by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Christmas is the best time for telling stories – our own stories of Christmases past or present. Everyone has a favorite Christmas story, so this week let me share one of mine.
One Christmas Eve when I was pastor of a parish in Lima, Peru, we were preparing for Midnight Mass, when a loud knock came at the door of the friary. Outside stood a little boy, 8 or 9 years of age, sobbing almost desperately and pleading, “Padre please come with me, my mother is terribly sick.” He grabbed my hand and practically dragged me with him to a nearby dwelling, actually a makeshift space cleared of the boards and tools of a house under construction there.
As I entered, expecting the worst, my first impression was of brilliant light shining in that miserable place – I quickly saw that a Coleman lantern had been lighted there.
Lying on a thin mat was the little boy’s mother and standing next to her “bed”, his father. The woman had just given birth to a little girl with her husband serving as midwife, and all was well with mother and child.
The boy had obviously panicked at hearing his mother’s birthing cries and ran to get the Padre for help.
The homily that Christmas Eve was easy – a little Peruvian child had entered their world in much the same circumstances that surrounded Mary, Joseph and the Christ child long ago. I used the sermon also to make a further comment to the fairly affluent congregation gathered at Mass that night: “When will we extend our privileges to include families like Mary, Joseph and their newborn and that little family just down the street forced to give birth in such dire circumstances?”
Next morning, Christmas Day, I went to the little hut to see if there was anything I could do for them – and found it completely abandoned – no sign of the little family.
I never saw them again.
A blessed Christmas season 2021.
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.