This is the sixth and final of my holiday-themed posts on the Christmas traditions of St. Anthony Messenger Press (SAMP) employees. We hoped that you’ve enjoyed these gift from our family to yours.
Christmas brings us to the very roots of our faith and that is reflected in our celebrating of the season…Love Says It All.
Arlene Funk, who works in advertising and accounting, describes herself as “a big Christmas person.” This widow has six children, 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The first year after her youngest daughter got married, Jacuie returned to her parents’ house on Christmas morning, explaining, “It was always my job as the youngest to put the Baby Jesus in the manger. Who will do it if I don’t?”
Arlene still goes to Christmas Eve Mass with that daughter, her husband, their nine-year-old son and an adopted daughter from Guatemala–and about 20 other family members. Her brunch on Christmas morning is special because her son-in-law cooks. But Arlene has 20 family members over to her condo for Christmas Day for a big Christmas dinner and invites many “orphans” who have nowhere else to go.
She bestows on just-married couples a crèche set and gives ornaments (often angels) as Christmas gifts. More than 20 years ago she was delighted to find a book called The Kneeling Santa, which teaches children that Santa is subordinated to Jesus: Santa kneels at the crib and presents the first gift from his pack every year to the Baby Jesus.
Father Greg Friedman, our video producer and the mainstay of our radio program, admits that last Christmas, the first since his mother died, was hard. He misses being able to talk to her.
In his present sadness, he suspects he’s trying to capture “the lost Christmas,” the “perfect” Christmases of his childhood. One clear memory is of his father, waiting until Greg and his two brothers had gotten their gifts, to bring out a stack of Christmas presents for his wife. They were all wrapped in butcher paper (Father Greg’s dad owned a grocery store). “It was then that I knew how much my dad loved my mother.”
Greg reminds us, “Love is what Christmas is all about.” These days Greg also juggles duties as the pastor of St. Francis Seraph Church. Besides preparing homilies for Christmas, Greg keeps an eye on the animals in the outdoor crèche the Franciscans maintain during the season. (Brother Tim Sucher, O.F.M., director of the friars’ neighborhood social ministry, designs and executes the extensive Christmas displays of the church and friary.)
Ten years ago, at the age of 52, Marc Greenberg, the husband of magazine Editorial Assistant Sharon Greenberg, was baptized Catholic. “It was a choice that changed my life. I had been born and raised Jewish. So I had a thousand questions about what it meant to be Catholic (and I wanted them all answered right now, if you please).
“But I did know that Jesus was the Messiah my ancestors had been waiting for. And I knew that in my Baptism at the Easter Vigil, my old life would die and I would rise again as a member of the Body of Christ.
“I went to my first-ever Christmas Midnight Mass. The readings! The prayers! The music! I stood outside after Mass in the December cold and stared at the stars in the sky, and I cried.”
Marc says that now “Christ is with me all the time. I don’t have to dig around for him in my closet at Christmas—he is already here, in my heart. Each year I make a point of returning to Midnight Mass with my beloved wife, Sharon. I come to greet the baby King of the Jews who would set the world (including, in his time, me) on fire with his love.” Marc is now the business manager for St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Cincinnati.
Sometimes it takes a Jewish convert to bring us around to what should be central in all our Christmas celebration: love.