Editor’s note: Sr. Patricia D. Reid, OSF, an Allegany Franciscan for more than 50 years, serves on the Franciscan Mission Service Board of Directors. As a guest blogger for FMS’ 2017 Advent blog series, Sr. Pat shares a time when she felt welcomed into the home of a woman who didn’t own much, but “had everything.”

If you walk around any big city or small town, the streets are being prepared for Christmas.

For St. Francis, one of the most important events was Christmas, that God so desired to lavish Her/His love upon us and show us how to live and love. 

When I was in Brasil, I was invited to have coffee at the home of Dona Divina. She was married, with ten children and a husband, and she lived in a small house which had one room. When I went into the house, Divina was so happy to receive me and had prepared the table on a small wooden box. She borrowed coffee from the neighbor, and placed the cups on the table. The cups were small cans that tomato sauce had come in, but her husband had put a small handle on each one. She then excused herself and went to another neighbor to ask for some bread. When she returned, we had coffee and bread which was a banquet: the best she had. 

I hope you’re not offended in reading this, but it was like receiving the sacrament on the altar of God’s holy ones. The bread and coffee were the greatest Dona Divina could offer, and she offered them with such joy and love. The other sister who was supposed to be with me then appeared, as she had been held up with another mission. She entered the house, and was received with jubilation. We continued to talk and share stories, which were mostly Dona Divina sharing about her children, her husband’s health, and her faith. My heart was so moved by her joy, her smile, and her happiness to receive us in her home. She had practically nothing, but she had everything.

Moved by the joy of Dona Divina and her gift of hospitality, I couldn’t help but think of the Incarnation. Although we speak of poverty and simplicity surrounding the birth of Christ, have we considered Hospitality as one of the primary gifts Mary and Joseph offered? The Shepherds arrived, having been in the fields for a number of days, then the Magi and their attendants. Whoever presented themselves, Mary and Joseph received with great warmth and tenderness. This is the gift of Christmas; this is the gift St. Francis invites us to receive and share with all.

Dona Divina, in the simplicity of her home, taught me that it’s not what you give, but how you give it.

May the spirit of Christmas touch your heart and allow you to reach out to your neighbor.

Merry Christmas! Feliz Natal!

Reflection questions: How do you receive the other? An intruder who changes the rhythm of your day? A stranger who doesn’t look friendly? A homeless person looking for a meal or a place to bathe?