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A Friar’s Notes
Fr. David Convertino, OFM
Director of Development
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – But Not for Everyone

Christmas will be here before you know it! It’s my favorite holiday – although this year will be a little sad because it will be the first without my mother, who was called home by God last month.

Everywhere we go, we’re reminded that Christmas is on its way – especially the beautiful lights to welcome the true light of the world. I was in a store the other day that was playing Christmas music. I couldn’t get one of the songs out of my head. I was humming it all day:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year,
With the kids jingle belling,
And everyone telling you to be of good cheer,
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
It’s the hap-happiest season of all…

That night at dinner with my Brothers, one of the Friars told us he had just spoken to a friend, Bill – who called to tell him about an experience earlier that day when he was out shopping with his 12-year-old daughter, Mary Jean.

They stopped for lunch at McDonald’s. The place was packed. Mary Jean found a table while her dad ordered her favorite – a cheeseburger Happy Meal. The people at the next table left a mess – French fries, half-eaten burgers, and crumpled napkins. A homeless woman sat at the table and started eating the cold fries. She was about to pick up a half-eaten burger, but a worker swept everything into a plastic garbage bag. Mary Jean was shocked. She felt bad for the woman. When Bill came to the table, Mary Jean, without saying a word, took the bag with her Happy Meal and joined the homeless woman. She placed the unwrapped cheeseburger and piping hot fries on the table, then simply sat there sipping her soda. At least for 10 minutes that day, the hungry, homeless woman felt like a human being, eating lunch that wasn’t someone else’s scraps.

For the homeless, poor, marginalized, unemployed – and for families that can’t put food on the table for their children, those fallen on hard times, others suffering with addictions, and migrants who come here with nothing – this isn’t – as the song lyrics say – the most wonderful time of the year. Christmastime doesn’t change the realities they live every day.  

Two weeks ago, the Friars launched our annual Franciscan Christmas Challenge. We are begging for money not for ourselves, but for over 2 million children, women and men who come to us every year – to our soup kitchens, food pantries, migrant centers, addiction counseling and job programs, and other outreach ministries where we provide them with food, clothing, medicine, shelter, and other basic life necessities.

At dinner that night, another friar shared the Christmas wish list of two young migrant children. They didn’t ask for the latest smart devices, popular toys or expensive clothes. Just winter coats, warm socks, a new toothbrush and toothpaste, a soft pillow, and food. Basic life necessities.

I’m sure my mom wasn’t the only mother in the world who told her children, “It’s better to give than receive.” With all the gift-giving frenzy of Christmas, what better way to thank God for the blessings he gives us, than to give to others?

Think of the Franciscan Christmas Challenge as a candle. Then picture the power of a single candle, its light piercing the darkness. Taking the Franciscan Christmas Challenge supports the Friars and our ministries of outreach to the poor. It pierces the darkness of unimaginable poverty, suffering and despair. The light comes in many forms: nourishing food, stable housing, warm clothes, vital medical assistance, and other basic necessities for our struggling sisters and brothers in need.

Jesus is the true Light of the World. He shows us how to give light and hope to others, caringly and compassionately. He came to rescue us from sin. The Franciscan Christmas Challenge helps the Friars rescue the children, women and men who come to us for help. And just as Mary Jean made the homeless woman feel like a human being, even if it was for 10 minutes, the Franciscan Christmas Challenge makes it – as the lyrics say – the most wonderful time of the year for those in desperate need every day, even if it’s for 10 or 20 minutes.

Thank you for all you do for the Franciscans throughout the year! The Franciscan Friars wish you and your loved ones a blessed, joyful and holy Christmas!

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