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Who doesn’t love a Christmas Tree? 

What Christmas would be complete without the glittering fir, filling the house with color and warmth?

But whence the custom of the Christmas Tree? The pine fir certainly wasn’t present in Oriental Bethlehem, when Jesus was born. Rather, palm trees grow in the East, and are often depicted around the Crèche.

So, why don’t we decorate a palm tree, rather than a fir tree? Is the custom even Christian, we may ask?

Indeed, that Christmas tree standing in our living room has an ancient, wonderful history. And though the custom began pagan, it was “baptized” and adopted by the wisdom of a great saint.

St. Boniface was an English man who lived in the ninth century and who felt called to evangelize the German nation.

One of the pagan German gods was a great oak tree called “Thunder Oak” in honor of the god Thor. Every winter, the locals offered a sacrifice to Thor, usually a child, under the mighty oak.

One year, fired by holy anger, Boniface decided to do away with the barbaric custom and bravely showed up with an ax just in time to prevent the killing. Before the astounded revelers, he proceeded to hack away at the massive trunk.

Legend has it that a miraculous gust of wind pushed down the tree at the first blows. Impressed that the “god” did not strike down the daring priest, the pagans accepted Christianity.

As the giant oak collapsed, standing there was a small fir tree that, somehow, escaped destruction.

 

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Pointing to it, the holy man said:

“This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”

Thus using strength, St. Boniface did away with an idol.

Yet, also showing amazing tact, he wisely filled the vacuum left by a cancelled custom with another tree, now used merely as a symbol or as a type of “sacramental” directing the new Christians to the true God.

So was the evergreen taken into homes at Christmas, from that time on becoming a loving sentinel to the birth of Christ, a symbol of hope, peace and good-will.

With time, small and large decorated evergreens were used as an actual backdrop to the holy Crèche, another custom begun by another great saint, Francis of Assisi.

So as you gather around the Christmas Tree this year, share its holy origins with your children, so they may not only love it’s lights and colors, but also the rich Catholic heritage that is theirs.

 


 

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By Andrea F. Phillips

References: EWTN Online, Catholic Answers, Wikipedia
Photos:
Christmas Tree: Dreamstime.

St. Boniface and Thunder Oak: Wiki Commons; attribution: Jdsteakley

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 18, 2019

God always speaks to you when you approach Him plainly and s...

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July 18

 

God always speaks to you
when you approach Him
plainly and simply.

St. Catherine Labouré


PLEDGE REPARATION TO OUR LADY HERE!

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Camillus de Lellis

Despite his aggressive nature and gambling habits, the guard...

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St. Camillus de Lellis

Camillus was born on May 25, 1550 in the region of Abruzzo in the Kingdom of Naples. His father was a mercenary soldier and seldom at home. His mother, Camilla, though good was also timid and had trouble controlling her morose, hot-tempered son.

At seventeen, being tall for his age, Camillus joined his father in soldiering. Leading the rambling, ambulant life of a mercenary, he acquired the wayward habits of the profession, especially the vice of gambling.

Still, Camillus’ mother had instilled in him a respect for religion. After his father died repentant, and his regiment disbanded in 1574, he found himself, at twenty-four, destitute because of his gambling. He was offered a shot at reform when a wealthy, pious man, noticing the tall, lanky young man in town, offered him employment at a monastery that he was building for the Capuchins of Manfredonia.

Despite his aggressive nature and gambling habits, the guardian of the monastery saw another side to Camillus, and continually tried to bring out in him his better nature. Finally moved by the good friar’s exhortations, Camillus underwent a deep spiritual conversion.

Refused admission by the Capuchins because of an unhealed leg wound, he traveled to Rome where he began to serve the sick at the Hospital of St. Giacomo while attempting to lead a penitential and ascetic life.

Hearing of St. Philip Neri and his great gift with souls in need, Camillus sought his spiritual direction and was taken in by the saint.

He soon discovered that helping the sick was the cure for his wayward habits, and the only thing that gave him true joy.  He began to gather a group of men around him who had a desire to help the sick for love alone and not for pay. Feeling the need to be ordained, he studied under the Jesuit Fathers and was ordained in 1584 at the age of thirty-four.

Thus Camillus de Lellis, former wandering soldier and professional gambler, established the Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Sick. His group was approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1586, and officially raised to the status of a mendicant order by Gregory XV in 1591. On their black habit they wore a large red cross which became the first inspiration for today’s Red Cross.

By the time of Camillus’ death in 1614, his order had spread throughout Italy and into Hungary. He was canonized in 1746.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates t...

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The Rosary and the Possessed Girl

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that a Dominican, Father Jean Amat, was once giving a Lenten Mission in the Kingdom of Aragon, Spain, when a young girl, possessed by the devil was brought to him.

Father Amat began the exorcism. After several unsuccessful attempts, the priest had an idea; taking his Rosary, he looped it around the girl’s neck. 

No sooner had he done this, the girl began to squirm and scream and the devil, shouting through her mouth shrieked, “Take if off, take off; these beads are tormenting me!”

At last, moved to pity for the girl, the priest lifted the Rosary beads off her neck.

The next night, while the good Dominican lay in bed, the same devils who possessed the young girl entered his room. Foaming with rage, they tried to seize him, but he had his Rosary clasped in his hand and no efforts from the infernal spirits could wrench the blessed beads from him.

Then, going on the offensive and using the Rosary as a physical weapon, Fr. Amat scourged the demons crying out, “Holy Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, help me, come to my aid!” at which the demons took flight.

The next day on his way to church, the priest met the poor girl, still possessed. One of the devils within her taunted him, “Well, brother, if you had been without your Rosary, we should have made short work of you…”

With renewed trust and vigor, the priest unlaced his Rosary from his belt, and flinging it around the girl’s neck commanded, “By the sacred names of Jesus and Mary His Holy Mother, and by the power of the holy Rosary, I command you, evil spirits, leave the body of this girl at once.”

The demons were immediately forced to obey him, and the young girl was freed.

“These stories,” concludes St. Louis de Montfort, “show the power of the holy Rosary in overcoming all sorts of temptations from the evil spirits and all sorts of sins because these blessed beads of the Rosary put devils to rout.”

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In the Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that a Dominican, Father Jean Amat, was once giving a Lenten Mission in the Kingdom of Aragon, Spain, when a young girl, possessed by the devil was brought to him.

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