Sharing the Retreat
Week 15


Week 15

15,15a and 16 - I awake and am back in that stable/cave with Mary her new-born child, Joseph and all the animals. What a mess. Who am I? The cattle are lowing, Mary needs to be washed, dressed in a clean robe and fed. The baby awakes, he does not cry. He is at his mother's breast taking in her warm milk. All around us glows a light shining in the dark, the glory of the Lord is upon us. The shepherds come. Their fears subside as they melt into the scene. They are helping me to clean the stable, laughing and joking as they clean up the mess and put down new straw and bring hay to feed the animals.

They go to the inn and fetch the inn keepers wife who attends to Mary and the child. He is a lovely child and we all adore him. Joseph is so proud to be there. He is so strong and helps with the heavy work, shifting all the old bedding and taking it away to the midden outside. 

The inn keeper arrives, he is so ashamed he had turned the little family away. He brings food, fresh bread to satisfy our hunger and our desire to be fed. Wine too to revive our drooping spirits after our work is done. We are all filled with joy, accepting, without understanding, the miraculous gift of the child, born to us this day.

The dawn breaks and outside three weary travellers appear dressed in finery.  They too are welcomed in. They share our bread and wine. They bring expensive gifts in homage to the baby born to us.

The scene is set. We are not alone, our fears subside, never shall we journey without the comforting help we feel, no matter what prevails. We are at rest and little me included, for I am but a child too with much to learn by being present!

Week 15 - O Absolem my son. David's cry at hearing of his son's death, still loving him and wishing he could have died for him and in all that with no reproach for his past behaviours. Moving on ...........

 My Mary suffers the pangs of birth in a stable, filled with cattle, sheep and their excrement. Joseph is with her, by her side, just like fathers are now in our world. He comforts her and the breath of the beasts of the field keeps her warm. She is grateful for the shelter from the storm, the storms of weather, yes, but also from the hostile world of outside ' no room at the inn'.

Our God of the Our Father sustains her. One last push and her baby comes with lungs filled with cries at being born, our saviour who is Christ the Lord! She bends down and buries his wet body in her arms, despite her blood, still covering over his little body. She wraps him in cloths and looks up at Joseph, grateful for his love and care but most of all for his acceptance of the mystery surrounding the child's conception.

This little holy family are forerunners of living the will of God for them, not their will. Unquestionably, they journey, leading the way for us to follow whatever befalls, so that because of them, we are enabled to hand over our lives, in trust to the Lord our God who loves us, is born to us, forgives us and will die for us so that we may live with him for ever.
Thank you Lord

Week 15a.  It has been a difficult retreat for me.  My own resistance has been showing, I pray, but not as I think I should.  Now, looking at the Holy Family seeking shelter and not finding any, I find myself as one who “refused” Jesus.  I find myself as not letting Jesus “inside.”  Jesus has been asking me to let Him enter.  I’ve said “no."  I feel so unworthy.  Tears form as I write this.
Week 15a - These “Christmas days” are beautiful but anxious for me. My children and grandchildren are visiting. I struggle to make each moment memorable for them. Accidents happen and peace is disturbed! Let me sit back and remember what is important - it is You Dear Lord - You in the peace of the stable surrounded by the  gentle cow, donkey and sheep. Shhhh! Just kneel before Him and watch and listen to the Baby sleeping.
Week 15:

My life, a stable,
Simple, warm, safe, I am able
To know the finger I hold,
Gift beyond any frakensense, myrrh, or gold,
Life source, fruit of womb, with us at table.

Week 15a
Coming to the end of these 2 weeks over Christmas it has been a wonderful experience to meet Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah. The shepherds, and Inn owners as well as the Wise Men. A very full time of reflection, prayer and contemplation.
Entering the stable during the past week to visit our Lord it has been very disconcerting to not be able to “see”  him, I just couldn’t picture his face and was troubled by this. But yesterday the thought came to me of the scripture John 20 vs 20: Blessed are they that have not seen, and still believe.
I am truly very blessed!
God bless you all
Jane NZ

I'm grateful for the Nativity. Today I'm also especially grateful for the good people at Creighton University who lovingly and faithfully make this retreat possible.
Peter - Week 15

Joseph asked me to travel with them to Bethlehem.  He was worried that the baby might come and he would need help.  I walked the dusty roads beside the donkey that carried Mary.   I entered the stable with them when we could find no other shelter.   Thankfully, it was warm with the heat from the animals and the sweet-smelling hay rustled as they moved about.  Mary went into labor that night and I witnessed her baby come into the world.  What indescribable joy!  Later I held him while Mary slept. -Judy - Week 15


I follow the Holy Family to the Presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem. How far we have come since Mary and Joseph took off on this long journey. Mary pregnant. Joseph eventually trusting while being pragmatically aware of what was going on around them. There were dangers. Of course, a good number of people just didn't care .. So absorbed in their own affairs. But Joseph and Mary have never been absorbed like this. They have studied and prayed around God's historical promise. Yes it seems so ridiculous that from their ordinary backgrounds God has called them. But they have learned and they are learning even faster to place their total trust in God.
Then there is the birth itself. Not the best of places. Homeless ... Dependent on strangers to support. But over the days after the birth between the feeding and sleeping periods of this new baby; between the joyful appreciation for the miracle of life and the anxiety about looking after Him just right; between these periods others come into the picture ... Shepherds ... Boisterous laboring ... Definitely working class; then wise men from far away ... Definitely the "professional class". What this means Mary and Joseph don't discuss much with me but I can see that like me these visitors know much more is going on. I notice too that apart from a few casual visitors, these are the only close visitors. People still go about their affairs.
So Joseph gently reminds Mary that they must do their duty and go up to Jerusalem and make their offering. This is key to their religious upbringing and key to their trust in God. Yet they do so somewhat fearfully. What will people say? This is a child conceived outside of marriage and by an unnamed father. There are dangers (somehow there are always dangers associated with Jerusalem). Again I see the deep trust Mary and Joseph have that God will be there and they must return to Him in worship. Then there is the affirmation in the temple as Simeon and Anna take the baby and relate how they see this baby as the fulfillment of their prayers.
As we travel onwards from Jerusalem I discuss what has happened with Mary and Joseph. We do not really understand it all. We only know that we have to travel onwards and work to bring Him into this world. Mary as a young girl has dreamed of being a mother. Joseph at his carpenter's table has often thought about having a family. Both have deeply prayed like Simeon and Anna for God's promise to be realized. Now they see all these desires dome together. They ask me what I have deeply desired and like Anna and Simeon I feel it is fulfilled here. How? I'm not sure but I want to continue in the journey whether it is in the quietness of the desert, the noise of the refugee camp, the bustle of the village or the lurking attraction and danger of Jerusalem. -Week 15

Week 15: I follow the Holy Family to the Presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem.  How far we have come since Mary and Joseph took off on this long journey. Mary pregnant.  Joseph eventually trusting while being pragmatically aware of what was going on around them.  There were dangers.  Of course, a good number of people just didn't care .. So absorbed in their own affairs.  But Joseph and Mary have never been absorbed like this. They have studied and prayed around God's historical promise. Yes it seems so ridiculous that from their ordinary backgrounds God has called them.  But they have learned and they are learning even faster to place their total trust in God.

Then there is the birth itself.  Not in the best of places.  Homeless ... Dependent on strangers to support.  But over the days after the birth between the feeding and sleeping periods of this new baby; between the joyful appreciation for the miracle of life and the anxiety about looking after Him just right; between these periods others come into the picture ... Shepherds ... Boisterous laboring ... Definitely working class; then wise men from far away ... Definitely the "professional class".  What this means Mary and Joseph don't discuss much with me but I can see that like me these visitors know much more is going on here. I notice too that apart from a few casual visitors, these are the only close visitors.  People still go about their affairs.

So Joseph gently reminds Mary that they must do their duty and go up to Jerusalem and make their offering.  This is key to their religious upbringing and key to their trust in God.  Yet they do so somewhat fearfully. What will people say?  This is a child conceived outside of marriage and by an unnamed father.  There are dangers (somehow there are always dangers associated with Jerusalem). Again I see the deep trust Mary and Joseph have that God will be there and they must return to Him in worship.  Then there is the affirmation in the temple as Simeon and Anna take the baby and relate how they see this baby as the fulfillment of their prayers. 

As we travel onwards from Jerusalem I discuss what has happened with Mary and Joseph.  We do not really understand it all.  We only know that we have to travel onwards and work to bring Him into this world. Mary as a young girl has dreamed of being a mother.  Joseph at his carpenter's table has often thought about having a family.  Both have deeply prayed like Simeon and Anna for God's promise to be realized. Now they see all these desires dome together.  They ask me what I have deeply desired and like Anna and Simeon I feel it is fulfilled here.  How?  I'm not sure but I want to continue in the journey whether it is in the quietness of the desert, the noise of the refugee camp, the bustle of the village or the lurking attraction and danger of Jerusalem.

