Reflections from a Sr. Anna Grace, Novice
Updated: Nov 18, 2021
A Christmas Pageant -- everyone has been in (or at least seen) a Christmas Pageant, right? As we posed this question to our 4 groups of 30 students – 120 in all – only 2 hands went up. Only 2 of these beautiful Haitian children had seen a Christmas Pageant.
These 120 children are the poorest of the poor, many cannot afford the tuition to go to school and so they spend their days on the streets trying to survive each day, and they were handpicked to take part in what resembled a 4-day summer camp. Preparing for this Christmas Pageant to be performed after Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany was one element of the program, which seemed a daunting task at the beginning of the week. It’s one thing to prepare a pageant with children who have seen one before and have an idea of the end result, but quite another to start from zero, or so I thought.
We began by explaining to the children with the help of our Haitian translator, what we would be doing; performing the Christmas story; and asking for volunteers. The children were divided into groups by age and gender and each group responded in their own unique way. The older boys were eager to volunteer each other, the older girls reluctant to respond at all, the younger girls quietly raised their hands while the younger boys all simultaneously stood up and converged on those of us at the front. I got the impression that they thought that the closer they were to the person in charge the more likely it was that they would be selected for a role. To be honest, this was more or less effective and entirely charming. Lord, let me be so eager to serve and to give of myself each day.
Once we had chosen our group of shepherds from among the younger boys we began to go through their scene, from the angel appearing to them in the field through their arrival at the stable to adore Our Lord. Due to the language barrier and the lack of previous experience we found the most effective way for them to learn their parts was through imitation. To do this, one of the Friars demonstrated an appropriately dramatic reaction to the appearance of the angel announcing the “Good News of great joy!” When prompted to imitate the Friar’s example, each of the 7 boys did so with more gusto and precision than the next. As we practiced the scene several times, including eagerly looking for the stable with the newborn king, their fervor never waned a drop. Lord, let me be so eager to learn from you and may my desire never waver.
On the day of the dress rehearsal in the Church, (the first time the children were seeing all of the scenes put together) their searching for Baby Jesus was so convincing that one of the adults thought that the boys weren’t sure where to go. But they were undeterred and continued to carry out what had been practiced until they were finally kneeling reverently before our little stable. Lord, may I never be turned away from constantly searching for you.
After the performance the next day, which they did, need I say it, marvelously, they all piled backstage and were excitedly taking off their costumes and, understandably, more or less throwing them at me. One of the little shepherds, or ‘gado’ in Creole, handed me his costume when a light bulb went off in my head. I took one of the canvas bags we had and pointed to it and said one of the few Creole words I knew: “Gado.” I then pointed at him and back at the bag. Wonder of wonders, he understood what I was trying to ask him – to go around and collect all of the shepherd costumes and put them in the bag for me. He came back excitedly after his errand with all of the costumes together and a big smile on his face. Lord, may I always listen to the small ways you speak to me each day.
A few days after the camp ended we were out and a young boy came up to me and started pulling on my sleeve and giving me a huge smile. I realized that he was one of the “gados” from the pageant and was thrilled to see him again. I had really been missing those precious little ones. But in the same instant I was horrified to recall that I had never learned his name, I had only referred to him as “gado.” I went to rectify that mistake by asking him his name and he would only respond “gado.” I repeated the question several times, and each time received the same answer. It wasn’t until one of his friends piped in and told me his name that my question was truly answered. Lord, may I not so much desire to be known but rather be firm in who I am – your beloved daughter.
- Sr. Anna Grace, CFR Novice