Prepare ye the way of the Lord – however he appears to you

By Kathy Cribari Hamer

North Texas Catholic

12/5/2012

It was a gentle knock, the tap-tap-tap of a squirrel crossing our roof, or the twinkly sound of a Christmas elf announcing the arrival of Santa.

It wasn’t coming from the roof though, but from our front door, outside a beveled glass window that distorted the view. Was it a humongous squirrel? Medium-sized elf ??  Tap-tap-tap.

Full disclosure: no sleigh bells accompanied that knock, so I knew it was probably not an elf.

It was a little girl.

She had blonde hair and glasses, through which blue eyes were tilted, looking up at Larry.

“Hello,” he said to her, puzzled. You don’t find an unaccompanied child on your porch every night, especially crisp November ones. What was she doing there?

“Do you have any children?” she asked, with no break after Larry’s greeting. “Yes, he replied, but they don’t live here.” And before he had stopped, she spoke again, “Can I stay with you?”

Larry and I stepped out on the porch with her, he talking to her, I scanning the street for a car, or signs a ne’er-do-well was hiding, using the child for a scam or robbery.

But no one was there. Not a car. Not a masked man. No neighbors. Not Santa, or an elf. Not a creature was stirring, not even a squirrel.

The girl was as sincere as an 8-year-old child can be; so vulnerable your inclination was to hold her, not question her. I wanted to say “Certainly you can live with us! Come upstairs to your new room; tomorrow we’ll buy you a puppy and take you to the movies.”

But this wasn’t a film, she wasn’t Annie, and we weren’t living in the ‘40s. There were guides to follow in this situation we had never before encountered. So we sat on the front porch, Larry and I, with a visitor whose attire was a fluffy bathrobe printed with moons and stars.

She had run away. It sounded like she had escaped an abusive home, or at least neglect. But how did we know for sure? We knew nothing except this: a child had entered under our roof.

She had done this during Advent.

People flow through our lives constantly, and we don’t know why. They come under our roofs for reasons unperceivable then, or maybe ever.

Two people, Sister St. John Begnaud, SSMN, and Bishop Kevin Vann, entered the lives of hundreds of thousands of us as they ministered in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Sr. St. John was a teacher, Bishop Vann a shepherd.

But why did they enter under our roof? They gave us leadership, intelligence, wise, and lyrical thoughts that would live with us forever. But why were they sent here, to the mix-master of lives, randomly deposited in a diocese Pope Paul VI forged in 1969 from 28 counties in North Central Texas? It is a puzzle we will likely never solve.

If we could, we’d understand why God’s own son was born only to die, or why he entered the world under the roof of an unworthy stable.

Last year, early in Advent, a tiny, waif-like child, who appeared to be 8 but was really 12, came under our roof. We listened to her, fed her sandwiches, and provided help from a policeman. He gently took her home, returning much later with an update on where she lived with a foster mother, a sister, and brother. The siblings said they knew no reason the little girl ran away. The officer said he would notify childcare authorities, and the next day we learned he had.

Larry and I revisited everything. Why did she choose our house? She was running toward her school, to find people she knew.

But why our house? Was it a coincidence? (“There are no coincidences, Kathy.” –  Bishop Kevin Vann)

Again why OUR house? Because strangers in a passing car, or a different house  — a block nearer or further — might have been dangerous or even fatal.

We don’t know why Fort Worth got Sr. St. John and Bishop Vann, briefly, until one died, and the other was reassigned.

We don’t know why we got the little girl.

What we do know is we must be ready for strangers who enter under our roofs. They might be teachers, shepherds, angels in disguise, or someone even more blessed.

During Advent — and always — prepare ye the way of the Lord.

It was a gentle knock, the tap-tap-tap of a squirrel crossing our roof, or the twinkly sound of a Christmas elf announcing the arrival of Santa.

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