Posted in Christmas

The Christmas Story

Everybody called him Jack
or to distinguish the Jack’s in the pack – Jack O’Neill,
Reverend and commissioned officer, US Naval Reserve.
I only once heard him called Fr O’Neill,
self-described, when preaching a sermon.

He seemed to know about temptation,
its co-dependence on opportunity
and always gave a good sermon.
But this was the best –
at midnight Mass
in broad daylight: Antarctica, mid-1980’s.

He made the expected quip
about
telling folks back home he’d celebrated midnight Mass –
in sunlight.
Then
“ I’m supposed to speak about Christmas
how it endures through the years
but instead
I’m gonna to speak about Christmas last year.”

He had been asked to lend hand at a nearby parish
a knockabout area with a flickering congregation
steady throughout the year
congested at Easter, road block at Christmas
could he? “ Sure.”

The local priest introduced him
then gave an update,
on a local family,
the mother ill, in hospital.
The father worked long, low paid hours
the women of the parish had organised meals and after-school care.
One noted the absence of Christmas presents
so …… gifts had been arranged
another … there were no holiday plans
so … money had been raised.
He thanked their efforts
and was hopeful they might end in mid February
“ and now Fr O’Neill will tell you about Christmas.”

Author:

Most of my life has been spent on the bench, occasionally called into the game by extravagance or attenuation. Waiting has turned a loner into a recorder - nondescript and inconsequential, more not noticed than overlooked - the non-vantage point of children not yet considered old enough to understand. Orphaned Islands (Un)poetry is a lifetime of picking anecdotes up and not throwing them away. Stories collected like odds and ends placed in a box in the basement, the garage, the garden shed - uncertain as to what their use might be but knowing that one day there might be one.