Catholic Voices - The Mass: Home away from home

  • Written by Gabrielle Nolan
  • Published in Catholic Voices
St. Alphonsus Parish, Seattle. Photo: GlimmerGlass Photography St. Alphonsus Parish, Seattle. Photo: GlimmerGlass Photography
How being alone on Christmas reminded me of the true meaning of the season

It was my first Christmas away from my family, and I was alone. I had just moved to the big, loud city of Seattle from my small hometown nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northern Georgia. I was away from my family, my friends and my parish — and I was alone on Christmas Day. But you know what? It was OK.

In November 2015, I had moved to Seattle to work at the archdiocesan retreat center. Kevin, my then-boyfriend (now husband), was working for Amazon, and after more than a year of long-distance dating, I’d found a job that would bring us closer together. Months before I had secured my job, however, Kevin had already bought tickets to fly back to Tennessee for Christmas — so the only person I knew in Seattle was going to be thousands of miles away. I would be celebrating Christmas with Kevin’s dog, Murphy.

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Gabrielle Nolan

My family and friends felt sorry for me. “You’re spending Christmas alone? Poor girl!” I will admit, it was bizarre to wake up on December 25 and not hear the comforting sounds of siblings laughing or A Charlie Brown Christmas playing over the speakers as our parents made breakfast. Instead, the apartment was quiet and still.

I was thankful at least to be able to connect with my family via technology — a Skype call with my parents, a phone call with my grandmother. I ate breakfast and opened presents that had been mailed to me. I took Murphy outside, and there was no one around. It was a desolate scene — until I drove to Mass at St. Alphonsus Parish in Ballard.

The sanctuary was beautifully decorated with poinsettias, lighted Christmas trees and a Nativity scene. As Mass began, the congregation joyfully sang the classic Christmas hymns and my spirit brightened. Although I was sitting by myself, I was comfortable in the familiarity of the Mass, and I felt at home.

I realized in the beauty of the liturgy that the only truly necessary task to be completed on Christmas was, in fact, to go to Mass. Our culture often leaves Christ out of Christmas, but of course the two are inseparable: Without Christ, there is no Christmas. Without Christ’s birth, there would be no Mass.

Christmas is not about spending time with family, though that is a great gift and a blessing. Christmas is not about baking your favorite cookies or trimming the tree, though those can help us celebrate the season. And Christmas is not about receiving gifts (though the little ones might disagree with me on this).

We must remember that, ultimately, the feast of Christmas is about welcoming our savior, Jesus Christ, into our lives and loving him. Christ is born! We have a savior who wants to share his divine life with us, forgive our offenses and be with us always — until the end of time.

It is through Jesus that we find true charity, joy and peace to share with our families, on Christmas Day and all throughout the year. And even though there is a physical distance between me and my family, I can always unite my prayers to the Holy Family — asking that St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and the Child Jesus intercede for us.

If you ever find yourself alone at Christmas, do not despair. Go to Mass. You will be united with your family through the mystical body of Christ. Let the Christ Child draw you near to his heart, and there you will find all you truly need to celebrate the great feast of Christmas.

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Northwest Catholic - December 2017