Catholic Vancouver Jan. 2, 2018

Children urge passersby to "take baby Jesus home!"

By Agnieszka Ruck

Youngsters hand out figurines of the infant Jesus outside Holy Rosary Cathedral. The young members of the Focolare movement wanted to remind passersby of the true meaning of Christmas. (Photos submitted)

VANCOUVER—A homeless man in a wheelchair was unhappy to arrive at his usual begging grounds outside Holy Rosary Cathedral and find a group of children crowding the sidewalk.

The children surprised him by giving him some snacks and a gift: a small wicker basket with a homemade figurine of the infant Jesus.

“Christmas has been largely commercialized, but there is a much deeper meaning to the holidays,” said Paola Tai, a member of the Focolare movement.

Tai invited several other Focolarini, including 12 children, to stand on a busy corner in downtown Vancouver and remind people what Christmas is about Dec. 16.

“By giving out neatly wrapped baby Jesus statues in small wicker baskets … we were able to do a small part in spreading the true meaning behind Christmas – celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ,” she said.

The group gave away 120 baby Jesus baskets (and a few snacks to the homeless) that day. They also sang Christmas carols and held signs inviting people to “Take Baby Jesus Home!”

Focolare members on the steps of Holy Rosary Cathedral before giving away their gifts.

Grade 12 student Veronika Lewis said they received mixed responses from locals, tourists, and homeless people passing by. “Some passersby walked past us without noticing us. Others waved or honked their cars to show support. Some took the time to take one of the free gifts from us.”

She hopes that “though they might have done so out of courtesy, at least they will have the chance to look at it later on and ponder what Christmas really means.”

The initiative was inspired by Focolare foundress Chiara Lubich, who said in a Christmas message in 1998: “If I could be born again, I would do many things. I would start a movement bringing Christmas back for all people on earth.”

Focolare members first tried the initiative in downtown Vancouver several years ago, and now they hope to make it a more regular celebration. Focolarini also gave away infant Jesus figurines at public bus stops and malls around the world including in the Philippines and the U.S.