Happy New Year to all our relatives, friends and benefactors.
Christmas week was a very active one for us. On December 23rd, Brother Jay and Brother Bernardo flew into Virginia to spend Christmas with Katherine Marie Therese, Brother Jay’s brand new granddaughter. It was her first Christmas. But there was much more to it. We’ll get to that shortly.
December 24th family came in from Pensacola, FL, Pembroke Pines, FL, and Bloomington, IL. The house was filled with joy, conversation, a lot of picture taking and a fantastic dinner.
Daniel, Brother Jay’s son-in-law, cooked the main course, a roast pork shoulder. No one knew Daniel was such a great cook. Our waistlines, the next day, proved that Daniel cooks very well. Let’s put it this way, on the trip home, Brother jay could not move once he opened the tray-table in front of him on the airplane.
To be perfectly transparent, if one can be transparent with such girth, the airline industry is determined to influence relationships between people who don’t know each other. The seats are so close to each other that no one with a waist over 40” can get to the window seat. There is no way to squeeze in between the three seats in your row and those in front of you, unless you breath and hold it as you navigate in a tight space. If you try to do this after eating several holiday meals, you can forget it. You may as well pay a little extra for a seat in the bulkhead section, preferably a loveseat. But let’s get back to Christmas Eve.
Unfortunately, we were unable to attend Midnight Mass, because the local parish did not have one this year. The closest Midnight Mass was about thirty minutes away, which is a rough trip for a two-month old little girl, in the middle of a cold December night. Since we couldn’t travel that far, we sat around and talked, teased each other and I believe that one or two of us may have dozed off for a few minutes, after such a large and delicious meal.
Earlier that day, Daniel’s mother and Brother Jay engaged in a conversation about a liquor that the Carthusian hermits have been making for hundreds of years. The more they talked about it, the more enthusiastic they became about finding it. Thank God for Google. The first problem was identifying the name of the liquor. Brother Jay is a “master googler”. We found the name of the liquor, Chartreux, named after the Charterhouse where the hermits have lived for about 1,000 years.
The next step was to find out where we could purchase a bottle of it to go with the Christmas meal. Once again, Google came to the rescue and the liquor was found and purchased. Did I mention that it smells and tastes like cough medicine? Originally, the Carthusian hermits made this liquor for medicinal purposes. It’s no surprise that it smells like cough medicine without the artificial cherry flavor. Let’s put it this way. The stuff smells and tastes so awful that an ounce is about all you can drink in one evening. I don’t mean one sitting. I mean a full evening. The positive here is that you’re literally indulging in Catholic spirits that have been around for about 800 years. If you’re looking to make contact with your Catholic roots and traditions, here is a drink that you can use as an aperitif or as a cure for any disease imaginable.
Opening the gifts under the Christmas tree was a beautiful experience. You have picture some 15 people in a small living room with room for a sofa, a chair and a Christmas tree. There is no more floor space. The little floor space that used to be available is now occupied by baby Katherine’s play mat, chair and some other contraptions. If you’re not careful, you can trip on a piece of infant equipment and find yourself sitting in an infant carrier.
In any case the gifts were distributed and opened. The beauty of the event was that there were no “over the top” gifts, no electronic gadgets (other than a book light for Brother Jay) and there were many books given as gifts. Each gift was purchased with the intention of enriching the life of the next person, as the infant in the manger enriched the lives of the shepherds and peasants in the surrounding pastures.
These are true Christmas gifts. It’s not a show of opulence; nor is it an attempt to impress the recipient with one’s FANTASTIC present. It was a sharing of gifts that have meaning that we share and that enrich the life of the recipient, because the giver has been enriched by it first. You’re not just sharing a thing, you passing on a positive experience in your life.
On December 25th, everyone met up at the local parish for Christmas Day mass. It was a great experience. We were all filled with the same awe as the shepherds in Bethlehem the morning of Our Lord’s birth. That’s one of the wonderful things that happens when you have a family where everyone is a practicing Catholic and well catechized. The mystery of the Eucharist, especially on a solemnity such as Christmas, moves you as an individual and as a family. In this way, the entire family travels down the path to redemption following Mary, the star that leads to Incarnate Son of the Father.
Then came December 27th. This was the day that Baby Katherine was to be baptized, her godparents being her paternal uncle and auntie. This time, family members came not only from the cities that we mentioned above, but more family arrived. Some drove all the way from Miami. Others took a five-hour bus ride to be there. There were cousins who live in New York and other relatives from Virginia, and there were the brothers, the Franciscans of Life. There were also childhood friends who are now married and parents themselves. They took the time off from work to participate in the baptism.
Three generations of family from her father’s side and three from her mother’s side, plus long-term friends, were present to welcome Katherine into the Church and to formally name her, Katherine Marie Therese. She is now a Catholic along with her family and friends. For this we are grateful to God. Passing down the faith to the next generation is always a memorable event when those present are more than spectators. They are men and women of faith opening the door for a loved one to enter into a deeper communion with the family and with Christ, through the waters of Baptism.
It was finally time to go home. But Brother Bernardo couldn’t find his wristwatch. He decided to take a look behind the sleeper sofa, not knowing that the sofa is alive. The bed started to close and swallow him up.
Thankfully, the sofa spit him out and the brothers returned to the Motherhouse, exhausted, elated, enriched and in one piece. It’s going to be a great year. The best part is that it’s not an election year. NO MORE CAMPAIGNS!!!!! YEY!!!!!