All the preparation and waiting of the Advent season leads up the moment when Christ enters the world. In the hustle and bustle of it all, we see in the quiet stillness the image of a mother and child which brings to mind something we see so little of in our world today: tenderness.

This gentleness, compassion, warmth, acceptance, vulnerability, closeness – what could bring more comfort and joy?

“Tenderness” has even been a buzzword for Pope Francis, reaching back to his Mass of Inauguration and culminating in the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy:

“Isaiah’s invitation must resound in our hearts: ‘Comfort, comfort my people’ (40:1) and this must lead to mission. We must find the Lord who consoles us and go to console the people of God. This is the mission.  People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good. What a joy it is to bring God’s consolation to others!”

Inspired by these words, we are honored to launch today our fifth annual holiday blog series. Please join us each day as we celebrate how comfort leads to joy with stories and reflections from our missioners, volunteers, alumni, staff, and friends.

So many of these stories are the result of the the compassionate service and mutual relationship that our missioners and volunteers engage in with people on the margins around the world. This approach to mission and Gospel living creates a space to share in each other’s struggle and happiness.

During their respective ministries, many of our missioners have been the most impacted during these moments of tenderness.

One of our current missioners, Amanda Ceraldi, serves at Valley of the Angels, a boarding school run by Franciscan friars in Guatemala. The students at Valley of the Angels come from extreme poverty and many are orphans. 

When the fifth-grade English class was learning family member vocabulary, Amanda made her own family tree and described her relatives and all of the fun she has with them during holidays.  As the kids started to make their family trees and describe their own families, one of the students began to well up with tears.

Usually, Lucy has a big smile on her face. The strong-willed, determined, kind, and fun-loving 11 year old excels in school and helps to tutor her classmates. It was unusual — and difficult — for Amanda to see such a usually happy girl be so sad.

After class, Lucy said she was sad about her family tree because her mother and father both passed away. However, Lucy said that she loves being at Valley of the Angels because it’s then when she really feels like she has a family. “Gracias por ser como una mamá para mí – thank you for being like a mom to me,” Lucy said, as she and Amanda shared a hug.

Amanda at Valley of the Angels

Amanda at Valley of the Angels

It is these kinds of moments of comfort and joy that Franciscan Mission Service celebrates in this year’s holiday blog series. Through compassionate service and mutual relationship, we strive to keep tenderness from something we see only at Christmas.

Let us celebrate the fruit that comes from accompaniment, solidarity, mutual relationship, and ministry of presence! Thank you for joining us on this journey.