Father Ronald Check

One of the most beautiful additions to the Church or the home at this time of year is the manger scene.

At my first assignment as a priest one thing that always inspired me was the devotion with which people would approach the manger. I remember being so moved to see people kneeling down, with their hands folded and their eyes closed, and offering from their hearts prayers to the Infant Jesus.

That, I believe, is why our Lord became an infant, so that we might not be afraid to come close to Him. No one is afraid of a tiny baby, in fact people rush up to see and to touch and even to kiss the child.

I remember one day before Mass, the Church was not well lit, only the lights around the manger scene were lit. It was a soft glow in the midst of a darkened Church, and up to the manger scene came a mother and a little child, and they were holding hands.

“What’s that mommy?” said the little girl. Her mother answered, “That’s the baby Jesus, let’s go and see Him.” And they went and together, in the midst of the darkness, knelt down before the light, before the baby Jesus.

As a priest I have found that there are moments that are so touching and beautiful and deeply moving that you never forget them and this was one of those moments.

It reminds me of what our Lady tries to do for us, her children. She reaches out and tries to take us by the hand and when we are wandering through life, as if through the darkness, she leads us to the light. She leads us to the infant Jesus and together she kneels down with us before Him.

It can be very difficult to stay focused during the Advent season because there are many things in the world competing for our attention, and they may be very good things, yet they often complicate the beautiful simplicity of what is happening here.

We may run around doing many things to prepare, just like our Lady and St. Joseph, who ran around looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem. But once they found that place, they remained focused on the one thing that was most important, the birth of our Lord.

There are many things that we too will be trying to accomplish, and we know that we must do them, but when Christmas arrives let us stop and be silent, pray and remain focused on the one thing that is most important, the birth of our Lord.

And when we find that things are getting too busy and that we may be getting lost, let us reach out and take hold of the hand of our Blessed Mother, who always stands there with her hands open and ready for us.

She will guide us and bring us safely to our Lord. She will keep us focused, because she knows what’s like to run around looking for peace in the midst of this sometimes chaotic and crazy world of ours.

That is why St. Louis de Monfort says, “She is the sure means, the direct and immaculate way to Jesus and the perfect guide to Him, it is through her that souls must find Him. He who finds Mary finds life, that is, Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life” (True Devotion).

Dear friends, let us not fear the darkness that often surrounds us and the confusion that often misguides us, but us go to our Lady, our Mother. Hand in hand let us go forward with her to adore the infant Jesus, who waits for us in the manger! Amen.

Father Ronald Check is a Philadelphia priest studying in Rome.