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Entries in Christmas (6)



I’ve loved this story for 65 years. I was in grade 5 at Blessed Sacrament School in London Ontario. My teacher for grades 5 to 8 was Sister Alice Marie. Each day right after lunch, she would read to us from a book that we would come to love like “Outlaws of Gravenhurst” or the Enid Blyton Mysteries. She didn’t care that we were far too old to be read to and we didn’t care either. In fact, it was my favourite time in the school day. And perhaps, hers, too.
As Christmas approached, she would read A Christmas Carol (Scrooge) to us and we were all wrapped in the spell she wove. Ever since, the Christmas Season has not really arrived until I’ve watched “A Christmas Carol” at least once. Last year, Sister Alice Marie died and I decided to honour her by going to the Grand Theatre to watch their production of this great classic. It was fabulous! I loved every minute of it. This year I just had to attend again and it was superb! And I had a new thought about it.
“Is this kind of profound conversion possible?” I thought about the human species and the profound damage we are doing to our home Planet and wondered if we could change. I believe we are a species in our teenage years, we have power but not enough wisdom. 
Then I thought, in the story, Ebenezer, was not always mean and miserly. He had the love of his sister Fan and he loved his apprentice days with old Fezziwig where he fell in love with a co-worker, Belle(Alice). But then Fan died in childbirth. He began a different love affair with wealth and power and he lost Belle as she recognized she had been replaced.
We too, as a young species had profound connections with our earthly home. Some of that energy is still with us in the spirituality of Indigenous peoples as they try to uncover the relationships that the colonizers tried to extinguish. Yes I need to have hope. I have to have hope. I will live my life as if I have hope until it becomes a reality in me. Otherwise I will just become numb with a giant TV soother in my mouth. I will cease to live my one precious life.
I won't let the profound hopelessness of our times seep any deeper into the marrow of my being. I will believe that the human species can evolve to maturity and wisdom. I will invite the dreams of the earth, past, present and future to teach me. I will listen to the earth. I will align myself with the children who need a future full of hope, who need to see elders who believe in their possibilities. 
I will start now as I take my morning walk into our glorious home.
Thanks Sister Alice Marie.
- Mary Margaret Howard (Gaiamma)

Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more?

Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more? Dr. Seuss “The Grinch that Stole Christmas” That little bit more is a lot more that the warm and fuzzy occasion the residents of Whoville celebrate in this classic Christmas tale.

Christmas celebrates God irrevocably joining the human race. As St. John’s prologue puts it “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), and different translations of this passage help us to peel back some of the shattering truth of this central mystery of our faith. “The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth lived among us.”

(Good News Bible) Eugene Peterson’s translation “The Message” puts it this way: “The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood”. The original Greek is more vivid with the Word “pitching his tent among us”. This reminds us of the presence of God dwelling with the Israelites in the Tent of Meeting in the desert. This God willed to embrace the fleshiness of our humanity, to become one with us in all things except sin (Heb. 4:15). Jesus is God’s supreme self-communication to us and He takes on flesh. Flesh, all that is transitory, mortal and imperfect and, at first glance incompatible with God (Jerome Biblical Commentary) was what God embraced and has never unembraced! Do we really believe this?

Remember Moses at the burning bush being told to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground? Since God came among us and walked on this ground, ate and slept upon it, all ground is holy.

All the colored lights, decorations, Christmas trees and carols, presents, special food, even Santa, Charlie Brown and his tree, Scrooge and Tiny Tim and, yes, even the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas are all part of what might help us, who are flesh and blood, body as well as spirit, rejoice in the mystery of the incarnation. Yes, there is a lot about Christmas that is just commercialism and consumerism but there is also Emmanuel - God-with-us, reminding us that we are loved, that God has come to us in all the vulnerability of a baby, that God has not given up on our world. Our hopes are grounded in this miracle.

By Sr.Trina Bottos, Sister of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie

Originally published as President’s Message in the Newsletter of the Federation of the Sisters of Joseph of Canada. Used with Permission.


Living into Sabbath

The season of Winter calls us to quiet waiting on life hidden in the dark earth. The liturgical season of Advent similarly invites stillness as we await the re- birth of Christ in our hearts and world; Christ ever-present and yet to come.

