Last week I wrote about the Advent gift the students from the Cornell Catholic Community have been for me. To them I add other experiences that have drawn me to pray one of the great Advent themes: God’s saving embrace in Christ of the whole human family.
One of those gifts is the presence in the narthex of Sacred Heart Cathedral of an exquisite collection of 100 Christmas cr√®ches from all parts of the world. The collection, lent to us by its owner, Mr. John Larish, will be on display at Sacred Heart until Jan. 6. The display is open to the public and free of charge.
The cr√®che scenes are touching in that they are an expression of the religious imagination of people from different regions and different eras. Those who fashioned the pieces held in common a belief in the mystery of God-made-flesh, of God-with-us. And they expressed that belief in their attempt to represent in artistic ways the touching Gospel scene most fully represented in the Gospel of St. Luke.
The cr√®ches are elaborate and they are simple. They are done in glass and wood, in ceramics and in stone. Some are in one piece; others are composed of several pieces. One cr√®che suggests a warm, soft atmosphere. Another suggests that the reality was quite harsh.
But, taken together, they remind the viewer that the Word made flesh, Jesus, is one of us and for us all. They are a gentle reminder that we are one family. We rise from different cultures, speak many languages and are of different colors. But, we are one human family, sisters and brothers to one another.
If the Larish collection offered me that gift through the medium of art, Colleen Knauf and all involved with Saint’s Place at St. Louis Parish in Pittsford offer a similar gift in the flesh. In partnership with local foundations, corporations and government agencies, they have opened Saint’s Place Child Care Center. The center serves the needs of refugee families by caring for preschool-aged children while their parents are receiving the kind of education and skills training that will foster a peaceful and productive entry into life in this country.
Personnel at the center currently are working with children from Ukraine, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Liberia and Sudan. The formal blessing and dedication ceremony in which I was privileged to participate today took place after the children had left. But we were treated to magnificent photos of these beautiful children and were told the remarkable stories of the progress they have made thanks to Colleen and the others from St. Louis who brought Saint’s Place Child Care Center to life.
I am deeply grateful for their initiative. I would be at any time. But it is a special grace during this Advent season to be reminded of what our faith tells us — that the Lord Jesus is in solidarity with every human person of every age — no matter the person’s place of origin, color, ethnic background, stature, reputation or economic situation. He is brother, friend and savior to us all.
In an age as fractured as our own, I am deeply grateful for the artistic reminder offered by John Larish and for the enfleshed reminder provided by Colleen and all at St. Louis that we are all members of the one human family, sisters and brothers to one another.
Peace to all.