There is a religious ceremony, somewhat ecumenical these days, called the Lighting of the Advent Wreath. The wreath is made of fir tree branches, (although a plastic facsimile is now somewhat de rigueur). Four candles are placed on it equidistant from each other representing the four weeks before Christmas, three purple and one rose colored. It is found in churches and private homes. Each week a different candle is lit with an appropriate Scripture passage read, counting down to The Birth of the Messiah.
Being of a particularly pious nature, two priests at a shore parish had a wreath placed on their dining room table in the rectory. Every evening the candles were lit, and the prescribed prayers said before dinner. However, one evening, with the hustle bustle of the holiday season, some unknown person forgot to extinguish them. Later that night, the priests having retired, the candle wax and flames spread onto the tablecloth. A fire soon engulfed the house. Thankfully, the priests escaped.
Early the next morning, I received a phone call from the Bishop’s Office informing me of the fire and that I would be having guests at Saint Paul in Stone Harbor until the rectory was rebuilt. At first, I wasn’t happy, I had gotten used to being alone. But what could I do? Was this to be my Christmas gift? Yes, it was!
Now, as it were, I hadn’t had a housekeeper for quite some time. To my surprise, when the priests arrived, they asked if I could use their cook. Oh boy, could I! After all, there was only so much pizza and hoagies one could eat.
Marie was a perfect fit for me. She was a gourmet cook and Italian to boot. Her presence and warmth made Christmas at Saint Paul special. The rectory was a home once again. And the priests’ company was great, too.
The lesson is our God has many gifts for us and we never know from whence or how they will come.
Be open to him and his ways and you will be gifted beyond your expectations. All is grace!
Father Michael P. Orsi, a priest of the Camden Diocese, currently serves as parochial vicar at Saint Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida.