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Everybody has a Christmas story…here is mine for this year…pleasant reading.


In the still of a night…

By Daniel G. Moran, Calumet Park Cemetery G.M.

In the middle of November, my 90 pound Airedale woke me up at 4:00 a.m. one morning by shoving his huge head under my cheek and jerking upward.  When he wants to go out there is little that one can do but accommodate his needs.  That, or listen to his deep and loud barking until you give in and get up.  Truth be told, as I get older, I get up more often in the night anyway so you could call us the “middle of the night relief team”.

Mac is actually a very quiet, well-mannered dog.   I adopted him from a rescue center last year and he has since become part of our family.  After grooming and getting his curly hair cut, he looks like the pure bred dog that he was born to be.

Anyway, that morning when I came in and got all cozy in my bed for another couple of hours of sleep, I started thinking of Christmas decorating.  My wife had already put up the small tree and all sorts of snowman and snowwoman stuff in the living room.  The family room would be next and that is where the big tree goes.  It is a large room and one that is always so Christmassy looking when decorated.  As I lay there, my thoughts were turning to hanging stockings, and 28 year old red Santa snack cups and plates for the cookies and milk lovingly put out by the girls when they were ‘believers’, and sugar plums dancing in my head.

I realized that I was decorating the room in my half-dream state, so why not get up and actually decorate?  I did get up and I did decorate…very quietly.  Mac  laid  by the fireplace and up went the tree and colored lights.  We treasured the Christmas decorations made by our girls, Megan and Colleen, from their early art classes in grade school.  They went on the tree along with all the other shiny and bright ornaments bought or gifted to us over the years.

I listened to Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole as they sang all the old, familiar Christmas songs… as only they could do.  I cannot hear Nat King Cole sing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” without feeling nostalgic about the days of old when life seemed less complicated than the world we live in today.  It was then that I un-wrapped the manger scene and looked around for just the right place to put  Jesus, Mary and Joseph for all to see.

In the quiet of the early morning, I held the manger and looked intently at the detailed ceramic baby Jesus, and could truly feel the reason for the season.  If that particular moment would have been part of a Hallmark Holiday Movie made for TV, the viewer would have been transported from the here and now back to a memory bubble of me as a young boy in 1956.  I was with my father and we were knocking on the door of a very needy family.  I know they had to be needy because we lived in a house with no running water or bathroom and only the heat from a pot belly stove to keep us warm, and very few presents under the tree and still, my dad said we had to take some food to a family that was really poor.

I clung to a basket of canned goods and dad held a turkey (it may have been a chicken or a crow for all I knew… as a little seven year old boy, what did I know from turkeys?) as he knocked on the door.  The porch had broken boards, and the screen was torn.  When the door creaked open, a mom stood there with a mess of wee one’s clinging to her skirt and tentatively asked us what we wanted.

The entire drive to their house was spent with my rehearsing what I was to say when the door opened, so when I blurted out “Merry Christmas.  We wanted to share our blessings with you.”, I think I scared her and her kids.   Somehow, I choked the words into the crisp air, and the lady looked down at me and up to my father and back to me.  I remember her tears, but even more, I remember my father’s tears.  Men don’t cry and yet, there was dad, wiping away nearly frozen droplets of water as he told her that “God was good to us this year, and we wanted to bring some good cheer to your family”.

Hallmark Productions would then fade back to the present as one tear slid down my cheek.  Oddly, Mac opened his eyes at that moment, started to get up, and we stared for a  few seconds at each other. He plopped back down, to the floor and was soon snoring.  I placed the manger on a shelf and thanked God for the memory.

Sixty years had passed since that little boy learned that wealth is not in having things but rather being taught to see beyond the trappings of the holidays.  Shopping and living a month in the hustle and bustle of modern day X-mas has no meaning when Christ is taken from the greetings of the season.  I learned that one can be rich in one’s soul when a soul is opened to Jesus, our Savior.  My dad knew that in his simple approach to life.  He was good, and kind, and tolerant and a man of love.  He took the command to love your neighbor to heart and quietly went about his life letting his actions speak for him.

There are so many that like to hear themselves quote from the bible.  Then, there are others who do their best to live the precepts that were taught to us by Jesus during the last three years of His life.  I was not created as the best looking person in the room with the most wonderful and likable personality.  But I was created in the image of God, and I continuously strive to be the best person that I can be.  There have been many failed days over the past 67 years for this writer, but my faith has always remained strong through thick and thin.

