One of my favorite Christmas traditions is the Christmas card. Every year, I enjoy sending and receiving cards, as a way of celebrating Jesus’ birth and connecting with others. This year, I received an unexpected Christmas card, with an important message.
When I first saw the envelope, I noticed that my address was written in a different handwriting from the return address, and I did not recognize the name of the woman who sent it. When I opened the envelope, I was surprised to see that that the card, with a beautiful picture of the Blessed Mother and Baby Jesus was from a priest, but I could not read his name clearly. I assumed he was an older priest living with a relative, but as I do not know any priests living in the town on the return address, I wondered why he sent me a card. To solve this mystery, I looked up the woman’s name and address online. I was amazed to find her name included in an obituary as the niece of a priest I was acquainted with who died last March.
Father James Lefebvre had been a priest for fifty-nine years. Faithful, holy, and compassionate, he was especially dedicated to administering the sacrament of penance. He was also deeply dedicated to his work as a chaplain to the police for over fifty years. I often went to him for confession and sometimes consulted him for advice, but did not know him well.
Last year, hearing that Father Lefebvre was ill, I sent him a Christmas card. I assumed that he planned to send this card to me in return last year, but forgot to mail it, and so when his niece found it, she decided to send it to me. However, as I eventually learned, what happened was more complex and beautiful. When I spoke to my friend Carol, who was a spiritual daughter to Father Lefebvre, she told me she was very moved by finding that she had received a card too! She said that this was a new card because she had received a card from Father Lefebvre last year. I later found out that other people received cards as well.
The only explanation was that Father Lefebvre, knowing he was very ill, had written out Christmas cards that could be mailed by a family member if he was no longer alive during the Christmas season. We can’t know for certain why he did this. Carol thought it might have been a way to remind us to pray for him. I saw it as a reminder that, despite death, we are all still connected to one another through the communion of saints.
Father Lefebvre’s Christmas card especially conveyed faith and hope in eternal life with Jesus because it communicated the message: “I will remember you and your loved ones with warmth and love as I celebrate Mass this Christmas.” The Church teaches in the Catechism: “To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven.” (1370)
As Father Lefebvre knew he might not live until this Christmas and celebrate Mass on earth, perhaps he hoped that as a priest, he would have the opportunity to participate in the celebration of the Heavenly Liturgy. By sending these Christmas cards, Father Lefebvre gave witness to Jesus and why we celebrate Christmas.