This is my second time around making this wonderful Retreat.  Over the years since then, when I was fairly newly widowed, I have been able to grow closer and closer to our dear Lord Jesus.  This also includes being free to go to Mass every day which gives me so much nourishment.  I find my relationship with Jesus has become a very close friendship and that I seem to be talking to him all day.  I am not a recluse, I am a matriarch (I discovered this when my youngest child of five, now a man with his own children, asked me if it was alright to send his son to bed because of a row over homework. . . asking me, for advice?  Wow, I thought, I’ve made it!) I interact with many friends as well as families, I am a webmaster – I do all sort of things but my relationship with Jesus is everything.  I used to be super-efficient but with age – I am nearly 80 – everything slows down, I get so slow and clumsy that I find I rely on Jesus for very small things.  Then I think:  how can I ask him for help with this, or that, and I remember God cares for everything, even mosquitoes and spiders, so he also has time to care for me.  And he does.

My wife and I have been going through the Retreat during the past year. When I reached weeks 14 and 15 where we are encouraged to use our imaginations to enter into the scenes surrounding Christ's birth, I started doing some journal writing, imagining that I was a friend of Joseph's, who accompanied him through the whole Christmas story, from the uncertain beginnings in Nazareth to the visits of the Shepherds in Bethlehem.
     Since I'm a music director at my church, I began to think, "This would make a great addition to our Christmas program!" I polished up my journal stories and asked two of the dramatic "souls" in our community to read them. One of them was a man who read the reflections of Joseph's friend, the other was a woman who read the reflections of Mary's friend. The readings were interspersed with musical selections from our choir. The result was amazing.... "Best Christmas Concert ever!" "Where did that amazing drama come from?" That was the nature of the comments I got.
Thank you for this Retreat. It helped me and my whole church community to more deeply experience the birth of Christ in a deeper and more spiritual way.
Steve B

I am on week 15 and havingtrouble tryingto getmy imagination to focus on the scene atthe stable withMary and Joseph awaiting the birth of Jesus.  I went to bed last night and as I frequently do,woke up.  While lying there and wondering why I was having this problem the thought of being on a camping trip came to me. I'm not sure how cold it would have been in Bethlehem at that time but with the town overflowing with people at that time I wonderede how Joseph would be able to find firewood in that strang place in the middle of the night.  How were they giong to be able to keep warm as thet tried to sleep? No down sleeping inflatable pads to lie on, and food..with all the inns filled to many others demanding to be fed  where could Joseph hope to find enough for Mary to keep up her strength? Joseph couldn't have carried very much in the way of supplies on the donkey.  What must have been going through Joseph's mind..The responsibilities of caring for,feeding and protecting Mary and the child Jesus. The self doubt, the what ifs, does he have the strength to provide all that they need?  In the morning I had an errand that required me to go inside the church..As I knelt facing the taberenacle I glanced over to my side and the creche was right next to me.  As I knelt and took in the familiar scene ..The stable,straw and hay left over fromthe animals needs,the other animals,Mary and Joseph caressing and protecting the baby Jesus.  Suddenly my imagination took a back seat and the reality of what they were going through came over me.  This was followed by a prayer of thanks to Mary and Joseph for their trust in the angels message and the resulting gifts we have received as a result of Jesus becoming man and his gifts of redemption and hope for us.  

Week 15:  Gracias a Dios for the countless blessings I have & continue to receive from this retreat. (& gracias a san ignacio).. I like many of my fellow travelers am amazed at the journey I'm making with Christ. In the first week or so I sent an email to the retreat leaders saying the site needed a spot for 'solo journals'.. without response i might add.. & now I know why. It's because, by this stage of the retreat, I have grown & been blessed over & over by the sharing. and yes I've shared too. so in the words of a fellow traveler, I'm intrigued to follow my "odd travel director" on an already difficult journey, but one that is amazingly peaceful as well. I don't know where it's going or how we're going to get there but I'm trying every day to trust more&more.. & know that Jesus is always holding my hand--if I ask him-- & wants to go with me to all the places on the journey--whether scary, smelly, or filled with love.  Prayers offered daily for & with you all from a little town on the Baja peninsula of Mexico. 

Week 15: We experienced the grace of Nochebuena & Christmas this week. I joined the nativity scene as a shepherd, lamb in arms, peering thru the cracks in the barn walls, edging ever closer to the doors, scared & still awe-struck at all the events of the night.. shepherds at the time of Jesus' birth were no longer the respected persons of Abraham's day.. they were some of the outcasts, almost always employed at the mercy of rich landowners, poor simple folk.. whom angels spoke to, sang & shone for..  so as one of the many shepherds in our world, I was blessed to join in the joy of my local church at the coming of El Niñito Jesú.  "What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. Yet what I can, I give Him---give my heart."  

Christina R

My thoughts focused on Joseph hearing the news that there is a census and that they needed to travel to Bethlehem.  I never thought about how that news would have impacted Joseph and Mary: with Mary about to deliver, wasn't there some way out of this trip?  The travel would be so hard on her.  They would not have a place to stay. Joseph's business would be disrupted. They would be so far away from family when the baby came. And then a deep breath.  God would provide.  Joseph and Mary were united in this thought.  They would help and care for each other. The path would be difficult but God would provide.  
I think of how I react to changes in plans, in particular those that impact my family like the recent news that my son's job is transferring him out of state. My conversations with God after hearing about this change of plans were "a little tense."  The pain of the news is easing and I look to Mary's and Joseph's example: God will provide.  Yes, the path may be difficult but God provides.  Who knows what lies ahead?  Maybe there are some wonderful gifts with my son living in this new place.  God cared for his son, Mary and Joseph; God will care for my son, my husband and me.

Week 15: In  my time of prayer this morning, I was following the Ignatian retreat's directive to enter into the experiences surrounding the birth of Christ. As Mary and Joseph were repeatedly turned away from one inn after another after arriving in Bethlehem following their long journey, I was struck by two things. First, how Mary overcame her natural physical fatigue and anxiety as Joseph kept coming back with news of one failure after another to find accommodation for them. She made a choice, in the face of her physical and emotional distress, to SUPPORT and ENCOURAGE Joseph with words like "Don't worry, I'm sure we will find a place to stay. Maybe the next place we try will be the one." And she said this with a gentle smile for the man she loved and who was doing his best for her. She did it with Joseph in mind. She did not respond out of a focus on her own discomfort. That's the kind of role model Jesus had in his mother. And that, in turn, is what he gave us. A focus on us, not on his own discomfort.

How did Mary do that? The background chatter in her mind was the Angel's promise of who she carried in her womb and what God intended in her life and in the life of her son. She focused on that. She kept that in mind. And in the midst of anything but regal circumstances, she believed that God was somehow working out exactly what he had promised and intended. She chose to trust in him, despite the very natural fear and anxiety that her circumstances provoked. Out of the depth of her trust in her God, Mary was able to shine God's light into the life of Joseph with an encouraging word instead of saying "Oh no! My back is killing me and my butt is sore from sitting on this darn donkey so long! What do you mean you can't find us a room?!"

That is the first experience I had in my morning reflection of entering into the events surrounding the birth of Christ. The second was related to Joseph. He found himself unable to care for his wife in anything other than the meager shelter of a stable. He could have easily lost heart and discounted the words that had been spoken to him about whose child Mary was carrying. He did not say, "Right God! Is this how you intend to take care of your son? By housing his mother and I in this smelly little stable, and Mary ready to give birth anytime? Is this where you want your Son to born? How could God, King of the universe, mean for this to happen? It doesn't make any sense!"

No, he did not say that at all. He could well have thought it, but the words did not pass his lips. Instead, he went into that stable and made it as comfortable as he could for his wife. And that meant basically just spreading some fresh hay for her to lay down on. He couldn't do anything about the smell. He decided to trust that God knew what He was doing. And that freed him up to do what Joseph was able to do, which was to care for Mary and their soon to be born child to the best of his ability, and with care and affection. He was able to express care and affection because his focus was on God, not on his own discomfort and distress about their circumstances. He too, like Mary, made a CHOICE to focus on God. He made a choice not to focus on his own fear, anxiety and discomfort.

Dearest Lord God, thank you for granting me to grace of desiring to focus on you and to give you thanks in all things. Thank you for showing me how Mary and Joseph were able to do this. Thank you for bringing Jesus into that kind of family. Thank you for entrusting Jesus to these kind of people who had such faith in you and who were so obedient to focussing on Your Word rather than the fear, anxiety, or discomfort created by their circumstances. Help me to do the same, dear Lord. I cannot possibly do this without You. I so desire to bring You into the world in the ways that Mary and Joseph were able to reflect you for each other and for the soon to be born Jesus.


There was so much emphasis on Jesus as the one I love, Jesus as the one who loves me as I went through the first 15 weeks of the retreat – that eventually it seemed natural to go to the marriage service.  And I spoke the marriage vows to Christ as my spiritual husband.  This was a great help and comfort to me, so I am sharing it in case someone else might have the same comfort.  And since then I have repeated those vows most days.  Now, in any small difficulty of the day or whenever I can feel my responses going wrong, it is as though he is right beside me, as my perfect husband, guiding and supporting me.

