No room at the inn

DRtl9hNVoAESn_EInto this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.

But because he cannot be at home in it,
because he is out of place in it,
and yet he must be in it,
His place is with the others for whom
there is no room.

His place is with those who do not belong,
who are rejected by power, because
they are regarded as weak,
those who are discredited,
who are denied status of persons,
who are tortured, bombed and exterminated.

With those for whom there is no room,
Christ is present in this world.
– Thomas Merton

We can build walls, we can arm soldiers, we can dispatch drones, and we can spread hate – all with alarming ease, almost as simple as asking Siri or Alexa to carry out our will.  That is one thing about voice activated technology that alarms me, we might believe ourselves to be more omnipotent that our inflated egos already do believe. Simply saying “do this” or “change that” to an inanimate object and having it carried out is chilling to me.

We can never truly lock love out, and of that I am Continue reading


Comfort and joy

nativitytriptychduccioThis is the first year I did not have a Christmas post ready. I have a draft of something that went nowhere, that’s it. As I mentioned before, these post camino days, combined with post election days have left me Continue reading

Angels and shepherds, please!

51711dtHow we love the images and symbols of Christmas! Santa Claus, trees, angels, snowmen, candy canes, camels, Charlie Brown Christmas, nativity scenes, cows, drummer boys, or baby Jesus himself? We love them all, don’t we? How easy it can be easy to stick with just these images, no matter how much we might want to do otherwise.

Even the most religious among us gets tangled in webs of perfect-looking crèches, each with a delicate with very-western-looking baby Jesus smiling up from a bed of straw that is both unnaturally uniform and clean. Those symbols however are not the issue; stopping and staying with them for good is can become a problem, especially when you consider this Christmas message…

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Gospel According to John 1:1-5

Wait, where is the bright star over the little town of Bethlehem? And where are Continue reading



noun: Epiphany; noun: epiphany; plural noun: epiphanies
  1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
    • the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.

This Sunday the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord. Guided by a star, the magi – or three kings, made their way to the “newborn king.” Here at the blog, I will wait until Tuesday night to post my reflection.

There is a method to my madness; I will be offering said reflection at Evening Prayer at St. Edward the Confessor in Clifton Park on Tuesday night, at 7PM. All are welcome! If you are a reader and I do not know you, please make sure you catch me and say hello – I would love to meet you!

The Meaning of Christmas

linus-speechEvery December I watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  There is a nostalgic element to this; just hearing the music propels me back to childhood. I would have been eight years old when it first aired, and I can imagine watching our black and white TV, full of joy at the magic unfolding before me.

Today I love that on that bastion of secular values known as network television, Linus tells Charlie Brown about the meaning of Christmas. And he can quote Luke’s Gospel from memory! As I hear his voice, once again I am transported, only this time it is to an era long before my childhood. Suddenly, I am immersed in the world where Christ was born, and I am reminded once again of how God is found in the most unexpected places.

CrecheMany of us will go to mass on Christmas, where we will see a Nativity scene. We can stand before the Crèche, but we cannot stay there. Christ is always being born anew, and that means more than staring at the infant Jesus. Our Advent watching and waiting should have prepared us for more, but are we ready? Can we see Christ born today, in unexpected places? Can we let go of whatever blinds us to meeting Jesus in the unlikely? Can we find him by simply slowing down and being kind to one another, even if just for one day?

This Christmas may the Light of Christ our Savior illuminate our way, opening our eyes and hearts. May the light of Christ prompt us to bring Him into the world with our lives. May the sight of this tiny, vulnerable child, wrapped in swaddling clothes remind us of God’s unexpected presence– and our need to reach out and serve all in joy of the newborn savior’s name.

Where Are the Shepherds? A guest post from Shannon O’Donnell

Where Are the Shepherds? A guest post from Shannon O’Donnell

On Advent Sundays this year, I pondered the shepherds. At a funeral we sang, “Shepherd Me, O God. A homilist repeated the pope’s admonition that pastors should be shepherds who smell like their sheep. Our inner city parish is far from any sheep’s pasture, but I sit in the pew and I ponder shepherds.

donation-box-foodAs the gifts are prepared, young children converge on the basket before the altar. In their hands are peanut butter, soup, mac and cheese, packages of rice and noodles,. All of it goes into the basket, headed for the food bank.

