Are we ready to receive Him? Before the birth of Jesus, his parents asked for a simple dwelling place, but there was
none. If Mary and Joseph were looking for a home for Jesus, would they choose … your heart, and all it holds?
Let us pray that we shall be able to welcome Jesus at Christmas not in the cold manger of a selfish heart, but in a heart
full of love, compassion, joy and peace, a heart warm with love for one another.
– Mother Teresa of Calcutta
In September of 2016, the Church joyfully welcomed a newly canonized saint, St. Teresa of Calcutta. I see it as no
accident that this was also the start of my first year teaching at St. Benedict Elementary. I found myself continually
drawn to the example of this remarkable woman. The joy and simplicity of her words helped me to appreciate the
joyful simplicity of children. Witnessing the spiritual imagination and trusting abandon of my students reminds me to
be joyful and childlike myself, to be “a small pencil in God’s hand.”
As we enter the season of Advent, the words of St. Teresa are especially edifying. The spirit of hushed anticipation is
what I find most beautiful about the Advent season, but it is easily drowned out by focusing too much on the material
aspects of preparing for Christmas. When walking through the doors of St. Benedict’s, however, one is greeted with a
very different atmosphere. Rather than twinkle lights and tinsel, you’ll find Advent candles, countless images of the
Holy Family, and children’s voices singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel. One is reminded that Advent is indeed a time
of penance and preparation and that He hasn’t come yet!
The first grade class observes an Advent tradition in common with many Catholic households with young children. In
one corner of the classroom, we have a small manger and a bowl of hay beside it. When a child performs an act of
charity or sacrifice, he may add a piece of hay to warm the manger for the Baby Jesus. The words of St. Mother Teresa,
Do small things with great love, and most especially her quote mentioned above help all of us regard our hearts as the
manger being prepared for the Love of Christ Incarnate. Children have an extraordinary ability to give of themselves
because, in their helplessness, they must accept everything they have as a gift. I am reminded to live that same spirit of
child-like generosity when I listen to my students sing this poem by Christina Rossetti:
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.
Author: Julia Hieronymus, Grade 1 Teacher