Christmas Eve 2017

A Christmas Eve Story  2017

Dear family and friends,

I know the stories I share, from my experiences with poverty, are never easy to read, but they do give important lessons about life and faith. 

This story has a difficult beginning but a wonderful ending, and has a good Christmas message.

Just three weeks ago, when advent was young, I was coming back from burying the dead, when Kenson called in a panic.

He had found a woman unconscious on the street, in front of our kindergarten school, and needed help as to where to take her. 

She had a bloody injury to the back of her head, and was in a coma.

Everything went wrong with what we tried to do. The two best places for her condition could not receive her,and the CT Scan at St Luke Hospital, where she finally was admitted, was not working. So we could not assess the damage to her brain.

We had no idea who she was, what happened to her, or how to find her family.

A few hours later, the kindergarten principal called, because the mother of two children (3 year old Jean, and 5 year old Sara), never came to get them.  We called the phone numbers on file, and so discovered this injured woman’s family, and that her name was Margaret.

I had three ideas as to what might have happened:

1  Margaret was walking to the school alone, and thieves came out of the brush to attack and rob her.

2. A huge work truck came by with large side mirrors, which struck her on the back of the head as she was walking.

3.  Margaret had a stroke from very high blood pressure (very common here), and hurt her head as she fell to the ground.

Her children had only one idea: mom never came to get them,  mom was gone, They cry for mom.

The second and third weeks of advent passed. They were excruciating for all of us, as we waited in hope.

As the days went by, Margaret lay nearly lifeless

then Margaret started getting restless in her bed, moving arms and legs

then Margaret started to open here eyes in unawareness

then Margaret would look around, dazed and groggy.

Her opened eyes, in fact,  opened the way for us to give her the best possible medicine: her two children.

Jean and Sara were ushered in, gazing wide-eyed, in confusion and fear, at a woman they thought was their mother, and Margaret was gazing back at them, in confusion and fear, at two children she started to think maybe were her own.

We held our breaths.

Margaret focused, and wobbled,

her mind raced and searched, 

her lips trembled, she reached our her arms for them, 

and then, she remembered.

Love remembered. 

A mother’s love remembered her children, and then she remembered everything else. And they went home.

Margaret later explained what happened. She was walking alone, had nearly arrived at the school, and two thieves came out of the bushes, struck her head with a rock, and she fell to the ground.


Our whole human race was similarly struck, very long ago, in the story of Adam and Eve, by a villain who did not use a rock, but an apple.

The intent was fully evil, and the consequence was that we bear a deep, original, bloody wound in our souls, and have fallen into a sleep of forgetfulness.

We don’t remember who we are, where we are going, why we are alive. 

We do not all recognize the people around us, as brothers and sisters to us.We stare at them with confusion and fear, which then become fanaticism and war.

We don't seem to know what is true and what is false, what is good and what is bad, or how to get out of the quagmire that is so dangerous for our race and for the planet.

Our eyes are dazed as we read the daily news, and watch what happens in our neighborhoods and cities, to our children and to our earth.

And then, on December 25th, the scriptures place before our dazed eyes, the best possible medicine.

A child.

If we look at Him, in wonder and adoration, we will start to remember, slowly and deeply.

We look at him. Through his person, only once, and uniquely, humanity and Divinity walk together

in absolute oneness.

We remember his name, as Isaiah the prophet taught us:



Mighty God!

Everlasting Father!

Prince of Peace!"

We start to remember

Who we are, Why we are here, Who God is

We remember

The enormous dignity of ourselves and of all people,The absolute wonder of our planet and universe, And the work carved out for us to do together

Through His light we remember, that even though we ourselves are not fully like him, we are only human, that Divinity will work through us and live is us whenever we choose do be guided  by the best angels of our nature.

Love remembers.

The purpose of the many religions on the earth that have spanned millennia is to awaken within us the deep mystical music which unites the human family, and lifts our lives to fullness and happiness and to God.

The sweet music that helps us to remember everything.

Let’s thank God, that after such a tragedy, Margaret, Jean and Sara can joyfully celebrate Christmas together.

Let’s thank God that as we receive the light of grace, and look in meditative wonder at this tiny child, that we will see this clearly:

Peace on earth and good will toward all people is fully possible!

