Readers share their greatest Christmas blessings

| December 22, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Catholic Spirit invited readers to tell us about their greatest Christmas blessing.

Blessing of health

On Dec. 18, 2009, I brought our 20-day-old son, Joseph, to our clinic where they took one look at him breathing heavily and told us we needed to get him to the hospital immediately. He had contracted RSV, a respiratory virus which is very serious for newborns. We were rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

A week later, he was still on oxygen in the hospital, and it was Christmas day. Feeling scared for him and sorry for myself, I went to the cafeteria for breakfast. I felt so alone. It was there where I met a woman who told me she had been in the hospital with her 8-month-old baby since she was born. The baby’s heart and lungs wouldn’t function without support, and transplants were not an option. Her family lived four hours away from the Twin Cities, and her older daughter was living with her grandparents. She told me her husband had separated from her recently — she was alone.

After I returned to Joseph’s room, I counted my blessings and prayed for this stranger and her baby. I realized that good health was the greatest blessing, and I thanked God for my three healthy boys. Joseph started to improve on Christmas night. Two days later, we returned home to our family on the feast of the Holy Family. We celebrated a delayed Christmas at home together. I found the greatest gifts were sitting under my tree — three healthy children.

Therese Steinhoff
Nativity of Our Lord, St. Paul

Thankful for the gift from another

It was December 1971 and I was working at the First National Bank in St. Paul.  Catholic Charities called saying they had a baby boy for us. When we went to pick him up, the moment I looked at him in the cradle, I fell madly in love with him. He was three weeks old, blond, blue-eyed, and he was our special gift from God.

The Christmas before, we lost our first pregnancy and learned I had chorio-carcinoma, a rare cancer of the placenta.  I had chemotherapy in a Chicago hospital for four months. That was a tough Christmas for me. Leaving Chicago that April at 21, I was told if the cancer did not return within two years I could get pregnant again. I knew I could not wait two years to become a mom, so we put our name in for adoption. God gave me the strength to get through that cancer and then answered my prayer to become a mother.

Every Christmas I think about the other woman who decided to give up her son for adoption, and I wish we could thank her, but she has chosen not to be found.  We had three more children after Todd, so we have had many blessings in our lives.  But I always know how special that little boy in the cradle is to me and how much love poured from my heart the moment I saw him.

Mary Kay Rudeen  
St. Rose of Lima, Roseville

Blessing for mother, newborn child

The day after Christmas, when Anne was 1 and Mike was 2 and John was born on Dec. 10, my husband took the two older children to the grocery store just as it was getting dark. I had just taken a bath and was in the living room in my robe holding the baby when a man in sandals and a brown Franciscan robe knocked at the door. He spoke with a strong German accent and asked for a family whose name I didn’t recognize.

After I assured him he had the wrong house but was on the street he was looking for, I suggested he come in and look up the name in the phone book. He was not from St. Paul but was staying with the priests at Sacred Heart Church. When he came back into the living room from the kitchen, I was sitting on the davenport holding John. He came over and said, “Could I give you a blessing?” I said, “Yes, Father.”

Before I could kneel, as was customary, he knelt down in front of us and prayed and blessed us. I thanked him, but not as profusely as he thanked us for being there — making his Christmas so real because he found  a mother and a newborn child. I have since understood what Luke meant when he said Mary treasured these things in her heart.

Joan Pierce
St. John, Little Canada

A new priest for the family

The greatest Christmas blessing comes every year with the celebration of our Lord’s birth, but 1997 was exceptional for the Pavlik family. All were gathered around the kitchen table eating appetizers and holiday treats in typical Pavlik fashion — talking, laughing and celebrating together, as siblings were home from out of state.

The noise was interrupted, not by Santa, but by my brother Mark announcing to us all that he was entering Mount St. Mary Seminary in Maryland and becoming a priest. For a moment there was stunned silence, and then joyous exclamations, hugs and backslapping! How exciting to look forward to a priest in the family. His journey through seminary, ordination and assignment at St. Olaf Catholic Church was our journey, too, and the Catholic community and my family continue to be blessed by our own Father Mark Pavlik. And it all started with a great Christmas blessing.

Mary Thell
St. Alphonsus, Brooklyn Center

Many are the gifts

My husband, William, was in the service. He was wounded in Rome, Italy, July 1944, and came back to the States to hospital for care. We were married Oct. 16, 1944. He was discharged July 1945, and we went to farming that October.

