Matt C. Abbott
More priestly Christmas reflections
By Matt C. Abbott
December 24, 2009

This column is a "sequel" to my Dec. 10 column "Seven priest share Christmas memories." Thanks again to those priests who contributed their reflections. I also want to wish all my readers a very blessed Christmas!

Father Jay Finelli
Diocese of Providence

I was decorating the church with a group of people in one of my former parishes. We finished at about 1 a.m. During the night there was a horrible wind and rain storm. The wind tore off the shingles on one side of the church's roof. In the morning, the parking lot was covered with shingles and water was flowing in the ceiling and down the lights like a stream. We thought it would spoil everything. People came together and vacuumed up the water. I put candles everywhere since we couldn't use most of the lights. I had a large set of candelabras on the altar.

It turned out to be one of the most beautiful Christmases I remember. Everyone thought it was beautiful and that I had planned it that way. It was like being in the manger with Christ and having only candles to see.

Father Nathan Monk
Antiochian Orthodox Diocese of Miami
Saint Benedict Orthodox Mission, Pensacola, Fla.

When I was 15 years old my family had reached its lowest point financially, and as providence would have it, this happened during Advent. My father was unemployed and working odd jobs and my mother had just given birth to my youngest sister. We were literally living in an abandoned house that my father had procured for a dollar a month as long as we kept the grounds well. The roof leaked, it smelled of mildew and I learned more about the different kind of bugs that can destroy a building.

My parents had acquired a used faux Christmas tree from a yard-sell, but this was the extent of our festivities. To make matters worse, my father shared our plight with the elders at the Protestant congregation we were attending at the time and they sent over a cheese basket that was delivered by the "benevolence" group at our church — which was led by my girlfriend's parents who arrived to give Christmas charity to needy families. I was totally humiliated.

However, on Christmas morning we woke up to find the tree completely filled with toys. My brother got a brand new bike, my sisters got Barbie dolls and all other kinds of toys as well. All the cookies had been eaten and to this day we still don't know who did it. Now that I'm older, my mother has always suspected it was our neighbors up the street who were aware of our situation because my sisters played with their kids.

Father Chuck Davis
New Hampshire

Christmas — 1967 — South Central Highlands. Five hundred "boonie rats" of the 173rd Airborne Brigade would spend Christmas at a mountain top. Early Christmas morning I went to the general and told him I wanted his chopper — orders from God! He smiled and gave permission. With full Mass vestments, a generator I midnight requisitioned and a reel to reel recorder, we choppered to the sight. I made a makeshift altar of ammo boxes. Christmas Mass in all its solemnity, including thurible and incense, was offered, interspersed with traditional Christmas carols. After Mass I turned on the recorder with auxiliary speakers; I had recorded Christmas music before I went to 'Nam. The music echoed over the valley, "O Come Let us Adore Him."

I carried 500 Christmas cards addressed "To any Soldier" and distributed them. I stayed with one black soldier who was crying as he read his Christmas card. His combat fatigues torn, his boots caked with mud. Through his tears he said, "They really do care about us — they really care!"

I'm 78-years-old and retired military. Each morning I celebrate Mass alone in my little chapel, a converted wood shed. Since there is no electricity I light a few extra candles. And at every Christmas Mass I remember — and they are with me.

Father Godavarthi Maria Raju
The Immaculate Conception Church
Ambedhkar Nagar, Vuyyuru
Krishna District, A.P. India

Greetings of love, joy and peace. May the Child Jesus shower His abundant blessings upon you and all your family members with good health, prosperity and success.

I am Father Godavarthi Maria Raju, ordained in 2005. This is my first appointment as parish priest of Vuyyuru parish in the Diocese of Vijayawada in India. Vuyyuru parish consists of 18 mission stations. All our Catholics are from are from the poor Dalit community working as seasonal agricultural laborers; and they are treated as untouchables with no educational and health facilities away from the mainstream of life. Though they are economically poor, they are strong in the Catholic faith.

We have a parish orphanage with 78 children. All these children are from the Dalit community, whose work is to repair the old shoes, tanning, scavenging and work as daily laborers. They are treated as untouchables, forbidden to mingle with others in the society. I am looking after the educational needs of these children. For them the parish priest is the ultimate source for any help. Apart from the pastoral needs of the parish, I am also engaged in charitable, educational needs of the poor children, women and orphans. In our parish compound I am training some 50 poor women to learn tailoring and we are running a tuition centre for the poor children. I am also completing a PhD in Social Work in Nagarjuna University. My subject for research is "A Study on the Child Labour in Krishna District."

Therefore if you are interested in missionary activities, charitable activities and to help the poor children, widows and women, and if you are interested in knowing our culture, customs, traditions, problems and our faith, I can joyfully share with you and in turn you can share with me your beautiful world, culture and faith. It gives us courage and strength. I, along with our parish orphanage children and parishioners promise you and assure of our prayers and wishes. May I request you to have a glance at the photo albums in my Facebook profile and you can come to know our living conditions.

On those who lived in a land of deep darkness a light has shone; for a child (the Lord) has been born for us (Isaiah). May the joy of Christmas fill your heart with happiness; may the promise of Christmas help you feel God's boundless love for you; may the blessings of Christmas warm your heart now and all through the New Year 2010. Wishing you a Merry Christmas.

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 'Unsolved' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets. In 2005 and 2006, he was among the first writers to expose former cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuse of power with and sexual harassment of seminarians. He can be reached at

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