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A Meeting In Bethlehem

My friend, the artist, Dennis Creffield The photograph was taken by Dennis at Peterborough Cathedral in 1990

My friend, the artist, Dennis Creffield
The photograph was taken by Dennis at
Peterborough Cathedral in 1990

One cold, rainy, gusty February morning, a “cheroot”, call it a jitney cab, took me the five mile trip from Jerusalem to about a mile from Bethlehem.  The cost, two shekels, about 75 cents back then.  A “cheroot” picks up people along the road.

After an exhausting hike up a steep road, dodging heavy traffic, I arrived at the Church of the Nativity for my 9:30am Mass in its Grotto.  Most scholars agree that Mary gave birth to the Messiah close to this location.  My celebration of Mass, one of the Christmas Day Masses, lifted my spirits and helped me forget the cold, penetrating dampness.

After Mass, I gave an offering for a handful of slim, wax tapers to light at the Grotto, reached by descending a flight of stone steps.  A man, next to me, a complete stranger, asked me where to obtain the candles.  I offered him half of what I had.  He took the seven tapers and said, “How much?”  I shook my head, indicating, “no charge” and gave no further thought to the incident.

That night, to my surprise, this “stranger” sat across the table from me in our Franciscan Hospice in Jerusalem.  In the following days, Dennis Creffield, the stranger’s name, joined our little group, as I offered Mass at the Holy Places in and around the Holy City.  None of us knew each other a few days before this.

Dennis turned out to be a top flight artist from London, England.  Distraught with life, he had come to the Holy Land to find some peace of heart.  On my departure day, he gave me a copy of his latest book entitled, “English Cathedrals”, I suppose, in thanks for the little tapers I gave him in Bethlehem.  The book was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain and contains his charcoal drawings of all 23 medieval Cathedrals in England.

As we invest in the welfare of others, even complete strangers, we never know what the outcome will be.  Jesus, on the back of a donkey, rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  He was investing Himself in each one of us, strangers, not yet born.

What will our return be to Him for His grand act of unselfishness?  Will we, as Dennis did to me, surprise Christ with a total giving of ourselves to His Honor and Glory?

Fr. George Mc Kenna

February 28, 2015 - Posted by | Bulletins | , , ,


  1. Hi Fr. George! First of all, I went to rate the article and I hit only four stars when I meant to give it five! All of your posts are always 5 star-worthy in my book! As I sit here this Sunday morning, sipping my coffee and watching the news, my thoughts are so uplifted by your blog! The violence and meanness of the world can be so depressing. But, your simple act of kindness, sharing the candles – led to such a rich exchange and memorable meeting with this total stranger. So many today, even those that are professed to be ‘Christians’ are so against sharing and giving to help others – it makes me shake my head and wonder what Jesus would think of that. And during Lent, these things take on deeper meaning. Following our Lord through the Stations of the Cross is especially poignant for me.

    I look forward to seeing you soon – I’ll be flying in on Holy Thursday. I love you, Fr. George! Thank you for guiding us thru this season of Lent and always. Praying for you daily, my dear friend!


    Comment by nancywest22 | March 1, 2015 | Reply

  2. Hi Fr. McKenna, it was so good to see you yesterday after my visit to poor clare 7am mass in which i can hear those glorious nuns sing, it’s so beautiful, thank you so much for introducing me to that lil piece of heaven, even with all your years the light of Christ still shines brightly in your eyes! In relation to your story recently I sent a thank you note to Author Dean Koontz whom had sent a hand written note to my mother before she died, which she just cherished, had it framed and displayed it on our fireplace at the club, expressing that and my gratitude he sent me a copy of his new book written by his dog Anna, in which all the proceed go to Canine Champions an organization in CA that trains dogs for disable people, it was really quite cleverly done, anyway with a simple act like a thank you, I received so much, as you stated simple acts of kindness can be so rewarding. Thank you always for your inspiration and a total giving of yourself to Christs honor and glory. With love Deb

    Comment by Anonymous | March 1, 2015 | Reply

  3. Dear Fr, George…you teach us with every word and thought you share…to draw closer to Him, by sharing and caring about those we meet along life’s journey…wherever those travels may take us…haven’t been able to leave comments recently…but know that I treasure and read each weekly post…as your words contribute to making this world a better place…reminding all of us that our individual contributions both in prayers and actions make a difference —everyday! Blessings, Gratitude and Love, Marianne

    Comment by mcs | March 6, 2015 | Reply

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