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'A Great Gift'

Play ' I'll be Home for Christmas ' while you read.

My father, Sisto Carl Lese, wrote the following in 1945, on his return from World War II. He gave it the title, " A Great Gift". I hope you enjoy it.

I'm home again! (But this time to stay). Home on Christmas! What a glorious day, to me, a Catholic. Home with my folks, home from the war. Home on Christmas. The day symbolic of the Church. The day that is the example for the entire year.

I forget about hardships. They live in the grim past. All is forgot of personal dangers. I'm home.

Christmas Eve brings forth the gifts. A few expensive; a few, just gifts. But the best gift is to look into my dad's, sisters' and brothers' eyes and see the love they have for me. Love that can't be found or bought. Love lacking in the world today. Even in peace there is hate. But at home, love seems to me even in the smoke leaving the chimney, warm love.

We don't leave the house this night. We eat of the meatless meal and fill ourselves with the happiness amongst us. I can't really realize my fortune on this day. Was I lucky? Or am I forgetting the thousands of prayers said for me. Prayers so earnestly offered. My Mother, so near to Him, interceeding. Many more than ever returned by me.

We overcrowd the family car to attend Midnight Mass, a ceremony so necessary to so many people. People who don't know, people who don't care, people so worthy but so unfortunate as living in a pagen nation. How many people die without knowing the reason for which they lived. But to me, after four years of army, Christmas Midnight Mass with my dad, sisters, and brothers, is the gift from Him this day. Only I know the bigness of it. Only I know, because I can't express the happiness and peace it brings to me. Only I know.

And an early morning trip down Harrison, Mason and Pearl Streets. My dad and I. Wishing all a merry day. That much of this day must be done. A visit to the people we love. Just a small token that people can love and live with each other. We notice the cheerful people. We notice the sad mother. Her son lays in a cemetary unknown. Or a father who won't let sorrow show through his face. (Yet he knows he can't hide it.) We notice the thankful parents. Their sons came back. My dad looks at me. Sorrowful, kindful, cheerful. His son returned. And on this glorious day.

But is the meaning lost? Have we forgotten the Prince of Peace, or charity, or unselfishness, or our purpose on earth, or the family life, or pity of the unfortunate, or morals, or prayers? Have we forgotten because we are modern? The old Roman Empire thought itself to be modern. Modern with immorality. Modern until it was doomed.

Oh, how right St. Paul is, "and the greatest of these is Charity". Charity to God, to ourselves, to our neighbors. Charity and no wars, no wars to deprive a family of the complete human happiness entitled to so many families this glorious day of Christmas. No war to take from us, Al, Art, Bill and Frank. And so passes a day so full of meaning, a day for nations to find trust amongst each other. A day so full of happiness to a soldier returned.


1917 - 1965

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