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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 | , , , | 3 Comments

Faith Lights Up The Glory Road

The Golgotha Crucifix topping the smaller dome of the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem Michael Hammers Studios

The Golgotha Crucifix topping the smaller dome of the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem
Michael Hammers Studios

Some years ago, I had an unusual experience in the Holy City of Jerusalem.  The Old City rests on the side of a mountain, with the result that all the streets go up or down, with no level ones.  One morning, on coming out of the Franciscan Hospice, my residence, about 5:00am, I planned to walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  I was to offer Mass on Mt. Calvary, in this ancient Shrine (built by St. Helena around the year 300 A.D.

I stepped out into the complete darkness.  Heavy clouds covered the moon.  The street lights were turned off.  I couldn’t see my hands in front of me.  Since I had often walked this downhill street, about a block long, with its seven turns, I started off to the Church.  The narrow road, about 30 feet wide, had walls rising up on both sides.  I kept my hand on the side wall as I cautiously put my foot ahead of me to catch the beginning of the next step.  I made it safely through the seven turns, although the last step almost did me in, a fearful journey.

The next morning, the same conditions prevailed.  This time I had a small pencil shaped flashlight.  Its little beam of light aimed at my feet brought me quickly to Holy Sepulcher Church.  What a difference the light made!  I couldn’t see down the street.  I just had enough light to take the next step!

We can compare this walk above to our daily journey in life.  The light is the gift of Faith we receive in Baptism.  As we experience the darkness of our walk on the Glory Road, faith in God helps us to avoid injuries, dangerous spills and despair.  Faith lights up the twists and turns.    We believe in the presence of the Lord, His Constant Love abiding with us.  With no Faith, people move along in hellish darkness, exposed to all kinds of miseries.

  Sometimes, this walk takes me to my personal Hill of Calvary.  There, I am nailed to my own cross of suffering.  By the light of my Faith, I believe Jesus promises to support me, to be at my side, at times carrying me on His Back.  Jesus did not promise to shield us from these painful experiences.  The Glory Road is unmapped, at times bringing us to places we never expected to go!  At times, everything there will not be wonderful!

Pity the people without Faith!  The Pharisees were blind to Christ’s Love.  They did not walk as children of light.  Indeed, they rejected Christ, the Light of the World, thus sealing their self-destruction.  Faith is believing that the Lord is in Sovereign Control, that He will never desert us in our pain.

One Pastor prayed for a good position in some growing Church where people would like him and his family.  His Glory Road led him to “Smokey Mountain”, a garbage dump outside a big City in the Philippine Islands.  He and his children scavenge for food, along with 20,000 others.  Christ is there with him!  So, he delights in it!

Fr. George Mc Kenna

January 17, 2015 Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , , , | 2 Comments