By Sister Ann Carmen Barone, OSF
And we don’t have to go far from home to get caught up in the preparation. Mother Adelaide certainly knew how to deck the halls with boughs of holly and saw in these touches of beauty ways to make us grateful to God as St. Francis was. Her fingers were always busy creating lovely things and calling attention to the little ornaments made by the sisters for the “old” chapel. Could we imitate the simple ornaments of white and metallic substances that gave back by reflecting fully and truthfully? They didn’t absorb light but enhanced what they reflected.
Christmas wreaths and the garlands in the chapel added beauty and offered another lesson. Mother Adelaide pointed out the separate leaves and berries, shining white leaves, silver and gold berries, materials of different textures, some soft and mellow, others bright and sparkling, and many glistening white. Mother imagined them saying to the Creator, “Make us up into anything you like; we’ll reflect back every ray of light you throw upon us; we are glistening white and shining silver. We’ll give you back in beauty all the effort you’ve put in; we’ll reflect and show truly every ray of light and every shade of color that is turned upon us.”
Gratitude to God flows into gratitude for the goodness and generosity of others. As a novice we took turns each month with different responsibilities on campus. Sister Magdala and I were assigned to work in the kitchen during December with Sister Armella, Sister Justin, Sister Gabrielle and Sister Rita. We were very good at fetching utensils, holding pans, finding hidden treasures in the walk-in and shifting trays in and out of ovens.
But the special treat for December was working with Sister Armella in the basement of St. Joe’s as she made Christmas wreaths for our benefactors. She was a wonder to watch sorting through the greens, the cones, the collection of ribbons and special ornaments. I don’t know if either of us was much help but I met another Sylvania Franciscan artist whose hands lovingly shaped our thanks to our many partners in mission.
No one could call out, “Novices” and get the speedy response Sister Armella did. No one else ran interference for us when we created a disaster or ruffled a professed sister’s feathers. Years later, I learned that Sister Armella read every word of the newspaper and anything else she could get her hands on. And when she met a new friend she never failed to sing the praises of Lourdes and life as a Sister of St. Francis.
Her smile reflected the fullness of God’s love and the truth of her dedication. And whether it was Sister Justin, who helped keep the kitchen running; Sister Gabrielle, whose baked coffee cake was our Sunday treat; or Sister Rita, who brought African Violets to life; together, they all modeled what it meant to be a Franciscan family. They were the wreaths that surrounded our lives with the evergreens of love.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, soon the bells will start.
And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing right within your heart.
May the carol you sing be one of gratitude for the beauty within and around you. And may you be a true reflection of the Babe of Bethlehem who came as a messenger of peace and a seeker of justice.