By Sr. Jean Marie Cleveland, OSF ’64, Vice President for Mission Effectiveness
December is one of my favorite Liturgical months, because we celebrate the Advent Season and much of the Christmas Season. Many of the feast days give us glimpses of real leadership.
We begin on December 3 with the Feast of St Francis Xavier, who founded the Society of Jesus, a group of religious we call the Jesuits. He, with Mother Theodore Guerin, is a patron of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patroness of the United States and of Marian University. Her “yes” to God gives us a wonderful example of listening to God’s word and acting on it.
Saint Juan Diego, a poor Mexican, listened to the Virgin who appeared to him at Tepeyac near Mexico City and approached the Bishop to build a church in her honor. Several times he had to go to the Bishop. The last time his cloak was filled with roses, and Mary’s image was revealed there. We honor him on December 9, the day of her first visit to him.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is honored on December 12. She is named the Patroness of the Americas and is revered by many, especially Mexicans. Her image on the cloak of Juan Diego is that of a Mexican woman.
Christmas Day, the feast of the Nativity of the Lord, is one of the most important feasts to Franciscans and to the world. It is the day Jesus, God, came to be with us on earth. He chose to live among us and to share our humanity. Saint Francis so loved the feast that he celebrated it in the woods near Greccio by making the first crèche (a model or tableau representing the scene of Jesus Christ’s birth, displayed in homes or public places at Christmas).
Saint Stephen, the first martyr, is recognized December 26. His example of faith and love of God inspires us all. Saint John the Evangelist is celebrated on December 27. John wrote the last Gospel and three letters.
This year, December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. These three give us a wonderful example of faithful listening and responding to the Call of God in our lives.
On January 4 we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. Three magi saw a star and followed it to find the infant. Learning that Herod was planning to kill the child, they returned home by another route.
The Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on January 11 this year. Jesus’ baptism is said to be the beginning of His public ministry. Enjoy these days of anticipation of Jesus’ birth. Let your celebration continue into the New Year. Ask yourself, “What would my life be like if Jesus had not come?”