Like many bachelor parties, there was some mischief involved – like the evening my seminary classmates and I ditched the tour group to explore the catacombs on our own. By the time we were ready to rejoin the group we realized that everybody, including the tour guide, had left and we were locked in! It turned out to be more of an Easter experience as we prayed that God would deliver us from the tomb.
The highlight of the trip was Christmas Eve. Since my classmates and I were ordained deacons we were able to serve as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Midnight Mass with Blessed Pope John Paul II. The Mass was being attended by and broadcast to Catholics all over the globe. It was for me a thrill – and a truly moving encounter with the universal Church.
It was a Christmas to remember. One would think that such a Christmas in Rome would be a hard Christmas to top, but after I became ordained a priest I would encounter at Christmas an even deeper and more personally fulfilling joy. Now, as I prepare to celebrate my tenth Christmas as a parish priest, it is hard for me to imagine wanting to spend it anyplace than with my parish ever again.
I look forward every year to seeing the children come on Christmas Eve to sing, all fancied up and squirming with the excitement, in the children's choir. It's fun too to see the college students returning home and being reunited with their families and friends. Young couples, who might not have been back home since I celebrated their wedding with them, return – sometimes swollen with the anticipation of a little babe who is coming to them.
Christmas with the Pope was great, but nothing can help the Grinch's heart grow three sizes in one day like little Cindy Lou Who and all of you. I thank God for my tenth Christmas as a priest.
God has me right where He wants me to be. Follow the holy light of the star in your life. Listen to the angel voices that proclaim to you the good news of the Savior. He always will get you where you are meant to be.
Have a holy Christmas, Nativity of Mary!