Written by Sherry
Saturday, 29 December 2007 17:00
A great evangelization story from China to end 2007. Via Indian Catholic:
Non-Catholic neighbors joined Catholics in Lingbi county for Christmas Eve festivities despite freezing temperatures in the poverty-stricken lowland area in eastern China.
At 8:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, about 1,000 Catholics of Bengbu diocese and 200 guests braved a temperature of minus-seven degrees Celsius to watch a fireworks display that kicked off an almost-four-hour entertainment program ahead of midnight Mass.
Many of the guests had received help from Catholics when storms and floods affected their livelihood this year.
During the program, Catholics gave cultural performances, sang hymns and acted in dramas portraying the story of Christ. They also staged comedies, danced and chanted. Some middle-aged Catholic men also acted as Santa Claus, provoking laughter from the crowd.
Before the program ended, the parish priest, who gave his name as Father Paul, handed each performer a souvenir. The priest also sang a song, titled Give me hope in English translation, for the audience.
The non-Catholic guests left before the start of the Christmas Vigil Mass.
Around midnight, amid music from bands, a statue of the Infant Jesus was carried into the church and placed in a manger beside the Marian grotto. The Mass ended two hours later, after which participants enjoyed a light meal of hot rice porridge with beans and cereal.
One lay Catholic told UCA News that many non-Catholic residents of the area joined the program because the Church helped them when natural disasters struck during the year. "Local villagers affected by floods were moved by the Church's concern for them," he said.
After incessant rain and floodwaters destroyed most of their crops, Catholics helped the villagers by selling them 58,000 kilograms of corn, peanuts and wheat at low prices for consumption and cultivation.
Father Paul told UCA News some of the villagers initially were suspicious of the Catholics' gesture but later expressed appreciation and even attended the Christmas celebration.
"Some even volunteered to perform in the program, and some expressed their desire to know God," he added.
"Our Church is located in an area which has very poor people," the priest noted. "Instead of using words to preach, which may not help them to understand what the Church or faith is, we did something practical for them."
The power of the corporate and spiritual works of mercy together: the Great Commandment lived in light of the Great Commission. Not either or. Both and.