Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 3

Here it is the Third Sunday of Lent already, so let’s talk about CHRISTMAS! Why not?
One of the hallowed Christmas traditions here, and at almost every Catholic church, is the nativity scene or crèche. Figurines of the ox and the ass, the shepherds and wise men, sheep and camels, and of course the figures of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus, are displayed in every parish across the country and around the globe.
We have a set of such figures that have given us much good service for a great many years, but they are now getting tired.  They have been repaired and touched up several times during the years, including a major overhaul over a dozen years ago when then Fr. Alan Oakes was on the parish staff. But now they are fragile and suffering from continued handling. Like Pope Benedict XVI, it is time to allow them to retire. After providing faithful service for decades, these figurines deserve a rest.
So we are left with two issues: first what do to with these venerable figurines and second, how to replace them. For the first, it seems rather unceremonious to dump them in the trash, like used hamburger wrappers. Should we sell them? Someone once told me that “chalkware” has collectable value, but I know nothing about that. Should we raffle them off? Should we give them a proper burial in the ground? What is your idea?
Secondly, we would like to replace them with similar sized figures by Fontanini, which these days are made from much more durable resin. A set of the proper size that includes Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a shepherd and a sheep, 3 wise men and a camel, and an angel and an ox comes for about $1,900. These things don’t come cheap. And that doesn’t even include a donkey! This is not the kind of cash we have sitting around. If you have some ideas about how to address this issue, please let me know.
While we are on the topic of Christmas, I must say that I have been very impressed and pleased with the interior Christmas decorations of our church. The use of a Della Robbia (Italian Renaissance) Christmas theme has served our church very well.  It has made such a difference over the tired decorations that were in place when I first arrived. We owe our talented team of decorators a debt of gratitude.
Now I would like to take the next step and broaden the decorations to include the exterior of the church. I am thinking primarily of lights on the front of the church.
There is a very specific reason for doing this. At many a wedding, funeral, or other gathering at our church of people from outside of the parish, I have frequently heard comments, “I never knew there was a church here and I have driven by here for years!” We must face the fact that the exterior of our church is non-descript, bland, painfully plain. It does not make an impression; in fact it barely registers on people’s consciousness.  Christmas provides us with a wonderful opportunity to change that. A computer generated light show could be displayed on the vast blank canvas of the front of our church. It would not be flashy like the excessive and loud Christmas light displays that suburban computer geeks construct to outdo each other every yuletide. I would hope it would keep the same theme of an Italian Renaissance Christmas that we have in the interior of our church and so be attractive and eye-catching. Of course I know nothing about how to make this happen, but I believe there are talented people in our community who would be interested in seeing if this can happen. If you have computer skills, or design skills, or electrical knowhow, or interest in such a project, please send me an email. Perhaps by next Christmas we can put together a design, find some money to make it happen, and have the outside of our church begin to match the inside in beauty. It is a dream, but that is how all great projects begin.  
God bless!

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