Reflection for December 30, 2012, by S. Maureen Irvin, OSF

“The Holy Family with the Little Bird,” by Bartholome Esteban Murillo, linked from WikiPaintings.

Reflection for December 30, 2012
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

First Reading: 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28
Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24
Gospel: Mark 12:38-44

In today’s Gospel, after the harrowing experience of losing her son while away from home, we are told, as has been pointed out in other Gospels, that Mary kept or pondered all of these things in her heart. Most family members have had occasion to ponder in their hearts and to hold in prayer what is happening in their own family. What is best for my child in this situation? How can I help my parents who are growing older? How will this new job or this move affect my family? How can we reconcile our differences? Will they forgive me? What shall I do if I think my spouse or child is making a huge mistake?

Often, it is wise to take some time to ponder and to pray rather than reacting to a situation immediately. Taking a step back, taking time to breathe, contemplating the many aspects of an event or encounter, asking God to give us wisdom and insight, can help us to respond from our best self in a Christian and compassionate manner. Mary surely had many questions and concerns. Jesus was often a surprise to her and to Joseph. Her relationship with God and her willingness to ponder, no doubt helped her to be the mother she wanted to be.

Loving God, we thank you for the example of Mary, who through contemplation, embraced God’s will for her life and her relationships. We thank you for our families, and pray that in the challenges of family relationships and decision-making, we may often slow down and step back to pray and reflect before reacting. Bless our parents, children, grand-children, extended families, and all who have been family to us over the years. Bless our human family and the family of all creation who inhabits our planet Earth. May we learn to love one another, to live at peace with one another and to consider one another’s needs when we choose to act. We ask this through our brother Jesus. Amen.

S. Maureen Irvin, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg


The Flight into Egypt, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

“Rest on the Flight into Egypt” by Luc Olivier Merson, linked from WikiCommons

Joseph held his responsibility for protecting the newborn child and his mother at the top of his priorities.  He watched them carefully, was glad when they found lodging soon after the census was taken. A little carpentry work took care of the cost of food and housing, so he was content.

Then came the dream. Herod was looking for them and they were to go immediately into Egypt to keep the child safe. Joseph went to Mary as she slept and roused her.  After explaining what had happened, the two of the gathered what they would need for the journey. 

The distance from Bethlehem to Egypt was more than 300 miles.  Walking and with only a donkey to carry what they needed, the trip was formidable.  I would think Joseph kept looking over his shoulder in his anguish to think someone would want to hurt Jesus.

When they finally came to Egypt their relief allowed them to rest more easily.  They talked about the visit of the Wise Men, and how welcome their gifts were now.

They settled down, and lived there for many months.


In the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, there was a painting entitled the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt.”  It showed the Sphinx in all its grandeur.  Mary had climbed up to the arm of the sculpture, and was asleep.  The child Jesus held firmly on her lap by the shawl she was wearing. 

Joseph slept too, but a short way from the Sphinx, with his walking stick nearby. Lying completely prostrate his worry and fatigue was obvious.

They were out of Herod’s clutches, and he could relax.

The Sphinx had a gentle smile on his face. For me that smile spoke volumes. Jesus is here for all peoples and all are asked to protect him from harm in the persons they meet every day. Jesus is alive in each of us.  If you think you cannot see him in someone, that person needs your special care and concern.  Do everything you can so salvage the life of Jesus in that person. Pray especially for people on death row who are waiting for someone to put them to death. Others are dealing with the death of children unable to understand how or why. Most do not have a protector like Joseph.  We, who are sheltered, must be like the sphinx, and offer a place of comfort, unknown to anyone else but God.


Love and Peace to all of you,

Sharonlu OSF


Joseph, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

JosephJoseph and Mary have arrived in Bethlehem. Immediately Joseph begins looking for shelter for Mary, who recognizes that the Holy Babe will arrive very soon.

Time after time Joseph hears, “No Room,” “Sorry full up,” “All full,” “Not even one place left,” “NO ROOM!”

How he must have felt. Here he was, entrusted with the care of the Mother and the Baby from heaven and he could not even insure a roof over their heads!

His heart wrung with pain at having failed to provide as a father is destined to do, Joseph must have not even felt a glimmer of hope when a kindly innkeeper, after announcing there was no room, told him of a stable, a cave nearby where they would at least have some privacy. Joseph led the donkey, carrying its precious load, to the stable.

Hastily Joseph prepared a makeshift reclining place for Mary, using straw stored in the stable.

As Mary reclined, Joseph looked for a place to put the Baby, the Messiah, the King to be born. Mary would need to rest and the baby would need a place to sleep. The only safe place would be the feeding trough, the manger left to feed the animals usually stalled there. But could he put the Son of God in an animal’s feeder?  Reluctantly he filled the manger with straw, which he crushed to make it softer, and laid the cloth Mary had prepared for the birth.

Standing at the entrance to the cave, Joseph prayed:

“Lord, I have failed already to care well for Mary and your Son. I tried, but I could not do what they needed. I will have to put your Son in a trough!  I wish there were a way I could make up for my failures. O Lord, how can I do what you gave me to do? I am only a poor carpenter, God, a carpenter and poor! How do I raise a KING?”

