A warm welcome to all as we celebrate Christmas! A great gift our parish received this past year is the donation of the Giotto frescoes which you see on the walls in the gathering space and down the hallway that leads to the Founders Room. These are replicas of the originals which are found in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. We are grateful to Fr. Mark Reamer and the Mark Reamer Endowment for Franciscan Spirituality for providing the funding for these frescoes.
If you get a chance, look closely at the fresco which hangs on the wall to the right of the fireplace. It’s the “crib at Greccio” scene from the life of Francis. As the story is told, Francis, who had a great devotion to the Nativity of the Lord, called together the people of the town of Greccio to reenact the original Nativity, and this was the origin of what we now know as the Christmas crèche.
In the fresco, Francis gazes at the newborn Christ child. Francis had a deep sense of wonder at the humility of the scene, that the God of the universe seeks to find a place among us, and that human life is found to be the place to receive the divine. The theological word is “incarnation” – the root meaning of the word is that God becomes flesh. The incarnation is central to our understanding of the Catholic principle of human dignity, that all human life, from the womb to end of life, is deeply valued by virtue of having been created by God. This is also why we pray for migrants, for an end to poverty and hunger, for those on death row, for anything that holds up the value of human life and flourishing.
You will also notice two banners as you enter the church announcing the “Year of Mercy.” Pope Francis inaugurated the Year of Mercy on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. A quote from a person who was present at St. Peter’s Square in Rome as the pope announced the Year of Mercy: “the pope’s message of mercy is crucial in a world of political squabbling, spreading global war and the vindictiveness found on social media. Mercy cuts through all that.”
As we begin to look more deeply at the Year of Mercy here at St. Francis, we have exciting news to announce: on Sunday, January 31, Fr. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest from Los Angeles who works with gangs and who has written a book about it, Tattoos on the Heart, will be speaking on “Celebrating God’s Mercy” here at St. Francis. His talk begins at 7:30 pm and will be followed by a book signing. Many thanks to our staff who worked hard on helping to make this happen. And on this feast of the incarnation, this day that we remember the astounding truth that our God came among us in flesh and blood.
Christmas blessings to all!