By Joan Kingsland
The following is a glimpse into the experience
of the Regnum Christi consecrated women as they prepare
for the feast to celebrate the birth of our
Greenville, Rhode Island – December 24, 2010 -- In
the Regnum Christi consecrated life, hopeful expectation gives way
to a heartfelt joy on Christmas Eve and throughout the
The heart of our preparation is
to follow the tide of the liturgy. The purple priest
vestments and the Advent songs throughout the month are
constant reminders of our need to put our hearts
in order to receive the Christ child anew. Part of
our preparation includes making small sacrifices, as well as
prayer and much personal effort to draw closer to
Christ. Many of us focus our half-hour morning meditation on
some aspect of the season, such as seeking a
purer, humbler heart, emptied of self and more Christ-like.
We began on Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, putting out
external signs of the season. Suddenly evergreen boughs, trees and
Christmas ornaments appear all over. Never has there
been a more “feminine” tree than the one in our
main hall, decorated with gold ribbon and bows, glass
baubles, shimmering objects and soft lights. It is hard
to take our eyes off it.
|The consecrated women’s Christmas Room|
This year we tried something
new: we held a posada for the students of
Immaculate Conception High School. In Mexico there is a
tradition of having one posada per night during the nine
days before Christmas. (Maritza, one of our consecrated sisters,
says in her town of Cotija, they begin from
the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12.)
Following the celebration, there is a procession door to
door, in imitation of Mary and Joseph seeking a place
at the inn. At each door, the people outside,
holding candles, sing carols and a special, funny song
asking to be let inside. The people inside the door
sing back their part of the tune, which includes
some “unfriendly” words basically telling them to go away.
Those seeking “posada” then pray some litanies and move
onto the next door.
In Mexico the procession goes
from house to house. But our home is so large
that the students of both schools move from one
side of the house to the next. When they get
to the last door, the people on the inside
sing words of welcome and open the door to all
for the fiesta part of the evening.
The Night Before
Christmas Eve for us begins with our Christmas dinner.
We also have the tradition of “aguinaldos”, which involves
giving a bag of candy to each person. Someone in
our house sewed little Santa sacks from Christmas cloth
for this purpose. There is no need to horde the
leftovers from one meal to another, since they are
refilled throughout the week.
The meal concludes with carols
sung by our Mater Ecclesiae Choir. “O Holy Night” is
Shortly after dinner, we choose our patron
saints for the coming year. One by one, we randomly
choose numbers from a bowl. A card matching that
number includes the name of a saint and a
virtue we are supposed to work on, and a
quote about that virtue from the Pope. We listen eagerly
to each one, sighing enviously at the one who
gets St. John the Evangelist and the virtue “intimate
friendship with Christ.”
The Eucharistic Celebration
We have a short amount of
time before Mass begins. While some prepare their hearts
with quiet prayer, others return to the kitchen and
dining room to finish setting up for breakfast or to
put the finishing touches on the Christmas Room and
remove the huge drape that has hidden their work
for the month.
Inside the chapel, below the altar is
a little crib with the child Jesus, laid upon a
bed of poinsettias laced with just a trace of
gold ribbon. Poinsettias line the back altar and side
alcoves and in front of our Lady. The lamps on
the side are strung with wreaths.
We have practiced
our hymns ahead of time so that we can
sing with all our hearts. Our Eucharistic Celebration comes
to an end with the adoration of the Christ Child.
Our chaplain holds the “baby” while each of us
comes forward to kiss his forehead or cheek, while we
sing “Adeste Fideles.”
Our Christmas Room
Afterwards we go to the Christmas
Room where we say silent prayers of welcome to
the Holy Babe and sing him a few Christmas
lullabies. The room includes a stable to house large figures
of the Holy Family, accompanying shepherds, magi and animals.
The walls are draped with a fitting nightline. On
the side is a street with houses and stores.
Our consecrated sister Helen made signposts in Aramaic showing
the way to Jerusalem and Egypt.
The Feast of
Epiphany is a big part of our Christmas celebrations.
On that day three of us dress up like Kings
and three more like their accompanying pages. Their identity
is supposed to be kept secret. (Everyone tries to
guess who they are weeks ahead of time.)
They maintain the semblance of seeking the Christ
Child while bringing up “funny” things that have happened throughout
the year. Amusing letters to the Magi are read
out loud, written by different groups of consecrated members.
Then refreshments are served and presents given out. We
receive gifts of items we need, such as slippers or
purses. We also receive things we asked for in
connection to our responsibilities. For instance, those who work in
the kitchen may receive a new frying pan or
After Epiphany, the poinsettias and child still
remain at the front of the chapel; but they are
moved to the side until February 2, the Feast
of the Presentation. It is always sad to see Him
go. But at least we enjoy celebrating the full
length of the Christmas Season.