Tuesday, December 27, 2022

January 2023 - The Epiphany of Jesus Christ

The Feast of Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as Savior for all peoples. The gifts brought by Magi from different countries have very special significance.  The gold reminds us that Jesus is of royal descent since He was of King David's line.  The Frankincense indicates the adoration that is owed to Jesus who is also divine. The myrrh, which was used to anoint the body before burial, calls forth gratitude for Jesus' giving his life to redeem us.

 Through the study of Creation, our ancestors could recognize the power and intelligence of God.  However, God, our Father, with the gift of Jesus as a human being, helps us to understand other qualities of God, most especially those of love and mercy.

When we observe the life of Jesus in the New Testament we develop a deeper understanding of our loving and merciful God. Jesus taught us both by word and example.  His parables (stories to teach a lesson) e.g.  The story of the Prodigal Son who squandered his inheritance and was welcomed back by his merciful father illustrates this.  Jesus' own example of forgiveness of the repentant woman also provides a deeper sense of the merciful kindness of our God. Jesus asks us to show mercy to one another also when he teaches his disciples to pray: "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."

In addition, Jesus instructs us to treat one another as brothers and sisters with a common Heavenly Father. The Jews considered the Samaritans to be inferior because some of them intermarried with Assyrians. In response to a question: "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus offers the parable: "The Good Samaritan."  While others pass by a man who had been injured by robbers, the Samaritan stops and goes out of his way to help him.

In Jesus' lifetime, women and children were considered to be possessions of men.  Jesus treats women with respect and even converses with a Samaritan woman and asks her for a drink of water.  He could have faced heavy criticism for that.  When the disciples try to send children away because they know Jesus is tired, Jesus stops them and tells them to let the children come to him. He also informs the disciples that unless they become like children, they will not enter the Kingdom of God.

The story of the Magi's travels from distant lands to find their God and King is like the journey of each one of us. The light of the Star is the unique guidance we receive along the way. Sometimes it is a personal inspiration or something we read or comment on or an example of another person.

Pope John Paul II described the Christian life as a "pilgrimage to the House of God, our Father."

A  Christmas Story: The Other (Fourth) Wise Man

by Henry Van Dike

A wise man, possibly an astronomer, named Artaban from Persia saw signs in the sky proclaiming that a King had been born among the Jews.  He sets out to see the newborn ruler, bringing with him a sapphire, a ruby, and a "pearl of great price." On his way to meet the other three wise men, he stops to help a dying man and is too late to join the caravan.  He cannot cross the desert with only a horse, so he has to sell one of his treasures to buy some camels and supplies. 

Artaban continues his journey and arrives at Bethlehem too late to see the child because his parents have fled with him to Egypt. They went to Egypt to avoid the threats of King Herod who does not want any competition for power from a new King.  While there, Artaban saves the life of a child by giving away another treasure intended for his King.

Not to be discouraged from finding his King, Artaban travels through a number of countries, doing many kind deeds along the way. He arrives in Jerusalem as Jesus is being crucified.  There, he is struck in the head by a falling roof tile.  As he lies dying, he hears a voice saying: "Verily I say unto thee, inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40) Artaban dies in peace and joy, realizing that his treasures of kindness had been accepted lovingly by his King.

 Jesus - Emmanuel - God with us 

One of my favorite names for Jesus heard often during the Christmas Season, is our Emmanuel (Immanuel).  It means "God, with us."  We never really are alone. We find God in creation, in the Blessed Sacrament (Holy Communion), in Sacred Scripture, and in one another.

God is present to us through one another.  Although this is true at all times, it is most evident when disasters happen, e.g. hurricanes, forest fires, and during our pandemic. We see our healthcare personnel working long hours providing care and comfort to the sick and dying.  We see essential workers providing food and other needed items and services. Police and firefighters risk their lives to help those in need.  Caring people check on their elderly relatives, friends, and neighbors to provide meals and help when needed.  Volunteers work many hours staffing food banks, etc.  Yes, God is ever-present with us in many ways. Let us express our gratitude daily for these wonderful blessings!

