While I quietly photographed the stained-glass windows, Guy spoke with a priest and asked about their schedule for Christmas Eve mass. He suggested the 4:30 afternoon Children's Service.
When we arrived at 4:15 it was standing room only! The Monsignor joked with us about SRO ticket prices before the processional.
The church was filled with families...the children were adorable in their Sunday best! The Youth Choir performed beautifully, especially "Away in a Manger." And all the children were invited down front to sit with the Monsignor for a special telling of the Nativity story. Guy and I were both raised in the Catholic church, but it has been many years since we have attended mass. We both thought, "This is NOT the church we remember!"
Mass was almost over, in fact some of the older parishioners were leaving, when I thought I heard jingle bells in the vestibule. We were standing just inside the doors and "what to my wondering eyes should appear?"
It was Santa Claus!
The Youth Choir was ending the mass with a rousing performance of "JOY TO THE WORLD" and St. Nick proceeded up the center aisle to the Nativity scene. I wish you could have heard those children whispering with delight as they realized Santa was right there in the church.
And then St. Nick removed a simply beautiful wrapped package from his sack and placed it in the manger!
(At this point Guy gives me his handkerchief. You should get one, too!)
Now Santa asks the Monsignor if he may speak to the congregation. "Any one with the first name SAINT is welcome to speak here," is his reply! He takes the microphone and explains that each year before Santa races around the world delivering toys to good boys and girls, he must bring his FIRST gift to Baby Jesus! (I warned you to have a tissue.) And with that Santa took his leave.
I can hardly explain the sight of Santa Claus coming down the center aisle of this church while dozens of children squeezed to the end of the pews to greet him. Just imagine...Santa accepting high 5's and knuckles and children blowing kisses to Santa! (The Monsignor even joked at the door that no one has ever given him a high 5. I didn't offer him one...I told you I was raised Catholic!)
No wonder that meal was heavenly!
Before I end my final post from State # 30, I would like to thank some special people who make our travels possible.
- Nancy & Steve - Thank you for recommending Cape May to us.
- Scott - Thanks for opening up Voila at the crack of dawn for the sake of my hair.
- Anita & Stephen - Thank you for accepting deliveries of all those packages.
- Craig - Thanks for the "art installations" above 10 feet.
*All of the photos from New Jersey were taken with our camera!*
All of you bring JOY to Our World!
On a parting note...we flew home on Christmas Day 2009. (The day of the underwear bomber.) That experience reminded us what a difficult job flight crews have. Please PAY ATTENTION to the safety instructions and turn OFF your wireless phones. (Did you know the fine for having your cell phone on in an airplane is thousands of dollars?) Your welcome, Leah.
Coming soon...Home of the World's Worst Weather!
Next time: New Hampshire - State # 29