Tag Archives: Crib

2 January; In the grey Mancunian midwinter.

north pole

Not long before Christmas I took a railway journey across Manchester on one of the darkest days of the year. Since I was visiting my mother for her birthday, I resisted the temptation to continue towards Blackpool North (Pole), but the signaller’s humour was welcome on a bleak morning.

ok not okIt was also good to see this note from Sam on behalf of the Samaritans, who are well aware that this season is not festive for everybody. Sadly, the railway is often a suffering soul’s chosen suicide spot. Sam’s message may persuade someone to ring them, as may the message on many train tickets.

samaritans.ticket nov2017By the time I was making my return journey, the weather had turned from a saturated mist to a greasy drizzle. Walking to Greenfield station with bright LED headlights shining in my face was no joy.

But Saddleworth Catholic church of the Sacred Heart already had their crib on display in the porch. A reminder of the hope that is in us.

Christian or not, we are given the virtue of hope to see us through the dark times. Christian or not, a helpless babe is not hopeless. He or she reaches out in trust. For  those whose ability to trust has been eroded through others’ inhumanity, a word, a smile may make a difference. Few of us will ever find ourselves stepping in to prevent a suicide at the last moment, but we may, all unknowingly, help to do so before that.

From across the main road, my view of the crib was no better than in the photo, but I knew what I was looking at: even in the darkest, murkiest times, there is hope.

crib saddleworth.jpg



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27 December: Look deeper than this pleasant scene.


Like me, you have probably heard tell of  Saint Francis and the crib but like me, you may never have heard the full story. Follow the link to Friar Jack Wintz’s excellent telling of the story. I won’t attempt to precis his account as I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. I leave you with Friar Jack’s final paragraphs. 

Peace be with you and yours!

Will Turnstone.

Francis would smile at our nice varnished cribs, though he would bless any home that has one. Probably he would prefer those set up outdoors with live animals. And if he were to stand by one and preach today, he might say something like this:

“Look deeper than this pleasant scene. See your God become your food for eternity in a feeding place for animals. See the simple bands wound around the helpless baby, not the embroidered dress. See a man and woman wearing the clothes of the poor. See and smell the animals. Feel the cold and dirt of the cave, lighted only by a little fire. And adore your God, who took a human heart that could know the greatest love and the sharpest pain, arms that could embrace the sinners, the neurotics, the lepers, and hands that could touch cheeks running with tears, and be pierced with nails. Adore your poor and humble God.”


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New Year’s Eve, Father Andrew at Christmas VIII: The Holy Night


‘How still that little sleeping town’ – somehow I doubt it tonight! But the homeless One Reveals God’s Face. There will be a welcome at one or other of Canterbury’s Churches each night during the coldest months.

The Holy Night

How still the night,
How still the stars,
How still that little sleeping town,
How like a jewel in God’s crown
That Star of stars
That shines so bright.

How silver sweet
The moon doth shine;
Lo, yonder little cattle-shed
Shall lend a straw-strewn manger bed
To Babe divine
And Mother sweet.

To all our race
The light hath come;
For He Who lies ‘neath quilt of straw,
That homeless One Whom shepherds saw
Himself our Home,
Reveals God’s Face.

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30 December: Father Andrew at Christmas VII. Problems at the Manger

crib, banchory

Photo by CD

We face the same Problems at the Manger as Father Andrew pointed out eighty years ago.

O mighty God, O baby King,
Thyself must teach what welcoming
Thy children, old and young, should bring,
How each should make his offering.

For here are little boys and girls,
With tidy clothes and ordered curls;
A little Scout his flag unfurls,
His mother kneels in lace and pearls.

And here are faces pinched and white,
And men who walked about all night;
A soldier who has lost his sight,
A boy whose sums will not come right.

The young, the middle-aged, the old
Are gathered here, some gay with gold,
Some ragged creatures, starved and cold –
The fat and lean are in Thy fold.

And though our hearts at Christmas glow
With sense of shame that things are so,
Yet how to get the world to go
In Christian ways we do not know.

There’s nothing wrong in tidy boys,
It’s nice to give expensive toys,
It’s natural to make a noise,
And lovely things are perfect joys –

Yet still we kneel before Thy straw
In penitence and puzzling awe –
Show us our system’s vital flaw,
And that strong truth the Wise Men saw.

Love, Thou must teach us, every one,
To toil until Thy will be done;
So never in this world again
Shall child be housed in cattle pen.

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5 January: On the way and already there.


Saint Francis is known for his Christmas Crib, among many other things. All sorts of additions have been made to the Nativity scene since then, often reflecting the way of life around where a crib is set.

