This Christmas

This could be it.  My last Christmas home, with my family.  As the desire to become a Dominican cloistered nun has grown over the last few years, this is the thought that is ever in my mind each year, and this year was no different. 

After fundraising in support of vocations for The Laboure Society these past few months, many of my fellow aspirants will be free to enter religious life at the beginning of 2013.  Four of us, because our outstanding student loans exceed available grant funds at this time, will be continuing on as aspirants with The Laboure Society’s spring class, which ends in May.  I am in the latter group and will be continuing fundraising efforts with The Laboure Society to foster vocations.  But, God willing, as He continues to provide, my hope remains to have my own educational loans be resolved in time for me to enter Corpus Christi Monastery this coming summer.  Which would mean next Christmas, God willing, I will be celebrating my first Christmas at Corpus Christi Monastery.

Even without the desire to become a nun, the reality of life is that we don’t know which day might be our last.  In October, my family and I said our good-byes to my grandpa at his deathbed.  Three Christmases ago, we were giving thanks for my mom as she miraculously recovered from H1N1 and resulting complications; by God’s grace, she went from a medically hopeless case on All Saint’s Day to moving to a chronic care facility on Thanksgiving, to coming home just a few days before Christmas. 

It puts life and priorities in a different perspective to realize this day is truly a gift from God – there is no guarantee of where you might be tomorrow, and at the end of this life on earth, we will have to give an account to God for how we spent our time and the gifts He entrusted to us.  But, stress, tiredness, pride all present in our society this time of year, combined with materialism and mismanagement of priorities, time, and resources create a perfect storm for many.  We long for the perfect Christmas experience, but what does that mean, and perfect for whom? 

 As I sat in the pew before Midnight Mass, I reflected on all this.  I thought of my sins and failings.  I thought about what memories I would leave my family and friends should tomorrow not come, or should I be called on to another place in life.  And I am in awe of God’s grace working in the life of a virgin Jewish girl and the gift she brought to the world.  I am in awe of the all-powerful God, lying as a helpless babe in a manger.  Small and humble, his true identity known to only a few – Joseph, Mary, and some shepherds.  The rest of Bethlehem was too busy and too crowded and too preoccupied with their own cares to notice.

Baby JesusThis same Jesus comes to us every Mass, small and humble, under the appearance of bread and wine, in the Holy Eucharist.  Instead of a manger, He comes to us on the altar and invites us to partake of Him; will we, like Mary, accept and make room for Him as we partake of His body and blood, soul and divinity?  Will we allow Him to transform us?  Each day, it is such a temptation to fall into step with the rest of Bethlehem, busy and preoccupied, missing this tremendous gift so generously offered to us, for us.

Though it is poignant to consider this may very well be my last Christmas spent as I have experienced Christmas throughout my life – with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, friends and parish – I have come to realize that trying to keep hold of and relive Christmases past is a disappointing and hallow thing.  Each Christmas is always a beginning – each year, a new invitation to share in Jesus’ life.  It is an invitation that, if accepted and lived out, leads to seeing Him face to face for all eternity.  This is something that can only be experienced by embracing Christmas-present, wherever one may be in life.  So, I continue to cherish my memories and am filled with joy and gratitude this present Christmas, while striving to keep my eye on my Lord and Savior, wherever and whenever He beckons me to go.

I pray you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas season, filled with Christ’s peace, through Mary and Joseph.  Merry Christmas!

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