First Midnight Mass at St. Raphael’s Old Catholic Church
I always remember the first Christmas I had at St. Raphael’s Old Catholic Church. I was a young Priest, newly ordained. I wanted to keep the tradition of Midnight Mass alive and did everything in my powers to promote our Mass. I called the newspapers, radio, and told everybody I knew that there will be a Midnight Mass at St. Raphael’s Old Catholic Church.
Christmas Eve came. I opened the doors in good time. The candles were lit, Christmas music was playing from a tape and the sound mixed with the smoke and smell of the incense to fill the sanctuary. When it was Midnight and time to start the Mass, I looked in the sanctuary. There was no one in the Church but one individual. He was a rough looking man, a logger. With his beard and uncombed long hair, his work clothes, strong as an ox, he looked like someone from Skid Row. He, too, was originally from Quebec, his wife and two kids still being there. He missed his family and felt lonely.
Never to be discouraged I told him: “I think the collection will be small tonight!” Having this said, we both felt at ease and proceeded with the Mass. We both realized that the Holy Family was also far away from their home, and their family, alone, strangers in their own country, and we felt the Christmas Spirit. “…and the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
After the Mass we went in the back of the Church to continue our Celebration with a tradition from Quebec we always enjoyed: Tourtière – French Meat Pie. We shared stories and laughter and we celebrated Christmas, two strangers who became family that night.
The logger went back to the camp. Three months later I received a letter from his wife informing me, that he was killed in an accident. She added that for him it was the most beautiful Christmas he could have had without his family being present, and that he was so happy to have met me. The family was grateful to me, because they missed him but knew that his last Christmas was a good one.
His widow and his two kids kept over the years in touch with me and the Church. Every year to this date at Christmas I receive a card from all of them, exchanging greetings and best wishes, reminding me of my first Christmas as a Priest.