Even when I was an altar boy – head altar boy no less – Catholic mass wasn’t one of my go to activities. But Christmas Day mass, as a young boy and in small town in Maine fell into a different category. To begin with, the joy of the day, felt in my home, school, and neighborhood, was no stranger to mass that day. The birth of a child in modest circumstances and in a far off land gave the occasion a magical, wondrous feeling. What is more on this day I wasn’t simply seated in a pew with other churchgoers, but next to my mother (I wasn’t yet an altar boy, too young) who I adored and she was the organist and played, alongside a choir, in a loft like space high above everybody else. In the early part of the mass music was sung in in Latin – beautiful nevertheless – filled every space in this small church, but then gave way to familiar carols near the end of the mass that everybody sang and that captured the transcendent spirit of of the holiday. Finally, immediately after the priest brought the mass to a close with the ancient salutation, “Dominus vobiscum,” (The Lord be with you) the participants, young and old, relatives and friends, would gather at the foot of the church’s steps overlooking the Kennebec River and exchange Christmas greetings.