A Happy and Healthy New Year to You and Yours!



Stephanie Morris, Ph.D., ASBS, Historian, Certified archivist emerita

The Blessed Mother went on a pilgrimage to be with her relative Elizabeth who was with child. Can you imagine being a teenager and being told that you are to be the Mother of God? Mary must have had many thoughts and questions about this Motherhood. Who could she talk with who would understand her excitement? Elizabeth, now miraculously with child herself, may have shared some of this same excitement. Elizabeth understood the situation as she greeted Mary: "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:39-45). Clearly, something beyond the ordinary was happening to these two women. As we know, our Lord is always with us, offering love, support, and guidance. God provided Mary with love, support, and possibly some guidance, in the person of Elizabeth. As St. Katharine Drexel urged the Sisters in 1902, "Yes, arise from the Christmas thanksgiving to find your Jesus always with you." Even in these difficult days, Jesus is always with us in many forms, e.g., the person delivering food or the person who made you smile or laugh the other day. We can be that person for others as well. May you always sense the presence of God with you on your own pilgrimage.


Pat Chiaffa, ASBS

I promised myself that I would leisurely savor the morning of the day after Christmas. I curled up on the sofa with my mug of steaming coffee and my Scripture readings for the day. I opened to the first reading, Acts of the Apostles 6:8-10, and read of the hatred toward, and the stoning of Stephen. It struck a note of disturbance as I was anticipating a continuation of the celebration of the birth of the Baby Jesus. That passage felt so cold after the nighttime Christmas Mass focus on the peace, joy, light, and grace of the Savior’s birth. Was there a “no loitering” sign outside of the stable? I wanted to settle into the warmth and hominess of the Nativity scene.  When I thought about it, I was reminded of when I was a young mother and never wanted the tender infant stage to end. I resisted moving forward even as my baby went on to crawl, teeter, and walk on his own.

Author Michelle Francl-Donnay poses the question, “What has changed as a result of this birth of God into time?... What must change in me as a result of this coming of the Lord?”

Our focus must change from merely gazing on the “frozen” statuettes in the manger “toward the living Christ.” Francl-Donnay writes, “This is the scandal of the Nativity, this is the stumbling block I face, that God demands of me not merely adoration, but witness. Not merely awareness, but action…We are called to walk from the crib into the world, carrying with us the Light.”

With the feast of Epiphany, the Wise Men seek the Light of Christ, offer their unique gifts and, as a result of worshiping the Christ child, the courses of their lives were changed. Returning home after encountering the holy...  How will we incarnate the Holy One in our lives? Will we be changed? Transformed?  Epiphany challenges us to move forward with spiritual vision.  Do we have the spiritual vision to recognize Christ in the faces of those we encounter in our daily lives and offer to them our unique gifts?

These are the questions I need to ponder as I seek to encounter Christ's Presence in everyone I meet. I know not what unique gifts I have to offer but I trust that they will manifest when I am open to respond to the epiphanies that Christ places on my path.  I share these questions with your readers who may, like myself, recognize that we are called to respond to the invitation that Epiphany offers and are open to being led by The Lighting.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

December 2022 - Advent & Christmas

We usually celebrate Christmas around the time of the Winter Solstice, which marks the shortest day of the year. Following the solstice, the days begin to get longer. Even before the time of Jesus, the ancient peoples celebrated the longer light with Winter Solstice Festivals. Now, Jesus is referred to as the Light of the World and thus lights are important symbols of Christmas. 

Light reveals things to us. The ancient peoples recognized that there is a Creator of our world by studying Nature. They understood that God is powerful and intelligent. They experienced Him as their Provider as they harvested food from the earth.

