Posted by: Fr Chris | December 26, 2013

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Our Lord would now be one day old – we celebrate His Birth to the octave on January 1st when He is given His Holy Name and circumcised according to the Law of Moses, and western Christians continue the party until January 6 and His Epiphany, or revelation, to the Wise Men who came from afar with the gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Watch the “Nativity Story”, one of the very best Christmas movies out there during this time, especially for a family.  The greatest present is Jesus, nothing beats Him.

I’ve been offline due to – no surprise – some medical issues, but also because I was traveling in early December. Our little parish of 85 households produced the fullness of priesthood this year: a deacon, a priest and a bishop! Our parish son, Nathaniel Block, became a deacon for the Roman rite Diocese of Gallup, the poorest diocese in the entire USA. Our deacon was ordained a priest, and is now Father Brian Escobedo and the new pastor. And our former pastor was made a bishop at the hands of our Metropolitan, my bishop, and our bishop of Parma, and is now Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Eparchy of Passaic. See the Ordination and Enthronement of Bishop Kurt here:

The laying on of hands making Fr. Kurt Burnette a Bishop, in St. Michael Cathedral in Passaic, where I was ordained a priest in 1981. 

This parish has so far given from its congregation two priests, two Sisters, and a deacon, and through our pastor of four years, a bishop. Trust me, something must be happening here at Our Lady of Perpetual Help — so many times I hear from parishioners who have moved away, “Father, there is no place like OLPH” (our parish intials and shorthand title). On the one hand, that is gratifying. On the other hand, that is worrying. 

While I continue with the history of our Church, I am working with the Eparchy of Phoenix in the creating of a bigger evangelization page. And I think it is time to emphasize/ write about what the spirit of welcome is. 

Jesus was born in the cave because the inn was packed, but the owner could not leave a pregnant woman out in the desert cold. So at least she had shelter and warmth. And when the Wise Men make it to Jesus, Scripture says that they come to the house where He and His Mother were, so the Holy Family had moved up in the world, through charity to be sure. They were welcomed. On February 2nd, they are welcomed again at the temple, and affirmed in their holy mission, by the prophecies of Simeon and Anna. And then they must flee from Herod’s jealous rage that destroys the male babies of Bethlehem, to Egypt, where they were welcomed by the local Jews and pagan Egyptians in their wanderings up and down the Nile.

The Route of the Holy Family in Egypt 

The Route of the Holy Family in Egypt

At this time of year, people talk about the “Christmas spirit” which seems to involve kindness, charity to others, patience, and being nice, and hoping Santa does a good job. It is more – it is supposed to be the spirit of Jesus Himself, Who comes as a newborn put into the straw of a manger to keep Him warm, and He is dependent upon everyone for survival. Everyone is dependent upon everyone else – but we do not live that way. No one can stand alone – not even Adam in the Garden of Eden, the land of delight and fullness. 

And the Church is above all else, an accepting and loving Family. Big parishes try their best, our small parishes have a good shot at it. I saw it in Olean NY in the 60 year old Hutsul style chapel where we worshipped on “Russian Hill” overlooking the town. I saw it in St. Stephen’s in Amherst NY, and profoundly in the big -for us – parish of St Thomas in Rahway NJ (300 families). I found it in my second St Stephen’s, now the Cathedral of the Phoenix eparchy, fostered it in the new parish of St Thomas in Gilbert AZ for 3 years, and I found it and fostered it here.

Every parish of the Catholic Church wants to be like that – to be the unique special home for believers. We do it above all by praying to God for His help, and by treating each guest not as a potential member but as an angel in disguise. Scripture refers to this, treating angels unaware. The three guests of Abraham and Sara are the Holy Trinity Itself, the Godhead from on high!

Write me your thoughts at about how a parish shows the love given to the newborn Jesus to guests and members alike. And pray for me in 2014 that I have the strength and ability to do the tasks assigned me. Above, in opening doors for others to God, and walking that path myself.


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