As every year, Fr. Flavio Peloso FDP, the Superior General, has sent a message of greetings to the whole Family of Don Orione.
With the Christmas Gift of last year I invited you to look at the ass and ox in the crib. This year I invite you to stop and contemplate the Christmas tree.
The tree and the crib in our homes promote a religious atmosphere and family closeness at Christmas, and they are a historical reminder and a symbolic celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Benedict XVI has defined the tree as “an important symbol of the Birth of Christ, because with its evergreen branches it reminds us of the permanence of life”.
It seems that this symbol stems from the time of Saint Boniface when, in the seventh century, he cut down from the roots a great oak under which the rite of sacrifice of a little child was to be carried out. Everyone was amazed when, after the oak had been felled, a spruce tree sprang up from the log. Saint Boniface explained to the people that the spruce, an evergreen, was the tree of life and represented Christ.
The lovely story I am going to tell you is from Paulo Coelho.
In a forest, on the top of a hill, lived three trees. One day they started to speak about their dreams and hopes.
The first tree said: “One day I hope to become the strong box in a treasury. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious jewels. I could be decorated with inlaid work and be admired by all”.
The second tree said: “I hope to become a mighty ship. I would carry kings and queens across the seas to the most hidden corners of the world. I would like everyone to feel safe because of the strength of my hull”.
Finally the third tree said: “I would like to grow so much that I became the highest tree and the straightest tree in all the forest. Everyone would see me on the top of the hill and while admiring my branches would contemplate the heavens and God and how close I would be to Him. I would be the biggest tree of all times and all would remember me”.
Several years passed and each tree prayed that its dreams would come true. Some wood-cutters passed near the three trees. One of them approached the first tree and said: “This seems a very strong tree; I will surely manage to sell the timber to a carpenter”. So he began to cut it. The tree was very happy because he knew that the carpenter would make it into a precious treasure chest.
Reaching the second tree the wood-cutter said: “This seems a very strong tree, I believe that I will be able to sell it to a ship-builder’s yard”. The second tree was happy because it knew that it was going to become a great ship.
When the woodman approached the third tree, the tree became afraid because it knew that if it was cut its dreams would never come true. One of the wood-cutters said: “I have not yet decided what I will do with my tree. But anyhow I will cut it”. So he cut it straightaway.
When the first tree was handed over to the carpenter it was made into a box for putting animal feeds in. It was taken to a cave and filled with hay. That was certainly not what the tree had prayed for.
The second tree was cut and made into a little fishing boat. Its dreams of becoming a great ship and carrying kings and queens came to an end.
The third tree was cut into large planks and left in the dark.
The years passed and the trees forgot about their dreams.
One day a man and a woman arrived at the cave. The woman gave birth to a child and the newborn was put in the box for animal feeds which had been made from the first tree. The man had hoped to be able to make a cradle for the baby, but the manger took its place. The tree realised the importance of this event and understood that it had received the greatest treasure of all time.
Years later, some men were in a fishing-boat which had been made from the second tree. One of the men was tired and had fallen asleep. While they were at sea a violent storm took them by surprise and the tree thought that it would not be strong enough to protect its passengers. The men woke the man who was asleep who, standing up said: “Peace”. The storm subsided immediately. At this the second tree understood that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.
Finally, someone came to take the third tree. While it was being transported along the streets, people jeered at the man who was carrying it. When they stopped the man was nailed to the tree and when it was raised up in the air he was left to die on the top of a hill. When Sunday came the tree understood that it had been strong enough to stand on the top of a mountain, and thus, close to God, because Jesus had been crucified on its wood.
In this account, the story of each tree is taken up and given value within the story of Jesus. Leaving aside the metaphor, our life has value, it is not “useless suffering”, because the Son of God, who came to live among us, has saved it by uniting it to himself in the destiny of eternal life.
Best wishes, dear young children, boys and girls and young people who come to the schools, playgrounds, churches and youth clubs of our Congregation: make beautiful dreams and high hopes for your future and entrust them, through prayer, to the Lord who wants you in this world for something great, divine and eternal.
Best wishes, dear older people and sick people: we do not know what God has in store for us, but we do know that He always loves us, as a father and as a mother, and that there is no leaf that falls without God willing it.
Best wishes, dear friends and benefactors: each tree in that little story had what it wanted but not in the way that it had imagined. When you give an hour of your time, an offering, a smile, a prayer, know that it serves to bring about “His kingdom’s coming”.
Best wishes, dear confrères and religious sisters walking in the footsteps of Don Orione: go ahead, with trust in Divine Providence even when surprising things happen; God always has a plan and all works for the good of those who are loved by the Lord.
Happy Christmas to everyone! It is the feast of Divine Providence who comes to dwell among us, the feast of the evergreen life, like the tree which we decorate at home.
Lift up our hearts! We know that the ways of God are not always our ways, but His ways are always the best. Hail Mary and go ahead!
Happy Christmas!Fr .Flavio Peloso