Room Available: LAMP Christmas

Franciscan Sisters TOR Works Mercy

Works of Mercy: Instructing the Ignorant

It seems like just yesterday I was writing about last year’s Christmas LAMP (our breakfast catechetical soup kitchen).

One year later things haven’t changed too much.

We fed many hungry bellies and hearts, it was complete chaos, and Jesus showed up in the midst of our mess.

I wasn’t assigned to anything specific this year so I knew that I would have to just be available for whatever I was asked to do.  I also graciously volunteered to be the official baby holder. 

One of the biggest sacrifices we make as religious women is giving up having our own children.

As a novice, I am learning how incredibly fruitful the Lord can make our yes, when we surrender ourselves totally to Him.  I have been learning the reality of spiritual motherhood and learning to trust that He will fulfill my womanly vocation of being a mother.

After asking the Lord to show me this I ended up cleaning pee off the floor… be careful what you pray for…

Thanks to St. John Paul II, who popularized the term “feminine genius”, we know that it is a special gift of woman to “make room for the other.”  In her pep talk to the volunteers Sr. Agnes Therese shared this quote from Catherine Doherty, about being pregnant with God:

“it wasn’t Mary alone who was pregnant with Him.  It’s you and I who should be pregnant with Him…Eventually, this Christ whom we have accepted into the womb of our heart is going to become a Child.  And then He will grow and grow and grow – for God needs room! You see, having given birth to Him in faith, we must be ready for the next step: to become an Inn…if we allow Christ to grow in us, He, like the good Samaritan, is going to bring a lot of wounded people into the ‘inn’ of our heart.  In fact, knowing the size of our heart, and being able to enlarge it (if we let Him) He will make our pregnancy become a fantastic gift to the world! …And to do that, He needs our availability.  He needs our emptiness.” (from Donkey Bells)

Like Mary, we are meant to be mothers, bearing Christ to the world.

Yes, as spiritual mothers, we help form and save souls, but most importantly we carry and give birth to Christ.  Through the sacrifices that we make we are empty, available for Jesus.

How do we give birth to Him?  Through the works of mercy.  

During this year of mercy, Pope Francis is calling us to live mercy out concretely through doing the works of mercy.  This is an important part of our life as our community is particularly committed to the works of mercy, which flow from our prayer, spirituality, and charisms.  

In his “Letter to the Faithful” St. Francis exhorts us to “produce worthy fruits of penance.”  He also writes: “We are mothers [of Christ] when we carry Him in our heart and body through a holy activity which must shine as an example before others.”

The “fruits” of our penance are the works of mercy.  The fruit of our spiritual motherhood, lived out through the works of mercy, is Christ.

We’ll be highlighting a different work of mercy each month, sharing stories of how we live these out.  At LAMP the most obvious thing we are doing is feeding the hungry, which is probably the most basic work of mercy.  But, since LAMP is a catechetical soup kitchen we try to address both physical and spiritual needs, while providing a place to build community.

The spiritual work of mercy which LAMP most directly fulfills is instructing the ignorant.

At LAMP Christmas the catechesis takes the form of a skit. Normally we do a rendition of the Nativity story, but this year we took advantage of the fact that the Christmas party was on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  This Marian apparition took place during Advent and is especially appropriate because it is the only apparition in which Mary is pregnant.

So we took the chance to catechize the people, most of whom are non-Catholics, about Our Lady and her role in the conversion of millions of Mexicans.  

Whenever she appears, Mary always has a message - Our Lady of Guadalupe came to tell us that she is our compassionate, merciful mother who cares for us.  Most importantly, she bears Christ to us, who is our savior and redeemer.  And this basic message is what the people we serve are often ignorant of:

We have a God who loves us and came to dwell among us in order to redeem us.  

They are ignorant of the fact that they are children of God, with dignity and worth.  

It didn’t hurt that we were able to explain Marian devotion either – that it isn’t about her and she always leads us to Jesus.  The Lord knows how many discussions we have with people who think we “worship” her!

Really, the works of mercy are just the basic things that a mother does for her child– feed, clothe, shelter, comfort, teach.  As Catherine Doherty points out, we need to be empty to be mothers – women have an empty space in which a child can grow.

So, I went to LAMP without a specific job, with little to contribute and received children crying out for food, for love.  The little girl I spent most of the morning with was starving.  She clung to me, craving love and physical touch.

She doesn’t know me from the next sister, but I was available.  I didn’t have anywhere else to be, to do, so I was available to carry her, if only for a little while.  I made room for Christ and He brought this hungry little girl into the Inn of my heart.

-Sr. Magdala Marie Clarizio, novice

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