By His grace, within 3 days of my privately taking this step, my own “world” husband initiated conversations about how to improve our marriage, and we have been trying to work out, together, ways of doing that.  Praise God, because He, the Creator of everything who sees the sparrow fall, cares for me and leads me through all the trials of life into peace and joy.

Week 15a - Taking Stock

     Reviewing the graces which have been given to me the past weeks, led me to the stable again.   In that dark,  smelly place complete with a cow and 2 oxen I am reminded to focus my heart and my mind on that helpless,  tiny baby wrapped in Joseph's coat.  I was not able to bring anything so with great shame,  I inched myself towards Jesus.  I touched his fingers and he held on to my pointer as if to tell me:  "  It's alright.  You can stay with me despite your dirt,  your smell and your unruly hair. "  He's telling me that despite my arrogance, my self-righteousness,  my big,  big PRIDE, I am welcome to stay with him in that stable.  

     This Lenten season,  is no different from that Nativity scene.  The stable in our hearts should always be open for God to enter and live in it.  In that Nativity scene,  the focus should not be on the poverty of that stable but on the message of salvation that the Messiah brings to all of us.  And so in this Lenten season,  help me Lord not to focus on the pain and sorrow that You will endure onto your death.  Help me to focus on your resurrection!

Week 19:  I thought about the first time I left home.  I was excited to be on my own and a little afraid of what lay ahead.  I missed home and my family, but I soon  made lots of new friends.  It was fun making my own decisions about things, sometimes it was also confusing and a little overwhelming.  I also missed Mom's home cooking.   I think Jesus might have had some or all of these feelings on leaving home in Nazareth.

I picture Jesus as a handsome, fun-loving, go-getter who was smarter than most of us.  I think He heard God's call like all of us do, in the still of His heart.  He knew it was time to go and start His public ministry.  I think Jesus was a rabble-rouser, turning the country upside down.  He was not what was expected.  I think Mary was ready for Jesus to leave knowing her son would have to find His own path in life.

Then I thought of the parallel, that I was walking each day like Christ.  We are both being sent forth to build God's kingdom on earth.  One has to listen closely to the small, tiny voice calling us to "come follow me".  I, personally, wonder how what I am doing can possibly build God's kingdom.  Maybe I'll never know.  Usually it is nothing major.  Just small things that I am asked to do.  Jesus is a great example for me.  He started out just as I did, by getting baptized.  One of the glimmers I had this week was that Jesus was most probably hot and dusty when he got to the water.  Even though the river was probably murky looking, it was also inviting on a hot day.   So after being baptized, Jesus threw back His hair out of His eyes and laughed.  He laughed because He knew this was the beginning of His ministry and the water felt good on His skin, and afterwords the Father said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased", and He knew He was on the right track.  What a great beginning to His ministry.


Week 15 - The grace of His birth

     Spending Christmas away from ones family is the loneliest time one can experience.When I went to church that Christmas eve  I sat in one of the pews together with the whole community.  It was a cold Christmas away from home.  Lonely is as lonely as the word implies.  There was nothing joyful about this at all and we are celebrating the birth of Jesus,  my saviour.  When the choir started singing " Silent night,  holy night,  All is calm,  all is bright.... my tears started to fall.  I missed my family. I know that I should have been in the Carmelite church we used to go to every christmas eve  followed by the noche buena and the opening of gifts.  But what about the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph?  What were they thinking when they had no inn who would accept them?  They had to make do with a stable which stinks to high heavens.  It was a silent night,  a holy night.  And around that baby in swaddling clothes I was allowed to be with them in that manger.  Did I allow them to enter into my hearts or did I reject them much like the innkeepers who had no place for them?  Were they even thinking of the noche buena when they didn't even have a place to keep warm?  But God in all His generosity welcomed the shepherds who were the first to offer, to bring with them whatever they have as gifts to Jesus.  In all His generosity,  He sent the magi to offer Jesus gold,  frankincense and myrrh.  Everything Jesus would need in His lifetime.  And I am thinking of the gifts I would have received on that day!  
     Every Christmas season,  that song Silent Night will always be sung and played till our ears hurt.  But not our hearts. That song will open my heart to the saviour who came to our world to be with us,  to save us,  to save me.   

Week 15a: Looking back on the 15 weeks and how my life has changed as a result of the retreat, I'm surprised at how meaningful it's been.  I've been an on-and-off Catholic all of my adult life but now I've gone back to attending mass and receiving communion every Sunday, because I want to take every opportunity to be closer to Jesus. 
My husband of 43 years has stage IV cancer.  We've been dealing with it for almost two years and what I've learned from this challenge in our lives is that we are not in control; He is.  So the only choice we have is to surrender to His will, with love and with the faith that He knows what is best for us.  I started the retreat after reading about the life of St. Ignatius and his amazing capacity for surrender.  I know that in the months ahead being able to surrender is going to be the difference between my spiritual life or death.  The examples of Mary, Joseph and Jesus are helping me to understand exactly what this means and the depth of faith that we need in order to say, "Your will, not mine, be done." 
Thank you for this retreat. 

Week 15a: I think the best grace, besides the many I have already shared about, is the knowing deep within that God is near, and ever at my side guiding me as if I am the only one that he has to shepherd.  I know God in a very personal way.  He is not off in Heaven far away;  He is Here and Now.  And I know as sure as my heart beats He is present in the same way for all other persons as well.  I feel closer than ever to my God.  I also feel as if my life was finally "coming together" and pointing me in a direction that God wants me to travel.  I do not know what comes next.  I only know I'm content and at peace and I trust where I am being led.  And as others have shared, I am overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude and love for my Savior.  I am very emotional writing this, but I  hope all retreatants can find this place where I am at-the peace and contentment I have experienced.

In my experience one must be humble or you can not work with them.  The person who "knows it all"  is not very open to new ideas and guidance, but a humble person is.  That is why Jesus humbled Himself, to show us how to learn new ways.  He was teaching us as an infant.  My house is under construction.  For a year I had no windows in my kitchen, and I was used to 4 big windows in the kitchen.  Three weeks ago one window went in.  What a difference it made.  There was light again without an electric light.  I could see my yard outside again.  One window transformed my kitchen into a better place.  This is what the retreat has done for me; it has given me a window into my inner self and has transformed me.  Thank-you so much for creating this web site.


Week 15: I have been having a tough time with the meditation this week.  But this is what came to me.  I live on 5 acres which includes a barn.  The barn is quite old, cold and drafty and not a very clean place.  I believe that the place where Jesus was born was not a barn or stable but a cave.  A cave is cool and damp, and can be drafty.  Neither place is where I would think to lay a newborn.  Mary and Joseph had no choice about it.  This was all that there was.  The smells of animals can be quite pungent also.  Then the thought hit me that my heart is where the Lord Jesus wants to stay.  Is my heart  ready?  Is it cold and drafty?  Or is it quiet, peaceful, and warm?  Does my heart bear the odor of sins?  Or have I cleaned up my heart in reconciliation?  What is the best I can do to welcome the Baby Jesus?    This really makes me look at myself in a way I never have before.  And I do have a choice in this.  I can be the innkeeper that says there is no room, or I can take the Lord Jesus into my heart.  Am I ready?


This is week 15 for me.  Today I was completely at peace.  The feeling was wonderful.  The busyness around me, I remained calm and quiet.  I spoke gently to those around me. I almost felt like I was floating on a cloud. This Advent season is the first time I made appoint to embark, with my husband and children, on the true meaning  this season has to offer.  I feel so blessed to be part of this retreat.