Our family crib too has extras for our delight. The West Highland Terrier is a rescue dog; he has attached himself to the Magi on the way to the stable of Bethlehem in our living room, where he was found wedged under the skirting when the floor was sanded and polished.

As for the little black cat who has taken up residence in the stable already, making friends with the gentle cow: she is another foundling. When our daughters were little I would bring home these tiny toy animals, each in its own tiny bag from a tiny shop in Broadstairs; unwrapping them on Friday evening started the weekend. There was delight when this one was unearthed in the garden; she was gone but not forgotten. In gratitude for those happy days, she will sit in the stable for years to come.

We are on the way to meet the Lord, but we may be surprised to see who is ready to greet us when we get there!


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8 December: Through Ills past Curing a Life Divine.


John Masefield, in the moments before Christ’s birth, has the angels sing:

No friends await him

To celebrate him,

But foes to hate him

And nails to pierce.


Yet from their hating

And desecrating,

To mankind waiting

A star shall shine;

A star assuring

To men enduring

Through ills past curing

A life divine.

(The Coming of Christ, pp 17-18)


The world needs Mercy, loving kindness, even if people are greedy for riches, as we saw in the second of these posts. A star shall shine through their hatred and de-sacred actions.

While we can think of someone like Franciscan Saint Maximilian Kolbe as a star in a time of hatred, giving his life for another prisoner in Auchwitz, there will be times that we may never be aware of in this world, when each of us assures a life divine to a sister or brother.

Maximilian Kolbe was devoted to Mary, mother of mercy, and died on her feast of the Assumption in 1941; today we remember him on another of her feasts, the Immaculate Conception.



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4 October: Being a Follower of St Francis Today.

francis.zako (549x640)

Saint Francis at the Holy Family Sanctuary, Zakopane, Poland, MMB

What does it mean – being a follower of St Francis today?

Francis of Assisi, born in 1182 – died in 1226 – and people are today still following him.  But what does that mean? Being a follower of Francis?

Francis always, always points us away from himself and towards Christ.  We could say then that to be a follower of St Francis is to be first and foremost a follower of Christ after the example of Francis.

What does that mean?  What was the example of Francis?  A few examples might help.

Francis was a man who fell hopelessly and totally in love with God, with Christ.  This did not happen overnight.   He had many struggles on the way as all of us will have who seek to love Christ totally.  It all came to a head in 1224, two years before he died, when he received the Sacred Stigmata on Mount Alverna. The sign of Francis’ love for Christ and the seal of Christ’s love for Francis.  Another sign then of a being a follower of Francis is a constant falling in love with Christ.

Francis had a tremendous love for nature, for creation.  He saw creation, creatures, all creatures, all created things as coming from the same source – the Fatherhood of God. Therefore all things were his brothers and sisters.  Because of this all creation, all his brothers and sisters were to be treated with the greatest respect and dignity.   To Franciscans today what does that say to them with regard to the refugees, the hate crimes, the spoiling of our earth?

What other characteristics of Francis do we find that followers of Francis would wish to emulate? The list is never ending and I am sure you can add to it but who can forget his love for the Infant Child.

Francis could never get over the fact that God became a human being just like us.  That he was born just like any other person as a tiny baby with human needs.  To bring that fact home to the men and women of his day he had the first crib built in Greccio.  Through this he teaches us the humility of God.  If God shows such humility how, he asks us, can we dare to show any pride when all that we have and are come from God.


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* 3/1 – Epiphany – Heavenly Voices

crib, banchory

Where should we place the crib? In some places the amount of alternative room is limited. Because Nativity stories involve angelic commands and praising God, it is reasonable for announcing of good news to be the great focus. In St. Ternan’s, Banchory the connection with announcing the Word of God has therefore been emphasized. We can hope the preaching had heavenly effects of illuminating hearts and minds!

Liturgists prefer not to put a crib in front of the Eucharistic table and likewise, not in front of the preacher’s ambo. A Nativity scene works best when it is used for a separate pattern of meditation, with its own celebration ritual, for instance, to foster grateful, intimate appreciation of God’s love, in the midst of all humanity. The Eucharist involves prayer specifically concerned with the character of lives in the Body of Christ, the interrelatedness of Christian community members. Faith combines with imagination differently when, at the visit of the Magi, for instance, we consider God’s love for all cultures, forms of religious celebration and all the world’s nationalities.

Bonaventure imagines the three Magi speaking boldly, on behalf of all humanity, to the merciless Herod: “Now, Herod, give us the answer, tell us where the Beloved is to be found, show us the little Child we are yearning to see. He is the one we seek and long for.” Bonaventure says we all have these searchers inside us, who must adore the Child as “the most wise teacher,” who has prepared joys for us.


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