Christmas: A time for remembering the ones we love and serve

December 15, 2012

President and chief executive
Trinity Health, Livona, Mich.
Chairman of the CHA Board of Trustees

During the Christmas season, we share our abundance with family, friends and community. We gather together to celebrate a New Year full of hope and possibility. At the same time, we recall a founding story of a homeless family looking for shelter on a cold night, awaiting the arrival of an infant we believe will become the savior of the world. Their story describes how Jesus came into a world full of tension, strife and uncertainty. A gift from God to all creation, he humbly arrived in poverty in the care of two brave, young people following the will of God. Theirs was a truly outrageous hope, a graced commitment to care for this child entrusted to them in a sacred and mysterious way.

These many years later, we in Catholic health care draw inspiration from this story. We remind ourselves every year that our faith is founded on the story of God's love for us demonstrated by the gift of his son.

As we recall this story, we are invited to share in it by continuing the ministry of Jesus. Through our commitment to serve those living in poverty — by healing body, mind and spirit, we live out the message of the Gospel in these turbulent, challenging and uncertain times.

In many ways, the founding stories of the religious men and women who established our ministries mirrored the faith and hope of Mary and Joseph as they set out on their own ministry to raise this child, Jesus. Think of the many stories of heroic sisters braving the difficulties of travel across oceans and continents to establish services for the poor and marginalized in remote and distant lands. The angel Gabriel declared to Mary that she was going to be the mother of Jesus and her response was simply, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

Our founders also received mysterious and puzzling assignments. Motivated by a commitment to do what needed to be done, they responded bravely and completely to the call to serve. We the leaders of these ministries today are graced by their legacy to carry on the ministry.

In a recent essay titled The Broken-open Heart, noted author and educator Parker Palmer talks about the paradox of living in the "tragic gap … between what is and what could and should be." There is tension in this gap that can be very painful and anxiety provoking. As we look around our world today in the aftermath of natural disasters and human tragedies, the continuing struggles of a weak economy, the looming challenges of health care reform and the suffering of people across the globe, it is easy to close our hearts and minds, to avoid the distress it may cause us and devote our attention to shopping for gifts for our loved ones and attending holiday parties. We can read the story of Joseph and

Mary and their infant without realizing they too lived in a distressing gap from which they did not run. Paradoxically, they were able to appreciate the grace and love being showered upon them and set out upon a journey of great peril with faith and hope.

The story of the Holy Family can offer us much to consider as we await the Christmas holiday. Please join me in a reflection on their journey:

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Whatever struggles we face, however much suffering in the lives of our patients and families we serve, may we be inspired by this humble and courageous family as they protected and nourished Jesus. May their story also remind us of the importance of our own families — our families at home and within Catholic health care — in guiding and shaping our path through life. Regardless of our own beginnings, we all have been called to this health care ministry to address the needs of many who are less fortunate or who are troubled with health concerns. As we gather together to celebrate this holiday with family and friends, may we be filled with gratitude for this special source of purpose and community. We truly are blessed with wonderful ministries to lead and foster.

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I wish you and your families at home and at our ministries a grace-filled Christmas and a New Year full of hope and possibilities.


Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.