However, when Jesus came as one of us, he revealed other qualities of God. Since he often referred to his Father, his disciples were anxious to see him and even asked Jesus to show them the Father.  The response of Jesus was that when they looked at Jesus, they saw the Father since the Father and Jesus were one.  

If Jesus had not come to us in human form, we would not have understood that God is compassionate, yet just. For example, in a world where women were considered less than men, Jesus related to them in a respectful and loving manner. We have a deeper understanding of God because of how Jesus lived. Jesus entered this world of darkness to bring us the light of life.

We also learn a lot about the light of faith from Mary and Joseph. As a very young woman, Mary trusted God enough to say "Yes" to the virginal conception of   Jesus and all the suffering that would entail. How could she explain to Joseph that she had been faithful to him when she was already pregnant without their having consummated their marriage? 

What confusion and hurt Joseph must have felt when he realized Mary's pregnancy? His love was so strong that he chose to treat her with kindness, even before an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said to him, 
"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife into your home, for it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins." (Matt 1:20)

Both Mary and Joseph showed deep faith and obedience to the will of God, in spite of all the suffering they had to endure.  One of my favorite memories is the witnessing of a posada when I was teaching at St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The word posada means "inn" or "shelter." Our community always included people of other cultures. One year, a Spanish brother and sister were chosen from our school to represent Mary and Joseph in a posada. I had never even heard of a posada before that time.  

posada is an important Mexican Christmas tradition that is practiced in some parts of the United States now. The posada reenacts the story of Mary and Joseph's attempt to find shelter in Bethlehem after their long trip to comply with Caesar Augustus' order to return to the town of their family origin for a census. Since Joseph was of the house and family David, that meant a difficult travel by donkey and on foot at a time when Mary was near the time to give birth.


Because of the census, Bethlehem was crowded with people returning to the place of their family origin. The posada recalls the difficulties of Mary and Joseph experienced finding shelter as Mary is about to give birth.  In the posada, either people or images representing Mary and Joseph traveling from place to place are followed by a candlelight procession of people singing Christmas Carols. Joseph dramatizes the requesting of a place to stay and another person, representing an innkeeper, responds that there is no room for them.


Finally, one person takes pity on them and offers them a place in a cave used for an animal shelter. It is there that the King of the Universe and Light of the World is to be born. The people in the procession are invited into a home or building and there is much celebration. It is a beautiful reminder of the importance of opening our hearts for Jesus to be born again in us so that his light can shine in our world today.


Reflection Question: How can I make room in my heart so that Jesus can be born again in me and bring light and love into our world today?


Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita


Is my heart a rough-hewn manger or a soft crib, waiting for the Infant Savior? Angry or hurtful memories are harsh and rough; prayers and kind acts can soften these. Praying for those with whom we are angry or doing quiet acts of kindness can line the crib of our heart with soft pieces of straw. We don’t have to do great deeds; any ordinary action “extraordinarily well done” for the love of God will cushion our hearts to provide a welcoming crib for the Infant Jesus.


Pat Chiaffa, ASBS


It was almost Christmas, but I wasn’t feeling “holiday-ish.” It snowed overnight and the next morning as I drove to the office I was in awe of the beauty of the freshly fallen snow covering the trees and vast grassy areas. There was a sense of stillness and peace on the Interstate Highway. As I was taking in this incredible scenery, the song “Christmas Shoes” started playing on the radio. It’s about the love of an impoverished young boy for his terminally ill mother and a man who was very much trapped in the chains of success and attainment. Through this young boy’s desire to make his dying mother look beautiful to meet Jesus on that Christmas Eve, by wearing the red shoes he wanted to buy for her, this distracted man awakened to the Presence of God in Christmas. Tears poured from my eyes. In the sacred space of my car during the “holy hour” of my commute, I encountered the true Spirit of Christmas in the message of that song. At the same time, I felt deeply saddened at how the focus on the birth of Christ has become, in general, such a minor part of Christmas.

