On a dark and below-freezing Christmas Eve midnight Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades encouraged solidarity among all men and encouraged Catholics to walk in the light of Christ during moments of spiritual darkness.
At the liturgy — which began at 10:30 p.m. and was concelebrated by the cathedral’s rector, Father Jacob Runyon, and parochial vicar Father Peter Dee De, with the assistance of deacons Paolo Degasperi and Augustine Onuoha — the bishop also entrusted the spiritual fortitude and well-being of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to St. Joseph, asking that he defend the faithful and protect them from temptation and sin in the new year.
Pope Francis proclaimed the year 2021, the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being declared patron of the universal Church, to be a yearlong celebration dedicated to St. Joseph, “an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.” The proclamation was made in an apostolic letter published Dec. 8.
In his Christmas Eve homily, the bishop expressed gratitude that the Christmas Eve Mass could take place. During the flu epidemic in 1918, he noted, midnight Mass was not celebrated in the cathedral. Churches had been closed the previous couple of months by government order and public Masses suspended. The ban had been lifted by December, but the government enjoined churches to have shorter services.
“There was no Midnight Mass, I presume, because too large a crowd would have congregated. At Masses on Christmas Day in Fort Wayne in 1918, there was no music. Like tonight, people would have worn facemasks and kept physical distancing. The important thing, however, was that the faithful gathered to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord, like we do tonight.”
“And we have the added blessing of technology,” he noted, adding that many people were praying with those present on the holy night via livestream video. He extended Christmas greetings and prayed for all, “especially those who are elderly or sick, and those who are lonely on this Christmas Eve,” and for “all who are in the hospital or who live in nursing homes … (and) doctors, nurses, health care workers, EMTs, police and firefighters, all those who are working so hard to keep us safe.
“I think of their exhausting work and of the tremendous sacrifices they have been making these past several months. On this Christmas Eve, may they know of our gratitude and be uplifted by our prayers.
“Christmas is a feast of love, the self-emptying love of God who sent us His only-begotten Son so that we can share in His divine sonship,” the bishop said. “To save us, He assumed our human nature. He became Emmanuel, God-with-us. Because of Christmas, we can walk the journey of our life and endure its sufferings, knowing that God is with us. God is close to us, in solidarity with us. This is the great gift of Christmas: Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.”
“Tonight we contemplate God’s loving mercy in sending us a Savior. We see God’s tenderness in the infant Jesus. It is a mystery for us not only to ponder, but to imitate. … I’ve seen so much goodness in the people of our diocese who have reached out with love to those who are sick or economically devastated during this pandemic. In the midst of pain and suffering, so many have made sacrifices to help and assist those in need.
“Sadly, in the midst of this crisis, others have focused on themselves, on their rights, but not their responsibilities,” he reflected. “They have angrily embraced an ideology of personal autonomy, rather than our Catholic teaching on the common good. A crisis like this pandemic reveals what is in our hearts. It is a call to conversion.
“Christmas is all about solidarity, God’s solidarity with us in becoming a man,” the bishop continued. “To live the true meaning of Christmas is to live in solidarity with others, especially with the poor, the sick, the suffering, and the marginalized. We will not experience the joy and peace of Christmas if our hearts are hardened … . We need a revival of kindness and tenderness in our nation and in our world, beginning in our own families and in the Church. Enough with bickering and criticizing, gossiping and attacking. God calls us to be close to each other as He became close to us in the Incarnation.
“We must not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by sadness or gloom that reflects a worldly mentality. We are a people of hope because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This truth of the Incarnation is the cause of our joy, even in the midst of trials, sufferings, and failures. When we pray before the Christmas creche, may we become more aware of the closeness and tender love of God, who took flesh for our salvation.
He closed by praying that all those present and watching the Mass might be filled with “wonder at this mystery of love, the mystery of Christmas, which brings us the joy, hope, and peace for which our souls long. And then may we, through the witness of our lives, spread this joy, hope, and peace to others.”
Following the general intercessions, Bishop Rhoades approached and stood before an image of St. Joseph placed in the cathedral for the occasion of the entrustment. He prayed that St. Joseph, who was among the first to suffer, face trials and weather uncertainty because of the newborn King, would assist the faithful of the diocese in their struggles against “the power of darkness” and help them “obtain eternal happiness in heaven.”
Prayer of Entrustment of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to St. Joseph
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our tribulation, and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse, we confidently invoke your patronage also.
To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust;with you Christ became man.
Through that charity which bound you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with your power and strength to aid our Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in our necessities.
O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ;
O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence;
O our most mighty protector, be kind to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness.
As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect this Diocese and God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from every evil.
Blessed Joseph, shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection. Show yourself a father, obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and guide us to the path of life; so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.