The Biblical Tradition echoes the patterns of Earth. Wendell Berry says the Tradition “elevates just stopping above physiological necessity, makes it a requirement, an observance of the greatest dignity and mystery”. It is called, Sabbath. Sabbath is an essential part of the evolutionary and spiritual process. It is a time set aside to honour creation according to the very patterns of creation. We humans must make a choice. Berry asks, “Will we choose to participate by working in accordance with the world’s originating principles, in recognition of its inherent goodness and its maker’s approval of it, in gratitude for our membership in it, or will we participate by destroying it in accordance with our always tottering, never-resting self-justifications and selfish desires?”

These are strong words and yet what a beautiful reflection for living winter and for entering fully into the season of Advent this year.  Earth and Tradition call us into a time of rest and reflection – a time of joy. In his beautiful book, “Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight”, Norman Wirzba says, “Just as God’s Shabbat completes the creation of the Universe – by demonstrating that the proper response to the gifts of life is celebration and delight – so too should our Sabbaths be the culmination of habits and days that express gratitude for a joy in the manifold blessings of God.”  

Without a sense and practice of Sabbath how easy it is to forget the gifts of God and to enter into restless, joyless and destructive patterns of being. The personal, social and ecological costs of forgetting Sabbath, Norman Wizba maintains are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. They include stressful living to the point of breaking, a loss of meaningful relationship, a lack of peace, the destruction of Earth and its accompanying rise in human poverty and suffering.

So we are invited to reclaim a sense and practice of Sabbath. Winter and Advent, our waiting times, provide the best opportunities by calling us to rest in the rhythms of life. We are gently challenged to remember who we are and who we are called to be. Like plants that will yield fruit in the Spring only if they lie dormant in Winter we are invited to a fallow season. Wayne Muller writes of this most beautifully; “We must have a period in which we lie fallow and restore our souls. In Sabbath time we remember to celebrate what is beautiful and sacred; we light candles, sing songs, tell stories, eat, nap, love. It is a time to let our work, our lands, our animals lie fallow, to be nourished and refreshed. Within this sanctuary, we become available to the insights and blessings of deep mindfulness that arise only in stillness and time. When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating what the Buddhists call right understanding, right action and right effort.” May this Winter, this Advent be for us such a contemplative time; a time for God, a time for Earth, a time for one another, a time for gratitude that when Christmas comes we can once again birth Christ in the World in peace and joy. Earth teach us the way! Word of God, guide us!

Mary Rowell, CSJ



Christmas Greetings from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada

Christmas has come once again in a world that holds so much violence and has caused so many in our world to flee their homelands seeking a place where they will be welcomed and offered shelter and safety. We long for the peace and harmony that seems implicit in the message the Angels brought on that first Christmas morn. If there is to be healing and love then something has to change. Perhaps more accurately a question we each must ask ourselves is, “how do I need to change?”

Recently, I read a piece on Facebook posted by Parker Palmer, an educator and a Quaker. He offers a bit of wisdom that might serve all of us well and carry us into a new year. He calls it a principle that he says applies to every part of his life—personal, professional and political: Nothing new can grow between us when we speak to one another from “the place where we are right;” He goes on to suggest that this requires the virtue of humility. The root of the word humility is the same root as the word humus. Humus helps plants of grow and humility helps new thinking grow!

No matter where we meet one another or what the history is between us, things change for the better when we talk with each other not from our certainties but from out doubts and loves. Shining the light on our differences rarely resolves these disputes, but understanding that even with our differences we love the same things—our families, our communities, our country and our natural world. 

We may differ on what ought to be done. But, instead of beginning by arguing about solutions—about the place we believe we are right—what if we began by sharing our loves and our doubts? This is where we find a rich and human common ground.

Many of us will gather in churches and communities and with our families—with the people with whom we live and work, to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Here we remember that God has come to dwell among us and invites us to learn how to live in new ways.

The Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada wish all who follow us through our Website, Facebook and Twitter a Christmas full of peace. May the hope that was born that silent, holy night remain in your heart throughout the year.

Sister Joan Atkinson, on behalf of all our Sisters.


“And a Child Shall Lead Them” Isaiah 11:6

The following letter written by Jacob Jansen, a grade one student, at Jean Vanier School, in London, is self- explanatory. It’s a wonderful embodiment of the true spirit of Christmas giving.



Jacob Jansen, seven year old nephew
of Sister Simone Batte, csj


Copyright 2013. Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.