Moved by the spirit of Christmas
We went to church Christmas morning in the parish in which I grew up. My wife and I were married there, our son was baptized there. We've attended funerals there.
Mary Ellen, Ryan and I walked from Ryan's home to the church.
One might hope for a moving experience at a church service, but most often that doesn't happen. Yet …
On one Christmas Eve, at the same church, I remember the Mass not for what was said from the pulpit, nor for the music, but for the experience as a whole.
I thought it was just me that night, having the experience, being moved. But at the end of the service, the priest and pastor there at the time, Father John Gallagher, looked out at the pews and simply said, “Something happened here tonight. I don't know what it is, but something happened.”
I was simply amazed to hear him say what I was thinking, and yet it was and remains better not to intellectualize it, just know that it happened.
I won't say that this Christmas the experience was the same, but I was nonetheless moved by several points:
• There were many children at the Mass. Nearest us was a toddler boy in a vest, shirt and tie who liked that Ryan leaned over the pew to show him how to use his crayon on a church flyer.
There was another young husband and wife with their family of four boys and a babe-in-arms girl, all smiling and the adults actively participating in the Mass, the children all smiling.
And otherwise there were hundreds of children in the church.
And I thought that with all the violence making the news of late, this crowd restored my faith in people. No one here was going to use a gun to shoot people, everyone knew the value of the celebration at hand. And these children were loved and protected.
• At one point, the priest noted that our grandparents had taught us the value of Christmas by way of traditions, but he also noted that we adults can also learn from the children. What a great life lesson.
• As Mass drew to a close I saw a well-dressed man, likely in his 80s, exit the church a little early.
There may have been any number of reasons why he left. He had white hair and was somewhat hunched over, and I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for this man.
Was he attending Mass alone? Was he feeling ill and had to leave, or simply late for something? This man made me think of my father (who looked nothing like him, nor had Dad attend that church) and I felt I would have like to talked to this unknown fellow, or maybe it was a real desire to speak to my late father.
• On the way back to Ryan's apartment several people who were leaving church and walking past us said “Merry Christmas” and we replied in like manner.
Someone sitting on a front porch yelled “Merry Christmas” to the church-goers as they went by.
This was community as it ought to be. It was a gray, cool Christmas morning when the ordinary was being raised to the level of spectacular and the love and compassion of people for one another seemed obvious. It was a lesson for all who wanted to take it in.
Later, I recalled a quote from the late Mr. Rogers (whose words in the book “The World According to Mister Rogers” I have been reading since the Newtown, Conn., incident) that seemed proven by my morning experience:
“Peace means far more than the opposite of war.”
Later on the radio I heard Elvis singing, “Why can't every day be like Christmas.”
Call me naïve, but why not? No one who had an experience like mine this Christmas morning could be someone to inflict such harm on innocent, caring others.
I wish you a happy and a peaceful new year.
Meandering appears Fridays. To share your thoughts on this column (or on most anything) with Mike O'Hare, write to the Leader Times, P.O. Box 978, Kittanning, PA 16201 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Burnett’s stellar start paves way for Pirates’ victory over Diamondbacks
- Spirit Airlines lifts fortunes of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
- Rossi: Rutherford falling apart, too
- Rossi: Penguins’ best bet is on Martin
- Penguins president: General manager, coach won’t be fired
- High risk, reward with 1st-round quarterbacks in NFL Draft
- Experts: If health insurers’ safeguard goes broke, consumers could pay
- From injuries to front office, Penguins’ season didn’t lack drama
- It’s business, but not as usual in Pittsburgh
- Hip science: Rock-star physicists make tough concepts easier to understand
- Elites, media & character