Merry Christmas!

12-19-2021From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John J. Barbella

I want to begin by thanking all those who took tags and brought gifts for the Giving Tree. Your generosity provided gifts for many children and elderly parishioners and members of our local community. Thanks also to the Boy Scouts who helped us with carrying and moving the gifts. Like always, things work best when everybody works together, putting their faith into action!

It was great to see so many people at last Saturday’s special Mass for the protection of Human Life. After Mass we processed from the Church to the Life Choices Medical Clinic beyond the black bridge on South Main Street. Deacon Enock led us in the Rosary as we walked, while I carried the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. Fr. Gilbert guided the altar server leading the procession, and it all went very well.

It was especially moving to see some people, including the postman, remove their hat and bow their head as the Blessed Sacrament went by. In fact, it made me think of the way the shepherds and Magi knelt before the Lord Jesus in His crib. Then, as now, Jesus comes into our midst, if only we pause and allow ourselves to see Him.

Over the years my celebration of Christmas has changed in some ways, and stayed the same in others. As a child, I used to wake my younger sisters early in morning, before dawn. We would race to see what Santa had brought, and were never disappointed. My poor parents, who probably hadn’t been in bed very long, would come down to join us as we opened presents and played with new toys.

We would go to Mass that morning (remember, the only Christmas Eve Mass back then was Midnight Mass). After that we’d have an early dinner – my mother always made something delicious! Then we’d pile in the car and head to New York to visit my grandparents. Somehow, Santa would stop there, too, and leave some presents. We would see all our aunts and uncles and cousins, and often stop at the homes of some great aunts and uncles too. It was a long day – filled with family, friends, and, of course, faith.

Today my Christmas is filled with celebrations of Holy Mass. This is my 35th Christmas as a priest, and I am still awed to offer Holy Mass, especially on days like Christmas. It’s a gift I wouldn’t trade for all the world. My excitement these days comes from seeing all of you at Holy Mass, and from praying and celebrating with you. The Solemn Mass at Midnight, that I was too young to attend as a child, has become the very center of my Christmas celebration! I hope that many of you will join me at Midnight Mass.

After all the Masses are over on Christmas Day, I visit family. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed! Instead of visiting grandparents, I usually wind up at the home of my sister Christine on Christmas. My mom is always there, enjoying her family the way her parents enjoyed their family years ago. After a wonderful meal I head back to Phillipsburg, filled with the joy of another Christmas.

I hope your Christmas is filled with family, friends, and the joy that Christ’s birth once brought to Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds! Let’s pray for each other on Christmas and always!

Merry Christmas!
Fr. John