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Evansville, Indiana
December 11, 1987     The Message
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December 11, 1987
 

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; r Faith Today Supplement, The Messa.qe. Catholic Dire of Evansville, December 11, 1987 ,- - . 3 Unwilling pilgrims By Father David K. O'Rourke, OP NC News Service everal weeks ago dur- ing a final cleaning in the attic at home, I came upon our fam- ily's Christmas crib. The first strong winter winds wercwhistling at the attic vents and bouncing the last walnuts from the trees onto the roof above me as I went through boxes of abandoned china and old clothes. This first death in my own generation had been sobering as well as sad. I looked at the crib as it sat on the attic floor next to the Christmas tree stand and a box of tree lights. What would we do with it now? Would any of the younger generation even want it? This Christmas, as always, the wooden box would have become the house for Mary, Joseph and the Christ child. But that day in the attic I did not want to touch the crib, for it bespoke memories still a little too hard to handle. My father built the crib when he came home from World War I. To be exact, he took a small, solid crate from AI Paratsky's butcher shop, refashioned the lid into a rd, painted it with brown porch paint and sprinkled flakes of mica on the fresh paint. Straw from the barn went on the floor. There were top-heavy sheep with real fur and spindly lit- i alienated. Jesus' inaugural homily given in the Nazareth synagogue was a sort of echo of the Magnificat: The Lord "has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free" (Luke 'lTlB ). The Magnificat also anticipates the Beatitudes, the basic plank in Jesus' platform: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours" (6:20). If Mary is the model disciple, then the Magnificat issues a serious challenge to all who would imitate her and become disciples of the Son whose birth was the occasion for this ecstatic, moving prayer. tie wooden legs. You had to shove them down into the straw to make them stand up. The sheep, along with the shepherds now equally worn, and Mary, Joseph and Jesus, had been under my grandparents' tree when my mother was a little girl. They passed to her when she and dad married and then to my older brother, who died this year. Now, once again, it was time for them to move to a new house and a new generation. Most of us look to Christmas as a time to gather the clan, to celebrate, to take pleasure in friends and family. Our happy Christmas memories so often find us in the company of the people we love. But we are pilgrims as well as people who celebrate. We live with changes we do not seek and with a mobility often forced upon us. Our Christmases can make us think of the uprootedness that is so much a part of life. For many of us, the memories of Christmas mirror all of life: the changes we do not seek as well as the happy moments we welcome. For a Christian this is as it should be. What we recall at Christmas is the entry of God into our human history, an entry that occurred in the wrong place at the wrong time, just the way human events so often occur. Like so many people today, Mary and Joseph were unwilling pilgrims. They were forced onto the road in obedience to the cruel command of a pagan emperor. They were made to travel at a time when Mary most needed the safety of home. But on that pilgrim road, they were sustained in their faith by the promise the angel made to Mary, just as so many generations of Christians have been sustained ever since in the telling of the first Christmas story. After 2,000 years, this story, with all its change and mobility -- so much a part of life in every generation -- continues to prove a source of hope and reassurance. I suppose I shouldn't worry about the old family crib. l suspect it will survive. Like the Christmas story, it will get passed down into willing hands. Just as the little sheep and the Christ child went from under my grandmother's tree into the little house my dad built, so their bat- tered home will find a place in a new generation. (Father Castelot is a professor of Scripture at St. John's Seminary, Plymouth, Mich.) (Father O'Rourke teaches pastoral theology at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.) FOOD FOR THOUGHT I Think about the Christmases in your family's life. How have your celebrations changed over the years? How have they remained the same? If you could change the way you celebrate Christmas in some way -- adding something, taking something away, improving something -- what would it be? Why does the Rev. John Steinbruck, in Cindy Liebhart's article, see a close relationship between Jesus' birth and the plight of homeless peo- ple today? When Pope John Paul II visited Detroit in September, he said: "The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones." Do you see a connection between that statement and the message of Christmas? Second Helpings. Christmas, the Annual of "Christmas Literature and ArK Volume 57, is a collection of stories, new carols and poems on the holiday themes. The collection includes a retelling of Matthew and Luke's nativity stories, the story of the Christmas seal and of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, and other stories about Christmas celebra- tions. (Augsburg Publishing House, 426 S. Fifth St., Minneapolis, Minn. 55440. 1987. Paperback, $6.95; hardback, $14.50.) Another book -- a lasting gift you might consider giving to yourself -- is Prayertimes, Morning, Midday, Evening, by Trappist Father M. Basil Pen- nington. This is a pocketsize book for people who want to join the church in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. The book provides psalms, hymns and readings to use up to three times daily. Praying the hours is a way to let God speak to people through Scripture and through the faith of their fellow Christians heard in the various readings, Father Pennington says. (Image Books, a Doubleday division, 245 Park Ave., New York, N.Y. 10167. 1987. Paperback, $4.95.) A town so poor, the Peace Corps. uses it for "practice" Peace Corps volunteers train in San Luis, Colorado, then go on to assign- ments in the Third World. It's a good place to see poverty. Nobody knows this better than Father Patrick Valdez, pastor to the 800 residents of San Luis. With financial assistance from the Extension Society, he helps provide for the spiritual and economic needs of this country's poorest of the poor. But he needs your help. With an Extension Charitable Gift Annuity you participate in the work of missionaries like Father Valdez and ensure a guaranteed income for the rest of your life. Besides an initial charitable con- tribution deduction, a portion of your annual income is tax free. And the older you are, the higher the rate. Please return the coupon today for details. Help Father Valdez continue to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the hidden poor in our country. ) The Catholic Church FT 0943 EXTENSION society 35 East Wacker [Drive Chicago, Illinois 60601 [] Please send me a FREE Extension Annuity Kit with no obligtion. [] Send me information on how Extension is spreading the Faith across America. Rev./Sr,/Br. Mr,/Mrs./Miss/Ms, Birth.___._/ /__ Address City State .Zip This information will be kept strictly/confidential, |1 II 43