s Those Unwanted Exiles
I DO HOPE that as many readers as possible will tune in for the 'Week's Good Causeat 8.25 on aIl Home Services on Sunday evening. It will be an appeal for "Aid to European Refugees".
This is an organisation which helps that pathetically numerous group of displaced persons who are still in camps and who are likely lo remain so for the rest of their lives because, for some reason or another. they are not acceptable as emigrants to a country where they could build a new life for themselves and their families.
I visited Mrs. Russell, the acting land very active) chairman of the organisation. recently and found very much with which to be impressed Virst, there is the enormous amount that has been achieved in the last two years. The organisation has adopted Stitch Paura camp in Austria. In 1956, this camp lacked every element of human decency. The lavatories had no doors. there were no facilities for washing, there was a school toorn but no equipment of any sort, there were nomaterials, no tools, no equipment of any kind.
ALL these deficiences have been ' supplied, and in addition the inmates have been helped to build for themselves eighty-two houses. £300 worth of fruit trees have been planted and a canning industry has been started.
Then there is the wonderful way in which personal eontact has been established between people in this country and lonely displaced persons by means of a system of "adoptors".
Mrs. Russell showed me a sheaf of appeals from social workers on the spot. "So many of these people need such little help to make a profound difference to their lives, Mrs. Russell told me.
One old lady who has "green fingers" requires f:5 to rent a plot of ground for a year on Which to grow vegetables. A priest in Bavaria has almost completed a church for five hundred Lithuanians and needs very little more money to equip it and have it consecrated.
If you are moved to help "Aid to European Refugees" and want to help a special aspect of the work, you may earmark money for that project, The address is 15 Fleauchamp Place, London, S.W.3, hut I hope you are able to listen in on Sunday.
AN article which struck me as
being very sad was one entitled "Disillusioned Christmas" which appeared on the woman's page of the "Manchester Guardian" recently. The writer says : " If our family had had a truly religious attitude, its Christmas would have been indestructible and proof against any disillusion short of total toss of faith.
" My myth was. I suppose, that there was such a thing as the 'Christmas Spirit', indebted to the religious conception but not dependent upon it, and that it was this spirit which spontaneously generated the benevolence, the generosity, the laughter and the close communion of the family Christmas.
" Memories, customs, rituals, all have departed. What is left of the Christmas spirit ? It is a dusty answer : one carol service, one turkey, one Christmas pudding, the Queen's broadcast, a couple of pounds' weight of Christmas cards, enough soap. bath salts. and tea towels to last until midsummer, a much shrunken hank balance, and a pile of thank-yous to write."
The evening of Christmas Eve can present a bit of a problem. If the schedule has gone according' to plan, all the preparations have been completed and everyone has been to confession to relieve the burden as far as possible on the priests. The children feel that it is time that Christmas started now, but it is of the essence of Christmas that Christmas eve is a vigil and the Feast has not yet begun.
4I N account I read recently of
Polish Christmas customs may provide some ideas for a supper celebration which is in the spirit of the day.
At supper on this day in Poland, hay is placed under the tablecloth in commemoration of the "manger of Bethlehem." In some homes sheaves of wheat are placed in corners of the rooms — this is supposed to assure a plentiful crop for the coming year. The table is decorated with traditional evergreen and mistletoe. An attractively dressed tree is in one corner of the room, and there is a crib.
The highlight of the meal is the sharing of the oplarek (pronounced "optwatek"). This is a thin wafer, similar to the Host, and on it in relief is the Nativity scene. This wafer is a symbol of Christ, and serves as a reminder that in accepting Christ one most love his neighbour. Hence, in the sharing of the oplarek, all discussions, quarrels and misunderstandings must cease — brotherly love must reign.
After the supper, the family gathers in the living room and exchanges gifts, and then sings various Christmas hymns until it is time for midnight Mass. I think it is against our English traditions to open the presents until after Mass, but it does present some ideas for a Christmas Eve supper followed by carol singing.
MRS. REED NEWLAND, in her
book " The Year and Our Children" reviewed a week or so ago in THE CATHOLIC HLRALD, tells how they have adapted the °pleads custom.• " Now we use this holy symbolism with bread we bake ourselves — and mixing it is a beautiful meditation for a mother. It is baked as rolls in a round tin. round like the circle of eternity and like the everlastingness of God.
"After the blessing of bread, the father or an older member of the family sprinkles the •bread with holy water. breaks off a roll, and passes it on to the person on his right, who breaks a roll from it for himself and passes it on. It is our own custom, in terms significant to us."