I am enjoying staying on Week 15 for 2 weeks through Christmas Day. For me, this Advent has seemed quite different than the others. I know I am not in the same place, or the same person as I was a year ago. That is a good thing, and it means growth. I believe the retreat has helped me see the “bigger picture” of things. This Christmas season the points of stress have still been there, yet I feel calm. Just as anyone else, there are still difficult things to deal with throughout the holidays. But I have so much, and I am staying grateful. I have never spent so much time putting out the Nativity set as I did this year. It was always hurry up and get done, so I could hurry up and get the next thing done. It meant a lot to take my time and reflect on each figure. In turn, I am called to be more attentive to my children and husband as I reflect on the birth of Jesus and the Holy Family. I am excited at what else the retreat will bring my way. I pray that I can stay open and attentive to God’s will for me. Merry Christmas!
Just wanted to share a thought, I'm starting week 15, but this grace could apply to any of the weeks so far. I was away from the church for years and I was so wanting to return, but I was so angry about the priest sex abuse issues, and other things in my life, a divorce, my 16 year old child was a drug dealer, my second husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and later died, so many sadnessess, and I so needed my faith/religion, when a friend said I should talk to the new priest at my old parish because he was so easy to talk to . I never really talked to a priest about any faith crises or other problems, being born in the 50's we were taught that priests were unapproachable. But I did and my friend was right, thank God times have changed for the better. I asked him why I should be Catholic because I felt it was all just a lie. He said I didn't have to be, but that's who I was, how I carried myself, how I spoke and acted. I went to confession for the first time in many, many years, and my penance was to meditate on Martha and Mary, not 12 Hail Mary's and 12 Our Fathers, just meditate on that. I was confused, but I tried to meditate and the only explanation I could come up with was I could be Mary, and my mom Martha, her always working and me either talking about God or the scriptures or just not being available to help her enough, and that's what I needed to do, and how did he know I wasn't as helpful as I could be, but of course that's not what he meant. That was about 5 or 6 years ago, and I never forgot that penance or his answer to why should I be Catholic. I'm now reading a book about contemplation and one of the chapters is on Martha and Mary, this book was not an accident that I picked it up, I was in a Catholic book shop looking for something to read on Ignatian Spirituality when both of these books were just there waiting for me.. The chapter on Martha and Mary explained the two women so clearly. Martha was always busy with everyday living, cleaning, cooking, worrying and when Jesus came to visit she did all the work, which was good, but it was Mary who just wanted to be in his presence, she didn't notice how he looked, dressed or even what he was saying, she was just with his light, his spirit, his love... just with him, and not worried about everyday issues or problems, like I was too much back then and not enough just being with God. It was such a blessing to finally understand my penance and to know I too want to be like Mary and just gaze at Him with love, and be totally present to Him. One of my questions to that wonderful priest was "does it sometimes take years to find what my journey will be?" And of course his answer was yes, and it is, and I'm sure it will continue long after I'm gone. Merry Christmas, Peace and Blessings to all of you. --Patti
I have just completed week 15 of the retreat and downloaded week 16. I didn't think that I was ready for another week yet, but in reading some of the sharing messages for week 15, and after reviewing my previous sharing for week 10/11, I do think that I'm ready to go on.
I'm afraid that I am still drawn to secular and material goods and pleasures which sometimes blind me to the deeper parts of my being, which when I am in that deeper mode, allow me to touch on a level of the spirit where charity, peace, harmony and appreciation of God's gifts of creation abide.

In this, then, I find that in the shallower mode, I do not "know" or love any particular person, including myself. Other people are people and I am a person too, but to know and love, to appreciate, are words with intellectual meaning only. In the deeper mode of being, I live, understand, and yes, love deeply.

So to one of the sharing notes that I read. It stated that Christ was not born to poverty, because he was born in and surrounded by love. In this, I agree whole heartedly because as a child, my parents had little money, but we had an extended family, and without realizing what it was, we had loving relationships. In this, I remember some trips to the relatives who lived on farms, and in playing in the barn, the barn yard and on to the pasture and wheat fields, I thought nothing of the smells and sights which some might find repulsive. On the contrary, they were a natural part of living on the farm and around the animals, some of which were akin to being definite pets. And there was, for me, a sense of security and worth, a sense of love, though I knew not what love actually was.

I could continue to ramble on, I think, but what I really want to say now, is that I pray that mankind, we all, may grow to know and love God as He is, and in this to be able to live and serve both Him and others in happiness and peace. And, maybe that is one of the reasons that I am continuing this retreat.
-- Quentin

Week 15: A prayer of reflection around the crib
I held you as you slept ... feeling your vulnerability ... but also realizing your potential. I used to have some disdain for the innkeeper. He stuck you out here in the outhouse as a reject. Why couldn't he give you his room? Then I realise that he has all his relatives sleeping on the floor this really is the quietest place for Mary and for you now, Lord. And the innkeeper did clean up. We are all taken up with the birth of you ... and the faithful promise that Mary and Joseph bring with them. I'm surprised initially that the shepherds come and they are in awe at you and share Mary and Joseph's faith in God's promise. I had always seen shepherds as uneducated and very unsophisticated. Most times I've seen them off work and carousing or joking around. They're not the people we usually have dinner with. But their work takes them far into the hills and they stay alert at night ... very alert for the slightest change that might affect their flocks ... weather, predators and other challenges sharpen them. They are so close to nature ... they feel God's glory.
Now they really express it ... they see it as not necessarily contained in the grandeur of nature but actually taking on flesh that we can see and hear and touch. Being awstruck by nature is one aspect of God. Being awstruck by his presence among us can be transformational. Afterwards, as I walk around the crowded streets of Bethlehem I see how many people go about their common everyday lives untouched by you. So I ask ... how can I develop the sensitivities of the shepherds that I can bring to these crowded streets ... that will make a transformational difference?

Week 15: Each week as we lit our Advent Candles, I read stories from the online retreat about: Elizabeth and Zechariah, The Angel's visit to Mary, Mary's visit with Elizabeth and the birth of John, and The Angel's visit to Joseph. On Christmas day, I decided to put my husband and daughter into to scene, like we in the retreat have been doing. I covered the creche with a cloth and lit each candle again, going over what we talked about the previous weeks. When I lit the Christ Candle, I uncovered the creche and brought in the Angel, Shepherds, and the Three Wise Men. It reminded me of when I taught Sunday School. My husband and daughter loved it. It opened discussion on other Bible history as well. My husband was born a Catholic in Italy, but never got any of the stories that most of us got growing up.
Those of us who were nurtured in the Church from birth have a wonderful gift from that education!!! We are obligated to share it. My husband's faith is strong but hearing the stories has really deepened his faith. Our daughter is a young adult with a developmental disablity - emotionally and socially about 3 yrs old to 10 years old, depending on what is going on. Our daughter, with her disablity, wasn't able to mainstream in CCD classes so I taught her and the Priest worked with her through the Sacraments. The online retreat is helping me teach them what they missed. The Holy Spirit has been working through this retreat to bring our whole family closer to God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. It has also help us deal with a very trying situation this year.
Our mortgage company made an error that cost us thousands of dollars - it took a year to get them to admit it - I almost gave up, but God gave me that extra nudge one morning to go into the bank and talk to someone face to face. It has been resolved, just finishing up the details, like, are you going to give us back all the money we lost!!! Just today, the phone company, the cable company, and the doctor's office billed us incorrectly. One even went to a collection agency - by mistake. God gave me that nudge to fight again - they all admitted their errors and they have been corrected. Just a heads up for you out there. TRUST GOD, but not that billing statement!!! Trust God wholly, study the Word when you wake up, take time during the day, and go to sleep with God in your heart and the Lord's Prayer on your lips.

Week 15: The week after Christmas and we spent a mixture of time getting caught up ... with friends and with everyday tasks that didn't get done in the rush of everyday work. In that light getting "caught up" is not a bad metaphor for my spiritual contemplation this last week. I "caught on" to feeling a sense of "mission" with the themes around the crib. I "caught up" again that even with the rush around us for the holidays, the spiritual significance of the incarnation is in the mission. I reflected how we can continue to embody in different ways His incarnation if we follow the sense of His mission. For myself, I'm still unclear as to where that mission ultimately takes me. But if I can continue being "caught up" in the sense of it then I trust, with God's grace, I will find the way.

