As Christmas Eve approaches, it reminds me that my parents always took my sisters and me to midnight mass when we lived at home. My mom was a devout Catholic, and she loved celebrating with all the rituals, including witnessing the pomp and circumstance of the solemn procession that started the Catholic mass on high holy days.
My dad didn’t frequent church services at all, but he did agree to attend mass with us on Christmas and Easter, to stay in good graces with his beloved wife. The most memorable of these was when I was about ten years old. We lived in Michigan at the time, and it was one very bitter cold Christmas Eve.
Dad parked our car in the church lot with all the other congregates and we went into the great hall of stained glass filled with green pine boughs and candles everywhere. The sights, sounds, and smells are easy to bring to mind. I remember the strong incense puffing from the swaying gold thurible. It made me cough, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone else. So, I swallowed hard and kept as quiet as I could while fixing my eyes on the cross carried atop the high staff by an altar boy donning his white gown while processing to the alter. We sang hymns with the choir and I even caught my dad mouthing a few words of a verse or two, but not loudly. When he started snoring during the sermon, mom jabbed her elbow into his ribs and startled him awake. This made my sister and I giggle, but we were soon scolded to keep quiet.
When the service was over, we walked back across the parking lot behind my dad to the car. I couldn’t tell at first if it was the snow squeaking under our boots or my dad speaking but I soon came to find it was the latter.
My dad had stopped short and gasped, “Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” He gazed at the wheels where the hubcaps had been stolen from his brand new Chevy Impala while we were at midnight mass! He couldn’t believe that in this sleepy medium-size town of cornfields, someone found they needed to steal from him on Christmas Eve.
Dad scoffed a lot about it at first. Then mom said to us in a jovial tone that she feared he would never attend church again! Maybe because no one was hurt, or thinking the thieves must have needed those hubcaps more than we did, mom and dad kept the mood light.
Before we could say *Jack Robinson*, dad turned that hubcap incident into a family story that ended up being told over and over for many years. It seemed to give him a great deal of pleasure to laugh at the irony of it. Coming into misfortune while you were trying to do good became the family joke that bore many one-liners: “Watch out dad, someone might steal the whole car next time!” “Dad won’t go to church, but on the one day of the year he does, he gets robbed!” “Is God sending you a message?”
I’m grateful that my dad did not stop taking mom to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. In fact, he continued for as long as I can remember. Easter too. I’m thankful that he felt enough love in his life to keep giving it and allowed good humor to lighten his load.
Do you have a story to share about a holiday that “stole something from you”? Does your family have stories that get told over and over?
My wish for you is that you discover the kind of hope in your stories that lets you know there is enough good in the world to overcome the bad. Merry Christmas everyone!