|Boy Scout leader Chris Dono, a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., lights a lantern held by his son Thomas, 14, using a flame transferred from the International Peace Light. Source: Catholic News Service|
A flame of light from the grotto in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity is making its way around the world to help remind communities that the real meaning of Christmas is about receiving and extending the light of Christ to others.
The flame arrived in the United States at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, New York on December 11. During a ceremony at the airport, several lanterns were lit by the flame and began their journey to houses of worship, hospitals, senior citizen homes, homeless shelters, prisons and other locations in cities and towns and other venues across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
Volunteers receive the light from the lanterns and are in-turn driving it to communities across the country. Persons have been meeting at truck stops, rest areas, and churches to meet and exchange a piece of the light that began thousands of miles away.
One group who received the light from Bethlehem was the Staten Island Chapter of the Polish Scouting Organization. They organized a worship experience that included a mass partnering with their local Boy Scouts to help celebrate the hope that Christ brings during this holiday season.
Other congregations that have received the light include Our Lady of Lourdes Church and School in Indianapolis and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, the Catholic university parish at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Dubbed the Peace Light’s journey, this tradition traces its roots back more than 35 years to an Austrian Catholic member of the Scouts who traveled to Bethlehem, West Bank, to kindle a flame from the oil lamps hanging above Christ’s birthplace at the Church of the Nativity and bring it home.
Today, the fire from the Church of the Nativity is kept in two explosion-proof mining lamps, that allows the flame to be transported safely while in the air. Each year in homage to its Austrian origins, the initial flame is flown to Austria where a special mass is held before being transported around the globe.
Delegations gather from around the world as a sign of the global community uniting to promote peace, attend the inaugural ecumenical service before returning to their home countries with a light from the flame. The tradition was introduced in the United States, by Canadian Scouts who first brought the Peace Light to ground zero in New York in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Since then DHL has worked as a corporate sponsor to deliver the Peace Light to Scout within the Archdiocese of New York who use their scouting networks to arrange transportation, vigils, and services that promote global peace.
Source: Catholic News Service