Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

CHRISTMAS 2021


God, who have made this most sacred night radiant with the splendor of the true light, grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth,  may also delight in his gladness in heaven.(Christmas Eve, Mass during the Night, Collect)

Sister M. Margarete Ulager, Our General Superior, wrote in her circular letter for Christmas: From 1304 to 1306, the painter Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337) created 38 frescoes with scenes from the life of Jesus Christ in a chapel in Padua, Italy. Famous is Giotto's depiction of Halley's Comet, in his painting of the Adoration of the Magi, which the painter saw in the sky with the naked eye in 1301. In fact, however, around the time of Christ's birth in the Holy Land, it was not a comet but a remarkable constellation of Saturn and Jupiter that was visible in the night sky. 

For thousands of years, people of all cultures have contemplated the night sky: They recognized the coherence of the stars with the cycle of the year, which determined their lives with sowing and harvesting, trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe.   

I have always been fascinated by the night sky with its infinite number of stars. When in 1997 the comet Hale-Bopp was visible with the naked eye in the night sky, especially during the months of February to April, I often climbed the stairs to the roof of the hospital in Ahaus after work and I could not get enough of the endless sea of stars in the night sky. The comet impressed me deeply and reminded me of the star of Bethlehem, as we also encounter in  Giotto's painting of Christmas. What kind of star was it that the wise men saw and followed? 

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we read that three wise men from the East came to Jerusalem when Jesus had been born in Bethlehem in Judea during the reign of King Herod. They asked, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

The Magi are led by the star to Bethlehem to find the king of the world among the poor and the humble. God's standards are different from those of man: God shows himself to us not in the power of this world, but in the humility of his love, said Pope Benedict XVI on the feast of Epiphany in 2011. 

This year it is difficult for me to write this Christmas letter, considering the great crises in the world and in the Church. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that more than 84 million people worldwide are refugees for a variety of reasons. In the last three years, about one million children have been born as refugees. However, it is not only the waterway that poses a danger and a human rights challenge, but also internal migration, the disaster, violations and humiliations of people at the borders of our countries. Thousands of people have died and continue to die fleeing across the Mediterranean Sea. Escalating violence in many regions of the world, threats to internal security, and the CORONA pandemic have made the situation much worse for many people, including many refugees. The natural disasters, the floods in India, Germany and in Japan, and most recently the devastating tornadoes in the USA, leave many people deeply distressed, helpless and in sorrow. 

Our strength often does not allow us anymore to be personally present in the crisis areas of this world to help the people on the spot. Nevertheless, as an international community we find many ways to reach out to the people. In your life, you have strengthened the faith of so many people and the certainty that God accompanies us on the path of life and does not leave us to ourselves. In a very real way, each one of you is a star in the night - old or young, sick or healthy, strong or frail - praying and serving. Your being is important. Often a single star is enough to have faith in the light again.

If we give our hearts to the child in the manger, in the deep silence of the Holy Night, the star of Christmas will rise in our hearts and we can make the lives of many people brighter.

"Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!”

Wish you a blessed Christmas and a healthy and peaceful New Year 2022.