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One Christmas night, Our Lord, denying Himself the comfort of visiting those households where He knows He is loved, came down into the midst of a modern city to see what sinners were doing.

Christmas!... Christmas!... Joy was universal.

Everyone was celebrating. Christ encountered a policeman completely engrossed in directing traffic in a busy plaza.

Christ stepped up to him and asked, “What does this holiday of Christmas mean?”

The policeman eyed Him: “Where do you come from?”

“From Bethlehem.”

“Where?”

“Bethlehem.”

“Oh? Wherever that is. Anyway, don’t you know that Christmas is a holiday for kids? It’s a holiday for everybody. On Christmas, everybody is somebody’s kid!”

“What is the origin of this holiday?”

“Look, you ask too many questions. Can’t you see I’m very busy? If you want to know more, go ask the chief.”

 

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Christmas!... Christmas!...

Every store glittered with worldly displays. Really, what was behind it?

Christ paused by a restaurant advertising “Christmas Party — $50.00.”  Ladies and gentlemen in elegant evening attire were entering the place.

He stepped inside.

Tables, covered with white linen and lighted with red and green candles, were arranged in rows. Bottles of champagne, with gilded foil about their necks, nestled in ice-filled silver pails.

A woman, turning around and seeing Our Lord, gestured indignantly at one of the waiters: “What is this? You let panhandlers in here?”

The waiter, a young man of twenty or so, rushed over to Him. “What are you doing in here?” he demanded. “Begging is permitted only out on the sidewalk!”

Christ studied the young man. “If only you knew what it is that I am ‘begging’ for...”

But He was already being shoved out into the street — as the woman playing the piano sang, “Peace on earth and mercy mild.” Not even the Roman soldiers had been so hasty.

Outside, Christ allowed Himself to be swept along by the throng that flowed like a river between the stores and markets. He saw toys, and more toys, everywhere, and a few Santa Clauses, but rarely a manger scene.

Our Lord then caught sight of a married couple carrying a few small, precious bundles. They seemed to be good, middle-class, peace-loving souls, hurrying somewhere to celebrate Christmas.

Christ followed them, invisible to their eyes. They entered their home and climbed the staircase to their apartment, where others had already gathered. He watched as they opened bottles, served pastries, and then as they ate and drank.

“Imagine,” said one, “just for a change of pace, I went to Midnight Mass!”

“Oh?” said another,” barely considering the remark, “And how was it?”

“Well, it wasn’t as pleasant as a good concert, but quite amusing nevertheless. Saw a number of friends there...”

The apartment had neither a crucifix nor a manger scene. Christ could not long endure the senseless conversation, so He turned away and slowly descended the staircase.

A short distance down the road, Our Lord found Himself near the playground of a large school. Above the gate a prominent sign proclaimed, “Christmas Party for the Children of District 10.”

Ah, children, little children! Our Lord went in. There were hundreds of children inside, receiving toys, candy, and books. As they noisily ran and tumbled about, important looking women hurried under the gaze of a headmistress.  Again, neither a manger scene nor a crucifix could be seen, and nobody mentioned the name of the Child Jesus.

As Christ stood there, a feeling of isolation grew in His heart. He was a trespasser. Finally, He approached a young boy whose arms overflowed with toys. The boy reminded Him of His little friends of bygone days in Bethlehem.

“Do you love the Child Jesus who has given you so many nice toys?”

The boy stared at Him with a puzzled air: “Child Jesus?”

“Don’t you know Him?”

“No...”

The headmistress, as if sensing some danger afoot, rushed over.  “What did this Man say to you?” she frantically asked the boy. Upon learning what Our Lord had asked and what Name He had dared mention, her eyes glared with annoyance.  “Be so kind as to leave... At once!”

 

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Christ again walked through the streets, no longer entering any of the places He passed. He wandered as His mother had in Bethlehem, on a night like this and on the same date so long ago. He roamed through the endless streets, passing innumerable places where His creatures celebrated Christmas without knowing its true meaning. He hesitated to return to Heaven with such observations, for they would sadden the saints.

