2016 Christmas Message From
The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi
"The crèche is come
to our lawns
the Christmas corner of our lives"
- Rita A. Simmonds
Greetings to all,
As we move forward with the fresh sentiments of gratitude nurtured on Thanksgiving, we find ourselves in sacred vigil - pondering with eager anticipation the coming of Emmanuel. Our Advent season beckons us to reflect on what type of welcome our hearts present.
"God has found shelter
amid hectic, inhospitable terrain
and pleads for warmth and welcome
to jolt the darkness of the cave."
"God has found shelter...", as Rector of the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, I'm appreciative for the way so many have sought to be part of the journey and witness of the Shrine. All of them show the common bond of thoughtfulness and generosity familiar to followers of St. Francis.
How blessed I've been to meet so many of the "old timers" of North Beach and the St. Francis church, who have drawn me deeper in appreciation for the rich heritage of our local church and neighborhood. There are the local businesses and residents who have warmly opened their arms with encouragement and support. A great seed of hope is the growing number of young families that are choosing to come to the Shrine as their place of prayer and worship.
So nice, also, is the supportive presence of so many of the faithful who have a history journeying with our Capuchin friars at other places of our ministry. How thoughtful and encouraging is this support and outreach to me as I strive to nurture the greater life of witness and service of the National Shrine of Assisi.
"God has found shelter...", it is only together - with all of you, that I, not only can, but also desire to nurture the life of the Shrine - as a place of sanctuary and solace, a place of renewal and profound encounter with our loving God. It is with many hands - compassionate, hopeful, generous and joyous that a bright light of peace and welcome can beckon all to the Shrine of St. Francis.
It has been just under two years since I was assigned Rector for the Shrine of St. Francis. Prior to my stewardship, the Shrine had experienced many a trial of closure and hardship of needed repair and maintenance. Although there is no longer the threat of closure, my assessment of the condition of the Shrine, as to physical plant repair and maintenance, and the effective development of pastoral ministries and outreach, is that there are several pressing areas in need of financial support - that go way beyond the meager budget resources presently available to me as the Rector of the Shrine.
Soon a more detailed description of the needs of the Shrine and an outline of my tentative plans for development of the Shrine's mission and goals will be available on our web-site.
I am quickly appreciating that it is no easy task to ask for people's financial support, but I also have come to appreciate that it is sometimes part and parcel of stewardship for responsible leadership.
I am asking that this Christmas Appeal can be more than a seasonal occasion of giving *(although all and any is appreciated). I sincerely appeal to you, to prayerfully consider being a major partner assisting the Shrine as it seeks to not just "maintain" but grow and enhance the impact of the Shrine in its witness to the love of St. Francis.
My sisters and brothers, there are so many a story I could share with you of the beautiful miracles of "encounter" I have witnessed or others have shared with me. Stories of people who been renewed in hope amid the weight of worry, a soothing calm and peace when troubled or sorrowful. Time and again people find a sanctuary of silence and prayer awaiting them in the Shrine when their world seems so frantic and loud. People find a genuine welcome in the Shrine, wherever they are in their life. In the name and love of God (and in your name too) the Capuchin friars seek to make sure all find welcome and shelter in this Shrine of St. Francis.
"if we could only admit a crack of light
our eyes would see a different day."
Together, let us boldly open our hearts generously, and be confident that what may start as a "crack of light" may soon stream as a bold ray of light, that all may see a different day - a New Day.
Peace and blessing,
Rev. John De La Riva, OFM Cap., Rector