A few years ago, my mom gave me this homily. It's my great-uncle Fr. Samuel Haughton’s last sermon delivered, December 25, 1936. During midnight Mass, he died of a massive heart attack right as he was raising the host up for consecration. My grandfather and uncles were all up front and ran to Fr. Sam and the Eucharist. It was all over the papers the next day.
It was written while he was at the hospital visiting parishioners some time before preparing for midnight Mass that Christmas, so you can see the stationary clearly on the copied notes of his sermon. The St. James Mercy Hospital, Hornell, NY. I hope you like it, I am so happy to have this.
We are gathered here tonight to celebrate the greatest feast of the Christian year, to commemorate the greatest event in the history of our race – the appearance of God clothed in human form upon our earth. It is the greatest feast of the Christian year for without the nativity, there could be no redemption or the glorious feast of the Resurrection.
It was an event of infinite meaning to the world for it was the coming of a redeemer to a lost world. You all know the history of the world for four thousand years before the coming of Christ men had as it were built a screen and a wall of shame and sin in order to hide themselves away from the face of God. How well they succeeded is expressed in the words of Adam when God appeared in the garden of paradise – “I was ashamed and I hid myself.” And too fatally had man succeeded in his design of hiding himself away from the face of God.
But while the world slept in the silence of the midnight the kingdom of God stole up the world. But silently though God wished to come yet He wished to make just one announcement of his coming. This announcement was made to the poor. It was made to some poor shepherds who kept the night watch on the lonely plain. And it was made to them with special appropriateness. They had the gifts, which Christ asks of everyone who comes to him. Their lives were very simple and their hearts were very pure and their faith was very strong. The world had not spoiled them by its wealth and by it’s pleasure. And so when the vision burst upon them, the angelic choir singing “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to men of goodwill!” The words of the angel “Fear not, etc” they said one to another let us go over to Bethlehem and see the word that is made flesh. And they went to Bethlehem and found the infant wrapped in swaddling and laid in the manger and kneeling down, they adored him and offered to him their gifts; the affections of their heart, the fervor of their prayers, and their works of penance.
This child, Jesus, did not wish to call only the poor to His manger, but he called also the powerful and the rich. He called the magi, who were princes and philosophers from the east who practiced the pagan religion. At the same time that the angel spoke to the shepherds, a wonderful star appeared to the magi. They followed the star and they too came to offer their homage to the new born king. And they got down on their knees and adored him and they too presented the gifts that every man must bring who comes to Christ – gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the gifts to his royalty, divinity, and humanity. Gold, the affections of our heart, Frankincense, the fervor of our prayers, and myrrh, the works of penance. This is the Gospel story of the vocation or calling of the Magi to the true faith.
This is the spectacle, which the Church calls upon you to witness tonight – the spectacle of God made man in the form of an infant. And that infant savior as he lay there in his mother’s arms and looked back to the bosom of his father repeats again and again that his mission on earth has been fulfilled. The sweet influence of that divine savior still survives, is still felt in the world and must be felt forever. Forever will his divine mind shed light upon those whom he would save, forever will his divine heart quicken into love those whom he has chosen for his own. To us the influence of the Divine child has reached that child of the manger holds us captive. His peace has rested upon us all. And may that holy peace, and He who creates it, abide with you forever. May we always bring to him the gifts He asks, the affections of our heart, the fervor of our prayers, and our works of penance. May His peace rest upon you all. May the blessing of the Infant Savior be yours during this holy season and happy Christmas, a holy and a prosperous new year.
God Bless you, great uncle Fr. Sam, with all that I have been told about you, you were a wonderful man and a spiritual priest. Thank you for these words, at least I can know you through them.
Your great niece, Elizabeth