Prior to reading your blog, I was not familiar with a Posada. I really like the practice because it draws our attention to the difficulties that Joseph and Mary encountered on their “census pilgrimage” to Bethlehem. Exhausted after their forced journey of over 100 miles, there was no room at the inn for them to rest. Joseph’s heart must have been wrenched with disappointment at not being able to provide comfort and warmth for Mary. Yet, we celebrate their journey with illumined festivity. In reality, it was a very dark and dangerous walk. The fear resulting from the political unrest that gripped Bethlehem, and the smell of the manger have been obscured by sentimentality and commercialism.

This time of the year is very painful for many people. Strained finances, fragile relationships, unrealized hopes and expectations are acutely felt even though the “air” is filled with bright lights, shiny tinsel and Holiday music. We will never find the enduring happiness for which we yearn in the world no matter how festively it is packaged and how elegantly it is served up.

The wholeness, the oneness, the peace, the connection to the Christ child that many of us seek will be found in simplification and quiet reflection on the mystery of the incarnation. For some individuals, finding the way to the Christ child might include the willingness to accompany Joseph and Mary on the road to Bethlehem by examining the rough terrain that remains in one’s heart –remnants of resentment, anger, selfishness - and doing the work to release them so there will be room in our heart to receive Jesus. He came to heal and comfort the weak and the vulnerable – where else need we look but to the Baby in the manger to restore us to grace, peace and the reclaiming of our identity as the child of God that we are.

With an uncluttered, open heart, we can invite the Christ Child to be born anew within us, to illuminate His light in us and fill us with His Love. This renewal is the true miracle of Christmas. Having received these divine gifts, not only can we rejoice; we will radiate His light and love in the world.

Monday, October 24, 2022

November 2022 - Gratitude in Challenging Times

Psalm of David 138  (English Standard Version)

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; 

before the gods I sing your praise;

I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name 
for your steadfast love and your faithfulness for you have 
exalted above all things your name and your word.

On the day I called, you answered me; 

my strength of soul you increased.

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, 
for they have heard the words of your mouth,

And they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, 

for great is the glory of the LORD.

For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, 
but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; 

you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, 

and your right hand delivers me.

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; O Lord, your steadfast love, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Welcome to November 2022. This month we face many challenges: a very difficult election season, living within a pandemic with all its problems, and a Thanksgiving which may need to be celebrated in new ways.

What all this calls to my mind are some experiences I had when I was assigned to teach at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana, a historically Black Catholic University, founded by St. Katharine Drexel. Sister Ivan, a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, was concerned that I know about the rural areas from which some of Xavier’s students came. Therefore, she took me to Church Point, a small town where some of our Sisters ministered. I was looking forward to the visit but did not realize the lessons I would learn on that trip.

After showing me the small parish church and convent, she took me to visit an elderly couple who lived nearby. Their home was a tiny wooden house that was in very poor condition. However, we received a warm reception in the midst of bursts of praise and thanksgiving to God. I heard no complaints. Instead, the conversation was continually punctuated with expressions of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. That was the first lesson I learned. 

Then, while I taught at Xavier, I also became involved in campus ministry and was with the young people during their prayer time. They echoed the joyful spirit of their elders as they spontaneously praised and thanked God, in spite of some very difficult circumstances from which they had come. This included thanking God for waking them up in the morning!!!

I am not a morning person!! However, to this day, when I struggle to get out of bed, I try to remember to thank God for “getting me up in the morning.” Sometimes, teachers learn from their students too.


These days are very difficult for just about everyone, some even more than others. However, an attitude of gratitude can lift one’s spirits and help one through troubling times.

In the booklet, Our Daily Bread, I read the story of Martin Rinkart, a clergyman who served in Saxon, Germany, for more than thirty years during a plague and wars in the seventeenth century. In one year, he conducted over 4000 funerals, including that of his wife. Because of food shortages, often his family went hungry. However, he had a strong faith in God, and he continually gave thanks to him for what they did have. He even composed a hymn of gratitude, still popular today: “Now, thank we all our God.”

