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Oh mother! You should go out and see!
There’s never been such a sky.


Hanging over our roof,
there is a star as large as a window;
and the star has a tail, and it moves
across the sky like a chariot on fire.

So sings Amahl, the crippled boy, to his widowed mother in the opening scene of Gian Carlo-Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951). The star sets this one-act opera into motion: it fires the boy’s imagination and dramatically alters his mother’s impoverished world; and it compels Three Kings to abandon their charts in foreign lands and seek shelter from winter’s cold in the widow’s hut.

As the story unfolds, we learn from Melchior about another child, the one they seek,


the color of wheat…
the color of dawn
His eyes are mild; his hands are those of a king
– as king he was born.

Incense, myrrh, and gold we bring to his side;
and the eastern star is our guide.

 I, too, am looking for the Child. I, too, follow the crystal star, one day/night at a time.

Within its scintillation appears the guidance I seek, now that my terminal illness seems to be at a standstill: new limits form the boundaries of my known world. But in the in betweenness of things, change is happening. That, I do know. Like Amahl’s and his mother’s ongoing transformation, I remain content, my trust fixed upon the night sky for the next suggestion.


There is a story of a French peasant woman in the winter of 1839.  One night she happened upon Anne Chauvin, a poor, blind, partially paralyzed, old woman collapsed upon a snow-packed street, abandoned. Moved by her plight, she scooped her up in her arms, climbed the wooden circular steps to her postage-stamp apartment, placed her in her bed, and cared for her. Word of her kindness spread throughout Saint-Servan. Both infirm elderly and young women, desirous to help them, began knocking on her door.


The woman’s name was Jeanne Jugun, the foundress of the religious community, The Little Sisters of the Poor, who, today, staff two hundred nursing homes for the poor elderly in thirty-one countries.


One of these communities in Denver, Colorado, made national news on January 24, 2014. On that day, the Supreme Court Justices unanimously granted the sisters’ petition, submitted by two lawyers from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberties, to refrain from providing FDA-approved contraceptive measures for their employees, a mandate from ObamaCare, until heard by the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. One source cited February 22, 2014 for this hearing. Once the lower court rules on the merits of the sisters’ objections on religious grounds, the loser will probably ask the Supreme Court to rule on this dispute. This case could drag on …


Another story comes to mind of a poor shepherd boy, David, centuries ago, who slew the Philistine’s giant, Goliath, with a single stone picked up from the river bed, then with the giant’s sword, cut off his head. I Samuel 17: 40-47.


At issue here is the locus of real power.




The outer door opens a crack, an NB scuffed shoe wedges it open further, a right shoulder leans into it even further. A right hand reaches around for the wheeled cart behind him and thrusts it inside the doctor’s waiting room. It is the hospital courier making his morning rounds.


Patients fret behind magazines or I Phones. A toddler strews plastic blocks on the floor, then retrieves them. The drama deepens. No matter that the courier’s withered left arm flops around like flotsam on roiling waves; nor that his gait lists wildly to the left. He is on a mission to deliver the mail and pickup more generated by the clerical staff. A distant smile lightens his Ichabod Crane face and illumines his significant impairments. This is a simple man of deep joy.


He carries the message well to those who understand it. Then he disappears into the inner office. He will return at the end of the day


Four years, in all weathers, this lanky courier has pulled his wheeled cart to doctors’ offices and made his deliveries. Before then, he had worked in the hospital’s mailroom, according to the receptionist.


Such are the truly great ones among us! We do well to pay attention.


His name is Jim.




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