On Tuesday, I walked into our kitchen early in the morning to start coffee for my husband and begin my daily morning prayers when I suddenly became paralyzed by excruciating pain. I could barely move and considered whether or not I needed to yell out to my husband to take me to the Emergency Room. I have been dealing with intense pain off and on and for months so I had to consider if it was different enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. I decided to slowly drag myself back to our bed and hold a heating pad to my abdomen that was inflamed from top to bottom due to a multiple chronic health issues that play off of one another.
Later in the morning, after I had slept for a while and the pain became bearable, I picked up my phone. There were multiple text messages, including one from one of my long time friends who just lost her mother to ovarian cancer. Another from my spiritual mother who is very concerned about me after a difficult year during which she lost her mother to a sudden stroke and her grandchild went into cardiac arrest at birth, but thankfully survived. Yet another from my best friend assuring me of her prayers who herself lost her step-mother to cancer earlier this year. I am surrounded by people who—on top of the pandemic—have been suffering great agonies and trials.
That evening, my husband offered to help me finish praying my daily rosary for priests because I was struggling to focus in prayer. The pain wears me out and I have a hard time staying on task on days like this one. As we prayed the rosary, I looked at our Christmas tree and thought about the fact that for the first time in my life I may not be well enough to go to Christmas Mass. I have good days and then really bad days. Each day is different right now, so I won’t know until Christmas Eve if I will be well enough to go.
I thought about the intense agony of my friends who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The many people who are isolated and alone in hospitals and nursing homes. Those who have been abandoned in our parishes and in our own families. The homeless, the lonely, the rejected, and the dying. All of us, whether we are aware of it or not, are seeking the Christ child. The Son of God, who became Incarnate, in order to enter into all of this sorrow so that we can have eternal life.
The answer to all of our sufferings—whether great or small—is given to us at Christmas in the Incarnate Word of God. We are invited into the darkness of a winter night to make our way to the quiet lonely hill housing the cave where the Holy Family waits for each one of us. The path to the cave has been trodden by Our Blessed Mother, pregnant with Our Savior, and St. Joseph before us. They seek to lead us away from the sorrows of this life up the hill where all of our hope and joy can be found. The place where we may find rest and leave our burdens at the manger.
It is Our Blessed Mother—who all loving mothers strive to love like—wants to wipe away our tears. To let us bring our sorrow, heavy-laden hearts, and broken bodies to rest in her lap. She who loves each one of us with a perfect, tender, motherly love. She who carried Love within her for nine months and who wants to lead us to His perfect love.
In Russian icons Mary is always portrayed with Christ as a child. She is presenting the Child to the world. So you naturally go through Mary to her Son. She is a door to bring people’s hearts to her child.
Through the Year with Catherine Doherty: Grace in Every Season, 342.
She knows what we need. She knows Who we need despite all that burdens us in this life. Mothers love in a way no one else can and She is our perfect Mother who wants us to find the joy we have been made for in Christ.
She who was pierced and stood at the foot of the Cross, wants to lead us to the wood of the manger in which all of our Hope lies. The wood of the manger and the wood of the Cross point to the same reality. Christ has come to pour Himself out completely in love for each one of us. We are infinitely loved. Our Blessed Mother always points us to the love of Her Son.
St. Joseph stands nearby. He is the spiritual father we all need. One who is strong, courageous, loving, gentle, and who wants to show us the Way. He knows we are hurting. He knows our difficulties and our brokenness. Servant of God Catherine Doherty tells us to go to St. Joseph:
Go to Joseph, the young, strong, silent man. His silence, once entered into, heals all it touches. His silence is a school of courage, faith, and love. It makes a beautiful bridge between humanity and God, a bridge we need to find, oh, so terribly much today, when most lives are so empty of God that men and women have forgotten the way back to him.
Go to Joseph, the poor man whose foster Son was born in a stable and whose family lived most frugally in a little forgotten village of Palestine but who held in his arms the wealth of the nations and the Light of the world and who can teach us all how to empty our hands of tinsel and fill them with love, faith, and happiness.
Go to Joseph, the mender of broken toys, furniture, houses, as well as broken hearts, souls, bodies, minds, and families. Yes, let us go to Joseph, whom Jesus and Mary love so much.
St. Joseph is not afraid of our pain, grief, and brokenness. Often in this life, people struggle in their own brokenness to confront our Crosses. They will often flee and abandon us. Much of the time it is fear, but frequently it is because we are afraid to be silent in the face of the great mystery of suffering. We do not yet understand that all we can offer in the face of the immense mystery of suffering is our loving presence to others.
There are no words for the loss of a parent or a child. We cannot fix the illnesses of others or prevent death. Instead, we are invited to be present to others in the silence. St. Joseph is the steady, loving spiritual father who stays with us in the silence of our sufferings. He leads us to the silence of the cave where Our Lord sleeps in a manger. He who engulfs the deep mystery of our suffering in His Divine Love. St. Joseph shows us not to be afraid of the silence that meets our suffering because it is there that we meet Our Savior.
Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph want to place the Christ child into our arms this Christmas. To invite us to the joy and wonder of the birth of Our Savior. Not as a distant historical event, but rather, as a moment present to us now. To help us find rest. To allow the Incarnate Word to dry the tears from our eyes as we behold His newborn infant face. To give us the peace and joy we long for and the strength to endure the hardships, trials, and afflictions of this life. He enters into our agonies and comforts us. As our spiritual parents, they desire our ultimate good that can only be found in Christ Jesus.
Many of us are heavily burdened as we make our way up the hill to the cave where the Holy Family waits for us. Let us ask Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph to guide us along the path. May we allow them to place the Christ child in our arms once we arrive, so that we can experience the healing love of the Most Holy Trinity this Christmas and all future Christmases of our lives.