Comfort, comfort my people!
— Isaiah 40:1
Sometime in 2010 it was brought to my focused attention that not everyone looks forward to Christmas. In fact, some people are in such distress that they dread the thought of having to go to Christmas Mass and hear “Joy to the World” and look at so many smiling faces. It reminds them of what they used to feel and what they have lost.
They are grieving. They are grieving over things such as the death of a spouse, a child’s suicide, the loss of a job, a family member’s addiction, a friend who has been killed by a drunk driver, a miscarriage or a family member who is estranged. They are hurting and they hurt most deeply during the holidays.
In 2010, I wrote about this sad fact in my old “An Encouraging Word” column in this paper. The response was immediate and sustained. It was then I decided, since I was still chaplain at Our Lady of the Woods Chapel at Bellarmine University, that I would offer a second Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve – a “Blue Christmas Mass.” I had the chapel and I had the time. It became so popular that we had to severely restrict the number of those who could attend because of the size of the chapel. They came from near and far. I think the chapel holds about 175. We would routinely squeeze in close to 300.
We did it for five consecutive years. When I retired from campus ministry in the spring of 2016, I was hoping someone would step in and offer to take over. No one responded. Many expressed their disappointment.
I have never gotten it off my mind because the last time I offered the Blue Christmas Mass, the first three women coming down the hill to the chapel told me about losing their children to suicide. They were followed by others who told me things like, “My husband died on Christmas Eve last year.” Others spoke of a daughter or son who had died in a tragic car accident that year. There was even a couple of people who had loved ones murdered.
With the help of some friends, I plan to revive the “Blue Christmas Mass” again this year, but in a new location. Holy Family Church is allowing me to use their church for a 6 p.m. “Blue Christmas Mass” this coming Christmas Eve. There will be more seating, more parking and the location is easier to find. It is located at 3926 Poplar Level Road, just north of the Watterson Expressway.
This Mass will be designed to meet the needs of the grieving. It is not just another family Christmas Mass so let it be for those who need a quieter atmosphere, more subdued music and a tailored homily. There will be plenty of regular Christmas Masses and Children’s Masses in the area. Let the grieving and their families have this one. They need it!
As Ovid, a great Roman poet, said, “Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”