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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 24, 2021

It is easy to infuse a most fervent devotion into others, ev...

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July 24

 

It is easy to infuse
a most fervent devotion into others, even in a short time;
but the great matter is
– to persevere.

St. Philip Neri


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Charbel Makhlouf

Multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was fi...

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St. Charbel Makhlouf

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in the village of Bekka Kafra in Lebanon on May 8, 1828 and was one of five children born to Antoun Zarrour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chidiac. His father was a mule driver who died when Youssef was only three years old, leaving his widow to bring up their children alone.

Although Brigitta was left nearly destitute, she reserved a profoundly religious atmosphere in their home and instilled in her children a deep spirit of piety. Because of this fidelity, Youssef became unusually devoted and inclined to prayer and solitude at a very young age. He was greatly attracted to the life and spirituality of hermits; and as a young boy tending his family’s small flock, he would often go to a nearby grotto where he had erected a little shrine to the Holy Mother of God and would spend his whole day there in prayer.

When he was twenty-three years old, Youssef, feeling the call to the religious life, left his home and family to join the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Marfouq. Here he began his formation as a monk before later being transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron near Beirut. There he received the religious habit of the Maronite monk and took the name Charbel. He made his final profession as a religious brother on November 1, 1853 – he was twenty-five years old.

Brother Charbel immediately began his studies for the priesthood under the instruction of Father Nimattullah Kassab, who was also later declared a saint by the Church. Charbel was ordained on July 23, 1859, following which he returned to the Monastery of St. Maron where he lived a life of great austerity. In 1875, he was granted permission by his superiors to live a solitary life in the Hermitage of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was under the jurisdiction of the monastery; and there he resided for the remaining twenty-three years of his life until his death on Christmas Eve, 1898.

St. Charbel is renowned for his many miracles both during his life and after his death. His most famous miracle – which was also his first – occurred when, multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was filled with water. He is also credited with many healing miracles.

After his death, he was interned at the Monastery of St. Maron, now a famous pilgrimage site. His tomb was often witnessed surrounded by a dazzling light, and to this day his remains are incorrupt and an unexplainable blood-like fluid flows from his body. He was canonized on December 9, 1977, by Pope Paul VI, who held him up as an example to help us understand “in a world, largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”

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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