By Paul McMullen
FULLERTON – Archbishop William E. Lori celebrated his first Christmas in Baltimore with remembrances of his previous post and prayers for healing there.
St. Joseph, Fullerton, overflowed with worshipers at 4 p.m. Mass Christmas Eve, when Archbishop Lori asked some 1,300 to remember the people of Newtown, Conn., and the many friends he made there at its St. Rose of Lima Parish.
That church has been a focal point for the healing that has followed the Dec. 14 slaying of 20 students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It sits in the Diocese of Bridgeport, which Archbishop Lori directed for 11 years before being installed as the Archbishop of Baltimore in May.
To see pictures of the day, navigate the arrows below.
“Like most people, I look forward to Christmas joy, and to all the festivities that are part of the Christmas spirit,” Archbishop Lori said in his homily. “Yet doesn’t it often happen that these same festivities have a way of highlighting those things in our lives that we wish we could change.
“If we could do so, all of us would surely undo the tragic events that unfolded in Newtown, when so many innocents and dedicated educators were taken from us.”
He noted some of the sacraments he administered at St. Rose of Lima, and that its pastor, Monsignor Robert Weiss, is a native of Baltimore.
Archbishop Lori contrasted the tragedy to the transformative power of Christmas.
“A few days ago, a friend of mine from Connecticut commented that the events in Newtown have cast a pall over Christmas – that it won’t be as joyous as usual because of what transpired there. But I wonder if he got it backwards. It isn’t Newtown that casts a pall over Christmas. It’s Christmas that sheds its light on all the events of our lives, great and small.
“Whenever some terrible tragedy strikes, people often ask, ‘Where was God?’ We may have asked the same question, not only about Newtown but also about many of the things we struggle with each day.
“Christmas doesn’t offer us a glib answer to that question but rather a profound answer that cannot be reduced to a slogan or sound bite. To experience joy this Christmas or really any Christmas, we have to dig deeper. …
“This is what,” he continued, “we need to know this Christmas night: the child born in Bethlehem still comes to us today: in the truth, the love, the smallness of the Eucharist, every Sunday, every day; in the whispering voice of the Holy Spirit when we read and pray the Scriptures; He is with us in the heart of our homes, in our love for our families, in our relationships with others, in our daily decisions. He is with us even when we become estranged from our God and from one another …
“The Christ-Child was born not to avert all the suffering we impose on ourselves but to ensure that sin and death do not have the last word about human history … In this Year of Faith, perhaps the events at Newtown have tested our faith or perhaps our faith has been strengthened by the outpouring of faith and love that we have witnessed in that community.
“Perhaps the best way to embrace the child in the manager this night in faith and love is to embrace in love those suffering families and indeed all those who are in need.”
Archbishop Lori invited worshipers to visit the archdiocesan website, archbalt.org and join a “spiritual bouquet,” where they can “offer Masses, prayers, and good deeds so that those families and the whole community can experience some measure of consolation and healing not only at Christmas but in the weeks and months ahead.”
“If he were here, Monsignor Weiss would tell us that the community at Newtown doesn’t need more flowers or letters or phone calls – it is inundated in those things. Those families need our prayers and our love more than anything else.”
Concelebrants included Monsignor Kevin T. Schenning, pastor of St. Joseph, and Father Louis A. Bianco, associate pastor. Fifteen minutes before the Mass was to start, as snow fell outside the church, every pew inside was filled and families stood, lining every wall.
Related articles: Make room for God, pray for peace pope says in Christmas services
Copyright © Dec. 25, 2012 CatholicReview.org