Let us remember all those on our planet, for whom this is not even remotely true, yet

Most of all, let's multiply our efforts to make these Christmas promises real for all people.

The urgency to do this is alarmingly evident.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Many blessings!

Much thanks!

Fr Rick Frechette CP DO
Port au Prince, Haiti

December 24, 2017



Dear friends and family,

Just the other day, as we started the morning Advent mass,  an unfamiliar and very young woman was standing in front of the St Damien Hospital chapel.

She seemed uncertain. Go in the chapel, or not? Speak to me, or not? Stay, or not?

She had a small tattered hand bag. She opened it occasionally and took out the only thing in it-  small tattered handkerchief.She used it to dry her eyes quickly, so that no one would notice she was crying.

This was very tender to see. A deep sorrow, struggling to remain private. Not to be cheapened by the public eye.

I thought at once of Pope Francis when he recently visited the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Their suffering and their words strongly affected him. He said this afterwards, responding to a reporter's question: "Then, having heard them one by one with an interpreter who spoke their language, I began to feel things inside, but (I said to myself) “I cannot let them go without saying a word.” I asked for the microphone. And I began to speak. I don’t remember what I said. I know that at a certain point I asked forgiveness, twice. I don’t remember. Your question is what did I feel. In that moment I cried. I tried not to let it be seen."  

She finally asked if she could talk to me. We stepped apart for a moment. The tears flowed.

Her name is Lisa. She is from Cite Soleil, and has 4 children. But one of them, Anne, has been missing for seven years. Anne would be 20 years old today. Lisa has not seen Anne, nor has she had word of her, since she was 13 years old.

Lisa had a dream. The dream was about me. She has seen me many times in Cite Soleil, she knows of me, and the dream was about me.

She dreamed that I prayed with her in St Damien Chapel, that I said a special prayer with her for Anne to come home, and that after this prayer, she finally saw her little girl again.

This is why she was in front of the chapel, as mass began. To ask if i would make the dream real.

I started the mass. "In the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen."

It was one of the rare mornings that we did not have a number of dead on the chapel floor, for prayers and blessings. 

I watched Lisa out of the corner of my eye, from her humble place in the back left corner of the chapel. Her head was bowed. She was silent and still, except for the frequent opening of the tattered handbag, in order to hold the tattered handkerchief to her tattered eyes.

"Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy."

After the gospel, I spoke of the holiness of hope. 

The sorrow that is a deep part of hope. All the emptiness, the deep chasm because of who or what is lost, the painful regrets, of the graves in our hearts and lives that give birth to our hope, as we pray for things to be different, to be restored, to be raised up.

I walked Lisa to the altar, and we all prayed for her, our hands on her shoulders, begging for her strength and begging the return of Anne. Lisa cried uncontrollably.

My eyes welled with tears, and I also hid them, rather hoping to impart a deep confidence, and the strength of the blessing. 

As I said the words of consecration, "Lord, you are Holy indeed! The fountain of all Holiness," my thoughts went to my mother. 

I remember how she had spoken to me a number of times over the years about her friend Jane. Jane had a 13 year old daughter named Donna, kidnapped from the A & P grocery store we all frequented, when I was a boy. Mom told me often of what a nightmare it was for Jane, for her whole life long. 

My mother's friendship with Jane deepened, and lasted almost 60 years (until my mother died), and mom lived this life long sorrow with Jane.

They would be shopping. They would see a 13 year old girl just ahead, the same color hair as Donna.  Jane would bolt ahead of my mother, heart racing, to get in position to discretely see her face. Was it Donna? 

It never was. 

My mother also had a daughter Donna. The same age. The fact that mom's Donna never disappeared, (but could), was the glue that bound my mother to Jane, whose daughter was, in fact, gone.

These hearts understood each other. Compassion was the bond.  

Jane was always hyper alert to Donna's would-be age, to her would-be hair color, to her would-be shape, to her would-be walk.Jane and my mother walked down the decades of years together. Together they looked and looked for her, but It never was Donna. 

Not when they were walking on a city street, and Donna would have been 20. (Jane bolts ahead, in great hope, heart pounding, to see her face) Not when they were walking on the beach, and Donna would have been 30. Not when they were gambling at Mohegan Sun, and Donna would have been 40.

It was never Donna.

They always hoped. But it was never Donna. 

