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Great Expectations


A Memorable Mass After 71 years of celebrating Mass, I look upon this Mass in Bethel, Alaska, as a memory I will always treasure.  Bethel (House of God) sounds like Bethlehem (House of Bread.). . . . The coldness of the Bethel Chapel, much as it was in the stable of the First Christmas, told me of the hardships the Child, Mary and Joseph went through for my sake. . . .  The rough wooden altar – how similar to the manger where the Child was laid.  The presence of the Eskimo mother helped me understand the coming of the shepherds to the place of Jesus’ birth.

A Memorable Mass
After 71 years of celebrating Mass, I look upon this Mass in Bethel, Alaska, as a memory I will always treasure. Bethel (House of God) sounds like Bethlehem (House of Bread.). . . .
The coldness of the Bethel Chapel, much as it was in the stable of the First Christmas, told me of the hardships the Child, Mary and Joseph went through for my sake. . . .
The rough wooden altar – how similar to the manger where the Child was laid. The presence of the Eskimo mother helped me understand the coming of the shepherds to the place of Jesus’ birth.

A Note to my readers – this is my favorite entry for Christmas, and so I re-blog this every year.  I hope you enjoy.

39 years ago, in 1976, a short time before Christmas, I was living in the town of Bethel (pop. 3,500), in faraway Alaska, close to the Bering Sea. Bethel had no roads leading out from it, except one to the airport, three miles away.  The only way to visit Bethel was by plane, by way of two jet flights each day from Anchorage, 500 miles away.  Not a single road ran between Bethel and Anchorage.

One windy Saturday night I left our Rectory at the Immaculate Conception Mission to drive to the town’s Community Chapel on the other side of Bethel to offer evening Mass.  The howling, screeching wind made driving our Chevy Van extremely difficult.

Arriving early, I found it nearly impossible to coax any heat out of the oil stove. Inside, the temperature almost equaled the outside conditions at -10 degrees F and a wind chill of -50 degree F.  I pulled the altar as close as possible to the stove and put on my vestments over my great fur parka.  To anyone present I looked like a warrior from outer space.  That night, my only congregation consisted of a young Eskimo mother and her three little boys, with ages of two, three and four.

With breath coming from my lips in clouds, I prayed the simple, touching words of the Mass . . . “The Lord be with you . . . Lift up your hearts . . . Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.” All through the Mass, the youngest child played under the altar at my feet.  At the words of the Consecration, spoken by an ordinary human being, the Lord, The King of Kings, came down on our pour, rough altar.  After my own communion, I offered This Humble King to the little mother, with her face almost hidden in the parka.  At the finish of Mass, without a word, she and her little ones hastened out into the frightful darkness.

Emmanuel – God with us! How consoling and uplifting to have Jesus, the humble, gracious King of Love, with us.  From His place in Heaven, He heard my words, “This is My Body . . . This is My Blood” and came down to the vast wilderness of Western Alaska to be with me and the Eskimo family.  What faith this little Eskimo mother had to venture out, with her little ones, on a winter’s night, filled with a gale-like wind, to give worship to the Child of Bethlehem.

What message did she receive in her heart that night to bring her to the Holy Child? The shepherds, on the first Christmas night, heard heavenly voices announcing the Birth of the Savior.  Like these shepherds, the young faith filled Eskimo mother returned home, rich with heavenly gifts.

The moral of the Bethel story above is to treasure the Presence of the Child of Bethlehem in our lives. On this Christmas Day, 2015, we will make every sacrifice to leave our warm homes to offer worship in our Houses of Prayer!

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year! Fr. George Mc Kenna

December 20, 2015 - Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , ,

7 Comments »

  1. Father McKenna you continue to inspire me . Thank You and may you have a Blessed Christmas

    Comment by Ellen Konrath Fudacz | December 20, 2015 | Reply

  2. The most powerful depiction of the Transubstantiation in the humblest of situations that I have ever read. Merry Christmas, Fr. McKenna! Thank you for inspiration.
    Steve Molidor

    Comment by Steve Molidor | December 20, 2015 | Reply

  3. Thanks Father, another gem. May God richly bless you this Christmas.

    Comment by Bartholomew Timm | December 20, 2015 | Reply

  4. You are a great inspiration. We thank you for wisdom, plus all you do share. Kindly, have a blessed Christmas, with fond memories. Tpd & family

    Comment by Tom Dubrick | December 20, 2015 | Reply

  5. Thank you for this amazing story. Faith like that Eskimo woman is hard to find today. I wish you a blessed Christmas and the new year filled with many blessings on you.

    Arlene Johnson

    Comment by Arlene A. Johnson | December 20, 2015 | Reply

  6. Merry Christmas Fr. McKenna and God bless you in 2016. Pam Gervais

    Comment by Pamela Gervais | December 28, 2015 | Reply

  7. Simply beautiful, Fr. George! Thank you for sharing your beautiful gift of writing with us. I went to ‘midnight Mass’ (now celebrated at 9:00 pm) on Christmas Eve. After having an oven that malfunctioned and company for dinner, just to go to celebrate the birth of our Lord – what serenity! We were asked to arrive a half hour early to sing Christmas Carols. So soothing, so comforting! And the Gospel reading – just spoke to me in my heart. All such a comfort! If only everyone would feel that peace in their hearts, so simple, so available, but so discounted by millions; what a beautiful world this could be! Sorry I am just getting to your posts – but you know that you are in my thoughts and prayers every day! I love you, my dear friend!

    Love,
    Nancy

    Comment by Nancy Kolember Westvang | January 7, 2016 | Reply


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