World News -Dad used to tell us his favorite Christmas story. In the boiling Pacific of World War II, Dad was on USS Cleveland and saw the intensity of naval warfare at places such as Midway, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Manila.
On Christmas Eve, 1944, the men got good news: A priest would come aboard for Midnight Mass! Dad would recall how they sure needed the “good news” of the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, during those clashing days.
But, when the priest arrived for Mass, the hundreds of gathered, expectant sailors began to growl, “He’s a Jap!” (to use the politically incorrect word of that time).
Dad would tell us that, although they would later learn he was actually a Filipino priest, the understandable hostility of the war still led the men to grumble, as they wondered about the worthiness of this “Oriental” (to use another outdated term) to offer Mass.
Some started to rise in protest to walk out.
But . . . then came “O Come All Ye Faithful”; then came the sign of the cross; then the gospel of the first Christmas, and the suspect priest’s simple and sincere sermon of love for family at home and longing for peace on earth and sea; then came prayer and Holy Communion; finally came the priest’s blessing and “Silent Night,” with men crying and hugging, and the “Jap priest” cheered and engulfed with affection as he left the ship to visit another awaiting congregation.
Prejudice, hatred, suspicion and antagonism were changed into love, acceptance and joy on USS Cleveland. That’s the miracle of Christmas!
Deep within us we’ve got both darkness and light, hate and love, fear and hope. For at least a little while each year, thanks to the miracle of Christmas, the good side wins!
Do we ever need that miracle now, as we are tense with Staten Island, Ferguson, Bedford-Stuyvesant, ISIS and Boko Haram, broken families and forgotten children, scary forecasts and a worrisome economy, police officers under attack.
The angel speaks to us as to the shepherds at Bethlehem, “Be not afraid!”
I’ve been fascinated by the welcome attention being given this year to the centennial of the “Christmas Truce of 1914.”
With the horrors of World War I five months old, with British and German troops stalled in trenches, only a football field apart, rifles loaded and bayonets ready, a “Christmas Truce” was announced.
At midnight, it began to happen. At first, there were only a couple of soldiers from both sides who cautiously rose from the trenches, guns left behind, hands high and unthreatening.
The others watched, as these few from each side got closer, and — surprise! — shook hands and smiled!
Before long, dozens, hundreds, thousands, we’re told, of German and British soldiers were visiting, singing carols, showing the simple gifts they had received from home, exchanging some, and even praying.
That’s the miracle of Christmas. The pope a century ago, Pope Benedict XV, tearfully asked why we just didn’t extend the “Christmas Truce” for the rest of history, but the political and military leaders had other ideas.
Most of the men were transferred, out of fear that they could no longer shoot a man with whom they had shaken hands at Christmas.
Thirty-fourth Street is not the only place there was a Christmas miracle: Look at USS Cleveland and the trenches of 1914. Let’s also look inside, in our homes and neighborhoods, our city, country and world.
A blessed, miraculous Christmas!
By Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, http://nypost.com/