Tonight is the Vigil of the Feast of St. Nicholas, the original inspiration for our friend, Santa Claus, loved by all children. May the Lord shine His radiant Light on us tonight and tomorrow as we celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas, that Bishop of long ago, who gave gifts to the poor family. Tomorrow is also the First Friday of the month of December when we make reparations for sins against the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Tonight is Thursday during the First Week of Advent, 2019, where we light a blessed candle above our Advent wreath, saying prayers in honor of the forth-coming Baby Jesus, the Son of God.
Sunday, December 8th, is the Second Sunday of Advent, when we will light two candles above our Advent wreath. Many families set up a crib immediately after the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate on Monday, the 9th, as the usual date, the 8th of December, is Sunday, the Lord’s Day. Saint Francis of Assisi was so taken by the mystery of the Incarnation that he wanted to present it anew at Greccio in the living nativity scene. I remember years ago, my Protestant cousin lifted up the live animals for the living creche scene in the church’s elevator in a small town in Wisconsin.
Also, years ago, I spent Christmas in Medjugorje, a small village in Bosnia, where the Blessed Mother has been appearing daily. There was a live nativity scene on Christmas Eve outside St. James. I knew the man playing Joseph, whose wife had just given birth to a baby playing the Infant Jesus. All the restaurants were closed on Christmas Day, so one of the shop keepers put food outside his shop for the pilgrims to eat. Then, we went back to our guest house, sharing dried fruits, nuts, and chocolates from our suitcases, while Fr. Ricardo kept us laughing as he told us jokes.
What with all the corruption discovered in D.C., (God protect our President),Sacramento, (God have mercy on California),and in many parts of the world, with wars and rumors of wars, it is good to hear a story of a heroic man with great faith. This story was published by a holy, terrific priest, and author of “After Suicide”, Fr. Chris Atar, MIC, and was printed in a newsletter from Stockbridge, MA. called “Marian Helpers”. Here is the story, as told by Fr. Donald Calloway,MIC, in a homily delivered on June 2, 2019,and included in an article entitle “We Are Our Fathers’ Keepers”, by Terry Peloquin and published on pages 12-13 of the Winter issue, 2019, of the “Marian Helper” of marian.org:
“Probably no matter where you were on April 25, you got a phone call or a text message, or a co-worker said to you, “You’ve got to turn on the TV. Are you seeing this?” And what did you see? The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in flames.”
“It looked horrible, like it was going to burn to the ground. Those flames were huge. And as the cameras panned the crowd, you saw people crying, praying, some on their knees with a Rosary, some singing songs in French, some singing to Our Lady in Latin. But they were all a great distance from the fire. What we did not see [was] that initially, many people were inside. They ran out to get away from the fire, and they sought refuge in a nearby park.”
“But did you know that one man was on the sidelines with everyone else who decided to go inside? He was a Catholic priest. Fr. Jean-Marc Fornier, the chaplain for the Paris fire department. He turned to two firemen and said,
“I’m going in. Come with me.” And they did. They ran in the main corridor, he said to them, “There is the Crown of Thorns. Break the glass and take it. There is the cloak that King Louis used. Take it. There are the relics of St. Helena. Take them.”
“And, do you know what he did? He went into the heart of the fire, into the sanctuary, where all around him pieces of the wooden ceiling were falling. And if they hit him, he’d be dead in an instant.”
“Why did he do that? To save the greatest treasure in the Cathedral, the Blessed Sacrament. He took out the consecrated Host. And when he turned around,two firemen were holding the relics,looking at him like, “Let’s get out of here!” You know what he did? He raised the Host and blessed the firemen so they could get out – even if he did not make it. And then he raised the Host higher and blessed the entire Cathedral with the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord. And the Cathedral did not fall. It burned. The ceiling is gone, but the structure remains. The roof can be rebuilt.”
“What gave that priest the courage? His love for the Eucharistic Lord, primarily. And he was simply imitating Jesus Christ, the High Priest. ”
“Remember what Jesus did for us? When it seemed like the whole world was in ruins, that the flames of sin had destroyed everything, the Son of Man left the comfort of Paradise to become one of us and step into the fire, to give His life as a sacrifice for us so that we could be spared the flames of hell. And today, we celebrate His Ascension, when He returned to the side of His Father in the Heavenly Kingdom. And yet His mind was still thinking about us. He said that He goes to prepare a place for us, that we can have a mansion in the Kingdom of Heaven, if we remain faithful to Him.”
After that fire at Notre Dame, many social commentators – both Catholic and non-Catholic – said that it was almost as though that fire were symbolic of something happening now in the world of Christianity, Catholicism in particular. It would seem that it’s on “fire”: the persecutions, the divisions, the confusion. It is everywhere. People are leaving the Church in droves.”
“If you look at the studies, Mass attendance over the last few generations has radically plummeted. If I were to ask you, “Do you have someone in your family who no longer goes to church, who no longer believes?” I guarantee you, all you would raise your hands. These are seriously confusing times. We live in an age with a generation of young people who are called the “None Generation” because they believe in nothing – 55 percent of them believe in no organized religion whatsoever. They particularly have a disdain for Christianity. Catholicism especially. They want nothing to do with it.”
“You know this. And even for the people who remain and call themselves Catholic, many of them believe it is OK to have an abortion: OK for two men or two women to get married; and OK to practice contraception. These are the times we live in. The flames seem to be consuming the Church. Is it going to fall?”
“When I was looking at the footage of those flames over Notre Dame,I was convinced that it was going to burn to the ground. But it did not fall.”
“Is our Church going to be overcome with the darkness of our time? No. Jesus promises that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church – never- even though the times are horrible (see Mat.16:17-19) What does God send to us in times of crisis, when it looks like everything is going to be destroyed? Priests. Zealous priests. Men who desire to save souls, to step off the safety of the sidelines and rush into the fire. That’s what God does time and time again.”
[Pointing to newly ordained Fr. Michael Baker, MIC.]” There is one. No more than 24 hours ago, that man was ordained to the sacred priesthood. He could’ve had everything the world offers. As a matter of fact, he kind of did. He had a home. He could have gotten married, enjoyed all the good things in life, but he gave it all up. To do what? To be a celibate social worker? No. To be a warrior, a fighter. More than a firefighter. To be a soldier, a knight. To save the sacred.”
“We need holy priests today. We need them more than ever. We need men willing to go into the fire – when everyone is leaving. ”
“This man was ordained so that your children could be baptized, so that they could receive sanctifying grace in their souls. This man was ordained so he could transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to feed you with the Bread of Everlasting Life. This man was ordained so that God could use him as an instrument to absolve you from your sins. This man was ordained so that, through his preaching and his teaching, you could know the truth and have the Light in your mind and in your soul,so that you can avoid the flames of hell and go to that mansion that is being prepared for you.”
“And this man was ordained on the First Saturday, devoted to Our Lady. There is nothing more powerful on this planet than a Marian priest.”
Let us thank Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, for this most inspiring homily. Let us thank Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, for publishing it in his newsletter, “Marian Helper”, let us thank all the holy MIC priests in Stockbridge, MA st the Shrine of the Divine Mercy. Let us thank the French chaplain and priest, who showed so much courage and faith. Let us thank the Lord God Almighty, His Son, Jesus Christ, His Mother, Our Blessed Lady, and all priests who ever lived or are living or will be living on this earth one day. May the Lord in His abundant mercy grant you a truly holy and sacred Advent and Christmas season. God bless you and your family. Amen.