I was pregnant and I went to the hospital in Mankato Dec. 17. I was in a single room. I went to the delivery room that night; I was put out as the baby was a breach. When I came to, I was in a double room. My partner’s name was Ber­niece, the same as mine. She was combing her long black hair in a white gown. I thought I was in heaven. What a feeling.

She had delivered three baby girls. She couldn’t have them in the room; they were too small. A little later, they came with my two babies, a girl 5 pounds and 6 ounces and a boy 6 pounds and 1 ounce.

The nun who took care of us would come in the morning and she would say, “How are my two lovely mothers and their five beautiful babies?”

Every day, the nuns would come down the hall singing Christmas songs. They sang so beautifully. I didn’t go home with the babies until Dec. 30. . . .

My husband, Bill, passed away Aug. 29, 2011. I will be 90 in February. We would have been married 67 years in October. I thank God for our years together and all our family. We had two more girls, 11 and 13 years later. When Christmas comes, I think of my Christmas of 1945 and go over all that happened at that time.

Berniece Fortier
Cleveland, Minn.

Silent night, holy night

My youngest daughter was expecting her first child on Dec. 22, five years ago. She and her husband were living in Piney Flats, Tenn., and they were preparing for an uneventful birth.

But little Maya had a difficult time coming into the world and, when she finally made her appearance, she was in trouble. Her lungs were badly compromised and the small southern hospital she was in said that if Maya were to live, she needed to be moved to where they could do a heart and lung transplant, at the age of three days.

My daughter chose Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, where a plane would be sent instead of a slower helicopter. I hurried to the church, where before the magnificent icon of Our Mother of Compassion I tearfully begged the Blessed Mother to put my little granddaughter into her hands and protect her.

As Maya was carried up into that Christmas sky, a very strange thing happened. Her breathing became less labored and her signs were actually showing some improvement. At this point, while flying silently in that southern sky, little Maya slowly started to breathe and the surgeon called off the heart and lung transplant operation.

While I knelt begging the Blessed Mother to put Maya into her care, my Christmas prayers were answered.

Just as God’s own son came into this world, so, too, his smallest creature would be lovingly cradled by his compassionate mother, some 2,000 years later. For nothing is impossible with God.

Barbara Brunner
St. Olaf, Minneapolis

Special delivery

My greatest Christmas blessing was Christmas Day 1981, when my son, Danny was born. On Christmas Eve, we were worried if Danny was to come, the rumor of a blizzard would make it difficult to get to the hospital. The blizzard never happened and Dan joined us on Christmas Day.

Michael McDonald

No storm could stop this family

Christmas 2009, our entire family was able to spend the holiday with my Mom and Dad. We journeyed to the family home of 50 years in Grand Forks, N.D. Looking back, God had his hand in this or it couldn’t have happened.

Except for twin great-grandsons, most of my folks’ 10 grandkids are young adults, working, in college, some married. Yet, circumstances allowed families of five siblings to gather that year. We arrived between snowstorms Christmas Eve from Minnesota, Wisconsin, California and North Dakota.

During the night a blizzard blew in over 20 inches of snow. As expected, my parents found no reason not to attend Christmas morning Mass. Pickups got us to our home parish, St. Mary’s, three blocks away. Our family doubled the number of people in church. An adult nephew, former alter boy, was recruited to serve. There were six eucharistic ministers among us. Parishioners trickled in to celebrate Christ’s birth.

That night, the house was filled with laughter and merriment. My parents loved it, their Christmas gift.

It was our final Christmas all together. God called Marilyn Jean, my mother, home the following March. We gathered at St Mary’s again, this time for her funeral Mass.

With God, all things are possible. Despite a North Dakota blizzard, our family had a memorable, blessed and joyous Christmas.  It was my mother’s Christmas wish.

Katherine Prenevost
Good Shepherd, Golden Valley

Thoughts of a most Blessed Christmas

One would think, being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, then falling, severing an Achilles tendon, would tempt one to give up, be angry, sad and depressed.

Yet by the grace and love of my God, Jesus Christ I am one among many who can be lifted up because of my faith.

Of course I experienced all of the above despairing feelings. They were overcome with peace. My greatest blessing this Christmas is that not only has God healed my heart; he is healing my body as well.

In addition, our family is expecting two new lives, Linda and I will then greet five grandchildren in the New Year. Old age and a broken body shadow my final years, I will always praise God for all of the special blessings He has granted my family and me.

