Blessed Are the Poor at Christmas

Amid all the bustle of cooking, shopping, and family visits, we need to find a time of quiet and peace, a peace the world does not give.

While I was growing up, Christmas was a wonderful time with grand traditions. I remember making a birthday cake for baby Jesus from my Easy Bake Oven while I watched my brother gag on the tiny cake with crusty edges. Later, I remember, we’d sing to Him, enjoy our manager that played “Silent Night,” and celebrate with my Nana, who shared Christ’s birthday.

For some, though, Christmas is a painful time and the world does not sparkle on December 25. The day that should warm all hearts leaves them cold. It could be because of a family breakdown or tragedy.  It may be having no one to celebrate with or not having basic necessities. Whatever the reason, Christmas is only another day.

One day during Advent a few years back, my husband Phil and I were invited by my brother Paul to serve the poor at Chicago’s Port Ministries, a Franciscan Outreach service. We and Paul’s growing family of six children sang Christmas carols to the poor while they enjoyed a meal.

I don’t remember all that was said that day, but I strongly recall the peace I felt. The peace felt so thick, it pervaded everything in that tiny room.  Founder and President Fr. Gus Milon, OFM, was on hand to offer a prayer of thanksgiving and praise.  Little did I know this was the start of my call to the Secular Franciscan Order.

In this room there were warm smiles of volunteers and our honored guests: the poor.  Many from the streets of Chicago’s south side were just thankful for a hot meal, a few treats, and an off-tune serenade by us.  They did not grumble about lack of food or clothing or about their children who tried to sleep in a gang-filled neighborhood.  They were present at that moment with the Lord and us and were happy.

Fr. Gus was right, “When you touch the poor, you touch Jesus,” especially at Christmas when He is most vulnerable as a little baby.

The poor are vulnerable, but are not afraid to be real.  They say it like it is.  More than once they have taught me a lesson: truly God is in everyone.  They are genuinely the poor in spirit. I always remember while working with the poor that Jesus was poor. They are truly closest to God because they rely so heavily upon Him for their daily needs.

I discover they are so thankful for every little thing they receive, while we grumble in our abundance that we do not have enough!  I was truly embarrassed for complaining about things like a “Charlie Brown” tree, dollar store presents, or even fractured family ties.

Do something different this Christmas and after. Tend to the poor.  You will be the richer for it!  Merry Christmas with the blessings of the Holy Family!

Copyright © 2012, Mary Mitchell

Mary Mitchell

Mary Mitchell

Mary Mitchell, from Chicago, is a devout Catholic who likes to mix the divine truth with humor. She thinks it's the only way we can get through this life! Mary is the mother of three and has been married to her husband, Philip, more than 20 years. She has attempted to live the vows as a Secular Franciscan for about 20 years, but has a long way to go.

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