Let Us Go to the Grotto of Bethlehem

“For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: He shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

-Isaiah 9:6-7

This post acknowledges some of the less pleasant aspects of ALS, so be forewarned.

My journey with ALS has, I won’t lie, been more painful than I imagined, especially emotionally. So much has been taken away, sooner than I thought. This brings a special kind of grief. I no longer can walk, talk, eat; the tracheostomy, will see to that.

I can no longer celebrate the Sacraments, or even hold a rosary in my hand. I can no longer play with my nieces and nephew as I’d like. It is hard to even get to Holy Mass, with the ventilator, the suction equipment, and the van.

All this makes me sad and I often weep over my seemingly outcast state. So much I would like to do, but cannot. I weep and weep. I try to hide it, but those around me know.

I try to use those tears to repent, as one of my Spiritual Fathers said in a recent email “As for the tears the Fathers would say that whatever their cause, one can turn them in to tears of compunction.”

Even if they seem to come from more “human” motives.” So I hope that even my tears about worldly things will move me to compunction. So far, this is the case.

Recently, it became apparent that my sister, Annie, needed more down time. Even with other family to help, it is important that caretakers take care of themselves. I asked the diocese to assist with hiring a nurse to help, alas, no answer yet, at least not a definite answer.

But, as He always does God provides an answer. Mind you, not the answer I wanted. But an answer nonetheless.

A fine group of locals volunteered to help, even with the nitty-gritty stuff that a person with ALS needs. This includes toileting me, getting me in bed, emptying catheters, seeing me in my birthday suit, and were an “accident” to occur to clean me up. It means suctioning me, which can be uncomfortable for both parties.

Of course, I was upset by this. I mean who wants to be THAT vulnerable. Then came the tears.

As with many things, I went to the chapel to complain to the Lord. He, in His Mercy revealed a tiny bit of what He was doing in my life.

He reminded me that He, too, couldn’t dress Himself, that He, too, couldn’t feed Himself, that when He soiled Himself, Mary and Joseph had to clean Him up. When He cried, they held Him and consoled Him. He had to be carried, and have everything done for him like me. And He was GOD!

I am not God, that’s for sure! But I am configured to Him through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, thus making me “another Christ”, and such, am called to the Humility of the Infant King, who came to us amidst the Humility of the cave of Bethlehem.

With ultimate condescension. Born among the animals, and their stench, and among the shepherds, and their stench from living with their animals on the hillside.

Everything about the Infant King was humility. As Jesus said when He was older” “the servant is no better than the Master” (cf. John 15:20). So, the message for me is to embrace extreme humility, the kind Jesus had when, although the Deity, became Man. The kind of humility that eventually led He, though God, to be paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, beaten, bruised, and on the Cross, naked.

This, my friends, is the humility to which I, configured to Christ the Priest, am called. And so is every bishop and priest who wants to be a saint. For my part, I do.

So, my spiritual sons and daughters, let us get to the grotto of Bethlehem, and beg both the Infant King, Mary Immaculate, and St. Joseph, to obtain the grace to be truly, truly humble.

This, my brother priests and bishops, contains a special message for us. Unless we are able to have the humility to be born in a stinky cave and suffer the humility of being faithful to Jesus, even if they strip us, metaphorically, of our priesthood, then we will stand naked with Jesus on his Cross. No pride or position is worth the effort when one could have as friend the Infant King of Humility.

Used with permission from the author.

This article first appeared in part on the author’s blog, A Living Sacrifice.

Fr. Dana Ambrose Christensen is a priest and writer of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  He was ordained priest in 2005 and has served various assignments.  He is well known for his blog, A Living Sacrifice, which has achieved an international following.  Fr. Dana writes on subjects related to spiritual direction and more recently his journey with ALS.