By Rev. Charles Allen, S.J., Alumni Chaplain
Midnight is — by choice — an hour of darkness that I rarely wish to experience. I did make the exception of staying up until midnight to greet the new century as 1999 became 2000, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could stay up to see the arrival of the next century, as 2099 becomes 2100!
My other exception to this rule is to stay up for “Midnight Breakfast.”
Midnight Breakfast began at Fairfield University about 12 years ago and marks the end of the first semester’s classes and the beginning of exams the next day. Starting at 10:00 p.m., approximately 2,500 of the University’s 3,200 undergraduates stream into the Barone Campus Center dining room, where 50 members of the faculty and staff serve them large plates of scrambled eggs, bacon, sweet rolls, coffee, and juice. In the background a strange mixture of Christmas carols and holiday songs are blast over the loudspeaker system, and whenever “All I Want for Christmas is You” is played, the students begin to dance on the table tops.
The whole event is somewhat Bacchanalian in spirit, but what calms my priestly feelings are the warm thank yous that we receive from the students, and the knowledge that, at least for one day of the year, it is clear that we are placed on this earth not to be served but to serve.
This year, the days of Advent proceeded with their usual pleasant pace: construction of the crèche outside the Egan Chapel, the Glee Club concerts, the Theatre Fairfield production, the Jazz Band, Orchestra and Dance Ensemble recitals, along with the beginning of the men’s and women’s basketball seasons and final exams. Then, on the morning of Friday, December 14, the CNN news update on my computer flashed that there was a report of a shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. By noon, we knew the name of the school — Sandy Hook Elementary — and by mid-afternoon the extent of the tragedy was so great as to defy human comprehension.
Over that weekend, thanks to e-mails from alumni, we learned that Jessica Rekos, the daughter of Krista Lehmann Rekos ’99 had died on Friday morning. Suddenly the tragedy of Sandy Hook had come much closer to home. On the following Tuesday, I concelebrated at Jessica’s funeral Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown. A number of Fairfield University alumni were there to try in some small way to share the pain of the grieving parents, and to listen to the most beautiful eulogy which Krista gave at the end of the Mass. May Jessica rest in peace and may her parents, Krista and Richard — and all others who lost a loved one that day — find God’s consolation in this most difficult of times.
By Friday evening, December 21, the last of the students had left for home and the campus suddenly became awesomely quiet. These were precious days of peace after the sadness affecting all of us.
The thoughts of a snow-covered nativity scene, gentle shepherds, glorious choirs of angels, adoring magi and a loving mother and adoptive father can easily make us forget the more difficult side of Christmas. The enforced journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the lack of an inn, the rustic nature of a cave and manger and always the threat of a menacing king and heartless empire — these are also part of the Christmas story, and they were very much a part of our Christmas in 2012.
Throughout it all, there was much for which to be grateful. I celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Boston with my 99-year old mother, three sisters, and assorted nieces and nephews — one of whom is a Fairfield University alumnus, and one who will walk the steps of Bellarmine Hall at Commencement in May.
As we enter into the Year of Our Lord 2013, let us remember those who rejoice and, most importantly, those who grieve.
May God bless us all in this New Year!
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