Posted December 24, 2013 in Advent and Christmas:
Christmas Eve in French Canada

by Jocko d’Ursel.

Last Christmas, our greatest joy was a Réveillon we organized. This is a traditional French Canadian family get-together on Christmas Eve before or after midnight Mass, but we did it for those who were alone for that time. More than a hundred people joined us to spend the evening in a simple, warm, and festive atmosphere.

How immeasurably deep is the loneliness of people, especially the elderly, when everyone around them is busy with his or her own family. But how equally profound is the generosity, the desire to give, in the hearts of so many people. What struck me was the meeting of these two needs, which came together and resonated so beautifully.

To be honest, when our parish priest asked me to take on the coordination of this Réveillon, I felt burdened by the weight of the task ahead.

My energy and faith were very low, but I knew that no one else (other than Jeanne, my fellow staff worker in this house) wanted to assume this responsibility. And Jeanne had other pressing responsibilities at the time.

Not long after that meeting with our pastor, we received in donation a crèche with large figures, a crèche which seemed ideal for the Réveillon. The figures included four Wisemen! This was for us a little sign from the Lord indicating how we were to live this Advent and our preparations for the Réveillon.

The fourth Wiseman, in a well-known story, The Other Wiseman by Henry Van Dyke, meets all sorts of people in need on his journey. Each time, following his heart, he ends up giving all that he has, and all that he is.

Such was our Advent—many demands to be present, to help, to receive people.

Several weeks before Christmas, we didn’t know whether or not we would have enough food or drivers for people looking for a ride to Réveillon. But we did know that we would have some music, and lots of Christmas presents to offer.

Ten days before Christmas, I received a phone call from a friend suggesting three volunteers for the Réveillon, and I invited them to our last organizational meeting.

We discovered that these dynamic women were very competent in food preparation. In no time, they took charge of that domain, begging the food and kitchen materials needed.

They were three women Magi come to our aid in our poverty. At the same time, two musicians joined our team. We ended up with a guitarist, an accordion-player and a flute-player—three people who had never met before but who were able to play their instruments together in a complementary and marvellous way.

With the arrival of those volunteers, it was at last possible to put into effect a dream I had since the beginning of these Réveillons—for Jeanne and I and some of the other people helping with Réveillons as well, to have time to visit with the people who come: to eat with them, listen to them, and laugh or cry with them, in a word, to engage in the chit-chat apostolate.

And this is exactly what happened.

The "icing on the cake" came at the end of the evening. At 11:00 PM, the hour when we were closing down the Réveillon and inviting people to leave, three young students came to the door, like the Magi who arrived after the shepherds had left the stable of Bethlehem.

These young men had spent the whole afternoon and evening playing music for elderly persons, going from one nursing home to another. They had hardly eaten anything, and still they wanted to serve!

After munching on some of our leftovers, they willingly lent a hand, with dishes and helping Jeanne put the room back in order. By the time we left for Midnight Mass, all was in order.

So it was in peace and gratitude that we were able to experience midnight Mass. Christ is born! Glorify him!


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