Perhaps like many of you, setting up the Nativity is a treasured part of our family Christmas tradition, equal in many ways to decorating the tree. Serving at Fransciscan sponsored Cardinal Stritch University advanced my own understanding and appreciation for the Nativity. You see, the Nativity scene was the creative idea of St. Francis of Assisi. Preparing for Christmas in 1223, St. Francis was given permission from Pope Honorius III to set up a manger scene, with an ox and donkey and plenty of hay. He invited the villagers of Grecio, Italy to join him in front of the scene as he preached about the “babe of Bethlehem.” As the story goes, when Francis was preaching during this first ever live nativity commemoration, he was overcome by the imagery of Jesus present at the scene. The idea that God became man, emptying Himself for love of humanity, moved the heart of Francis.
Kenosis, which means “letting go” or “self-emptying,” is clearly the way of Jesus. St Francis of Assisi lived kenosis passionately, and Franciscans worldwide still believe that spirituality is about letting go. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) let go of his life in the social upper class and joyfully lived in solidarity with the sick and the poor. He let go of his status and all material trappings to live freely in the radical Gospel choice of voluntary poverty. He wanted to imitate the example of God in a manger.
Of course, most of us have grown up within a society that does not promote emptying oneself, or letting go. People in our day and age learn that “more for me” is naturally better. Western culture admires and promotes the self-made, self-sufficient, autonomous individual who often makes these values their goal of life. Some will sacrifice anything to achieve these ideals. People tell one another to “get a life for yourself.” Individualism permeates almost everything we do. It has become a basic assumption. In our individualistic consumer culture, even religion and spirituality have very often become a matter of addition: earning points with God, attaining enlightenment, producing moral behavior. Yet, according to Catholic tradition, authentic spirituality is not about getting, attaining, achieving, performing, or succeeding—all of which tend to pander to the ego. It is much more about letting go—letting go of what we don’t need anyway, although we don’t always know that ahead of time.
True spiritual wisdom reveals that less is more. Jesus taught this, and the holy ones always discover it in one way or another. Think of the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Day, and the generations of nuns, friars, and monks who intentionally took a “vow of poverty.” The great Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart (1260‒1328) said, “God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction.”
Like St. Francis and so many others have discovered, when we “let go” of unnecessary things and worldly distractions, we can find Jesus in the most humble of places. So this Christmas, I wish all in our Springs community, sacred moments of kenosis. May you be moved by the beautiful truth of our faith – that God is alive, and lives among us. What more do we need? Alleluia!
Our Lady of the Ledge, pray for us!
Be well, God bless.
Tuesday, December 22 – Final day of classes before Christmas vacation
Monday, January 4 – Classes resume
Friday, January 8 – Last day of classes for semester I
Monday – Thursday, January 11-14 – EXAM WEEK – January 2021
January 11-14, 2021 marks the end of Semester I and is designated as Exam Week for all high school students. Parents are encouraged to please click here for the Exam Week schedule and for the published SMSA expectations for students and faculty.
News and Information
Exam Week Expectations: EXAM WEEK – January 2021
Category A: Students who have elected to be a virtual learner for all of Semester I or Quarter 2 will naturally be permitted to engage with Exam Week in the virtual model. These students will be receiving directions about their final semester virtual assessments from each teacher.
Category B: Students who have elected to learn in-person for Semester I are expected to be in-person for Exam Week. The exceptions to this expectation include: a) any student who cannot physically report to campus due to being temporarily isolated as a positive COVID case; b) any student who has been temporarily quarantined as a close contact to a positive COVID case; c) any student who is otherwise unwell and called-in excused/ill by a parent.
Important: The option to switch into a virtual format on an intermittent basis is suspended during Exam Week for students who are physically well and without other valid exceptions (identified in Category B above). Intermittently choosing the virtual option during Exam Week is too disruptive to students, teachers, educational goals and process of exams. Therefore, all students who do not fall into Category A and who are physically well are expected to be in-person during Exam Week.
Congratulations to all of our new inductees to the National Honor Society! In all, thirty new students waited nearly seven months for their well deserved induction ceremony, which took place virtually on Tuesday, December 15th. For the video recording of the induction ceremony New Member Induction – New Member Link (2020-12-15 at 16:26 GMT-8) For a copy of the script of Mr. O’Keeffe’s remarks from the event, please click NHS Induction Speech – Eamonn O’Keeffe, Principal .
SMSA Virtual Learning Guides and Information:
With more students electing to learn virtually at this time of the year, I suggest parents of virtual learners review the links provided here. These are resources for better understanding virtual learning at SMSA.