And as Joseph wiped away a tear, the cry of a newborn baby broke the stillness. “He is here! Mary?!” She smiled as Joseph took the baby boy in his hands and laid Him in the place he had so recently prepared.  Little heed was paid to the trough.  Only the Child mattered.  And Joseph had his answer.  He knew what he could do.  He could be Protector, Guide, and Father. And his heart sang as it had never sung before.


If you ever feel inadequate for the task put before you, if you thought it was impossible for you to do, pray to St. Joseph. He knows what that feels like. And what you had to do was certainly not as earth shaking as what Joseph was assigned to do.

Maybe if we look at the Christmas crib, we will be able to see more than the sweet picture put before us. Perhaps we can see the pathos of Joseph, as he prepared a feeding trough in which to lay the Son of God! May we note how Jesus did become food for us all!  I believe the lowly stable and trough, however, made it easier for the poor shepherds to approach, when they were the first to see the Newborn King.  How can we make it easier for the poor, the lonely, and the despised, to approach us? Do we even try to approach them? Moreover, do we see the ordinary things of life as stepping-stones to eternity?


Peace and Blessings this Holy Christmas,

Sharonlu OSF


Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, by S. Margie Niemer

holyspiritFirst Reading: Zeph. 3:14-18a
Second Reading: Phil. 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 3:10-18

Because the people of that day really wanted and hoped for a change in their lives, they turned to John the Baptist.  His baptism was something new, something different, and hope for the Messiah dawned in them again.  But John was clear about who he was and what his mission entailed.  He could attract, draw attention to, warn and urge, but he could not change the course of history.  He was not the Christ.
O Coming Messiah, help us during this Advent season to look for you in the right places, among the poor and marginalized of society.  Help us be willing to seek the fire and Spirit that will lead us to true change of heart and mind. Amen.
Margie Niemer, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

The Journey to Bethlehem, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

BethlehemIt is just little more than a week before Mary is to give birth.  She has prepared all the necessities for the trip and Joseph has procured a donkey so that Mary might ride.  After the food and other material things they would need are strapped to the donkey’s back, they move on their way.

Several families are going to Bethlehem, so there is some chatter among them.  A few are loudly upset about having to go that distance.  Some are looking forward to seeing relatives there. Mary and Joseph quietly ponder the birth that is imminent.

It is a four-day trip on foot. They would rest each evening; share a sparse meal and rest. Joseph was concerned about Mary. The trip was not easy and she was most certainly in much discomfort. However, not a word of complaint left her lips. In fact, her peaceful smile warmed his heart.

In this way, they passed three days. On the fourth day, they entered Bethlehem. They stopped to view Bethlehem; the place indicated by the scriptures that the Messiah would be born. Mary praised God for bringing them safely here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Travel can be very enjoyable. But there are those times when everything seems to go wrong. Planes are late or overbooked. You are asked to give up your place on the plane for other “more important” passengers. That is not said, of course, but… Your luggage is in Chicago and you are in Dallas Texas. It is close to midnight and the people who were to pick you up left a number where you can reach them when you get in.

You in the meantime, are in a heated or air-conditioned building, with coffee or ice cream machines. You do not need to sit on the ground since there are comfortable seats. Compare this to the trip made by the couple chosen by God to be the most important on earth!

Sometimes it is hard to put things in perspective. I think this happens more frequently at holiday times. When we are safe and warm and just waiting for “rescue” from annoying things, we sometimes make the insect a dragon! Now is especially the time to practice patience, at home, with friends, while shopping or traveling.  It isn’t easy!  But if you close your eyes for a second and think of those two people with a THIRD on the way, you may be able to put things in perspective. Say “Merry Christmas” whenever you are stressed. It helps keep things in perspective at this time of year. Say it to everyone and smile. The King of Kings is about to be born!

Peace and Joy,

Sharonlu OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

A Decree from the Emperor, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

emperortaxWhile Mary went about her work as wife and soon-to-be-mother, the bell in the town square began to ring.  That meant something very important was happening.  It might be a fire, or some other disaster.  Everyone would go to the calling bell to see what needed immediate attention.  This time it was a message from the Emperor.  All citizens were to go to the place of their birth to be counted for taxes

Not questioning, not complaining, Mary set about doing what she could do.  This message was not in her plan for preparing for Jesus’ birth.  Perhaps she drew on her knowledge of Scripture that Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and marveled at how God’s plan comes about through varied ways.  This time it was an edict from the emperor that would put her in Bethlehem, a place she had not planned to be.

Mary began planning what she would need to take on that journey.  It would take overnights, so she would make arrangements to join with others .  She must  prepare food, things that she and Joseph would need, and of course, swaddling clothes for the baby, who would be born very soon.


I don’t know about you, but getting an order to move from someone higher on the social scale would not set well with me.  The thing to be kept in mind is that Mary had no influence against this decree. She simply had to take what was stated because there was no way out.  Things like that happen to us all the time.  We pout about a rainy day.  Or we become angry because a spouse or child must work, and we want them to babysit, or drive us somewhere.

