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Outstanding Helpers
Christmas elves make mischief.

by Donna Saliter

Caroling. Midnight Mass. Mistletoe. These are the words of Christmas. But do these words capture the spirit of Christmas? One young family of Marian Helpers sums it up in one word: straw.

At first, it may seem to be a word that doesn't quite fit in with the Christmas spirit. After all, it isn't exactly chestnuts roasting, boughs of holly, or sleighbells in the snow. How can plain old straw signify the spirit of Christmas?

It has everything to do with a very special Christmas present, explains Joan, a dentist in the suburbs of Boston, MA. Joan was inspired by our article about preparing for Christmas in last year's Winter issue of Marian Helper. The article mentioned the Advent custom of placing a piece of straw in the manger whenever you perform a good deed. She began to think of the true meaning of Christmas, and looked for ways to share the spirit of Christmas with others. "I printed out the article on stationery that looked like an invitation, and put it in my Christmas cards to invite people to do something for Jesus."

After reading the article, Joan also got a bundle of straw. She, her husband, Paul (also a dentist), and their 12-year-old son Michael all believe that the real spirit of Christmas is in giving to Jesus by giving of ourselves and being generous to others.

So, the family decided to put pieces of straw, one by one, in the manger, as each of them did good deeds during Advent.

Then, about a week before Christmas, Joan came home from doing some holiday shopping, and she noticed a little mischievous activity. Paul and Michael were placing the whole bundle of straw in Baby Jesus' crib! Thinking she had caught them cheating, she scolded the pair and admonished them that no straw was to be placed until a good deed was done. They looked up at her with glee, and she knew in an instant that they were up to something.

"Several weeks before Christmas, we had received a special invitation in the mail," she recalls. "Fr. Joseph, MIC, wrote to us about Marian seminarians and invited us to take an active role in their education. I knew when the letter came that I wanted to donate, but I had to talk it over with Paul and let him know how much it meant to me." They barely had time to discuss donating to the Seminarian Campaign when father and son decided to give Joan the most giving present of all: they sent their offering to the Marians to educate a seminarian for a year in her honor.

You can say that it's better to give than to receive, but you just don't know until you really start to do it, Joan concludes. "It's Jesus' birthday. That's the point, to give Him a gift. We're trying to support the Marians financially and spiritually because you just don't know what one priest can do. These priests are all around the world, and who knows how many souls they will touch?"

Through their sacrifice in lasting support of the Marian seminarians, Joan's family cushioned the baby Jesus' crib for Him. If you would like to join families like this one in supporting the Marian seminarians, I would be happy to hear from you.

Donna Saliter is Fr. Joseph's Assistant for Special Gifts. You may write her at Association of Marian Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263, or call her toll free at 1-800-462-7426. E-mail:

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