My friend Belle gave me a wonderful Christmas last year. On Christmas morning she cooked a fantastic English breakfast for me and pulled presents from under her tree with my name on them. Before Christmas day, however, she gave me a wonderful Christmas Eve.
She drove us out to Monticello, New Mexico where friends of hers host a fabulous Christmas Eve potluck every year. Before the nice people and the delicious food, we went to a service at the tiny town’s Catholic Church.
I’m what’s called a lapsed Catholic. I grew up Catholic, but haven’t practiced the religion since I was a teenager. I think prior to last year, my previous attendance at a mass was near the end of the 20th century. But on Christmas Eve 2015, I found myself attending mass in San Ignacio Catholic Church, a historic adobe built in 1867.
The place was packed. Everyone in the community seemed to be there.
When the priest took the pulpit for the sermon, he said he was going to read a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. WHAT? I can tell you, I never experienced a Catholic priest of my youth get up in front of a congregation and read the work of any bohemian poet. The poem the priest in Monticello read is called “Christ Climbed Down,” a crituque of the modern commercialization of Christmas.
The poem blew me away! What would Jesus do, indeed.
I wasn’t touched by the Lord or the Holy Spirit that night. I didn’t have a religious reawakening. I didn’t embrace my Catholic upbringing and run back into the arms of the church. I was touched by Ferlinghetti’s poem, was glad to hear it read in a church by a man of the cloth. I was also touched by the love and comradery exhibited by the people in the church when it came time to offer each other a sign of peace.
After mass we went to the potluck, where I was touched by the love and comradery of food. After stuffing ourselves with deliciousness, we rode off into a cold New Mexico night topped by a sky sprinkled with a million stars.