Dear Friends of Saint Ann’s Shrine,
For many people, Christmas is the most important feast of the year. It is not simply the tradition of family gatherings and gift giving. There is something very touching about the picture that St. Luke paints for us that we try to capture in our Christmas scenes each year. The idea of a young couple being refused hospitality, of a mother having to place her baby in a feeding trough for animals rather than being surrounded by family and friends cannot but touch our hearts.
What makes the story even more touching is that this is not any little baby, but God himself come to live among us. Each Christmas gives us the opportunity to appreciate more fully the meaning of this mystery of God’s love for his people. The gospel reading shows us Mary lost in silent awe and wonder at the great things God has done for his people. It also notes that the shepherds praised and glorified God when they saw Jesus in the manger. We should do the same.
There is much deeper symbolism in Luke’s account than most people recognize. The shepherds had been told to look for a baby wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger. That manger is mentioned three times in the Christmas story. Luke wants us to realize that this was the real sign to look for. After all, every baby was swaddled in those days; they were not put in feeding troughs. There is something deeply symbolic about the manger that Luke wants us to understand.
We are used to hearing that there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the “inn.” The New Jerusalem Bible translates this word much more literally as there being no room in the “living space” of Bethlehem. The word used here is used only one more time in Luke’s gospel. It is the “upper room” where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper. The hospitality and welcome that was denied Jesus in Bethlehem Jesus himself now offers to his disciples—and to all of us who can join together at Jesus’ table at Mass.
Jesus may have been laid in a place where animals are fed. Luke invites us to reflect that Jesus himself will one-day feed all of us with his own flesh and blood. There may have been no hospitality for Jesus in Bethlehem; Jesus, however, will offer God’s own hospitality to his followers down through the ages, especially when we celebrate the Eucharist.
One can see why this feast has special meaning for us as members of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. Since we were founded to see all of reality in the light of the Eucharist, the Christmas mystery reminds us of how Jesus nourishes us through the ages with his very self. From the beginning of his earthly existence, his life was geared to his becoming our living bread come down from heaven.
The sad part of the Christmas story is that the people of Bethlehem did not appreciate this. They refused the offer of grace and love that was God himself. In our own day many do not appreciate or thank God for his blessings. The chief way we thank God today is the generosity that we can show to others and to the church. Contributions that you make to Saint Ann’s Shrine and the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament are one way of thanking God for the blessings of his love. It is also a way of helping us to continue the ministry for which our congregation was founded and to which we give our lives.
In this unprecedented time of Covid-19, I encourage you to reach out and show your love to someone you haven’t communicated with in a while by sending them a Christmas card or letter. If you’d like to send a card or letter to a member of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, please send them to the address on this letter to Scott Gongos’ attention and he will be sure it’s passed along to the recipient.
God love you all.
Fr. Roger Bourgeois, Chaplain
*The Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament offers a daily devotion/reflection. If you’d like to receive this uplifting message, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Please ask your employer if they support a matching gift program and your donation may be doubled!
*Please consider becoming a member of our Legacy Society by naming Saint Ann’s Shrine or the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament in your will. For more information, please contact Scott Gongos, Director of Mission Advancement, at 440-449-2700 or email@example.com. We currently have 370 friends who have committed to the long-term support of Saint Ann’s Shrine and the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament!
*Your loved ones can be remembered during Mass at Saint Ann’s Shrine. Call 440-449-2700 for details.
*We invite you and your group to join us at Saint Ann’s Shrine for Daily Mass at 11:30AM, Monday-Friday (call for Holidays). Mass is currently being held while following social distancing guidelines.
*Emmanuel magazine is a publication of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. The mission of Emmanuel is to “see all of reality in the light of the Eucharist.” Those interested in a Eucharistic perspective on Spirituality, Culture, Scripture, Ministry, Liturgy, and Prayer will find Emmanuel to be an excellent resource. Subscribe today! Contact us at (440) 449-2103 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our website: emmanuelpublishing.org.
*We have Blessed Oil and Holy Water available for a donation. Contact Saint Ann Shrine at 440-449-2700 or visit our website at st-ann-shrine.org.
*Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook & visit our newly updated website that includes numerous videos produced during this time of social distancing.
*Our Blessed Sacrament religious in Bethany and at Regina Health Center in Richfield pray for you daily. Please let us know of any special intentions you’d like us to remember. The Blessed Sacrament Community supports you in prayer and Eucharist. You can submit your prayer though our website and request a candle to be lit for your special intentions at st-ann-shrine.org.
*FYI: the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act temporarily suspends the requirements for minimum distributions from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for the 2020 tax year. You can support the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament through distributions from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
*This law allows all taxpayers to deduct donations to charity up to $300 on their 2020 federal tax return, even if you take the standard deduction! Taxpayers who are married-filing jointly will get an above-the-line deduction of up to $600.
*If you itemize your deductions, this law allows cash contributions to qualified charities, such as the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and/or Saint Ann’s Shrine, to be deducted up to 100% of your adjusted gross income for the 2020 tax year.
*We recommend you consult your financial advisor to assist you in reaching your philanthropic and tax planning goals!!
*You may also consider donating gifts of stock. Depending on the stock’s current value, you may avoid capital gains tax by donating the stock directly to the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. Consult your financial advisor for the most advantageous opportunities for you.
*If you’ve ever visited Saint Ann’s Shrine in Cleveland, we encourage you to submit your comments on Trip Advisor so those who may consider visiting us can read of your experience! We hope to see you again soon!