On December 24th I received the best Christmas gift of my life. We went to the midnight Mass at the Nativity Church of Bethlehem with four of the sisters and Anna, a young volunteer from Italy. It was cold and raining heavily, but we were dressed for the weather, and we could get in the church fast. To attend, you need to order in advance free tickets issued by the Franciscans, who are the custodians of the holy sites in the Holy Land.
We arrived by 9 p.m. and spread out inside of the grotto, where each of us found a special place for prayer. Anna and I sat at the grotto that was the manger where Jesus was born. Priests celebrated Mass at midnight here.
It was so special to be there that it took me one hour to pray one rosary. I thought about all the people I know and don’t know and prayed for everyone, naming the ones I know one by one. I prayed a rosary for all my family and my friends and their families.
I prayed for all who are sick or are going through a special situation in life.
I prayed for peace in our hearts and in particular for peace in the hearts of the Israelis, Palestinians, and extremists in all religions so there could be peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East.
I prayed for all the Christians in the Middle East who are persecuted and for the priests and nuns who so lovingly and courageously work in this part of the world.
I prayed for all the refugees, for everyone I met in Jordan, for Caritas and the Restaurant of Mercy and their teams, for all the Israelis and Palestinians I know and that I recently met, and for VIDES+USA, the Salesian Sisters in San Antonio, Texas, and the ones in the provincial house of the Middle East, all who so warmly welcome me into their homes, and for the entire Salesian Family.
I was very fortunate to be in Bethlehem and in the Holy Land at this time of the year, and I truly appreciate all who have supported me during my mission in the Middle East in one way or another, who were also included in my rosary prayer.
This altar at the chapel of the Salesian Sisters House in Cremisan portrays the three religions of the Holy Land: Judaism with the menorah, Islam with the moon, and Christianity with the Star of Bethlehem. It says: “And it will be peace.”
Natalia Liviero, a VIDES+USA volunteer currently serving in the Middle East