St. John XXIII parish to hold Christmas Mass for those grieving

A special Christmas Mass for those who are alone, sad, or grieving will again be said on Dec. 24 at St. John XXIII Parish and University Center on the University of Tennessee campus.

The 8 p.m. Blue Christmas Mass will be a liturgy of hope for those experiencing pain and loss, according to Father Rich Andre, CSP, associate pastor at St. John XXIII, who held the first Blue Christmas Mass in the Diocese of Knoxville last year.

“Christmas can be a challenging time for people who are grieving or alone. And people who are alone sometimes don’t feel comfortable,” said Father Andre, who will preside at the Mass.

Father Andre said U.S. churches began holding services about 20 years ago for members who were lonely or sad, noting that the winter solstice can have adverse affects on people who are feeling blue.

Approximately 60 people attended the diocese’s first Blue Christmas Mass in 2013, coming from a number of parishes in the diocese.

“The people who came were experiencing different sorts of loss: death of a loved one, recent divorce, and other forms of loneliness. Almost everyone stayed afterwards for fellowship and conversation,” Father Andre said.

He noted that planning of the Blue Christmas Mass brought together a diverse group of St. John XXIII parishioners “to create a beautiful celebration.”

“I have been a priest for two-and-half years. The Blue Christmas Mass last year was probably the most special liturgy at which I’ve presided as a priest. Praying together with all these people, bathed in the light of God’s love, as we struggled with elements of sadness in our lives… reflecting on it still gives me goosebumps. It was an honor and a privilege,” Father Andre said.

He said the Paulist Fathers have been offering a Blue Christmas Mass at Ohio State University for about a decade, and that the St. John XXIII Mass will be a similar liturgy intended for people experiencing pain or loss. He noted that the music has a more muted tone and the Mass emphasizes a message of hope more than a message of joy and is especially for those experiencing sadness.

“Our hope is for people who would feel comfortable attending their own parishes to celebrate Christmas there. But the idea is for people who are alone across the diocese to come to our service,” he said. “The Diocese of Knoxville, the Paulist Fathers, and Pope Francis all emphasize outreach to those on the margins. The Blue Christmas Mass is another ministry for that outreach.”

Father Andre asked that any Diocese of Knoxville parishioners who know of someone who would be interested in attending the Blue Christmas Mass contact St. John XXIII Parish at 865-523-7931.

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