How Beautiful

is the Body of Christ

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The Soldier and the Christmas Card

Two battle-weary Leathernecks of the 26th Marine Regiment take a break in the rain during Operation Bold Mariner in Vietnam in 1969. It was in these conditions a year later that a young man named Jack would receive a Christmas card from a Southern Baptist church. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Photo Terms of Use

COLEMAN, Ga. (BP) — It was a Christmas season that the 18-year-old Marine would rather not experience. Slogging through the mud in the drizzling, never-ending rain was beginning to wear on the enlisted man’s spirit.

Sleeping on the ground without a bath for months with a stubbly beard growing from not shaving in the winter cold was not his idea of a holiday. He had fond recent memories of Christmas in Greenville, S.C., still fresh from his boyhood days. His grandmother’s Christmas ham and visits with family and friends are what he missed the most.

There would be none of that this year. In fact, he was grateful just to be alive.

What made it worse was being part of a squadron chosen to provide security for the annual USO Christmas program. It just didn’t seem fair.

While thousands enjoyed plenty of Christmas cheer and entertainment, he and his buddies silently guarded a nearly 12-mile arc around Da Nang in South Vietnam.

Their mission was crucial to the enjoyment of fellow soldiers. Several thousand troops enjoying a holiday celebration would be an easy target for North Vietnamese troops slipping through the jungles.

For the teenage soldier, this day was just another in a string of cold, overcast winter days. The day is a memory now. A story he tells. For this telling, he prefers to be known only by his first name, Jack

“We were angry, hungry, wet and scared most of the time,” he said. “Our job was to stay alert and patrol to keep the enemy from infiltrating the area and disrupting the show. Needless to say, we weren’t very happy.”

Jack said he and his fellow soldiers spent most of their time “griping, as young Marines are prone to do, about our bad luck. It had rained for what seemed like weeks and was constantly low overcast.”

Dark and gray and miserable. Not an ideal Christmas. Certainly not when it was going to be his first Christmas away from home. (Read more here.)

The Greatest Gift …

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

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Merry Merry Christmas to Every Child on Earth

Vienna, Austria, Dec 21, 2012 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- An Austria-based singing group of children and teens has made a music video wishing a merry Christmas to the world as part of their mission to tell stories of faith through music.

The group KISI – God’s Singing Kids has released the video “We sing merry, merry Christmas.” It shows the children and teens singing in cheerful settings and styles inspired by the classic movie “The Sound of Music.”

They play in the snow, bake Christmas treats and place a baby doll in a manger while wishing Merry Christmas “to every child on earth.”

The music group has over 400 members from five countries who use their music to evangelize. They practice singing and dancing after school and perform on weekends. (Read more here.)

Watch their Christmas video below.

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Christmas in Dullsville and Testosterone Explosions in My Kitchen

I never told you what happened Thanksgiving.

I gave you the run-up on our family holiday, but I never circled back around and told you how it all went down. Because I was (still am) out of action because of Gimpy the Foot, my husband and sons gallantly decided that they would cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Gimpy the Foot.


And they tried. Oh, how they tried. I could see part of the action from my recliner in the living room. It reminded me of the first time I tried to put one of these things together as a newlywed. Only they didn’t have a Fannie Farmer cookbook to cheer them on.

About 3 on that Thanksgiving afternoon, I heard my husband’s voice, coming from the kitchen. “I can’t do this.” he said. “There’s too much to get done all at once.”

He sounded sad. Lost. Defeated. Beaten to the tile floor by the mashed potatoes, dressing, ham, turkey and deviled eggs vying for his attention.  The chaos of our sons, bouncing around the kitchen like St Bernards as they tried to “help” only made things worse.

I have to admit, I got a bit of … what is it? … pleasure, I suppose is the word. I got a bit of pleasure out of this. It was one of those, see? It’s not so easy! moments.

After 30 years of cooking these big dinners for my extended family all alone, (my sister has multiple sclerosis, my brother-in-law has various health problems, my niece is a drug addict and never shows up, my husband has matrimony-induced cooking amnesia, etc, etc) those sad, defeated words coming from the kitchen felt kinda good. They felt like … vindication.

Then, my better instincts kicked in.

I could’ve sat there and done nothing. No one would have blamed me. It was, after all, doctor’s orders. But that plaintive voice, and the growing certainty that we were headed for Spam turkey with a side order of Beanie Weanies for Thanksgiving dinner, got to me. I reached for my walker. It was clearly time for mom to set things aright.

They brought me a chair and put it next to the kitchen counter so I could stir and season while sitting down. They more or less obeyed my orders as I told them, “The turkey’s done. Take the lid off the roaster and turn the temperature up and let it brown. When it comes out, put those dishes in the oven and put the roaster on the stove to make gravy.”

It wasn’t exactly military precision, but they bustled around while I put things together and we — finally — sat down to eat.

Now, Christmas is upon us and I am still not supposed to stand. Gimpy’s moving on, so to speak. She has a spiffy new boot that looks like it was stolen off a starship trooper and I can walk for short distances unaided. What I can’t do is stand. More than about five minutes of flat standing and the Gimpster gears up the old pain alert.

