Marianist Nativity Returns to CJ

“It is a bit of a homecoming and I like to think that it is back where it was originally intended.”

CJ’s Chaplain, Fr. Bob Jones, S.M., was referring to a new addition to the school’s chapel — a nativity scene that is believed to have been used by Marianist brothers when they lived in what’s now the school’s Marianist Hall.

“The brothers moved out several years ago and during that move some things were put into storage,” Fr. Bob said. “The storage was moved to another Marianist community — Mount St. John. As in any move, you move boxes, you put them in the basement, you forget about them and eventually you go through them.

“Last month, Fr. Chris Wittmann, S.M., a former priest at CJ, was going through a box and found a nativity scene from the Washington Street community (the name of the community for the Marianists who lived at Marianist Hall at CJ)” Fr. Bob continued. “Fr. Chris asked if we were looking for a nativity set and I said, ‘Yes, for CJ.’ I went and looked at it and decided to bring it to the school.

“Having this nativity scene in the school’s chapel reminds me of the continuity of our mission,” Fr. Bob shared. “While the Marianist brothers purchased it and used it for themselves, and even though they don’t live in Marianist Hall any more, there is a connection to that Marianist mission and heritage. Personally, I think it’s pretty cool that we’re using the same nativity set that Marianists maybe 50 years ago would have looked upon. Marianists who are no longer with us but look down on us from heaven — it’s a great feeling to keep things in the family.”

Fr. Bob added, “Pope Francis recently wrote an ‘Apostolic Letter’ known by its Latin title, ‘Admirabile Signum’ (The Enchanting Image). In it, he encourages the family tradition of setting up a nativity scene, not only in the home but in all places (he specifically mentions schools and workplaces). Pope Francis reminds us that, ‘The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman. We come to realize that so great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him.’ He goes on to say, ‘It touches our hearts and makes us enter into salvation history as contemporaries of an event that is living and real in a broad gamut of historical and cultural contexts.’

“Pope Francis then offers a reflection on the different people present at the manger.

“He concludes by saying that the creche, ‘Teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with him, his children, brothers and sisters all, thanks to that Child who is the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary. And to realize that in that knowledge we find true happiness. Like Saint Francis, may we open our hearts to this simple grace, so that from our wonderment a humble prayer may arise: a prayer of thanksgiving to God, who wished to share with us his all, and thus never to leave us alone.’”

You can read the Pope’s full message here.

Posted December 24, 2019