On Christmas eve I celebrated three Masses for Christmas around the diocese as has been my custom almost every year since coming in 1996. I try for the first Vigil Mass for Christmas to go north in the diocese since they often feel left out on many things.This year I was the celebrant and homilist for the 400pm Vigil Mass at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Citrus county. At almost every parish in the diocese, the first Mass on Christmas eve targets children and families and this was no exception. The parish is largely a retirement community so there are not an awful lot of children to begin with but add to their number the grandchildren and nieces and nephews who travel at Christmas and we had about forty kids between the age of 3 and 7. I invite them to come forward to the altar after the Gospel proclamation and there I tell them my favorite Christmas story. Here are some of the pictures from the Mass yesterday afternoon.
With barely two hours to spare, seminarian Joseph Plesco who was driving for me last night as well as assisting in the ceremonies and I left for ninety mile trip to Nativity parish, Brandon. I wanted to go there because Christmas is, after all, the feast of the Nativity for birth of our Lord and they had a scheduled Spanish Mass for 730pm, giving me time to celebrate the Mass and be back in St. Petersburg with time to spare prior to the Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of St. Jude. So off we went to Brandon.
Nativity is our largest parish in the diocese and from its inception under the pastoral guidance of Monsignor Jaime Lara, retired and still very much a force major, Nativity has always been a happy home for and mixture of the Hispanic as well as Anglo cultures. It produces the greatest number of vocations for the diocese and is known for its excellent liturgies. Last night was no exception, except maybe for the principal celebrant whose Spanish sometimes cries out to heaven for vengeance.
About 800 people came for Mass in the Main Church while another 800 attended Mass in English in the parish hall. With full choir and my discovering my voice once again, we sang the newborn Christ Child into life. The liturgy was reverential yet lively, congregation fully participating and the celebrant singing away in Spanish. Sometimes I do find I make less mistakes singing the Mass parts in Spanish than in simply reciting them because I go much slower when musically inclined.
Here are some pictures from the liturgy in Spanish a Nativity. A last minute decision was made to have Father Nelson Restrepo preach the homily whiles yours truly at the end invited the children between 3 and 7 years old to come forward for a second retelling of my favorite Christmas story. Once again the kids “got into it” and their parents also full participated.
By the time Midnight Mass had begun at the Cathedral I had failed to hand my camera over to anyone to take pictures of that beautiful setting. But if you wish to see the whole Mass, you are in luck. Simply log on to www.dosp.org and click on “Click here to watch Christmas Midnight Mass at the Cathedral.” You and those lucky people will not and did not hear my favorite children’s Christmas story.
I write these thoughts with two hours remaining in Christmas of 2013. I am exhausted and going to bed but there will be least two more posts before we call 2013 a wrap. Merry Christmas all.
Bishop Robert N. Lynch aka +RNL