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


Of St. Francis & Brother Ruffino, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Oldenburg Franciscan Center

photo: Oldenburg Sunset

Of St. Francis & Brother Ruffino

Brother Ruffino was so absorbed in God he noticed nothing external.  He seldom spoke, and even when he did, he never had a gift for speaking.  Even though this was true, one day St. Francis ordered him to preach to the people.  Ruffino, surprised, asked that another friar be sent in his place.

To this St. Francis answered, “Because you did not obey immediately, take off your mantle and habit.” (This left Ruffino in his underwear!)   “Now go to Assisi and preach to the people in the church.  Do this out of holy obedience.”

Ruffino obeyed, and when he entered the church and went to the pulpit, people laughed at him saying, “These men do such penance that they are out of their minds.”

Seeing how quickly Ruffino, one of the noblest men of Assisi, obeyed the harsh command, Francis reproached himself, saying: “How could you, a humble son of a merchant send the distinguished Ruffino to preach as if he were a madman?  You shall do the same thing you have ordered him to do.”  And immediately he took off his mantle and habit, and went to Assisi, carrying his mantle and Ruffino’s with him.  People, seeing him in his underwear, believed he and Ruffino had truly lost their minds through too much penance.

Ruffino was preaching when Francis ascended the pulpit and began to preach on holy penance, on voluntary poverty, and on the nakedness of Christ and the shame of his Passion, so that all began to weep and were edified by the action of Ruffino and St. Francis.

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If you have ever “punished” someone, and realized how out of sync that was with the insult or mistake or… (fill in the blank), you might think how Francis inflicted himself with the same punishment he doled out!

Lent is here. We are asked to find that within ourselves that hampers God’s growth in us, and resolve to erase, scrape or cut it away to make more room for God.  Don’t make the mistake of judging your worth by looking at others who have done less. Remember, of the one who has been given much, more will be required.  And let the cross of ashes put on your forehead on Ash Wednesday be a proclamation to the world that you are getting rid of anything that keeps you from fully relying on God.

Peace in your penance,

S. Sharonlu, OSF


Sr. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF has a background in education, child development, and family ministries.  She has worked as a teacher, school administrator, and as Director of Family Life Services for two dioceses.  Sr. Sharonlu has long been an advocate for children and puts her heart into helping parents build and sustain healthy family relationships.  One of her most memorable ministries has been with the people of Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, where her heart still lies.


Take a Lenten Journey with Us!

Join the Oldenburg OSF Sisters in our upcoming Lenten series at the Oldenburg Franciscan Center:

March 1, 8, 15, 22 (Thursdays) 6:30-8pm
Lenten Series: Four Contemporary Stories of Discovering One’s Way
with Sr. Barbara Leonhard, OSF

Re-discover your call to discipleship!  During this Lenten series, we will look to four very real people who were drawn to discover and re-discover what discipleship was calling them to do.  Hearing their stories and the questions that would not let them go can prompt us to listen more closely to the call of discipleship in our own lives.  We will focus on one example per week:

March 1: Howard Thurman – a black minister, teacher, and mystic who established the first radically integrated intercultural church in the United States.

March 8: Edith Stein – a Jewish teacher, scholar, and mystic who became a Catholic and entered a Carmelite monastery.  She died in Auschwitz in 1942.

March 15: Thomas Kelly
– a Quaker teacher and seeker who discovered a mystical depth within himself and set about drawing others to their spiritual depths.

March 22: Jean Vanier
– Canadian founder of L’Arche Communities who has dedicated his life energies to creating homes and sharing life with those with developmental disabilities.

$15/session or $50 for the complete Lenten series. 
Or, come one evening and bring a friend, 2 for $25.
RSVP to Annette at or 812-933-6437.

We hope to see you soon!