Weary, He came to the edge of a neglected suburb. A white building ablaze with tiny lights caught His eye. Approaching and looking through one of the windows, He saw His own image prominently displayed on the wall. His eyes brightened, as if reflecting the hundreds of lights outside, when He noticed that in one corner of the room was a simple, but attractively arranged, manger scene.

Just then the door opened and a boy came out, a boy like those who not infrequently come under the care of a parish. The boy stopped abruptly at the sight of the golden-haired man shivering in the darkness. Icy gusts blew around them.

“Sir, you could freeze out here! You need to get out of the cold.”

“I am quite cold,” answered Our Lord.

“Come in, then. We have a good fire going.”

And so Our Lord entered.  Near the fireplace, a group of children were closely gathered around a young priest. As the fire crackled and filled the room with its warmth and light, the priest told the children about the infinite grandeur hidden within the little figure of the Child Jesus in the manger. He stopped his tale the moment Our Lord entered the room.

“Come in! Oh, you look cold! Warm yourself here.”

The children promptly offered the newcomer a place close to the fire.

“Have you had anything to eat? Joseph, go ask your mother to prepare something hot for this gentleman.”

Christ’s gaze slowly passed over all of them, one by one, as if He were memorizing every little face. Above all, He gazed at the young priest.

“Are you alone, my friend?” asked the priest kindly.

“Yes.”

Seized by soul-stirring curiosity, all eyes turned inquisitively upon the stranger, waiting.

Christ did not speak. Very slowly, regally, Jesus’ hand moved. He extended it over their heads, reaching beyond the humble cottages of that neighborhood and encompassing that immense city whose miseries He had witnessed close up. In a tone of voice that none of those present would ever forget, He exclaimed: “Misereor super turbas” – I have pity upon these people!

Then, slowly, before their astonished eyes He disappeared.

“It was Jesus!” cried one of the boys.

The young priest nodded solemnly. “Yes... it must have been...”

 


By Pierre L'Ermite
Illustrations by A.F.Phillips

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 16, 2020

Today God invites you to do good; do it therefore today. Tom...

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July 16

 

Today God invites you to do good;
do it therefore today.
Tomorrow you may not have time, or
God may no longer call you to do it.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in t...

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel can be traced back to the hermits living on Mount Carmel in Israel during the Old Testament. This ancient community prayed for the advent of the Virgin-Mother through whom salvation was promised to mankind. In Hebrew, “Carmel” means “garden”. In ancient times this mountain was celebrated for its lush, verdant, and flowery beauty.

It was also on Mount Carmel that the Prophet Elijah prayed to God for rain during a terrible drought afflicting Israel for its sins and idolatry of Baal. The first sign that his prayer was answered was a tiny cloud that appeared in the sky out over the Mediterranean, the precursor of a great rainfall.

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah (7:14). The hermits took after his example and prayed likewise for the advent of the much-awaited Virgin who would become the mother of the Messiah. Praying thus became their spiritual mission.

Theologians see in that little cloud a figure of Mary, bringing salvation in the seventh age of the world. As the clouds arise out of the sea without the weight and the salinity of the waters, so has Mary arisen out of the human race without its stains.

In the twelfth century, St. Berthold, a Frenchman, pilgrim or crusader, came to Mount Carmel seeking to visit Elijah’s cave, and ended by founding a community imbued with the Marian spirit of the holy prophet and the hermits of old.

St. Brocard, successor of St. Berthold, set their way of life to a Rule, which was approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. From the time of St. Brocard, these monks were known as the “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel cannot be mentioned without also mentioning her brown scapular. On July 16, 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, an English Carmelite monk, and then General of the Carmelite Order. On one arm she held the Child Jesus and on the other a brown garment called a scapular, to be draped over the front and back of a person. As she showed him this garment she said, “This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall be saved.”

This privilege is extended to lay persons who, wishing to participate in this promise, choose to be enrolled in a small version of the scapular by an officiating priest or deacon.

This practice must not be understood superstitiously or “magically”, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are required for salvation.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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