A gift to me for this year was being awakened by a dog so I could decorate a tree so I could put up a manger so I could be reminded of the fact that love is the reason for the season, and real wealth is in our hearts.  Share a smile, a meal, an angel tree gift for children so they can feel, even if but for a moment, that humans do not always have to be on the take.  Let them learn how to receive so they may one day find the joy in giving.

Merry Christmas to all.  Help me take the X out of X-mas!


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What if just one cow shows up?


The tiny white church stood alone on the country road. Catholics in the area, farmers mostly, would gather each Sunday for the 9:00 a.m. mass. They would wear their “Sunday-go-meetin” clothes and eagerly await the Franciscan priest’s words of comfort, joy, or forgiveness. When I say tiny church, there was enough room for maybe 30 people at one time, including the smaller space needed for the average of six kids per farmer that would show up for their weekly dose of goodness.

I remember one Christmas morning after a particularly heavy snowfall that the only people in attendance were Father Mike, me as the altar boy, and one farmer. No wife, no kids…just a God-fearing man in his best bib overalls. I was eight years old and lived only a couple of hundred yards from the church. Walking through waist high snow to serve mass, which was one of my favorite things to do, was no big deal. The year was 1957 and women had to have their heads covered at church, whether with a hat or a scarf. These were times when it felt holy to hear the service, and to respond to the priest, in Latin.

Father Mike said to the farmer, “Well, I guess there is no point to have a service today.”

“Why do you say that, Father?”

“Well, it’s just you, so…”

“I don’t see it that way, Father. If only one cow turns up at feeding time, I still feed it.”

Hello...guess who's hungry?

Hello…guess who’s hungry?

And so there was a Christmas mass on that cold and snowy day. But something bigger than a “mass for one” happened that day for me. I learned the lesson that one cow, one farmer, or one boy should be fed when they come to the table for nourishment. Sometimes, nourishment comes from actually eating a meal, while the feeding of a soul is just as important.

Christmas gets so commercialized that the word itself has lost its meaning to so many. The man, Christ, was born on that day in a manger so many years ago. His very birth was like the planting of a garden of hope for all of humanity that can still be feasted upon today…2015 years later.


I once read of a play put on by an elementary school, and a six year old boy who was playing the part of the inn keeper let his own heart be known to the audience during his small, one line role. When Joseph came to his desk and asked if there was room at the inn, the audience could not stop laughing when the inn keeper responded, “Yes sir, how will you be paying for your stay?”

Eventually decorum returned, the play went on, and when it was over, the little boy was asked why he changed the line from the bible story of the birth of Christ. His reply is a lesson we could all use at this time of year. He said, “I just could not turn Joseph and Mary away.”


There is nothing wrong with decorating with lights and tinsel, sharing wonderful meals with delicious pies and Christmas sugar cookies, and exchanging gifts. It is a season of good will to all men and women and tidings of comfort and joy abound. The question that needs to be asked by each of us is a simple one; simple yet telling of where our faith really lies. If you were asked, ‘Is there room at the inn?’, would you invite Jesus into your heart? That is Christmas in a nutshell. Is there room in our lives for Christ, or do we put a big X over the real reason for December 25th to be marked on our calendars as a favorite holiday when we allow X-mas to be part of our lexicon?

The staff of Calumet Park Cemetery, Calumet Park Funeral Chapel, and Rendina Funeral Home wish for a happy and healthy Christmas to all of the readers of this message. May the grace of God protect you from the craziness of this world in which we live.


Christmas Nativity

What Does The Christmas Angel Look Like?

  1. Angels come in all shapes and sizes; all ages and skin types.
  2. For example, the little old lady who returned your purse last week when you left it on the bus.
  3. They come disguised as teachers, students, doctors and nurses.
  4. Remember the small child who showed you the wonder in simple things…could it be angels melting your heart?
  5. Remember the stranger who just happened to come along when you had lost your way?
  6. Think back to the friend who touched your heart when you did not think you had one?
  7. Some cherubs have freckles, some have dimples, and some have wrinkles. They are hard to find when your eyes are closed, but when you choose to see, angels are everywhere you look.
  8. Remember Clarence from “It’s a Wonderful Life”? It is even possible that you are a saving angel to someone in their time of need. Love like an angel and be someone’s Christmas Angel.
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