The great Franciscan Theologian, St. Bonaventure, in his Life of St. Francis, writes about St. Francis of Assisi and Christmas Eve, December 1223:
“It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of the people ofT the village of Greccio, to commemorate the nativity of the Lord, Jesus Christ, prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed by Francis. After the Midnight Mass, celebrating the Nativity of the Lord, it is recorded that the hay of the manger which was preserved by the people, miraculously cured diseases of the people, livestock, and many other illnesses.”
Every Christmas night, before my grandmother returned to her home, she would present to each of her children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren, a single piece of straw from the manger scene of her church. She would simply say, “Place this piece of straw in your wallet. You may not be rich in material goods, but know that you are rich because of God’s love for you.”
The last piece of straw my grandmother gave me is tucked safely in my wallet. It is a constant reminder of her faith and her love for her family and of God’s love for me. Since my grandmother’s passing, my sisters and sister-in-law continue this beautiful Christmas tradition.
Although the story of St. Francis and Christmas Eve 1223 is long gone, the message is clear for us. Our own Nativity scenes which rest under our Christmas trees and our own family traditions are gentle, visible reminders of that night when God bent down from on high, kissed the world below and was born in human flesh, just like you and me.
May the peace and love of God, which is beyond our human understanding, keep our minds and hearts in the knowledge of God’s love for you.
Please send a generous Christmas gift today to help us support our senior friars, who have given their lives in service to God and His Church.(http://www.franciscan-friars.org/help_Contribute.html) We, in turn will remember you and your loved ones in our prayer, before the infant Jesus lying on a bed of hay in our Chapel.
Wishing you and your family a blessed and holy Christmas!
May the NewYear be filled with peace and all good for you and your loved ones.
Peace and all good!
Fr. Jim Gannon, OFM