They ran out of time when Donna would have been 54, and Jane and my mom both died at 80.

For Jane, from the day Donna disappeared until she died, 2132 Sundays came and went. For Jane, they were all prolonged Sundays of Advent.

These memories came before me as I celebrated the mass with Lisa, for Anne's return, the whole time watching this valiant woman out of the corner of my eye.

Luckily, I know the prayers of the mass by heart. I would never have been able to read  the Missal, through my watered eyes.

"Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are Yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever, Amen."

Advent starts with a dream. 

A dream like the dream of Lisa. A dream like the dream of Jane.

It is the dream of prophet Isaiah.

A deep and powerful dream: That paradise lost is regained, that what was taken violently from us, is returned unharmed, that our estrangement from ourselves ends, and with it the death-wish driving our behavior ends, that our alienation from each other is healed, that together we use iron for garden shovels instead of spears, and we study war no more.

It is the dream that the world will reverse itself from its death course, that the lowly will be exalted, the hungry will be fed to delight, that the lion will lie down with the lamb.

Even though it never seems to happen, we dream.

Not because we are fools, but because we have known, and we have loved, and we will not let go.

We believe in the promises of God. We Christians put our hope is Jesus who came to us, who abides with us, and will come again in glory.

He speaks to us personally, in the words he addressed to the messenger sent to him by John the Baptist (who was being persecuted in prison), asking if he was the Messiah, or should we hope in another.

He said: "Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard--the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor." (Luke 7:22) 

Let us cultivate the great, deep, human and spiritual virtue of hope, during the Sundays of Advent, and always.

The holiness of hope springs eternal, and will bring us home.

Fr Rick Frechette CP DO
Port au Prince, Haiti

December 10, 2017



Christmas 2017

Dear Friends,

Christmas is the celebration of both motherhood and childhood, the double doorway through which almighty God chose to come to into our difficult human world, to try to lead us to peace.

As I write these words, 84 children in the United States, ranging in age from just a few months to teens, were just freed an multistate network of 120 human traffickers, who have been arrested.

The plight of children in the world is fearsome: child slaves, child prostitutes, child soldiers, and child gangsters. The numbers of children living at the lowest levels of poverty, the amount of childhood hunger, the extent of infant and child illness and mortality are daunting.

Also as I write these words, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are 65 million people in the world who are displaced from their homes, belong to no country (are stateless) or are refugees.

Roughly half of these are women, and of these millions are pregnant, or with nursing and small children.

Central to the Christmas story is that Mary, as a young pregnant girl, had to leave home and take to rough roads, under the orders of the Roman governor in Syria, so the Jews might be “counted,” in the town native to the husband.

Also central to the Christmas story is that immediately after the birth of her precious baby, on a bale of hay as a displaced woman, she had to flee to Egypt and spend years as a refugee, or her son would have been killed by a jealous King in Jerusalem, city if peace.

It is not only trees beautifully lit, and sweet carols, that make Christmas familiar to us.

But in fact, Christmas is also familiar because of how similar the rough and painful experiences of the Holy Family are, to the tragic daily fare of millions of women and children today, two thousand and seventeen years later.

Very recently, as I was driving through Port au Prince on my way to anoint the dying and try to heal the destitute sick whose death might be delayed with proper care, at one of the clinics of Mother Teresa’s Sisters, a very sick woman on the road caught my eye.

The first glance showed that she was young, she was pregnant, and she was in a lot of trouble.

She could not help at all as two people as young as she was, tried to lift her and lay her down in the simple tap tap, the public transport for the masses. I wondered why they were leaving a hospital, instead of going into it.

I asked what happened, and was told there was no room in the hospital. I learned they had been refused at another hospital already, and there would be no guarantee of a place where they would go next.

Thank God for our maternity wing at our own St Damien Hospital. The young girl was nearly in coma, and driving any more around the city looking “for a place at the inn” would kill her. And surely a manger was no place for a woman with eclampsia, which was her fairly evident condition.

With no time to lose by calling our ambulance, I paid the tap tap to take her to St Damien Hospital.

Andre, who was raised from infancy in our childrens home in Haiti (and is now 25), works with me. I sent him with them, to be the Angel Gabriel, to guide the tap tap the fastest way to St Damien Hospital. I continued on, to see the sick waiting for me across town.

