Erika Barron
Advertising Account Executive
December 29, 2023 // Bishop

Keep the Nativity at the Forefront of Christmas

Erika Barron
Advertising Account Executive

On Christmas Eve of 2022, the streets of Fort Wayne were a slick sheet of ice, and the temperature was frigid. This past Christmas Eve could not have been more of a contrast, with a mild, calm, and clear night as the faithful gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 10:30 p.m. to welcome the Christ Child. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Rhoades, and assisting him were Father Jacob Runyon, Rector of the cathedral, and Father Matthew Coonan, Pastor of St. Henry Parish in Fort Wayne and the diocese’s Episcopal Vicar for Clergy. Deacon Caleb Kruse and Deacon Oscar Duarte also assisted.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades begins Christmas Eve Mass by incensing the Creche and kneeling in prayer. – Photos by John Martin

Mass began with the triumphant hymn, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and verses were sung in both English and Latin, as Bishop Rhoades processed to the creche of the Lord, where he incensed the Nativity scene and kneeled in praise and honor of the Babe in the manger.

Bishop Rhoades began his homily by calling to mind the first Nativity scene created 800 years ago by St. Francis of Assisi.

“At that time, the faith had grown cold in the hearts of many people,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Yes, they knew in their minds about the first Christmas. St. Francis wanted the people to experience in their hearts the beauty and joy of Christmas, the beauty and joy of our faith. He wanted to touch their hearts with the truth of God’s love revealed in the humility, simplicity, and poverty of His birth.”

Bishop Rhoades then shared the importance of keeping the Nativity of the Lord at the forefront of Christmas celebrations, despite the increasing secularization of this holy day.

He then went on to say that “by contemplating the Nativity, we are moved in our hearts to follow Jesus along the path of humility and self-emptying love, to practice and live our faith with joy and renewed conviction.”

Bishop Rhoades then called for action in the form of prayer for all of those suffering the evils of war during this Christmas season, especially those in the Holy Land, where the Patriarchs and Heads of the Church in Jerusalem have called upon Christians to stand with the victims of the Israel-Hamas war by foregoing any of the usual festive celebrations and marking a more solemn holiday.

Click here for more photos from the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass.

“The little town of Bethlehem, where joyous celebrations usually take place, is very subdued tonight,” Bishop Rhoades said. “May we be in spiritual solidarity with the Christians of the Holy Land tonight and throughout the Christmas season, keeping these brothers and sisters in our prayers!”

Bishop Rhoades also asked for prayers on a personal note for the Catholic community of Holy Family Parish in Gaza, where he once celebrated Mass on a trip with Catholic Relief Services. During that time, he also visited the Missionaries of Charity located there. The sisters, whose order was founded by Mother Theresa, took care of disabled Palestinian children and the elderly.

“The violence, wars, and sufferings in the world today and throughout human history cannot destroy the light of Christmas, which inspires an inner joy that no one can take from us,” Bishop Rhoades proclaimed.

Bishop Rhoades concluded his homily with a short prayer to the newborn Son of God. He prayed: “O Babe of Bethlehem, Divine Savior of the world, you assure us of the triumph of love over hatred and of life over death. Save us from discouragement amid the challenges we face in our nation and in our world. Prince of Peace, come and stay with us! May the joy of your Nativity come into our hearts and reach to the farthest ends of the world! May the light of Christmas shine forth in our world today like it shone forth in Greccio on this holy night 800 years ago!”

A family kneels before the Creche after Mass with a prayer to the Christ Child.

After Mass, families of all sizes and ages gathered to kneel and pray before the Nativity scene to honor the reason for this holy night, that the long-foretold Messiah has come!

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