The boys have invited their friends for dinner. Other friends have asked to come. I’m not sure why they want to spend Christmas here in Dullsville. I won’t let them curse. They have to say grace. And they’re probably going to end up having to cook a big part of their own dinner. All I can figure is that we have an intact family and we all like one another, something these young people don’t have. One of them said he wanted to get away from his family because he didn’t want to have to go from one house to the next.

Whatever. They’re welcome here.

I plan to put them to work. At our house, you don’t sing for your supper. You windex the glass dinner table (genuine hand-me-down, circa early matrimony) set the table with our mismatched plates (genuine Target) and our equally mismatched stainless steel ware. Then later, you help load the dishwasher.

They know that, and they still want to come. Go figure. If somebody lights a match at the wrong time, this house may blow up from excess testosterone. I expect great clouds of the stuff. Frankly, the thought of  so many young men trying to peel potatoes, make gravy and whip up deviled eggs in my little kitchen is pretty funny. I will, once again, conduct this tuneless orchestra as they labor to produce an edible meal.

I’ve also made a list of restaurants that will be open Christmas.

Just in case.

If You’re In the Mood for Giving …

Simcha Fischer, who blogs at National Catholic Register published a list of worthy charities for those of us who are in the gift-giving mood. Each of the charities she selected sounds like a place to put your money and know that it will be used for good.

I’m going to put a few charities from her list below, but be sure to give them all a glance.

If you have a few extra Christmas $$ and are in the mood to use them for good, check out Simcha’s article here.

First, my family’s favorite charity:

Save a Family Plan

I am blown away by their efficiency:  100% of your donations go directly to the poor.  They don’t just give the poor food and shelter; the help them invest to become self-sufficient.  We first partnered with a destitute family in India several years ago, and this family no longer needed our support years ahead of the projected schedule.  A top notch international NGO run by Catholics, serving poor Indian families of every caste and religion, and fully in allegiance with the Church (so you don’t have to worry that you’re accidentally funding abortions or something).


Christian Foundation for Children and Aging 

Popular with many, many of my friends, this is a lay Catholic sponsorship program encouraging the dignity and well-being of the poor and marginalized in 22 countries around the world.


Reece’s Rainbow  

A Down Syndrome adoption ministry with many programs to help families fund the very expensive adoption of children with special needs.  Many of these children are barely surviving in horrendous institutions, and there are so many families who would like to rescue them, but can’t afford it.  Full of wonderful, hopeful stories and easy ways to help.


The Laboure Society  

This organization “assists aspirants to priesthood or religious life who find themselves unable to answer their call due to personal debt.”



Amazima sells handcrafted jewelry made by poor women in Uganda, who are guided and educated on how to manage money to support their families


Read more:

Bar Owner Collects Toys for Catholic Charities

Milwaukee, Wis., Dec 15, 2012 / 01:02 pm (CNA).- An elderly couple walks into Kip’s Inn and hands bar owner Kim Engebregtsen a plastic bag with a Barbie doll in it.

“Oh, thank you!” Engebregtsen said. “I needed this. This was the last thing on the list.”

She hugged the couple and directed them to the bar to enjoy some drinks with other folks from the neighborhood.

The list to which Engebregtsen referred was given to her by Catholic Charities with the Christmas wishes of five families, 27 people total.

“Whatever their wish is, we honor it,” she said, adding that since the bar started collecting gifts for Catholic Charities six years ago, every wish — and more — has been fulfilled.

Engebregtsen said one year a child asked for a bike, and through her collection, got a bike and a helmet. Another asked for a basketball, and he was given a ball and a pump.

“Once the ball goes flat, it’s no good,” she said. “These are kids that don’t have anything, so whatever they ask for, we get.” …

…  Engebregtsen’s motivation for gathering the toys stems from having been one of five children in a poor household.

“When we were kids, we were pretty poor,” she said. “We benefited from people’s generosity and actually through the Catholic Church.”

Engebregtsen and her family attended St. Peter Parish, Oshkosh, Wis. and she went to St. Peter School.

“We were able to attend the school without paying tuition,” she said. “The parents of our classmates, they were very generous. They exposed us to things that we wouldn’t have been otherwise exposed to.”

She was grateful for gifts her family had received when she was a child and after growing up, she fell into this toy tradition by accident.

“The first year we collected for Toys for Tots and when I went to go drop (the gifts) off, they said the deadline had already passed so I took them to Catholic Charities and they were really happy to get the gifts,” Engebregtsen said.

Shortly after that, she received a call from then-Archbishop of Milwaukee Timothy M. Dolan, now cardinal, thanking her and asking if he could come to the bar to pick them up.

“It’s exciting that he’d go out of his way to stop at a small neighborhood bar to thank us for what we’ve done,” she said.

On that day she remembered Cardinal Dolan sitting at the bar and ordering a Budweiser.

“He told my bartender not to tell anybody and she said ‘Why? You can’t have a beer?’ And he said, ‘No, don’t tell anyone it’s Budweiser,’” Engebregtsen said, laughing at the memory.

The tradition of the archbishop coming to the bar to receive the toys continues with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. (Read more here.)

Fr Antoine Explains the Need for Eucharistic Adoration


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