Simple Love

No words need be spoken
Only the presence of You in my heart.
A treasure-box of love and blessings.
Locked, never to be broken or destroyed.

So tender, gentle and everlasting,
nothing can break the spell of magic
God has placed into my heart.
A gift like no other gift.

Unique, original, and forever,
Like a frozen snowflake capture,
As image through the lens of a Nikon Camera.

Treasure-box of love
We hold dear in our very being.
One with each other, always and forever.
A gift from God, only He can give.

He who gave his human body
So that we might live forever in His arms.

Steve and Linda Muras

A second chance at life

The greatest Christmas blessing I have ever received was the belief that God renewed my life following a near-fatal car accident.

On Oct. 4, 2010, my car was t-boned near St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Eagan, where my husband and I work in music ministry. The “jaws of life” quickly freed me from the wreckage. Paramedics assessed my multiple injuries, the most life-threatening being a torn aorta, which has a less than 5 percent survival rate.

At Regions Hospital, surgeons installed a thoracic stent that saved my life. After three weeks in a coma, I “woke up” and began a long recovery. In early December, I finally came home to my family!

I prayed that I would be able to attend Mass on Christmas Day — my first time back at church since the day of my accident.

That prayer was answered! It was such an emotional experience to be back in church, especially on Christmas Day! Tears filled my eyes as I pondered how blessed I was to be alive and celebrating this special Mass with my family.

During this year of recovery, I discovered most of the doctors I encountered were experts in their field. Though my recovery is not yet complete, I believe that God has blessed me through this experience and he has given my family strength they never knew they had.

This year, I am sitting at the piano again — where I hope to be playing to God’s glory at Mass on Christmas Day 2011!

Tana Barkhymer
St. John Neumann, Eagan

Treasure precious hours together

Matthew 25:13 reminds us to “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”

Two years ago my husband, our three boys and I had the privilege of spending Christmas with my husband’s extended family.

It was intense family time for a solid week. Sleeping in a house with four bedrooms were my mother-in-law and her sister, nine  young adults, ages 32 and younger, and our three young boys, 6, 3 and 1.

There were stories to be shared, Trivial Pursuit to be played, and many cranberry martinis consumed. We laughed loudly. We playfully passed the hours. We did it all again the next day.  There may have been some arguing in the spirit of Christmas banter, but we made the best of our week together. Our Christmas blessing that year was the gift of time spent together.

Exactly one month later, we received a call that my husband’s cousin was in the hospital at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She was found by her roommate early Monday morning seizing on the floor. At the hospital, she was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. She spent eight days in a coma, and died on Feb. 2, 2010, at the age of 22.

This year, when we gather together with family and friends, I am reminded to cherish the time with them. I will hug them, hold them close, and tell them I love them.

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Treasure your family time this Christmas.

Barbara Thukral
St. Paul

And unto them was born a child

The greatest Christmas blessing I ever received was my daughter, born on Christmas Eve. We had been having trouble getting pregnant, and the year prior my husband gave me a statue of a family for Christmas, saying, “Next year, this will be us.” He was right!

Jen Norton

Prayers restored Dad’s health

The greatest Christmas blessing I have ever received is the healing miracle of my father’s health.

In November of 1996 he became very ill with an aneurysm in his stomach.  Six hours after having surgery to repair the aneurysm, he had to be rushed into surgery again as there was another one which burst near his pancreas.  With all of the loss of blood, it calcified in his stomach creating a hemotoma.  He could no longer eat solid foods and had to have a TPN placed into him for his nourishment.

With still being weak and frail he came home two days before Christmas.  We put up the Christmas tree and Nativity set before he came home to have the house decorated for Christmas.  With dad in the hospital for six weeks, no one in our family did any Christmas shopping. We all realized the greatest gift was having dad home as sick as he was.

Dad was on the TP for nine months before he could eat solid foods. During these months he saw a healer who prayed over him and many countless prayers from family and friends.

This was truly a miracle in our family as he was told he would never eat again.

Jennifer Looney
Maternity of Mary, St. Paul

11 Christmas Blessings from 8th graders at Carondelet Catholic School:

My Special Christmas Blessing – Patrick McCarthy

Our Nativity Scene was set up on our hutch.  I was Christmas morning.  Our house was warm, cozy, and filled with Christmas spirit.  I hop down the stairs with sheer delight of the Christmas morning, all wrapped up in my cozy blanket, and ready for an awesome breakfast and a truly delightful day.  I look up at the hutch.  A beam of light is shining right on the Jesus figure on the Nativity scene.  Our family all looked at it with wonder, and it was special at that moment the sun was shining there.  It went down in our family history.  That was a true Christmas blessing!

