Christmas at the front lines of poverty
Fr. Rick Frechette's Christmas reflection from NPH Haiti
December 9, 2018 - New Zealand
Fr Rick Frechette (also a medical doctor) is our Director at NPH Haiti. Each year he shares a powerful reflection on the true meaning of Christmas. This year is no exception:
It was midnight when Jesus was born.
It was dark.
It was cold.
There was starkness,
a full poverty of circumstance and setting.
But love was never more present than that night,
and its light would now brighten darkness, cold and poverty until the end of time.
The angels sang this news in jubilation, the stars danced wildly on hearing it, kings fell to their knees in reverence.
Here in St. Damien Hospital, every evening at 11 pm, I make the slow trek to my room for the night, pausing to look at the suffering children, to offer some small prayers, to comfort a crying child, all the while taking in the wonders before me.
Some moms are sleeping on a banana leaf mat on the hard floor, with their children cradled in their arms.
For sicker children, the moms sleep on stiff chairs, in the ready position of vigilance and fast response to the slightest cry. Their arms reach through the bars of the cribs, with hands resting reassuringly on their baby. Their faces and limbs bear creases made by unrelenting furniture. Their brows bear creases forged by worry and compassion.
For the sickest children, the moms forgo sleep altogether. They are as close to the crib as a body can be, their small tattered bibles are open to the pages of supplication, they are singing soft and doleful melodies, and waving their hands in prayer.
Never could love be more present. The same light of Christmas love abounds in poverty and darkness, twenty centuries after the very first Christmas.
Before sunrise, when I follow the same path downstairs to start a new day, there are often empty cribs. Too many empty cribs.
One is already too many.
I will see these children very soon in the chapel, in small coffins. Here, the sun too often rises on death.
We thank God for the children around the world who are healthy, who know the love of a secure family, whose memories of Christmas are lovely trees, peaceful music and the bliss of presents, who have never known hunger. I was one of those children. Thankfully, there are many.
But at Christmas, we also pause soberly to remember how many children in the world know the Christmas of the Christ Child. They are born far from home, and in raw conditions. They are born surrounded by the killings of the innocents, by cruel and jealous kings. They are seeking exile to be safe and protected, only to end up estranged, in a land of slavery. Across the earth, very tragically, their name is legion.
At Christmas, we renew the celebration of life, the marriage of humanity and divinity in one tiny child, and the new and glorious destiny this makes possible for the whole human family.
In this joy, we commit ourselves to the children who are poor, who are sick, who are lost and exiled, whose companions are the cold and the darkness. We want to bring them goodness and light, health and peace.
At Christmas, all of us at St. Damien Hospital, and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos around the world, want to thank you.
Thank you for being light in the darkness.
Thank you for bringing warmth to the cold.
Thank you for lifting the burden of poverty.
Thank you for decorating starkness with the vibrant colors of the gift that you are to the world.
Thank you for supporting the thousands of children in our care.
God help us to be the peace on earth and good will toward all that we so desperately need and seek.
Fr Rick Frechette CP, DO
You may like to donate towards our NPH Christmas Miracle - A dignified farewell at NPH Haiti.
"Miracles are much needed in Haiti, one of the poorest countries
in the world. Bodies are abandoned in the city’s morgue, on the
streets or at our NPH St Damien Paediatric Hospital.
Fr Rick Frechette and his team believe that treating the dead
with dignity will lead to better treatment of the living. NPH
provide a funeral and burial for 150 people every month."
Give a miracle this Christmas. Check out our NPH Christmas miracles brochure for gift ideas:
Fr. Rick Frechette
Director of NPH Haiti