18-year-old Madison A. - volunteering in the Heart’s Home Ukrainian Center- talks about her being away from her family for the first time during Christmas season:
Recently my community along with our friends at St. Clement Center in Kiev published and presented Fr. Thierry De Roucy’s book ‘Christmas, a Mystery’. I wish I could say that I received “spiritual and Christmasy inspiration” from reading this book, but unfortunately I am not able to understand all of the texts, as I am obviously still learning Ukrainian. Presenting the book, while not understanding the content of it, brought me to think about someone who is very important in the Christmas story: St. Joseph. He could not have, as we do not, understand how Mary could bear this Son of hers by the power of God. He could not have comprehended why God had chosen him to leave his life, his reputation, his hopes and dreams to carry out a lifelong task that was a mystery to him. He entered into a “spiritual poverty” and emptied his heart of any desires for control or personal satisfaction. With this poverty and with the grace of humility that was given him through this poverty, Joseph embarked on a journey that took him far away from home. He traveled a great distance away from both his physical home, and the home in his heart, a place where he had the comfort and peace of a normal lifestyle. I can only imagine what was going through Joseph’s mind as he stood behind Mary and the Newborn when the shepherds and wisemen came to give homage to this Mystery that he embraced without understanding. The confusion, sorrow, and heaviness he must have felt at this task of being a father to Jesus and leaving his home; but also the peace he must have felt, the joy he must have experienced from the interior mystery which was given to him to contemplate in his own heart.
St. Joseph is a wonderful example to me. I have gladly chosen to embrace a new culture, to learn their ways and their language. When I left home, I didn’t expect to have to embrace a new Christmas! I see now, that by embracing these traditions, these new ways of life for myself, I am not being asked to change my own traditions. I am not being called to carry out my own traditions either. I am being invited to contemplate a mystery—two actually! One, being the mystery of the communications between cultures; how to find a new gaze upon a new custom when perhaps all I want is to run to the comfort of my home, whether that be in my heart and mind with my set traditions or to my physical home back in the States! The second mystery I am invited into is indeed—the mystery of the Christmas! What is the joy of this Newborn bundle of light? How can I come to understand this great event better? In the different encounters I make with my friends here in this far away place, where is the Newborn joy, or the simpleness of the stable and shepherds, or the grandeur of the wisemen?