Tuesday, December 25, 2018


Dear friends,
It's hard for me to believe that it is Christmas again, but here it is! I want to take this opportunity to wish you all the blessings that come with this sacred season.  
As I think back over all the past Christmases that come to mind this year, I am reminded of a few in particular.  
The first Christmas that I can remember is one from around 1948 or 1949. I have no idea what I got for Christmas that year, but I do remember how I felt. We didn't get much in the way of toys, but I can remember waking up that year literally shaking with excitement.  
What I remember most about Christmases growing up was not the gifts, but  going to midnight Mass, hearing the choir sing "O Holy Night," coming home to open presents and eating country ham sandwiches with all the traditional compliments.  
Christmases, when I was in the home missions, were pretty lonely times. I lived in a windowless basement apartment under the church,  There was only one Mass in Wayne County and one in McCreary County (an hour's drive away) on Christmas Day, so Christmas Eve was a time when I was pretty much alone in my basement bunker. I would watch Midnight Mass from the Rome, maybe cook myself a little dinner and go to bed early rather than sink into a depression.  
Cathedral of the Assumption Christmases were the most memorable. At midnight, the church was packed, the choir and organ were spectacular and Archbishop Kelly always invited me to preach. That Mass was usually televised. Old friends often visited and former parishioners were home for the holidays. It was always a deeply spiritual experience.  
The "Blue Christmas Masses" for the grieving that I sponsored at Bellarmine University from 2011 - 2016 also stand out. They might been the things that I am most proud of in those days because they seemed to have met an obvious "unmet need." We were always packed into that small chapel.  
This year, for the third year in a row, I have enjoyed buying toys and helping meet some of the needs of the orphans, school kids and the diocesan staff in the poor country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. With the help of many generous friends, I buy things all year "on sale," pack them up in early November and send them down in time for Christmas. Christmas. (My wonderful Aunt Margaret and I have already started shopping for bargains for next year's Christmas.) I have been told that Christmas is not as big down there as it is here. Maybe it's because of the poverty. When you don't have much to spend on gift-giving, shopping and decorating, making a big deal out of Christmas doesn't seem to make much sense. From here, it makes me very happy to help make a bunch of kids and some good friends down there a little happier, even though I won't be there in person to see their smiling faces. 
The highlight of this Christmas will, without doubt, be the 6:00 pm "Blue Christmas Mass" on Christmas Eve at Holy Family Church on Poplar Level Road. After a two year hiatus, some friends and I have "revived" the tradition of having a special Mass for the grieving. We are all looking forward to it. We feel we are "doing a little something" to relieve some of the pain that many people feel during the holidays.  
For me, Christmas has seldom been about receiving gifts, but more about giving them - whether that means trying hard to write a good Christmas homily, offering a special Mass to the grieving or gathering up toys, school supplies, medical equipment and church furnishing for the good people of the poor Diocese of Kingstown in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. I can't thank those enough who partner with me to do these things. I think we all realize that "giving is better than receiving" is not just a pious thought, it's the truth! 
A happy Christmas to all of you from me - a priest who feels very blessed! Thank you for all the joy you bring into my life, not only at Christmas, but all year long! Stay in touch! Coming up, we have another year of opportunities to do good for others! 

God bless you!  
Father Ron  

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