(Custodia) Just steps from the Basilica of the Nativity and just three days before Christmas, the Franciscan Boys’ Homes is also preparing to welcome the Child Jesus.
The Franciscan Boys’ Home welcomes thirty young boys from ages 6 to 18 years old who come from underprivileged families, half of whom are day students. On that day, everyone gathered at the school chapel to celebrate the Christmas Mass presided over by Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land. In his homily, which was translated into Arabic by Br. Marwan Di’des, the house’s director, his message focused on the simplicity of the Nativity. “We still expect extraordinary things from God, large interventions that can change the world, but what happened at the Nativity was in fact very simple. It was quite ordinary,” the Custos began, “but look at how the shepherds were able to perceive something extraordinary within this birth. Two thousand years later, we must do the same with our neighbors, our brothers and our acquaintances. This is the Nativity,” he summarized, “having a continually renewed perspective on everyday life and with our neighbor.”
At the end of the mass, the one kid missing from roll call was the one dressed as Santa Claus. Young children, were jumping around impatiently, and the older ones called out his fake beard. Gifts were distributed by the Custos and Br. Peter Vasko, the president of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (for details, see the website). Br. Marwan called the boys one by one, while looking for the one that was missing. The gathering of the youth and future young men concluded after a festive dinner.
The Franciscan Boys’ Home has everything that a family has, and the warmth of the house makes it more of a home of which Br. Marwan, together with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary sisters, are in charge, with the help of Palestinian families from Bethlehem and Jerusalem.