December 25, 2000
volume 11, nos. 272
Father Al's CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
A spiritual envelope that envelops Christmas Love
Once again it is my joy and privilege to extend Christmas greetings and blessings to all readers of The DAILY CATHOLIC. This Jubilee Year of 2000 has brought many blessings to so many of us. The success of this apostolate is impossible to measure. The millions of "hits" that this publication has had this year and the past few years are merely a surface guage. I have followed the success of MIR-A-CALL Center, the parent organization for this publication, and I thank the Lord for the many blessings that have come from this ministry.
We have reached the the end of the Jubilee Year with this glorious time of Christmas. It is well for us to truly realize what Christmas really means to us. It is the most significant event in the history of the world. God sent His only-begotten Son to come down upon this earth and take upon Himself our flesh and blood. What is important is that Christ is still present among us in so many ways. He is present in those who are needing and crying:
In those who are suffering and dying;
In those who are excluded and hoping;
In those believing and praying;
In those compassionating and transforming;
In those reconciling and uniting;
In those teaching, touching and healing:
In those witnessing and liberating;
In those ministering, serving and caring;
In those loving, forgiving and sharing.
During this special Jubilee Christmas, we pray:
Holy God, we offer You praise and thanks. From You we came, in You are we sustained, to You we will return. Jesus, on Your 2000th Birthday, may You be reborn in us, that we become more and more like You and love like You loved. During the New Year of 2001, may Your Spirit grow ever stronger within us, that we be better instruments in our mission of building Your Reign of Love, Justice, Friendship and Peace.
Jesus, Lord, Savior and Prince of Peace, grant us, Your brothers and sisters, in Your One human family, of which You are the Head, more Love and more Peace.
Christ is the Reason for the Season and the following story from someone truly highlights this.
'It was just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas --oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it - overspending... the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma -- the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.
As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."
Mike loved kids - all kids - and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.
On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition - one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.
Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, like Christmas personified in Christ, will always be with us.
This story helps reinforce that Christmas doesn't have to be signed, sealed and delivered, but rather gently placed on Jesus' Most Sacred and Merciful Heart like the simple, but heartfelt envelope resting on the branches. We don't have to worry about anyone else reading it, hiding it, or taking it for God knows what is inside. That is what counts the most and should bring us the greatest joy this Christmas. May we all remember Christ, Who is truly the Reason for the Season, and the true Christmas Spirit this year and always.
Like "Mike's spirit," I place a spiritual envelope not only on the branches of the Christmas tree but in my heart. The years have been kind to me but, in my autumn ones, my eyesight has grown poorer due to Macular Degeneration. Therefore, I am not able to write very often and have difficulty reading as well. Please know that you are daily in my prayers and Masses. May I wish you all the blessings of the New Born Savior and please pray for the spiritual success of this wonderful apostolate of The DAILY CATHOLIC. May God bless you abundantly this Christmas and all through the coming New Year of 2001 be filled with His Peace and Joy. This is my hope! This is my wish! This is my prayer!
Father Al Svobodny, OMI