With the realization of the circumstances during which the hymn was written, it might be meaningful to reflect on the verses to the hymn:

Now thank We All Our God


Now thank we all our God
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
In whom his world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms
Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.


O may this gracious God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts,
And blessed peace to cheer us;
Preserve us in his grace,
And guide us in distress,
And free us from all sin,
Till heaven we possess.


All praise and thanks to God
The Father now be given,
The Son and Spirit blest,
Who reigns in highest heaven;
Eternal, Triune God,
Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now,
And shall be ever more.

God has many kinds of flowers in His garden. Not all of us can compose hymns, but we all can express our gratitude to God in our own unique ways. Some common ways are the following:

·            Writing poetry

·            Journaling

·            Painting/Drawing

·            Helping someone in need

·            Forgiving someone

·            Donating to an organization helping others

·            Volunteering to help those in need

·            Listening

Comments/ Suggestions:

Stephanie Morris, ASBS. Ph.D. Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita

Mother Katharine wrote that “The ordinary soul does not do enough thanksgiving. For all eternity I shall sing the mercies which we ought to begin on earth.”  We can sing of God’s mercies when we see a beautiful sunrise or sunset. A comfortable, sunny day can lift our hearts in praise and gratitude. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy aria; a short aspiration – Thank you, Lord, for bringing me safely home from my errands – can be a joyful song of praise. Do you say grace before or after meals? This is another simple way of showing gratitude. You might also thank the cook! If you, like me, did the cooking, we can thank those who grew or provided the food, and we can thank God for having the means and skills to prepare the meal.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

October 2022 - Amid Trials, God Gives Strength

Pope John Paul II called the twentieth century the “century of martyrs.” Although persecution of Christians has been ongoing throughout our history, during the twentieth century, there were more Christians killed for their faith than in all the other centuries combined.

Even today, while in many parts of our world people die rather than deny their faith, we, in the United States, have been blessed to live in a country that supports freedom of religion. While we have not had to lay down our lives to defend our faith, we need to practice it, appreciate this gift, and take advantage of the help offered to strengthen our faith. We need to listen attentively to St. Paul when he encourages his followers in his letter to the Romans 8:35-39:

What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:

‘For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These days, we may need to be ready to defend our faith from those who will ridicule our faithfulness at a time when the practice of religion is declining. As the scandals of Church leaders were revealed, many became disillusioned, especially young people who were abused by clergy or youth leaders.

As time has gone by, the abuses of many powerful people have come to light. This widespread problem is finally being addressed. However, the abuse by trusted clergy has had a devastating effect on young people. Even sons and daughters of very devout Christians have turned away from religious practices. Grandparents suffer greatly when their children do not have their grandchildren baptized or brought up with religious instruction.

While some grandparents take on the responsibility to share their faith with their grandchildren, others are not allowed to do that by the parents. All they can do is give a good example and pray for their loved ones. Perhaps later, the young ones will search on their own and find the Lord who will then be their Shepherd accompanying them on their life’s journey.

Sometimes, there are friends and coworkers who will challenge those who
continue to practice their faith, in spite of the failures of their clergy. These faithful understand that the purpose of prayer, Bible study, and attending Masses or religious services is to grow their relationship with God. The Lord is their anchor in the peaceful times and storms of life.

Although the types of suffering for the faith may vary, if offered to the Lord, He will give the strength to bear them. Psalm 62 line 2 is a great comfort:

He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.”

  Reflection Question:  If I have a friend or relative who has turned away from religion, what can I do?

