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The Holy Night Header 

By Selma Lagerlof

 

It was a Christmas day and all the folks had driven to church except Grandma and me. We had not been permitted to go along, because one was too old and the other was too young. And we were sad, the both of us, because we had not been taken to early Mass to hear the singing and to see the Christmas candles.

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But as we sat there in our loneliness, Grandmother began to tell a story.

“There was a man,” said she, “who went out into the dark night to borrow live coals to kindle a fire. He went from hut to hut and knocked. ‘Dear friends, please help me!” said he. ‘My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

“But it was way in the night, and all the people were asleep. No one replied 

“The man walked and walked. At last he saw the gleam of a fire a long way off. Then he went in that direction, and saw that the fire was burning in the open. A lot of sheep were sleeping around the fire and an old shepherd watched over the flock.

Campfire“When the man who wanted to borrow fire came up to the sheep, he saw that three big dogs lay asleep at the shepherd’s feet. All three awoke when the man approached and opened their great jaws, as though they wanted to bark. But not a sound was heard. The man noticed that the hair on their backs stood up and that their sharp, white teeth glistened in the firelight. They dashed toward him. He felt that one of them bit at his leg and one at his hand and that one clung to his throat. But their jaws and teeth wouldn’t obey them, and the man didn’t suffer the least harm.

“Now the man wished to go farther to get what he needed. But the sheep lay back to back and so close to one another that he couldn’t pass them. Then the man stepped on their backs and walked over them and up to the fire.  And not one of the animals awoke or moved.

“When the man had almost reached the fire, the shepherd looked up. He was a surly old man, who was unfriendly and harsh toward human beings. And when he saw the young man coming, he seized his long spiked staff, which he always held in his hand when he tended his flock, and threw it at him. The staff came right toward the man, but before it reached him it turned off to one side and whizzed past him, far out into the meadow.

“Now the man came up to the shepherd and said to him, ‘Good man, help me and lend me a little fire! My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

“The shepherd would rather have said no, but when he pondered that the dogs couldn’t hurt the man and that the sheep had not run from him, and that his staff had not wished to strike him, he was a little afraid and dared not deny the man that which he asked 

“’Take as much as you need!’ he said to the man.

“But then the fire was nearly burnt out. There were no logs or branches left, only a big heap of live coals; and the stranger had neither spade nor shovel, wherein he could carry the red-hot coals.

“When the shepherd saw this, he said again, ‘Take as much as you need!’ And he was glad that the man wouldn’t be able to take away any coals.

But the man stooped and picked the coals from the ashes with his bare hands, and laid them in his mantle. And he didn’t burn his hands when he touched them, nor did the coals scorch his mantle; but he carried them away as if they had been nuts or apples.

Sheep“And when the shepherd, who was such a cruel and hard-hearted man, saw all of this he began to wonder to himself: ‘What kind of night is this when the dogs to not bite and sheep are not scared, and the staff does not kill or the fire scorch?’ He called the stranger back, and said to him: “What kind of a night is this? And how does it happen that all things show you compassion?’

“’Then said the man, ‘I cannot tell you if you yourself do not see it.’ And he wished to go his way that he might soon make a fire and warm his wife and child.

“But the shepherd did not wish to lose sight of the man before he found out what all this might portend. He got up and followed the man till they came to the place where he lived.

“Then the shepherd saw that the man had not so much as a hut to dwell in, but that his wife and babe were lying in a mountain grotto, where there was nothing but the cold and naked stone walls.

“The shepherd thought that the poor and innocent child might freeze to death there in the grotto; and, although he was a hard man, he was touched, and thought that he would like to help it. He loosened his knapsack from his shoulder, took from it a soft, white sheep skin, gave it to the stranger, and said that he should let the child sleep on it.

“But just as soon as he showed that he, too, could be merciful, his eyes were opened and he saw what he had not been able to see before.

Angel“He saw that all around him stood a ring of silver-winged angels, and each held a stringed instrument and sang in loud tones that tonight the Savior was born who should redeem the world from its sins.

“Then he understood that all things were so happy this night that they didn’t want to do anything wrong.

“And it was not only around the shepherd that there were angels, but he saw them everywhere. They sat inside the grotto, they sat outside on the mountain and they flew under the heavens. They came marching in great companies, and, as they passed, they paused and cast a glance at the child.

“There was such a jubilation and such gladness and songs and play! All this he saw in the dark night, whereas before he could not have made out anything. He was so happy because his eyes had been opened that he fell upon his knees and thanked God.”

Here Grandmother sighed and said, “What that shepherd saw, we might also see, for the angels fly down from heaven every Christmas Eve, if we could only see them.”

Then Grandmother laid her hand on my head and said, “You must remember this, for it is true, as true as that I see you and you see me. It is not revealed by the light of lamps or candles, and it does not depend upon sun and moon; but that which is needful is, that we be merciful. Only then our eyes will open as to see God’s glory.”

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for January 25, 2020

We put off our conversion again and again, but who says we w...

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January 25

 

We put off our conversion
again and again, but
who says we will still have the time and strength for it then?

St. John Vianney


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Conversion of St. Paul

He took part in the murder of St. Stephen, deacon and first...

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Conversion of St. Paul


Saul, later Paul, was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin. Being born at Tarsus in Cilicia, he was by privilege a Roman Citizen. As a young man he studied the Law of Moses in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, a learned and noble Pharisee, and became a scrupulous observer of the law.

Later, sincerely persuaded that the followers of Jesus opposed God’s true law, he became a zealous persecutor of the first Christians. He took part in the murder of St. Stephen, deacon and first martyr of the Catholic Church.

In the fury of his zeal, he next applied to the high priest for a commission to travel to Damascus, then a Christian center, to arrest all followers of Jesus.

He was nearing the end of his trip on the road to Damascus with a contingent of armed men, when, about noon, they were surrounded by a brilliant light. Saul was struck to the ground, and though all saw the light he alone heard a clear voice, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” Saul answered, “Who are You, Lord?” and the voice rejoined, “Jesus of Nazareth Whom you persecute. It is hard for you to kick against the goad.”

Then Christ Our Lord instructed him to arise and proceed to Damascus where he would learn what was expected of him. On arising Saul found that he was blind, and was led into the town to the house of a man called Judas.

In Damascus, Christ appeared to Ananias, a virtuous man, and bid him go to Saul. Ananias trembled at the name of the well-known persecutor but obeyed. Finding Saul, the holy man laid his hands upon him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your journey, sent me that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see.

Saul arose, was baptized, and ate. He stayed for a while with the disciples of Damascus and began to preach in the synagogues that Christ Jesus was the Son of God to the astonishment of all who knew his previous persuasion.

Saul, who became Paul, was the great apostle of the Gentiles, preaching far and wide to the pagan world. He was martyred in Rome about the year 67.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him h...

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Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.

If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!

Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.

On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.

Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience", and he was consoled.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.

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