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December 24th, 2011

Christmas Eve in the Community

Christmas as a Jesuit outside Rome is probably very different from how most people experience it... lots, lots quieter, for one thing.

We don't do presents in our community (some communities do), and for that matter my family in America stopped exchanging presents years ago -- except for kids -- so the whole rush-to-shop action is completely foreign to me now. In addition, being in a house with people from many different countries and backgrounds means that most people here scatter to various places for the holidays. Of the eight who live in our house, one is now in America, one in Germany, two will be spending the holiday with their countrymen living in Jesuit communities in Rome, and at some point the two Italians will be off to their own families. 

The Observatory staff (including the local laypeople who work here) have three traditional Christmas events. First, we go to a local orphanage and an old folk's home, bringing presents (i.e. food). The orphanage, run by sisters who themselves are from all over the world, is always touching; this year we met a family of five children from the Congo... one of our Jesuits is Congolese, so he was able to speak to then in their vernacular. The second event, that evening, is a blessing of the creche scene involving the children of our employees and our neighbors, followed by food (and a movie for the kids... Mickey Mouse in Italian). The third event is a big dinner, the next night, at a local restaurant. We did all these last week.

Today, Christmas eve, is a non-work day (we normally work on Saturday mornings). Tonight, Gabriele and his brother are going to make the traditional Italian fish pasta for us, then we'll have a small community prayer (probably five of us here including G's brother). At that point, most of us will be going to Midnight Mass in Castel Gandolfo. One of the priests has a different Mass to say, at a local convent.

Tomorrow, Christmas day, the priests in the community are busy again saying Masses at the various convents and parishes where they help out. (The term for such work, which I had never heard until I entered the order, is that they are "on supply".) Being a brother, I get to goof off. At lunchtime, our main meal, I will be making grandma's famous spaghetti and meatballs, while Paul roasts various meats found in our freezer on an outdoor grill. We will eat well.

The week between Christmas and New Years is my favorite, a very quiet time. I like showing films in the classroom; in years past we did Harry Potter for six nights (the first six films) or the extended Lord of the Rings for six nights. This year it will be an animation festival, starting with the 1940 Disney Pinocchio and including favorites of mine ranging from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind to Sita Sings the Blues.

I hope you all have a great holiday!

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