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS  It makes me very sad when someone I care about announces they are leaving the church. Frequently, the reason given is that organized religion is merely a tactic of power and control and a means of getting money. The clergy sex abuse scandals are often cited as the cause of declining attendance at Mass.  The church may have done some things that would make a critical person want to leave it. However, it is this same Church that contains in its center the Word of God and the sacraments of God’s healing love. Henri Nouwen asks, “Can we trust that in the midst of all its human brokenness the Church presents the broken body of Christ to the world as food for eternal life? Can we acknowledge that where sin is abundant, grace is superabundant and that where promises are broken…God’s promise stands unshaken? To believe is to answer yes to these questions.”

I believe. Therefore, I pray that these restless hearts will remain open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I ask about their relationship with Jesus, encouraging them to keep their connection to God alive even though they chose to “turn away from religion” as stated in your reflection question.  I listen to their reasons for leaving without judging. I hold them in a space of love, not lecture. It is really important to listen prayerfully because while some individuals may express anger and point fingers about who and what they perceive to be at fault, others may be silently suffering, feeling betrayed by the behaviors and actions of religious leaders whom they respected and viewed as models of the faith. 

These conversations are opportunities for us to be the caring presence we were created to be to reflect the love of God to our wounded brothers and sisters in Christ. At risk is the loss of a precious soul. “Losing our soul means losing touch with our center, our true call in life, our mission, our spiritual task. Losing our soul means becoming so distracted by and preoccupied with all that is happening around us that we end up fragmented, confused, and erratic.” Speaking from personal experience, I am in total agreement with Nouwen’s words.  If one forsakes their relationship with God, they will lose their true sense of self. That is a terrible tragedy for the truth of our being is that we are the Beloved of God.

Allen Hunt’s recent Dynamic Catholic Daily Reflection addresses the importance of being concerned for one another’s spiritual well-being. I share it here because I feel it fits this dialogue. “We need a community to help us reach our goal. Faith is not an individual journey; it’s a team sport. We need each other. We are on this journey together.”

Let us remind one another of the stepping-stones on the path: forgiveness, acceptance, and love.

We need to forgive others when they fail to meet our expectations. We need to forgive ourselves for the times we fail to behave as followers of Christ.  We need to accept others in their brokenness while acknowledging our own woundedness. Lastly, we need to love as unconditionally as our Source loves us.

Stephanie Morris, Ph. D, Historian, Certified Archivist, emerita

People have been leaving the Catholic Church for generations. It hurts when a friend or relative turns his or her back on the Church. Trying to talk to them about this change can result in being hurt yourself when they call you names or insult the Church. They may have valid reasons for not liking the structure, and the hierarchy of the Church; some Church leaders have made serious mistakes. If I have a chance, I tell them they are still welcome. I pray for them and hope that they will someday return to the active practice of their Faith. The best I can do is to be a witness, to practice my Catholic Faith openly and sincerely, and hope that someday they will want to reconnect with God through the Catholic Church.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

September 2022 - Psalm 23

The Lord Is My Shepherd (ESV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the 

valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord



One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 23 (22 in some translations). Many years ago, I was introduced to it by my teacher in a public elementary school. Our teacher began the day with our saluting the flag and then reciting Psalm 23 together. It has remained a source of inspiration and comfort throughout my life.

While I ministered in the Navajo Nation, I was blessed with the privilege of observing shepherds caring for their sheep. I also remember one shepherdess sharing that she was getting older and did not know how much longer she could care for her beloved sheep. She was discerning which one of her family members to whom she would entrust the care of the sheep when she could no longer give them the love and attention they needed. Her concern was that she choose one who would become a good shepherd or shepherdess who would be watchful, patient, and have a special, caring relationship with each individual animal.

Sheep are very dependent on their shepherds and sheepdogs (sometimes llamas) because of their limitations.  Sheepdogs, e.g., Australian Shepherd dogs, are very intelligent. I have observed them helping the sheep cross a road safely.


Psalm 23 is believed to have been authored by David around 1000 B.C.  Let us pause to listen carefully to the words:

The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want He makes me lie down in green pastures. The shepherd seeks out good pastures for the sheep to graze and leads them there. 