This has been a “week from hell” with my daughter and son-in-law announcing that they are separating after 15 years of marriage and two children, and then agreeing to (at least) talk… In the readings this week, I kept seeing my daughter in Mary. Something new was gestating within her that she could not deny, even if it meant her marriage breaking up…Later in the week, I saw myself as Joseph, trying, in compassionate presence, to support her. I tried not taking sides, and listen, to her and the spirit. A recent dream let me know I then had to “leave the scene” like Joseph, who disappears from scripture when Jesus is ready for public life.
-- Anita
This week I reflected more on the themes of God's promise and how Mary and Joseph were active in responding to and fulfilling that promise. I'm particularly attracted to the scenes when Jesus is brought to the Temple and also when Joseph decides to move the family to Egypt. I see in these themes that Mary and Joseph both have a deep commitment to fulfilling God's promise. Each act … just the basic concerns about where to stay and where to be safe … are committed with their responsibility clearly in mind. But just because that is the intention -- to do God's Will -- this does not mean that they have certainty or knowledge in everything that they do. Joseph has lot of prayerful discernment about where to stay. He is acutely aware of the political issues and the consequences of power. He needs to move the family even to areas where they are unknown … essentially refugees. So much is also happening for Mary. She is a good model in that she resolves to reflect rather than react or overprotect Jesus.
I think that Jesus must have learned a lot from his earthly parents: Mary's love and practice of reflection; Joseph's practice of discernment and keen sense for what is going on around him. All of these bound together by teaching and community worship.
Then I think of my own family. How well am I bringing God's promises to them? I have a wonderful wife but she rarely comes now to Mass with me (she did when the children were growing up). I see my children as active and concerned in the world … well developed social and political antennae. But they have given up the practice of public worship now that they have grown up and left the house. I keep asking myself what is deficient in my witness. Maybe there is nothing but being more patient … try to model more Joseph and Mary's pattern of trust in God's promise … remembering to be realistic and reflective at the same time.
This is the 15th week. Jesus is born in the stable. The picture seems so nice. Would Jesus have been born into such a nice picture today? Today's stable would probably have been as rough as it was 2000 years ago, but Mary would have been there to love Him. Who is this Jesus? Again I see the Father wrapped up in the birth of Jesus. It was the Father who wanted to send His son. What father would not be there loving his son? I see fathers with their newborns coming to church. They spend most of their time staring at their babies. They sit and stare. Was the Father there in the stable too, staring at Jesus? Maybe even greatfull for Mary's part? Today I heard the Gloria..we said: Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father.....Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God....Are they the same Lord God? This baby is Lord God!
greetings to all of you from Nell on the Tweed. its been a strange week for me and i didnt expect the images to come as they did. what happened to me was that i could feel the stable. i live in a very small cottage which i rent from some lovely people. i have had some real ' no room at the inn" times in my life and recent years have seen me homeless and without possessions. then one day i was blessed enough to be led to this beautiful wee cottage on a fine hill. my little grandaughter said " you can see everything god can see. the whole world. " then we had some wonderful times over the last year with a new baby and my son thriving after some rough times. and then in april they decided to move about 7 hours away to the mountain city where his father lives. im writing all this because i have battled to decide what im going to do and how i will handle life here in ths valley with them gone. and i still dont know. i have been desolate and then hopeful and all manner of things.
now as the week 15 went on - i felt much as i did when our little baby was born. and all the love and joy amidst the battle we have as a family on welfare. there has been so much love and delight in our lives over the last few years with many wonderful things happening. . But - as i imaged the stable - i reached a vision of the little family going to egypt but i was left behind. and i sat in a corner with my cloak over my head . desolate and bereaved. my own cottage seemed like the stable and was all messed up and grubby. and i lacked the wherewithal to do anything about it. then it came to me that i were left behind as an elderwoman to clean the stable up. to make it into a special place and to be there to tell anyone who came that the baby had been born. that i was left behind to bear witness and i brightened up and cleaned up my own home. began to cherish the memories and the love . i dont know what god is asking of me next but i can at this time - keep the stable clean , know how deeply i am loved. know that i have a different role than i did as a young woman. be here if people come . that the poor and the ill of us are loved and precious. jesus came as one of us and doesnt look down on us. not as we wrinkle up , not when we seem to be the failures of this world. it is ok. he doesnt look down on us when we dont have enough food for the week and struggle to cover the rent. he smiles and gives me the love of my children and the rich variety of people i have in my life. so for now. i stay here. i cant seem to write this more succintly or clearly but it has been a great comfort to me . i know i am meant to have a human experience just as jesus did. in all its dimensions and this for now is my season .i sit on the back steps of our meetings place with my people in recovery and i am just fine. i have seen the baby smile with the wisdom from before time. and hes smiling at me .
I started this before Christmas and now it is January 5th. So much going on in my own “stable”…moving my Mom, who is in early to middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, to our home. She does not understand that the “overnight Christmas Eve stay” is really the final move from her own home. It has been a good transition, so far, but I cry that the easiness of it is because she can no longer remember the simplest things and she speaks to me as if I am her Mother and she is my child. As I was sitting in the stable with Mary, Joseph and Jesus, I offered to hold Him and stay up the rest of the night so they could rest. It was so peaceful, holding Him and kissing His sweet baby cheeks. Giving them this respite reminded me of how, when my children were babies, my own Mom would do this very thing for me. I sometimes wonder if Mary had to take care of her Mother in this way. Like Mary, I treasured all these things in my heart, but because of this new situation in my home and my tiredness, I fell asleep in the stable more times than I’d like to admit. The other morning, my Mom arose a little later than usual and I had time to tell Jesus how sorry I was for that. He held me and told me He understood and I believed He did.
-- June
Imagining the birth of Christ proved difficult for me. Having been in a delivery room four times, it seems impossible to reconcile the messy miracle I witnessed there with the miracle that St. Francis described as “light passing through a stained glass window” (thus preserving Mary’s virginity). However Christ was born, it is too mysterious for me to imagine, for me to be present. So instead, the image that was offered to me was that of an innkeeper who turns Mary and Joseph away. I am that innkeeper and they are at my door, Mary seated on an ass, uncomfortable but resigned. She is, without compare, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. It’s kind of hard to listen to Joseph, she is so dazzling. I cannot take my eyes off of her. I know that he is asking for a room, as hundreds of others have, and my response to him is automatic by now: “No room.” I am not resourceful enough to think of offering them the stable. The smell and confusion of the lodgers literally tripping over each other behind me distracts me from Joseph’s response, until I hear the word, “Adonai”—then I realize that, instead of cursing me as so many people at my door have, he has offered a traditional Jewish blessing. At that word, I notice his eyes: deep brown, young, filling with tears in his fear and confusion. He turns and leads Mary away and I watch them go, wondering, until they are out of sight. Then I shut the door and do not answer it again.In the next few days, I hear of the shepherds’ visit to the stable, and their reports of the heavenly host appearing above the fields outside of town. I cannot get Mary and Joseph off of my mind. Scripture (Matthew 2:11) tells us that by the time the three wise men found Jesus, the Holy Family was living in a house. As an innkeeper, my duties very often prevent me from leaving my house. However, on one day I am walking neither to market nor temple; I am not really sure why I am in this part of town on this sunny day. Perhaps the census is over and for the first time in weeks, my inn is empty for a moment. Perhaps this is the same few poor houses where I grew up, before I shrewdly earned enough to buy my poor inn. The sun is bright today. This date palm I remember with fondness. Then I see her at a doorway. She is turning to go inside and she sees me, sees me staring and quickly I lower my eyes. “Sir? Do you need a drink?” I am astonished by her confidence; to speak to me, a stranger! But she is like a child as she steps inside and returns before I can even reply, a small wooden bowl of water in her hand. She is standing in her doorway with that bowl and I am in the dust of the street. I am embarrassed by her offer, by her beauty, by my own age and ugliness. I notice the smell of my sweat and the heat of the day, hotter in the face of her lintel’s shade and her bowl of water. She extends the bowl a little more toward me and sunlight strikes the rocking surface of the water, but not a drop spills. I step. She smiles. I feel like she is taming me, like the cats I offer scraps in the alley. I hang my head, conquered, and close the distance to her bowl. I empty it, breathing the fragrance of her youth. I hand her the bowl and she is looking at me with indescribable tenderness. Her incomparable eyes! Immodestly, I steal a glance through the door. A boy, his bare skin the color of the earthen floor, sleeps on a reed mat. After all I have heard, he appears to be just another poor child. She smiles at my seeing. I bow my head in gratitude and scuttle away.For the rest of my life, I keep my eyes open for this marvelous woman and her ordinary-seeming child, but soon, I hear, they have left town. I wander down that way again and, sure enough, that house had different tenants—ugly cries filled the air, the kind I would more expect here among the poor, the kind I remember well. Though I never see them again, though I turned them away, I feel, oddly, that they came for me. Their love penetrated me. When I bathe my feet, my feet remind me of the baby’s feet—as if they were mine, as if HE were mine. I laugh at myself. But I kept these things, reflecting on them in my heart.Tom, Pennsylvania
I am thankful for the shepherds and wise persons in my life who have brought me to the stable where the significance is clear: God is alive in all the messiness around us ... in our own lives and in the world at large. At our family Christmas gathering the center attraction was my 3 week old great-nephew. We all took turns passing him around and so imagining the real baby Jesus was not hard. I also got to thinking about my sons (now grown up) when they were babies. I think at the very earliest stages I could sense something that was each one's unique essence (despite how everyone tries to tell you how much they look like you). I actually cannot name that essence but I can feel it. I think that this is what happens in the encounters at the manger. I imagined the shepherds as some of the real poor I have encountered in out-reach ministries. I am reminded that often they have been the most grace filled people ... sometimes caring a lot more about me than I deserved. I can see them naming the essence of Jesus. I sense their transformation ... as Luke recounts they tell everyone what they found. Simeon also sees the essence and can name it. I think it is also significant that Jesus' essence is named not by Mary and Joseph... they are faithful to naming Jesus as they had learned from the angel's proclamation. God chooses unusual messengers for all of our lives. Mary and Joseph are witnesses as to how to respond. Mary reflects and Joseph is willing to take action even if it is personally hard to do so.This week I also found one of light and darkness. I enjoyed deepening my reflection ... particularly seeing Mary in a fuller, more human terms and not the flatness of the Madonna portraits. Of course, it was also great being with my family at Christmas.Then the darker spots ... I got also to thinking about how neither of my sons seems too interested in the Church or spiritual life. Have I been an inadequate witness?I also got more anxious about going back to work this week, which is somewhat irrational ... I have a meeting this week which I would rather avoid as well as feeling there is a too much I need to be doing. Then I realized that this was what the season is really about. I need to face up to the dark spots in my life but give them over to God because the reality of the Incarnation is that's precisely where Jesus is born ... not in the pleasant places in our lives but in the uncomfortable places sometimes in the midst of serious conflict.
When I started this retreat, I had no idea that weeks 15 & 15a would be right in the middle of Advent. Oh, how it helped me to prepare for the birth of Our Savior in a way I have never done before. I know that God was guiding me to this revelation and I thank Him for the understanding of Christmas that I received.