Todd, a tall lanky dad, carries his not-yet-walking son on his shoulders. Connor tosses in a juice box with glee.

Food Collection basket_2Four-year-old Sean pulls his younger sister along. Together they stand before the basket. He’s holding a multipack of ramen noodles. Lily doesn’t want to let go of the box of crackers. He places the noodles in the basket, then steps back and points. She frowns. Sean pokes her shoulder. Lily leans over and at the very last moment, she lets go of the box. She raises her hands. Victory! They skip back to their parents on the sidelines.

Some approach like old-timers, well-practiced in the art of giving. Others need a guiding hand or verbal urging (“Come ON!”)

Later, lines for Commuion form and move.

sign-of-peace-600-400-300x200Brian shakes hands with every person he sees until his wife runs gentle interference. His Alzheimer’s is more pronounced these days. Jeanne and her mother gather up the grandchildren. Susan gets her mother’s walker in place. Michael’s mom wheels her laughing son forward. One of the L’Arche assistants leads Sherry from a pew, a familiar dance between them.

Where are the shepherds? They are all among us, watching their flocks, smelling like their sheep.


1474562_10202284427985779_1840724417_nShannon O’Donnell is an author from Tacoma, WA. Her book, Save The Bones, is a deeply moving account about memory, Alzheimer’s disease, and her (now recently deceased) mother Marie Cain. Shannon also blogs about life as a Catholic jail chaplain at Finding Grace Within. It is an honor to welcome Shannon’s work to the blog today.

This post may have you scratching your head and wondering what it has to do with the Christmas season, and even more specifically, with the Holy Family. Shannon is looking back at Advent and wondering where the shepherds are now. When I read it, I thought about the less-than-perfect holy family that we all are when we are church together. And what better reminder is needed today and always?

This unimaginable being “with-us-ness”

o-come-o-come-emmanuel-snippitWe sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” with an almost mindless grace, an unconscious awareness, but not always true comprehension. We may not be purposefully arrogant about it, but may be too distracted to  be fully in the mystery.

baby-jesus-bluebirdEmmanuel. God with us. We like to gaze down at the infant, “so tender and mild” in the Creche; we smile, our heart warms. And then, how we love to leave God in that Creche, in the Church, and in our Bibles, as we carry on. God in those places appears to be very manageable, fitting in with our plans and priorities.

fontanini_masterpiece_colle_lgGod was not aiming at sweetness during the Incarnation. This is not meant to be a moment of pious nicety. Jesus was sent to transform us through an unimaginable being “with-us-ness” that transcends our antiseptic images of nativity sets, singing angels, and a well-coiffed Mary, reliable Joseph, and the cute Baby Jesus. These images are not bad images, but if we stop there, what do we miss?

This “with-us-ness” reminds me of Duns Scotus’ concept of haecceity, or “this-ness,” rather than “what-ness.” And it is in that vein that the highly unimaginable being “with-us-ness” of the Incarnation comes to light.

imagesBeautiful and perfect Nativity scenes, may imply a sense of “what-ness.” The Christ child born in the world is different, He is the “this-ness,” the “with-us-ness,” that is barely imaginable, yet real. This is something beyond beautiful, pious, or sweet in any way. The birth of the Christ child transforms our relationship with God! God did not come to be something to be admired, or even feared; God came to be one-with-us in an unimaginable way, never before known.

baby-jesusTonight when you see the Baby Jesus placed in the manager at mass, or if he is already there when you arrive later, or tomorrow, please don’t just smile. Forget the beautiful images that the Creche offers, although those images are important. This is not just a pretty moment to gaze upon, but an invitation from God. God did not just happen to stop by, to be a beautiful baby. God was born, to be with you – yes, you – in a deeply intimate and complete way. God was born for all of us in this way, not some holy few, but for all who will welcome him as such. Can we do that?

This year, if you can, try to shift into that more challenging “with-us-ness” of Christ, not simply the “what-ness” of the Creche. Trust me, I have no clue how to do this, I’m just trying this myself. And with all things that are of Christ, they are never meant to be done alone. Let’s do this and be this “with-us-ness” together, one in the heart of Christ this christmas_painting_holy_family_nativity_scene_original_oil_and_winner__ed44aa76aeba1f73ddb22a1c29a3ea7eChristmas.