My vehicle is a four-wheel drive, off road, jeepish kind of thing they call a “Polaris.”

It has no windows, makes a lot of noise, is very hot, and all street noise comes in. So I didn’t hear my cell phone ring. Again, and again, and again.

When I arrived at the Sisters, my heart dropped to my feet when I saw 13 missed calls from Andre.

This could not be good news.

The tap tap had broken down.

I raced to the scene, a good 30 minutes away, also trying at the same time by phone to send one of our ambulances from St Damien, but they were all out on calls. I was trying to figure how I would carry the poor comatose girl in the Polaris.

Very shortly after, I saw an empty tap tap, and I promised him a good stipend if he would follow me and finish an urgent delivery to St Damien Hospital.

We made the transfer in the middle of the street, the poor mother nearly lifeless, as we lifted the sheet she was on, to carefully change trucks. Archangel Andre is a rookie on my team, he was sweating and in a holy panic, but brilliant and compassionate.

Once they got to the hospital, and I was at the Sisters, I got a call from St Damien. The mother was 17 and in a coma, the family with her was even younger than she. The treatment for eclampsia is, of course, delivery of the baby, and in this case by Cesarean, because the baby is pre term. The question was, did I know the mother or father? The young girls said they were in the province. Who would give the consent?

They were all under age, and the one concerned was in a coma.

On sonogram, the baby’s heart was beating but there were no other movements of the tiny body. The baby’s survival was unlikely because of the gestational age. But without the Cesarean both would die.

Who would give the consent? I was the only possible choice.

I consented, and took my rosary beads from my pocket.

The first joyful mystery, the annunciation of the nativity of the Messiah- don’t fail us now.

The baby survived. A tiny girl, peering curiously out of her incubator. The mother came out of her coma about 4 hours later. Our tender staff, who are also mothers, showed her how to nurse the baby at her breasts.

The story of Christmas is old, and yet ever new. The blessings called children, the heroism of mothers, the Archangels Gabriel and Andre who are never far off, and soar into the story at the critical moment in order to save the day.

This Christmas as we celebrate again the wonders of moms and children, let’s also pledge to stand with them in their agonies and ecstasies.

When we stand for what is right and true, God blesses our ways.

When we strive to create safe havens for pregnant mothers in distress, like St Damien Hospital, and when we create safe havens for children in our homes in nine countries, God’s blessing is sure.

Thanks to all of you for your ongoing help, which make all this possible.

God’s blessing at Christmas, and throughout the new year of grace.

Fr Rick Frechette CP. DO
Port au Prince, Haiti

A Physician's Prayer

Lord Jesus,

Divine Physician, who in your earthly life showed special concern for those who suffer, entrusting to your disciples the ministry of healing, make us ever ready to alleviate the trials of our brethren. Make each one of us more fully aware of the great mission that is entrusted to us, that we may strive always to be, in the performance of daily service, an instrument of your merciful Love. Enlighten our minds, guide our hands, make our hearts diligent and compassionate. Insure that, in our every patient, we learn to discern the features of your divine Face.

You, Lord, are The Way. Provide us with the gift of knowing how best to imitate you every day, as medical doctors, not only of the body, but of the whole person, that we may help those who are sick to tread with trust their own earthly path, until the moment of their eternal encounter with You.

You, Lord, are The Truth. Provide us with the gift of wisdom and science, that we might penetrate the mystery of man and his transcendent destiny, as we draw near to him in order to discover the causes of his malady and to find suitable remedies.

You, Lord, are The Life. Provide us with the gift of preaching and bearing witness to the ‘Gospel of Life’ in our profession, committing ourselves to defending life always, from its conception to its natural end, and respecting the dignity of every human being, especially of the weakest and of those most in need.

Make us, O Lord, Good Samaritans — ready to welcome, treat, and console those we encounter in our work. Following the example of the holy medical doctors who have preceded us, help us to offer our generous contribution to the constant renewal of health care structures.

Bless our studies and our profession, enlighten our research and our teaching. Lastly, grant to us, having constantly loved and served You in our suffering brethren, that at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, we may contemplate your glorious Countenance and experience the Joy of the encounter with You in your Kingdom of Joy and Everlasting Peace.


(International Federation of Catholic Health Associations, July 2000)