God Bless you all,
i just began week 15. its christmas day, and most of my family is together to go to mass. one of my sons is a recovering alcoholic who has stopped going to meetings, and although not raging in his addiction, still drinks and exhibits many addictive attitudes. to his credit, he also has a steady and good job, lives on his own, and tries his hardest to do the right thing. but there is still much between us that triggers resentment.

today he came for mass dressed in old jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt that looked like he slept in it, and a couple days growth of beard. i sort of busted his chops about it because he can never seem to get himself together to be presentable like an adult (he's 23) but always seems to have money for stupid stuff. this has been a source of tension between us and a reminder of times when things were totally out of control. in any case, he was really hurt by my chiding...and he said something hurtful to me later. even though we got past it ,it lingered with me the whole day. ours is a family that has endured much lately...addiction and recovery, abuse, separation., infidelity, so the tension was high to begin with, as everyone hoped we could "do it right".

my wife and i talked later, and she said "how must he feel about himself if he lets himself go like that?" i realized that he must be feeling pretty bad about himself. then i read the letter of paul from the readings for the day after christmas, where he says that sons should honor their fathers, but that fathers should not provoke their children, lest they become discouraged. it struck me that i had it all wrong. no requirement of a dress code existed at bethlehem. the circumstances were humble. christ's life was then spent among the thieves, tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers, the ones who were hurting or unbelievers. he didnt chide them because of how they looked or smelled or acted. he invited them in to his kingdom. he healed them. that ticked off a lot of folks who thought things should be different.

years earlier, at a mass at a rehab center where my sons had been, a visitor commented that the mass was a disgrace, because the sharing was often raw and uncensored. i responded "who should really be in church...those who are believers, or those who need to be ?" i found it entirely appropriate that addicts could express themselves frankly to god in crying out for his aid. i doubted that a merciful god would be offended half as much as uptight "believers". i understood at that moment, but flashing forward to this christmas, it's obvious i forgot completely and became just like the fellow who complained.

i realized today that my son had become my teacher...he reminded me that what was really important was that he chose to be there, with his family, to share with us, even if his faith is challenged or his resources few. everything else was unimportant. i now feel silly and a bit ashamed about my self serving complaints, but blessed that i learned the lesson i needed to learn. my son showed up...he was with me and his family. that was a gift, a gift i overlooked because of the packaging., and because of my own thick-headedness and expectations of what "ought to be".

isnt that exactly how the world missed the gift of jesus?
I am starting the 15th week of retreatI.  I am a little afraid of my human ineptness.   But I want so to experience what I suddenly experiened during my prayer after communion twice last week.  My own thoughts were suddenly and completely interrupted by an intense,  powerful, and very warm presence.  I had to struggle to let go.
Using my imagination to contemplate the birth of Jesus and the events that surrounded it during week fifteen was not as easy as it initially seemed it should be.  This was partly because I would stop and wonder if what I was picturing would be accurate to the time and place when the events occurred.  However, I did pray before I began and did let my imagination work to create the scenes.  The most special grace would have to be that of imagining holding Mary's hand while she was giving birth.  At one point I was just focused on her hand in mine without seeing her, Joseph, or the coming baby.  It was strangely special.  It was a human moment.  A moment that became more special as I contemplated it later.  It was a connection on a human level between two people.  As I am writing now and thinking it seems as though at that point in my imagination it was her wanting my support as she went through the human process of giving birth.  But in reality, it is probably more me needing her support as I seek to live my human life in concert with her Son.
I was reading through the section "in these or similar words" and was suddenly struck by this thought: the writer of this section was praying and thinking with the traditional understandings about Jesus' "humble" birth. Jesus was born in a stable, smelly, cold, rough. As the song goes, "the little Lord, Jesus, no crib for his bed." We usually think of Jesus' birth in this way-Jesus came to poor humble people as a sign that he would be savior to those in need. He came into poverty.

But, here's what occurred to me-the baby, Jesus, was born with everything he needed! He had loving parents who warmed him with their love; He had Mary and her breast and her mother's milk. It's our perspective that more comfortable surroundings would make a difference. A palace without love is a cold scary place, but a rough stable filled with love had everything that the baby needed.
If we can agree that love is the meaning of life, then Jesus was born with everything he needed. Maybe he was born this way to show us this truth. Where there is love we have everything we need too. When we love God and each other we are that loving place filled with everything God needs to be with us. Despite our faults, our weakness, our sinfulness, when we have love God has everything God needs to work in and through us. Jesus' birth wasn't humble, it was glorious because of love! Week 15
It is difficult for me to "get into" the family scenes to better understand those that were early influences on Jesus.  I have had too much; I have doubted too much.  However, I am trying each day to enter into and become a part of this blessed family's circle.  I cannot imagine that Week 15 will only last seven days for me.  Each day I walk with a good friend, and I am turning the part of the journey when I am alone into that long and arduous walk to Bethlehem.  I am calming the donkey that carries Mary; I am touching her hands; I am feeling the back pain that must attend her pregnancy and the jolting of the donkey's footsteps; I am walking beside Joseph, worrying about the consequences of this trip at such a time.  Beloved God, allow me to feel some of the pain, the anxiety, and the fear of this journey.  At the same time let me taste some of the joyful anticipation that must also be there.
Reflecting on the nativity, I sense the magnificence of being part of a family with children. It is the vocation of Mary and Joseph. And for the first time, I noticed that the nativity involves the only instance in my recollection of scripture where an unnamed, average person sees and speaks with an angel. This happens with the shepherds. It seems relevant that this event occurs with the birth of Christ. With the coming of Christ into our lives, it is like we are visited by a angel who brings us an unbelievable message that seems to go unnoticed in history and to most of those around us.  Lord, let me know your presence through your angels. I wait in the fields of my labor, just an average person doing an average job. Be born unto me again. Week 15
At the beginning of the week, I found myself having trouble entering the scenes of Jesus birth and infancy. Today, during my hour of adoration and with the help of the “In these or similar words” section (Thank you, whoever wrote those words), I held the babe in my arms. I smelled the manure and the urine in the hay, and even imagined burping the infant Jesus after Mary fed him (I could almost feel Him spitting up just a little). As I knelt there in this scene, it occurred to me that if one focuses on the filth of the barn-like surroundings one misses the beauty of the gift that is present. In a similar way, if one focuses on all the ‘evil’ in the world, one misses the beauty of life. It was for me a moment of awakening. Again, thank you to whoever wrote the beautiful ‘words’ section for this week. It truly opened a door for me. 

Thank you very  much for all the special on-line helps around Christmas. I loved week 15 and 15A - I guess it is because I love Christmas.  I followed your prodding "to find a bit of straw in the stable and to sit." As I tried to be unobtrusive and quiet I was astonished at the beauty of Mary as she cradled her baby.  She signed to me that I could hold him.  I did and gazed into those unseeing eyes - but were they really unseeing like other babies of a few days?  I was not sure.  I felt the warmth of his tiny body  permeate me as he waved his little arms and wriggled against me.  He was so like other babies and yet he wasn't - I wanted to protect him and yet he was protecting me and at the same time reaching out to the whole world.  I stayed a long time in the stable...and have visited often...and been gifted beyond measure.

I have been so wrapped up with myself, my husband, and our families that it seems that there has not been time to get to my retreat material.  I just printed the most necessary parts to see what I have been missing.  I stopped reading during my Week 15.  While I can justify doing this: perhaps I am grieving the attachment of losing my husband, who is gravely ill (I have him at home and I am the sole caregiver), my grandson who went to court this past week to plead guilty for drunken driving in which three of his friends were killed (all were drunk) (he has not been sentenced yet) but it doesn't sound good.  My grandson is only 30 years old with lots of potential.  I am sure God will see that that potential is realized.  But the pain of it all is almost more than I can see for myself.  I really am not looking for material riches and I thought I have been trying to find the spiritual poverty in my life, but during these past weeks it has been hard to find much peace.  Last Sunday is the first Sunday I have been able to attend Mass.  A caregiver helper which I met by accident at the WalMart asked me what I needed. I needed someone to relieve me of some of my duties and she suggested coming on Sunday morning so that I could go to Mass.  A miracle for this to happen.  Father Mancini came and gave John the last rites within minutes when I though he was dying last week. Another miracle.  Other Holy Spirit things happening that same afternoon.  It would take pages to describe it all.  Only until tonight when I was guided to my computer which has not been on all of that time.  I have been praying but how much I have needed the guidance of this retreat to help me.  It would be good if I could have someone to discuss some of the things with, but I guess God want just me and Him to figure it all out.  Sometimes I see myself as being too old to have much life left after He takes my husband but I guessed tonight that that has been corrected very gently by Him.  The first response of the Outline for Week 18, I am guilty; The second response, I have been guilty for many years, always justifying what I want and translating it to what "I know" God wants.  My desire is becoming purer.  I can recognize a little of what He is doing.  I only want what will be of greater service to God.  Perhaps peace will come as my husband still clamors to hang on to life.  I pray that God would take him peacefully.  I have only been married to him for 11 years yesterday and today during the Week 16 Online introduction I wished I had all the answers to my John that the writer was asking asking questions on what do we know about Jesus.  I am so sorry for my failures.  Thanks for your internet intercessions on behalf of all of us who need to know ourselves better only as we can know Jesus better.  God Bless. 
What a refreshing study this week (15) is turning out to be.  During the actual Christmas season, life is too complicated and rushed to really meditate on the birth of Christ as this week suggests we do. The Christ is delighted to have me come and visit His birthplace, His mother and Joseph and all the rest of the characters so real and beloved. God continues to enrich our spirits with new ideas.  Thank you for your contribution with this retreat to this senior citizen's spiritual growth.

