Hermit Sister Mary Beverly
The baby in a manger. The quintessence of Christmas.
In this tender, appealing scene of God Incarnate, there is
another profound truth, which is not immediately obvious.
We say in English “MAIN-jer.” In French, it is
pronounced “mawn-JAY.” “Manger,” in
French, means “to eat.” Even in English, the words
crib and manger refer to a feeding trough for animals. So what
is placed in a manger is meant to be eaten!
We know this is the name of the city where Jesus Christ was
born. In Hebrew, the word means “House of Bread.” Who
is the child born in Bethlehem and placed in a manger for a
When God the Father, from all eternity, planned the human birth
of his Divine Word, the second Person of the Holy Trinity,
he seems to have couched the whole event in a language which
would be understood in the light of what Jesus, as an adult,
would later say: “My flesh is real food and my blood
real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal
life.” (cf. Jn. 6)
Pope John Paul II has declared this year, Oct. 2004 to Oct.
2005, as the Year of the Eucharist. The Holy Father writes
that “When we meet [Jesus] fully, we will pass from the
light of the Word to the light streaming from the ‘Bread
of life,’ the supreme fulfillment of his promise to ‘be
with us always, to the end of the age’.” (cf. Mt.
28:20) The Eucharist is the term the Church uses which refers
to the earliest belief about “the breaking of the bread.” “[This
reality] has always been at the center of the Church’s
life. Through it, Christ makes present within time the mystery
of his death and resurrection. In it, he is received in person
as the ‘living bread come down from heaven’ (Jn.
6:51), and with him, we receive the pledge of eternal life
and a foretaste of the eternal banquet of the heavenly Jerusalem.”
This year will be celebrated with three international events:
the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico
Oct. 10-17, 2004; the Assembly of Bishops of the world held
at the Vatican from Oct. 2-29, 2005 and World Youth Day in
Cologne, Germany Aug. 16-21, 2005. However, at the personal
level, the Holy Father asks simply that each one of us live
this mystery on a more deeply spiritual level, not so much
that we do something extraordinary but that we emphasize the
Eucharistic dimension which is part of the whole Christian
life. The Pope trusts that we will accept his initiative “with
enthusiasm and fervent love.”
Here is an excerpt from the Holy Father’s letter, “Stay
with Us Lord” which is a direct appeal to each part of
the Christian people:
“ Dear priests, who repeat the words of consecration each day,
and are witnesses and heralds of the great miracle of love
which takes place at your hands: be challenged by the grace
of this special year; celebrate Holy Mass each day with the
same joy and fervor with which you celebrated your first Mass,
and willingly spend time in prayer before the tabernacle...
“ In particular, I appeal to you, the
priests of the future.
During your time in the seminary make every effort to experience
the beauty not only of taking part daily in Holy Mass, but
also of spending a certain amount of time in dialogue with
the Eucharistic Lord.
“ Consecrated men and women, called by that very consecration
to more prolonged contemplation: never forget that Jesus in
the tabernacle wants you to be at his side, so that he can
fill your hearts with the experience of his friendship, which
alone gives meaning and fulfillment to your lives.
“ May all of you, the Christian
faithful, rediscover the gift
of the Eucharist as light and strength for your daily lives
in the world, in the exercise of your respective professions
amid so many different situations. Rediscover this above all
in order to experience fully the beauty of the mission of the
“ I have great expectations of you, young people, as I look forward
to our meeting at the next World Youth Day in Cologne. The
theme of our meeting -- We have come to worship him -- suggests
how you can best experience this Eucharistic year. Bring to
your encounter with Jesus, hidden in the Eucharist, all the
enthusiasm of your age, all your hopes, all your desire to
So this Christmas when we gaze upon the baby resting on the
hay in a manger, let us remember in faith that this is God
made Man, the Word made Flesh. Let us re-read John 6 and
really meditate on Jesus, the Bread of Life. From the crib
cross, Jesus gives evidence of being “the living bread
from heaven,” a mystery beyond words. Yet in any language,
Jesus speaks the language of the heart, of supreme and enduring
Me a Channel
of Your Peace:
Reflections on a
Marymount Hermitage Sabbatical
By Sister Mary Ellen Hanson
Sister of St. Mary of Oregon
At the age of 70, happily I was granted a sabbatical by
my Oregon religious community for five months in southwest
Arrangements proceeded smoothly and hospitality fulfills
that Benedictine charism professed by the small “laura” whose
presence has extended beyond the past 20 years on this rural
Solitude is afforded by my hermitage aptly named St. Francis.
It is enhanced by the general expanse of the over-all site.
I choose to share in the communal morning and evening prayer,
daily Mass or Communion Service, a weekly recreation, music
preparation for Christmas, Marymount library. A telephone
in St. Francis Hermitage affords the assurance of meeting
needs. Occasional e-mail service is utilized at the Council
town library seven miles north. A mini washer and dryer serve
to keep things neat and tidy. Yes, a small radio helps to
anticipate weather changes and update this fall’s national
issues. Some active work assistance to the community provides
balance in daily living. I have not yet chopped wood!
It was a bit of a surprise to note the several comings and
goings of retreatants these few months. We all blended into
the daily life of prayer. The enhanced prayer community is
a source of strengthening for me. Appetites seemed to be
well taken care of as the hermitages are well stocked with
Or perhaps it’s because each retreatant was a good
cook. Who knows? Being a good cook is not a requirement for
However, a little creativity helps.
The starkness of late summer and fall, insects and all but
with the bonus of ripe chokecherries, and now the snowy signs
of approaching winter in a very rural setting strike a familiar
note. The tone nudges memories 60 years ago in eastern Montana
of a small Indian reservation village life and resonates
in Kathleen Norris’ book, DAKOTA. The goodness, neighborliness
and struggles of Idahoans here in the local area is a signature
item during this experience of solitude. One does not live
without relationships of one kind or another. Everything
is most personable.
One joy I gratefully discovered is being the recipient of
many intercessory prayer requests from family and friends.
form of prayer on behalf of the needs of the Church and of
the world is a work of the Hermit Sisters of Mary who have
provided for my sabbatical site. Prayer requests arrive through
web site, e-mail, phone messages, and visits. Along with
intercessory prayer, for me the “paying attention” prayer melds
into each 24 hours with the facilitation of solitude. My heart
responds, “Thank you, Lord, for the Silence and Solitude
which at this time in my life speaks of You.” Gratefully,
the necessary health is a gift by the Giver of All Gifts
during this Sabbatical of Solitude.
Mary Ellen Hanson, SSMO, is pictured here with Sisters
Rebecca Mary and Beverly.
has been a joy for us to have Sister Mary Ellen with us
on Sabbatical these past few months. We have been friends
since our days together in the novitiate at St. Mary of
the Valley in Beaverton, Oregon.
three Sisters send loving and prayer-filled Christmas greetings
to our family, friends, and benefactors.
us remember each other in prayer throughout this New Year
2005, the Year of the Eucharist. Merry Christmas and Happy
HERMITAGE NEWSLETTER is
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The Hermit Sisters of Mary are a canonically approved Catholic
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