Lent begins soon. The other day in an email from our local retreat center this came in:

I remember about one week before Christmas, Fr. Harry said at mass “there are six weeks until Lent begins” and added, “you know the Crib and the Cross are never that far apart.”

Ash Wednesday is two weeks away. May we all pray for the grace to draw closer to Christ so that our inward journey with Jesus is reflected in our outward journey with our neighbor. Attached are some of our upcoming retreats that we pray will help the two journeys to become one. – Brian Egan (clicking on local retreat center will take you to the retreats)

The Spiritual Exercises are an unexpected journey to the Cross and the Crib. A couple of weeks ago the Crib brought me straight to the Cross, in a way that brought me to tears. Later in the week an opportunity presented to revisit that place, an opportunity to lay this at the Cross, and to enter into this part of the Gospel in a different way, and not one I expected. Very late in her pregnancy our Mother, Mary had to head to Bethlehem with Joseph where she ended up giving birth to Jesus in a barn, full of animals, I’m sure that wasn’t exactly pleasant for anyone. When contemplating Scripture, entering into the story of Salvation John Cardinal O’Connor’s words always come to mind, “If you want to be at the moment of Creation, it’s right there!” He said pointing to the Eucharist. “If you want to be at the moment of Christ’s birth, it’s right there.” “If you want to be at the Last Supper, at the Foot of the Cross, it’s right there in the Eucharist, Our Lord Fully Present in the Host.” And so in this moment of contemplation, with this dear Cardinal’s words I entered into the story of Mary giving birth to Jesus.

I thought about the midwife who attended to the birth, giving her the name Salome, yes the mother of James and John. James is little, and she is pregnant with John. I support Mary through contractions as the wee babe is born, making sure there is warm water with which to both comfort Mary after birthing, and clean up the baby Jesus. I stay with them for a few days to cook and make sure all is well with Mary, Jesus and Joseph. There is a lot more to the contemplation, for this moment, attending to Mary as she births this baby is both a joy and a gift. To say this was intimate experience is accurate.

The reminder from Cardinal O’Connor is so deeply beautiful, and comes often to mind, reminding me to be present, what would this look like, feel like, smell like, taste like, sound like. In some delightful ways it shifts the words on the page from a two dimensional image, to a three dimensional experience giving me a deeper understanding that these events take place in God’s Creation, that Mary had thoughts and feelings and probably stubbed her toe on a few rocks in her lifetime.

I am going to post this and come back to it in a day or two. A friends sister completed suicide. She reached out to me via text to let me know so I spent a couple of hours with her this morning. My friend is with her cousin and is going to be with her family this weekend. I appreciate your prayers for their family.


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