Week 15 and focusing  in on Jesus'  "hidden years."  I mean, what did He do for 18 years-12 to 30?  What did I do?  I grew up.  He did too.  My father divorced my mother when I was 14 and it was devestating.  Did Joseph pass when Jesus was about 14 and did He say to Himself, "I'll have to be the man of the family and take care of Mother."  Did He spend His time carpentering and studying?  He was growing, learning, loving and did His duty to His mother until it was His Time to show His Light to those outside His immediate family.  Jesus at 14 is much to ponder.  Don't you know He had a great smile!

During the past year, I have struggled mightily with my mental health.  I was involved in what proved to be a disastrous romantic relationship.  There is an ugly and deep-seated hostility festering between a once close family member and me.  I am wondering just where I can wedge a light for the Christ Child in my tattered and frantic heart.  After much prayer and soul searching, I know now that I do not have to be the perfect receptacle as I await the coming of our Emmanuel.  I need only hollow out a small place of watchfulness and anticipation and peace. Mary and Joseph could not have fully understood the bone-deep changes their newborn would bring to their lives.  During this holy time in the dark of December, may I give birth to an unexpected me.

Gracious God, most loving, generous One -- thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus, whom you gave to us so that we might begin to understand how beloved we are.  As a mother, and a grandmother, I have often pondered this gift.  Today, I realize that in giving us Jesus, you give us yourself -- your very self.  We can never really understand this.  We can only bow with wonder and humble gratitude.  Our only response can be to give back  what you have given us -- Love -- and to do so to each one we encounter, as best we can, murmuring our prayers as we go.  Thank you, Holy One.

Thank you for the deep communion I feel with my Catholic brothers and sisters.  I am a protestant pastor and have been so nurtured and nourished by this retreat.   Christ is so very Large, and yet as tiny as a new born.   God Bless and Thank you!

Week 15 and getting into  and being with the relatives of Jesus-Uncle Zechy and Aunt Lizzy we'd say down South.  Last night in our parish we celebrated a Mass for the unborn and said a rosary prior to Mass.  I live in the Baptist bible belt and I sometimes joke with my Baptist friends, "You don't like Mary?"  The rosary sounds like it's all about Mary when really it's all about her Boy-the focus is on Him.  How can we get to know somebody unless we know his kinfolks?  I had not said the rosary for several months and had forgotten the special "calming" graces of all those Hail Marys.  At times last night I would just sit and listen to the soothing hum of my fellow parishioners, "Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for..."  Last night I awoke and felt that same calmness and serenity as I drifted back to delicious sleep.  "Forgive us our tresspass as we forgive..."  just will calm your soul my dear brothers and sisters.  The Saints are smiling at us - can you see 'em?

Week 15a

Week 15a: I have slowed and been distracted from my initial starting of this retreat by life events, retire from 40 yr job, seeking income to supplement, visit by in-laws, finding employment and starting that job. In this time I know that God and Jesus have been very active in my life. It occurred to be today that I am like a person who has been visiting at someone's house, Jesus'. I have been there long enough and often enough that the family asks me to do a few chores or tasks around the place and stay for dinner and go to a movie or bowling with them. So I do and discover there is so much more care, love and welcome than I ever imagined. Jesus' Family welcomes me and wants me to be around and be a part of their family activity as a friend and close member of family. I now have a relationship that is permanent and life altering. Having sought forgiveness and been exposed to my sinful ways and observed my role in the things of my life and the loving helping hand of Jesus in my life, even as I did not notice it reaching out until it had lifted my up from the ground and dusted me off again. I need this week to regroup and appreciate the gift of it to deepen the awareness of His care for me and my family. Peace
Week 15a I was struck by the encouragement to let go of the externals and just be with people. That is not easy for me, having been brought up in a home where appearance was extremely important. But I will try. I am also moved by Nell on the Tweed’s sharing; she talked about Jesus being with us as we wrinkle up and grapple with the factors of our daily existence.I am searching for an outlet for the creative spirit within me. I believe God is working through this discovery process, but the future is very foggy right now. I know the sun will soon come out and burn away that fog so I can see the radiant beauty of God’s plan for me.
-- Lori

