our journey; we are not alone in life’s trials as we are all accompanied by Christ, for in the place where he was homeless, we all have a home.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
Rev. Fr. Douglas A. Ondeck