Mary doesn’t react this way.  She just begins to make the plans that the interruption in her life demands. What kinds of things happen that can upset you?  At this time of the year it may be that you run out of scotch tape, or sugar.  Gift wrapping and cookie making must be halted a bit.

More distressful, you have guests coming for dinner and the stove goes POUFF! and no more stove.   Or your child becomes ill just before the Christmas play and he was to be a King!  with a Crown! and a red robe!  How do we handle those things?

At eight months pregnant Mary is about to begin a journey of 80 miles on foot or on a donkey part of the way.  No complaining from her, just preparations for that awesome journey.

Business people would probably have a plan B.  That is all well and good, but even then, something can happen to throw things askew.

Try to keep a calm demeanor as we come closer to Christmas.  Give yourself time to ponder and reflect, as Mary did. Jesus is coming!

Peace, and gentle thoughts,

Sharonlu, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent, by S. Therese Tackett, OSF

twoFirst Reading: Baruch 5:1-9
Second Reading: Phil. 1:4-6, 8-11
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6

On this second Sunday of Advent John calls us to prepare for the Lord coming into our lives. Paul tells us he prays that our love may increase more and more in our perception and knowledge, so that we are able to know what is of true value to us. What do we consider important in our lives? What makes us happy in our hearts? When I can answer these questions I can say with the psalm response, “I am filled with joy.”

God, source of love and joy, help me in my search for real love in my life, love that does not depend on the presents I receive but on the times I help and make others happy. Only then will I have true joy in my heart. Amen.

Therese Tackett, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent, by S. Patty Campbell, OSF

adventoneReflection for December 2, 2012
First Sunday of Advent
First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm: 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

The days are coming…there will be signs…two phrases to ponder as we begin our move into a new Church year.  Advent always seems to become a time of pondering something that happened over 2000 years ago…the birth of Jesus.  And yet the Scripture readings need to be pondered in our time, our lives.  As we reflect on the life of Jesus, what would he say to us today about the days ahead of each of us?  And will we recognize the signs God sends us today to ponder and apply?  Advent is four weeks of walking with Mary and Joseph toward the human birth of God’s son.  And as we walk, what would Mary and Joseph whisper into our hearts to help us become more aware, more vigilant or what needs to be birthed in us each year to draw us closer to who we are being called to be in today’s world.  Hopefully, we will set our heart on the true way…the way of Jesus.

O God, let us follow the way of Jesus, the way of love.  There is no other way.  Help us, God, to discover the truth more deeply as we enter into this new Church year.  With your help, as we become more deeply wrapped in your love, help us be able to go forth to spread it to others we meet.  We make our prayer in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Patty Campbell, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Waiting, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

marywaitingThe four weeks of Advent can hold several reminders for us. The first is that the Hebrews, the people Chosen by God waited about 4000 years for the Messiah to come. Therefore, we are waiting 4 weeks (actually 4 Sundays) for the celebration of the birth of Christ. We join our Jewish family in the person of Mary as we await the Redeemer’s arrival.

Another “4” that comes to mind is that Mary is in the last month, the last four weeks of her pregnancy. What is she doing? How is she preparing for the birth of the Savior of the world? What can we learn from her at this time?

The last month for the mother is uncomfortable. However, Mary, as with most pregnant women, has duties that mean she must be active in maintaining the home and her husband’s needs. She is going for water at the well and answering the questions of the other women who are there. “How much longer, Mary?” “Are you hoping for a son?” And then, chuckling, “Who knows, maybe your baby will turn out to be the Messiah!”

Mary answers the factual matters and ponders the others in her heart.  At home, she is taken up with cooking, cleaning, sweeping, and preparing clothing for the child who will arrive in four short weeks. Perhaps she is remembering the time when the angel came to her and all that has happened since then. Joseph’s concern and the angel’s reassurance, their marriage, and the physical changes in her body fill her thoughts.

Physically she is uncomfortable, but her spirit is glowing.  He will soon arrive!

We can learn so much from Mary. She ponders things that cannot be revealed at this time. In a few weeks, all the world will know that she has a wonderful son, a marvelous son. But for now, she must ponder these things in her heart.

Have you secrets you cannot reveal? Do you keep them secrets until the time comes for speaking? With the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, are you pondering the arrival of that greatest gift from God, Jesus.

If you say a prayer for the person who will receive the gift you are preparing you may connect yourself with Mary who certainly prayed for (and to) the child in her womb. It does not make any difference if you are preparing a gift for family, for friends, neighbors, or an unknown recipient. Pray for them as you wrap or write or seal their gift. Prayer is a more important gift than the one under the tree. Do not forget about it. It will keep you in touch with that greatest gift ever, ever, ever!

I have been praying for you as I write this Advent message. I thank God always for you.

Prepare the way! Make low the hills, and fill in the valleys! HE IS ON THE WAY!


Sharonlu, OSF
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg