2015 brought many adventures, but the highlight for me was the visit of Pope Francis to the United States. I had the privilege of traveling with him to three cities: Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. There was so much packed into this visit that it is hard to pick out one favorite, but as we prepare for Christmas, I’d like to focus on Pope Francis’ visit to St. Patrick Parish in Washington, D.C.
The day before (Wednesday, Sept. 23) at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, I officially greeted the Pope and welcomed him to the United States. I spoke about how he was going to be visiting the influential, the forgotten, and everyone in between. The next day, he did just that as in the course of 30 minutes he completed his historic address to the United States Congress and then went to St. Patrick Church to have a lunch with those who are homeless. This lunch was prepared by the staff of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic Charities.
During his brief homily at the lunch, our Holy Father reminded those present about the plight of Joseph and Mary when “there was no room at the inn.” He told them that their faces were the faces of St. Joseph and our Blessed Mother, who were homeless on the night that Jesus was born. Pope Francis spoke of the dignity of every human person and our call to make room in our lives for each person we meet … through our outreach, our compassion, and our concerted efforts to live the corporal works of mercy by providing food, drink, clothing, and shelter to those in need.
During the Advent and Christmas season, especially as we begin this Year of Mercy, I invite you to reflect on that holiest of families who were turned away and who struggled with all kinds of challenges as they welcomed the gift of Jesus Christ. Through the grace of the one born in a stable and lying in a manger, strive to make room in your lives and families for those who haven’t found a room at the inn, for whatever reason.
Please know of my wish for a joy-and-peace filled Christmas for you and your loved ones. May your family be renewed as together this Christmas Day we come close to the Lord Jesus and may God bless you!
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz