Since moving to Charlotte this past summer, the Hubs has become friends with the retired bishop of our diocese, Bishop William Curlin. The elderly Bishop Curlin lives alone with his dogs, and has appreciated the Hub’s friendship, the occasional ride to Mass, etc. You’ll never listen to anyone who knows more about the history of Catholicism in the South than Bishop Curlin – he has lived much of this fascinating history here himself.
We knew that the Bishop did not have any family (except for those sweet dogs of course!), so we invited him to share Christmas Eve dinner with us in our home. When the Bishop called my Hubs to gratefully decline, he said it’s been his Christmas Eve tradition since becoming a priest to invite those who have no one and no where else to go over to his home.
When we received the Bishop’s Christmas letter a few days later, we understood just how special the gift of hospitality is to Bishop Curlin – especially at Christmas time.
Below I’m sharing his Christmas letter just as he wrote it. I pray that it touches your heart just as much as it touched the Hubs and I this Christmas.
“Christmas brings memories of past celebrations of the Savior’s birth. I began my first assignment as a pastor on Christmas Eve. I confess that I began my ministry with a mixture of both joy and concern. At that time St. Mary Mother of God Church in downtown Washington was in financial difficulty. In addition the small parish high school was closing.
Late on Christmas Day I went into the church – possibly for comfort from the Lord. The church was bare of Christmas decorations. While I was kneeling at that altar I heard someone coughing. I discovered that I was not alone. An elderly lady was sitting quietly in one of the pews. I introduced myself as the new pastor. When I asked why she was alone in the church, she told me that she came to “be with Jesus.” She then invited me to share Christmas dinner with her. She told me that she mixed dog food with rice to create a delicious meatloaf. I politely thanked her by inviting her to share my Christmas dinner. It was hot dogs and beans. It was a wonderful Christmas. I had discovered why the Lord had sent me to St. Mary’s. In the thirteen years I served St. Mary’s kind and generous friends helped me feed the poor and provide shelter for the homeless. They were wonderful years.
I retired as Bishop of Charlotte in 2002. Retirement can bring loneliness – like the loneliness that brought the above elderly lady to “be with Jesus” on Christmas day. I fill my retirement days serving the ill and dying. This ministry has truly enriched my life. To assist in parishes and be invited to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation brings added joy.
Possibly there is someone in your community who will be alone this Christmas. Maybe it is an elderly relative or even a neighbor who lives alone. To invite them to share your Christmas dinner is to welcome Jesus at your table.”