He leads me beside still waters. Since sheep are easily frightened, the shepherd avoids loud waterfalls and finds quiet waters so they can drink peacefully. He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Then, the psalmist says the Lord also guides him in the ways of “righteousness” (goodness).  

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff. They comfort me. 

Some of the paths the sheep have to travel to be pastured are very dangerous.  There are steep mountains to climb and treacherous valleys, but the sheep are never alone.

The staff, like a cane with a rounded hook, is used by the shepherd to test the ground ahead of the sheep to see if it is secure. Sometimes the brush on the side of the mountains hides the danger of loose rocks and the edge of the cliffs.  The shepherd guides the sheep away from the precipices. However, sometimes a wandering sheep loses its way and becomes caught in the brush or slips into a crevice. The shepherd can sometimes rescue the sheep, using the hook end of the staff. (Today, Bishops carry a staff to symbolize that they are to be shepherds of their flock.)

The rod, a thick stick or bunch of twigs, is used to ward off dangerous animals who might attempt to harm the sheep. It can also be used to push back thick brush in the pathway: the rod and the staff help to make the sheep feel safe. The shepherd provides a safe and pleasant pasture for the sheep by watching for dangerous animals and being prepared to get rid of them so the sheep can graze peacefully.

You anoint my head with oil;

Unlike some animals, the sheep cannot rid themselves of insects who might attack their heads, so the shepherds rub their heads with oils that ward off insects.

My cup overflows.

The sheep’s hearts are overflowing with happiness.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

Having such a loving and caring Shepherd as the Lord, he trusts that he will be cared for in this life.

And I shall “dwell” in the house of the Lord forever.

When called to his heavenly home, he exclaims that he will live joyfully with his Shepherd Lord forever.




Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D. Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita 

The Infant King was first manifested to shepherds. Shepherds were not the elite of Jewish society. They worked outdoors and their duties were 24/7 - sheep needed care every day. No matter our own status, each of us is called to be a shepherd. We can guard any soul entrusted to us, guiding them to a closer relationship with God. We can guide anyone we meet to a more joyful, peaceful relationship with God. This is a 24/7 call - we never know when the Holy Spirit might prompt us to do something - large or small - for someone.

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS

Psalm 23 has been a source of comfort to me since I was a child. My parents divorced when I was eight-years old; my world was turned upside down. I had to get used to living without my dad and shortly thereafter, adjust to living with a stepfather. The situation left me very frightened.  I would close my eyes and call to mind the gentleness of the shepherd and pretend I was the sheep he placed on his shoulders. It brought me great peace. That same meditation comforts me today as I struggle to grasp the fragile reality of our world. I find myself distressed over the lack of leadership across the globe, the growing violence, shattered economy, crushed dreams and the plight of so many displaced people. I am saddened beyond words at the fear (of Covid 19) that is paralyzing countless people, contributing to anxiety and depression and the loss of bonds of connection and spiritual nourishment. This past weekend I was on a retreat which annually welcomes three hundred participants, the majority of whom have been coming for decades. This year the count was under thirty. Two hundred, seventy women missed powerful messages of God’s tender love, compassion and mercy, and the opportunities to relax, reset and receive the dynamic inspiration that is palpable in such a Spirit-filled environment. 

I believe that the Good Shepherd is calling us to co-shepherd our fellow “sheeples” during these turbulent times. In spite of masking up, we need to speak out of the Presence of God and reach out with words of encouragement and hope. The Presence of God is invisible as is the virus. Yet, the media sustains fear by bombarding the public with details of the virus. It is a challenge to turn off the media info etched in our heads long enough to enter into a quiet place to pray and find rest and hear the gentle whispering of the Holy Spirit to soothe our troubled souls. We need to communicate the message of faith by focusing on and expressing the love, Presence and power of God. Faith drives out fear. The image of the Good Shepherd as described in Psalm 23 is a very effective meditation to foster peace, restore calm and trust in God’s loving Providence.