Greatest Christmas Blessing

My greatest Christmas blessing is when I woke up thinking it was just a normal cold winters day.  When I reached the living room I looked out the window and saw the sun reflecting off the snow making bright rainbow rays.  Then I looked at our Christmas tree and saw presents at the base of the tree and I remembered that it was Christmas day!

Christmas Blessing by: Molly Voltz

My dad has always had to travel a little for work so I am used to him being gone.  In 6th grade my dad’s travel schedule was increased and he was gone three out of every four weeks.  At first it was really hard, especially because we couldn’t always get in contact with him.  He was all the way in Canada so it wasn’t easy to come home either.  This schedule lasted all of 6th grade, so I got use to it.  My dad came home the week before Christmas that year, just in time for the Mall of America concert.  This made my Christmas special because I had not seen him in a long time and he was home for Christmas.

Christmas Blessing

A few years ago, I woke up on Christmas morning to a fresh snow fall.  It was magical time and it felt like a blessing to be in my house with my family in this wonderful time of the year.

Christmas Blessing – Paul Hupp

My Christmas Blessing happened when I was very young.  I walked down my stairs and couldn’t see a thing.  I reached the bottom of the stairs and felt my way to my living room.  I saw a warm glow of the Christmas Tree, with presents surrounding the base of the tree.  I was so comforted by the tree I fell asleep on the stairs.  That sight has stayed with me forever.

My Christmas Blessing – Luke Peterson

Every year my mom makes ginger bread cookies for all of her close friends and most of my teachers.  It takes about 15 hours for my mom to decorate and cut the cookies.  One Christmas Eve she opened our front door to find a super nice Kitchen-Aid mixer.  This sped up the process a lot!  To this day we still don’t know who gave it to her.

Christmas Blessing – Paul Heltemes

A few years ago on Christmas Day we went to see our grandparents like we de every year.  This year though my cousins were there.  It was a blessing to see them because I hadn’t seen them in over a year.  My oldest cousin lives in New York and another lives on the east coast so I don’t see them often.  It was a surprise to see them and the day was great.  It was also snowing making a great scenery.  We took a group picture to remember the occasion.


Every Christmas morning I wake to my younger siblings jumping all over me wanting to go downstairs so badly.  Our parents say we can’t get them up before seven thirty, I glance over to my clock it reads, six forty five.  My younger brother has so much energy, I’m not sure where he gets all that energy at six in the morning.  Forty five minutes later my brother and sister are on top of my mom and dad telling them to get up.  We all run downstairs to see what Santa got us.  I will never grow old from my brother and sister on Christmas morning.  That is my Christmas blessing.

Christmas Blessing – Jack Thompson

I am blessed to spend time with my family on the holidays and to see how much joy hey experience during this time.  I hope people who don’t have their families with them this holiday season that they still have a happy Christmas and New Year.

Christmas Blessing

It was the first Christmas for my dog Maggie; a new family member to the Fulco family.  She was just a little 10 pound blond fur-ball that was very shy.  Maggie was so excited to see everybody, but more excited to see my Grandma.  My grandma is her favorite of the family.  Maggie thought she was a person when she was sitting in the chair with my dad; she was so engaged with the conversation.

My dog had a little Santa hat on her head that we bought for her.  After everyone left Maggie and I went into my bed to get “The Night Before Christmas” read by my mom.  My mom was almost done reading the story, but Maggie, the ten pound fur-ball, was already asleep.  She is my Christmas blessing.

Great Christmas Blessing by Johnny Westerberg

The greatest Christmas blessing I have ever received was when I remember getting my first Christmas tree.  I remember we looked for a while and then we finally picked one.  I was very happy with our selection, because we had found a really nice, green tree.  It was tall and smelled good.  The guy at the tree place said it was a good choice.

Later then we went to eat.  The whole time, I was talking about the tree.  It was the best tree I think that we ever bought.  We brought it home as I was so happy with it.  When it was time to throw our tree out, I did not want to throw it away.  I finally had to cope with the fact that the tree was really old and becoming a fire hazard.  That was my best Christmas blessing.

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