Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara shared a childhood story from Christmas, hoping it would bring back special Christmas memories for those in St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrating Midnight Mass Dec. 25.
Bishop O’Hara, substituting for Cardinal Dolan who was battling the flu, reflected back to his childhood in an era when Christmas trees were decorated on Christmas Eve in time for the next morning. His father, John, waited late one Christmas Eve to purchase a tree, but none remained. He wound up purchasing a tree stump and a pile of branches for a quarter, and stayed up all night drilling holes into the stump for “meticulously fitting those branches into place.”
“I have a picture of that tree,” Bishop O’Hara said. “It’s the most beautiful tree our family ever had. It’s not because of its shape or the decorations, but rather because of the love that made it happen, the love of a father for his family.”
Bishop O’Hara tied in his story with the celebration of God’s love and the readings from Isaiah and Titus, which prepared all for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Deacon James Bello, director of ministry and life for the archdiocese’s permanent diaconate office, read the Gospel from Luke about the Nativity of Jesus.
“This morning we celebrate the love of a Father, the Father of us all, the Father who loves his children, his family, a love that sends his Son to take to Himself our human nature, the pluses and minuses, sharing in our sorrows, trials, tragedies, disappointments,” said Bishop O’Hara, who is the episcopal vicar of South, East and West Manhattan and Staten Island.
“Picking up the broken branches of our lives and drawing them gently to Himself, to His healing, life-giving love, and as he attaches those branches of our lives to Himself, he embarks to us His divine life so that we can be that great light shining in the darkness of our own times.”
Bishop O’Hara began his homily by asking everyone in the cathedral to turn to their neighbors to wish them a Merry Christmas.
“After all, if we are going to spend eternity with one another, it’s time for us to get acquainted and what a beautiful morning to do so,’’ he said.
At the start of Mass, the bishop placed the figure of the baby Jesus in the Christmas crèche.