PITTSBURGH, PA

True to character

Friday, December 20, 2019 - Updated: 10:41 am

Recently, my cousin Karen, who sends me a number of text messages each week, passed on to me a photo from the archives of our home parish, Good Samaritan in Ambridge.

The photo was of a young man dressed up as St. Joseph. As soon as I saw the photo, and even though I didn’t know who the young man was, I recognized when it was — Christmas Eve.

One of the parishes that blended into the new Good Samaritan Parish in 1994 was St. Stanislaus, which had been founded in 1914 to serve mainly Polish immigrants who came to Ambridge to work in one of the steel mills. My Dzadza (Polish for grandfather) was one of those immigrants.

Over the years, St. Stanislaus developed unique customs, some brought from the “mother country” and others homespun. The photo of the “young” St. Joseph was of the latter vintage.

Every year, in preparation for the Christmas Eve midnight Mass, an eighth-grade boy was chosen to be St. Joseph and a fourth-grade girl was chosen to be the Blessed Mother. They would both be in the procession at the Christmas Eve Mass. Joseph would pull Mary, who was seated on a wooden donkey.

While I don’t remember how “Mary” and “Joseph” were chosen, I do remember that each year the candidates for each of the primary Nativity figures were very impressive — a cut above the rest in the virtue department. In taking on the roles of Mary and Joseph, the young lady and young man chosen were true to character.

Over the course of these next days, we will gather with loved ones to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus. As we gaze at the manger scene, either in our homes or in our churches, the scenes fully complete with the shepherds and the angels, the magi and the animals, with Mary and Joseph — let’s not forget the main figure, Jesus himself.

As each of the characters from the little town of Bethlehem focuses their attention on the little Babe born of Mary, they remind us that we need to do more than look on that heaven-sent scene.

We need to receive the newborn infant in our hearts, so that as our On Mission prayer asks — we may learn Jesus, love Jesus, live Jesus.That prayer calls us to do what the eighth-grade “Joseph” and the fourth-grade “Mary” were expected to do way back in my Ambridge days of the 1950s — be “true to character” of those characters they “played.”

My prayer for you, and I hope your prayer for me, helps each of us become “true to character” of the Babe sent to be our Savior — the Savior whose name we bear as “Christian.”

More and more, may our words be words that would come from the lips of the Lord.

More and more, may our deeds be deeds that would come from his heart.


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