Week 15a: I liked the opportunity to stop and reflect. Going back to work after the holiday it was hard to keep in mind the scenes of Christmas. But maybe that was the point: I revisit the theme of promise … God's promise comes alive in a humble environment and certainly not in splendid circumstances. So I pause to give thanks … to consider that like the Magi I might offer my gifts and trust that the life embodied in that promise will grow and continue to contribute and like Mary and Joseph to spend time in thankful reflection.
Imagining the Details of Jesus’ Birth. Week 15a. Not easy to get into the scene, because the images have become so set over the years in the culture and mindset. They have become somewhat static, but the story itself never ceases to communicate truth. The shepherds, the wise men, the stable birth, no room at the inn. The flight into Egypt. Many scholars tell us there are embellishments in this story. Do these add or subtract? Also for me the fundamental issue of Mary’s “innocence.” If Christ is human, he must have had a father, yet we have the mystery of the virgin birth. Do I really believe this? And if so, how can Joseph go along with this? Enter the angel. Enter the dream. The story is full of meaning on many levels. Even if parts of the story seem far fetched, it is part of our cultural tradition and Christian folklore. Yet the historical Jesus did exist as man and there was a birth. So entering into the scenes is a personal challenge for me. I am exploring the historical versus the mystical Jesus. My renewed faith pulls me toward the mystical. My sense of truth accepts the embellishments though unreal, as expressing a deeper truth. I must enter the scene as a real, extremely flawed person, subject to the same tempest of faith, factuality, reason and doubt. Where do I fit in among this world of images, stories? What character am I in the journey into the birth process? I am reminded of my own saying. Humility before the truth is needed to work with the truth. I discussed this contemplative prayer technique with other friends in a weekly prayer breakfast. Some people asked “What is the point?” Others thought this was an extremely useful form of mediation and exploration. Others talked in general terms about the meaning of Christmas and its importance. One special friend talked about the importance of “intention,” for example, by comparing the wise men’s purpose to Herod’s, who had cynical motives and a selfish, tyrannical interest in the outcome. The wise men have yet another dream and they return home without advising Herod. We are with the wise men in our desire to follow the star. And the importance of poverty. We are with shepherds in solidarity and humility. So the interwoven images of the poor child and redeemer king draw me in but make it difficult to come close. Am I a wise man or a shepherd? Do I follow dreams and angels? For me Christmas is full of symbolism and happy family memories. I am drawn to my father and my grandfather, one aging the other a distant memory from my childhood. I love to be with my sons during this time. I pledge to share my faith in meaningful ways and not lay any heavy judgment or guilt trip on anyone in the family who may not embrace or see the same meaning. My life however, draws me toward the circumstances of my own marriage and the parallels with Joseph. My entry point into the story is therefore as Joseph’s close friend. I compare my life with his predicament. When I am cynical, I am saying to Joseph not to marry her. But I myself did marry my sweetheart when I was young and so I change my mind and tell Joseph to go ahead, to believe his dream. We were outcasts, our families looked askance, be we remained a team, two people in love, a couple struggling to acquire some basic things - and it all culminated in a humble birth for our dear son. St. Elizabeth’s hospital did make room for us with their free care program. We did thrive as a simple family unit in the following years. I am the one who put all of this in danger with my egotism and pursuit of selfish desires. It is time to heal and make whole. I have faith and trust for everyone in my family and there is no need to put any divisions into our tight little family unit. We need to treasure these bonds and nurture them. And extend them some day as individuals and community members when we are ready. Multiply our love with others. So I am Joseph’s friend, maybe brother or uncle, and I can say, put your trust in the Lord and even in man. Follow your dreams. If someone lets you down, stand up and try again. The Lord will never let you down. Don’t let selfishness or cynicism stop you from reaching your better self. There, in the humility of the stable, you will find and hold Him.
I’m on week 15a of this great adventure. To anybody looking in at my life nothing has changed, yet I know everything has changed forever. The last 5 weeks have moved me profoundly. Initially I found it difficult to say yes because of the implication namely accepting God’s Presence in my life. I’m also beginning to appreciate that God is present in everything. I feel so privileged to be given the opportunity to meet and fall in love with Jesus and through him the Almighty. Country of origin’ language, culture seems less important than Trust hope faith as we are all connected by LoveDivine inspiration has obviously been the bedrock of this site I’m very grateful for thisBest wishes,Ger, Dublin Ireland
The special grace I came back to this week was the grace of silence … not trying to talk my way through my uncertainties but letting them rest with God as modeled by Zechariah. The central piece of my imagination being present in the stable revolves around the conversation with Joseph and Mary when Joseph tells me that they have decided to move forward to Egypt. I have just been holding the baby Jesus and even though the stable can be cold, smelly and murky I like being here. Joseph tells me that they will be packing up soon and moving to Egypt. I have a hard time taking this in. I look at the baby and wonder how anyone could harm a life-form that seems to bring so much happiness at all levels – the very poorest and the rich and wise foreigners. I want to continue to hold Him. Joseph tells me it will be fine. I’m welcome to journey with them. “To Egypt?”, I ask. Joseph reminds me that his namesake in history lived there not because that was where he wanted to go but where he found himself and demonstrated how openness to where we are now can be done in faithfulness and hope and demonstrates how God can be active in our lives. Mary now is cuddling the baby and reinforces Joseph’s invitation. She reminds me that all one has to do is to have faith in God. I see that this is real for me. I began the week not wanting to go back to work. I wanted to remain at least in the stable. “After all this is still the Christmas season, why do I have to deal with either mundane issues or issues where there is no simple solution?”, I tell myself. But this is where I am. I may well already be in my Egypt. I certainly want now to travel with the same faith as Mary and Joseph and to nurture Jesus I any place I find myself.Thank you for the opportunity to journey with you on this retreat.
I started this retreat to help me through a divorce and the changes in my life. From the beginning I have chosen to look at the miracles that have blessed me during this difficult time. As I looked at the divorce papers I found on the kitchen table after getting home from work – At the bottom I envisioned they were signed “love, Jesus”. I have trusted that this is where I am meant to be at this time in my life. At times of loneliness or sadness I literally have raised my right hand and taken hold of the Lord’s hand and felt his support. My friends, church and family have all been an overwhelming support to me and I count my blessings daily for this experience that has filled me with so much love as humbling as it is. This week has brought all these things together – the baby Jesus grasping a finger as I have reached for God’s hand so often the past 10 months; finding such peace in the humility of my new surroundings like the Holy Family in the stable; and the last line of “In these or similar words” it says “Thank you for coming to me, to all of us, as we are in our own stables, standing in the darkness, wondering what comes next.” Everyday I have wondered what will come next and each day it has been something wonderful or wonderfully challenging to immerse me even more completely into this new, deeper commitment to Jesus.
As I read this week, I could not help think of the many times when I have left Jesus standing outside of my stable of life, saying Jesus wait until I finish this task or another task, then I take time for you. Each week I am becoming more aware of the love of Jesus for me, the many graces I have received and a deeper desire to do the work of God. May God forgive me for the times, when for some menial task, I have left Jesus waiting.
week 15a: I haven't shared for a few weeks, I feel very disconected from the retreat. I did have very strong feelings reading the "helps" this week.
Part of my problem is same old stuff, I didn;t feel as I was "good enough" to be with the Baby Jesus and his family in the stable. Still very sad over that. Will continue to move forward. I would like to share I felt just a hint of closeness to Jesus as I recieved Holy Comumion this past week. First time ever in my life. Thank you Jesus.
Looking back over the weeks of retreat, especially the last six weeks I pondered the questions that this week asked...""How much more do we understand who he is? How is our love growing?" Last week I was very much apart of the nativity scene. As a child I viewed this as the coziest scene in the world. There was a mother, a father and animals all aglow looking down lovingly at Baby Jesus. The love I felt for Baby Jesus was the love my mother and father reflected onto me. Next I reflected on the years of being a mother of small children and seeing the baby Jesus through the eyes of Mary and Joseph because I knew how much love my husband and I have for our children. These were touching scenes of love and warmth.Something interesting happened this week as I entered the scene along with the three wise men. I felt for the baby Jesus and all he would have to go through in this life. His crib became the cross and I felt such a sense of disappointment for all of the suffering Jesus entered into and for all the painful circumstances.God chose to put His Son in poverty to suffer, to be misunderstood, to serve and encourage. I find myself disappointed like the other Jews who wanted a savior more like Cesaer or Superman. I realize for the nativity scene to not be a disappointment for me at this present time a shift in vision is needed which requires greater trust and faith. For this fruit, I am grateful.
Week 15a. This week serves as a review for the the past weeks. Several thoughts came and went. God's love for me that Jesus, son of God, was born to save me. Mary's faith in accepting the mission.

This morning, a very strong feeling came. My anger towards my mother was so great. My reason told me that I did not not want to be troubled with my old memory but in reality I still feel the anger inside me. I think that's where I need to ask for God's help and grace. I need God's salvation in this area. Lord, have mercy on me.
The main grace that I believe I received in the review of Week 15a was to look back over all of my past sharings.  I am trying to share at the end of each week so this was a nice review of the last fifteen weeks of my journey.  There were many special graces that the Lord has blessed me with.  In our fast-paced multi-tasked world, it is easy to let some special moments slip into the background when they could bear much more fruit in the foreground of life.  This week enabled me to pull from the background some of those special moments of grace that have occurred in the last fifteen weeks.  It was nice!
I am grateful for this time to reflect back on the graces I  have received and to revisit areas that I need to delve a little deeper. Thank you for building this into the retreat.  This has been a rough week, many challenges, the in between time has been sparse.  During  a lunch break this week, I asked a mother who brings her young infant into my work almost every day, if  I could hold the baby.  She allowed me to, and there I was in the quiet of the room.  I sat quietly with the infant and kept thinking how Jesus became so vulnerable as a baby.   How  can I even grasp this?  God becoming so small, for us.  I feel small at times, weak, and when I looked at this infant  I  realized what a gift it is to be small and dependent on the One who made us. (Week 15A)
What a relief to have a week of review.  I have been keeping an online journal in bits and pieces throughout this retreat, but the further I get into the retreat the less time it seems that I have to write down my thoughts and feelings. Perhaps there is an element of fear there.  If I write down my reflections, that makes them more real in one sense.  Thoughts running around inside my head can be as wild as I like, but words on paper - or even on a screen - seem to acquire some weight which makes them more significant.
As I review the graces so far, I have to admit that I have come farther on the road to Jesus than I could ever have imagined by such a seemingly simple method as an online retreat.  And I am grateful that the journey continues and keeps going.  For while God might be an odd travel director by conventional standards, I find myself wanting nothing more than to continue this journey. Week 15a.
I wondered last week whether I was supposed to do weeks 15 and 15a at the same time, but decided to go the long way and do them separately (without looking ahead, that is). It is good that I did, for two reasons. First, it is clear that they are meant to be done one at a time, and second, I needed this time to look back over the first 15 weeks. The pictures helped, but what really did it for me was reading the sharing notes for those weeks. Some were recognizable as my own, but all brought back the images of the weeks. All also helped me see my progress. It amazes me to realize how much more at peace I am with myself and with Jesus. I have been praying all along for the grace of perseverance to finish all 34 weeks of this retreat, and now feel energized to continue and to stick with it. Lord, help me, I cannot do it without You. And thank You for the blessings You have bestowed on me.

For a couple of weeks my retreat stayed the 15th-a week. Just remained there and savored what I have received last weeks as the help said. And this week's retreat lead me to the deep contemplation. Especially I often contemplated the meaning of Jesus' poverty. I tried to find His coming into the poverty of my lives. As the time passed, My everyday's lives seem to make more connection with the graces that I have received through the journey.

Day 215 (review week - 15a)  I have been visiting Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the stable at Bethlehem. I have sat in awe of this Infant, a sign of God’s Love, (as all infants are, or should be), and thought of His life, together with Mary and Joseph. I tried not to think in terms of His Godliness (and their Saintliness), but rather of their humanity. I saw in Jesus a human being, who gradually came to know who He truly was, and His destiny. I saw in Mary and Joseph loving parents who surrendered themselves to the Holy Spirit, although they too were not sure of where It would lead them. I saw the Holy Spirit revealing to them what their lives were all about as day followed day, as event followed event, until that Last Day, when Jesus was crucified. "After this, aware that everything was finished, and in order that the scripture might be fulfilled", Jesus said, "I thirst". I thought of the moments just before His death, when he gave his mother Mary to his disciple John as her son, and to John, his mother Mary. I saw in this act Jesus’ love and concern for Mary. The future of a childless widow was not very promising in those times, and so Jesus, as his last act, ensured the safety of Mary, as he placed her in the care of John. Having followed the human Jesus from his birth to his death, I will, like his disciples, now glory in His resurrection, and adore and worship Him as God, the Second Person in the Blessed Trinity. I’m not sure if my thoughts are theologically correct, and hope they offend no one. It’s just my way of trying to understand, and distinguish the two natures of Jesus, and what it means to be "fully human" and "fully divine". 

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