This past week, I had the opportunity to make my annual retreat. I had hoped to take it at two different times earlier in the year, but the circumstances demanded that I cancel. I can see the Providence in all of this, though, as Advent can be a very special time for making a retreat, as it is a great way to prepare for Christmas. For the first two years of my priesthood, I took my annual retreat right after Christmas, which enabled me to slow down and rest in the beauty of the season. Having had those fruitful experiences, I had no doubt that being on retreat before Christmas would likewise be fruitful.
Harkening back to those first two retreats, I recall vividly the location that I chose, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. You may be more familiar with this location as the place where Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN, lived for the final several years of her life. She had a great devotion to the Divino Niño, the Divine Child, which you could see throughout the shrine. It was always a wonderful thing to meditate there on the littleness of the child Jesus and His desire to be near to us.
Several years ago, I came across a little meditation that Mother Angelica composed about the Birth of Christ. And even if you are not able to make a retreat before Christmas, maybe you can use this meditation and take some time in silence, possibly before a Nativity scene, and make your final preparations to welcome Christ more deeply into your hearts this Christmas:
The Birth of Christ
(A Meditation by Mother Angelica)
“…Suddenly the whole cave is filled with the most brilliant light:
beautiful and soft. At the end of the cave is Mary. She is kneeling
and she has the most lovely infant in her arms. My heart begins
to pound with joy and I say to her, ‘May I touch him?’ She says,
‘Yes. Don’t be afraid. This is why He came so that you would see
your God in the flesh and never be afraid again.’ I go to grasp His
hand and instead He clasps my little finger and holds it so tight.
I realize how much God loves me – that He would come in such
tiny form to such a cold, simple place. That He would consent to be
so dependent on His creatures: Mary and Joseph to give Him food
and drink and to care for Him. This God who created the whole
universe is dependent upon two creatures, all out of love for me.”
On behalf of the entire Cathedral clergy and staff, I wish all of you many blessings as you prepare to remember the Birth of our Savior on Christmas!