Sunday, December 31, 2023

Remembering Rita McDonald, CSJ – 1922-2023

Before 2023 ends I want to acknowledge that my dear friend Rita McDonald, CSJ, journeyed home to God just over a month ago on November 20. She was 101.

Rita was a loving and steadfast friend and mentor to many, myself included. As our mutual friend Marilaurice says, Rita was “our dear sister, friend, activist, justice-seeker, peace maker, singer, and laugh-out-loud child of God.”

Over the years, Rita and I had many good, meaningful, and happy times together, and I’m so glad she got to meet my parents and other family members in 2005 and 2008.

Rest in power and peace, dear Rita.

Above: In the summer of 2005 my parents visited me in the U.S. (before the three of us traveled to Europe for two weeks). In this photo Mum and Dad are pictured with Rita and fellow CSJ Marguerite Corcoran.

Above: On May 16, 2006 I made my commitment to being a consociate member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ). My companions during my two-year consociate candidancy were Rita and Marguerite.

In the summer of 2008 my older brother Chris and his family visited the Twin Cities. Pictured above are my nephews Mitchell, Liam, and Brendan with Marguerite and Rita.

Above: Over the years I’ve hosted many parties at which the McDonald sisters were lively participants! These gatherings ranged from birthday parties to tea parties!

In this photo are (from left) Rita, Daniel, Mike, Mary Lynn, Kate, Kathleen, and Marguerite. If I remember correctly, the event was my 43rd birthday party in 2008.

Above: The McDonald sisters: Brigid, Jane, Kate and Rita – October 2012.

Above: At the 2014 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation Gala. Pictured with me from left: Rita, Kate, Brigid, and our mutual friend Kathleen. This annual event helps raise money for the St. Mary's Health Clinics. These clinics are an ecumenical ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and are located throughout the Twin Cities metro area. They offer primary care, referrals to specialists, laboratory, radiology, in-patient, and prescription medications – all free to patients who otherwise would have no access to medical care.

Above: On the afternoon of Friday, January 30, 2015 I hosted a tea party for a number of the wise and inspiring women in my life. Pictured from left: Brigid McDonald, CSJ; Marguerite Corcoran, CSJ; Rita McDonald, CSJ; Theresa O'Brien, CSJ; Paula Ruddy; Rita Quigley; Florence Steichen, CSJ; and Kate McDonald, CSJ.

Above: With Rita – Sunday, December 27, 2015.

Following are excerpts from Chris Kornelis’ December 29, 2023 Wall Street Journal obituary for Rita.

After Kenneth McDonald served in the Army during World War I and saw action in France, his 11 children in Watertown, Minnesota, were raised being told that their father had served in the war to end all wars. Then his son Ewan fought in World War II. Patrick and K.J. served in the Korean War and, eventually, all five of his sons served in the armed forces.

Four of his daughters became both nuns and anti-war activists.

The oldest girl – Rita McDonald, who was the first of the four to join the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul – died on November 20 at the age of 101. She and her sisters Jane, Kate and Brigid (all of whom survive her) became known throughout the Twin Cities as the nuns who could be seen singing, dancing and chanting at peace and social justice protests, vigils and marches – efforts that sometimes landed them in handcuffs.

The sisters’ many causes included opposing the war in Iraq, [military] aid to El Salvador and the production of land mines at an area weapons maker. They were fixtures at a weekly peace demonstration on the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue Bridge that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul.

"You couldn’t be aware of what was happening politically in the Twin Cities without being aware of the McDonald sisters," said Chris Coleman, a former mayor of St. Paul and the current president and cheif executive of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

. . . Rita Frances McDonald was born on October 10, 1922, to Kenneth and Margaret (Burns) McDonald. She was raised with her 10 siblings on what they called the Old McDonald Farm in Watertown.

During World War II, Rita McDonald worked in Minneapolis cleaning B-25 bombers. In 1946, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Family members said her reasons for joining the convent included her desire to work as a nurse (though the convent had other plans for her) and her faith in God. During the next decades, three of her sisters joined her.

. . . Sister Jane said that though the four of them had been raised thinking that war could be a solution, they went through a kind of conversion and came to belive that war only led to more war. She said a turning point occurred during the Vietnam War when a draft-age nephew spoke to the sisters about his opposition to the conflict.

In the decades that followed, the four sisters became a ubiquitous presence at demonstrations. Sister Rita was arrested numerous times. The sisters’ lives were the subject of a play, Sisters of Peace, written by Doris Baizley and commissioned by the History Theatre in St. Paul. It premiered in 2019.

“I’ve got to be out there saying something, that I don’t agree, I resist,” Sister Rita said in [Four Sisters for Peace] a [2003] student-made documentary.

. . . Sister Jane said Sister Rita had a gift for creating space for constructive dialogue with those who opposed or confronted them – whether they were counter-protesters or police officers. Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul, said he got a taste of her diplomacy a number of times. He said the sisters let him know they didn't approve of the way St. Paul dealt with the protests during the 2008 Republican National Convention. But he said they were “so loving in how they did it.”

“There was always a little, ‘I’m a little disappointed in you, mayor, and I know you can do better than this,’” he said. “And you just went, ‘Yes, Sister, I’ll try.’”

Chris Kornelis
Excerpted from “Anti-War Nun Became a Political Force
The Wall Street Journal
December 29, 2023

NOTE: A more accurate title for Kornelis’ obituary would have been “Anti-War Nun Became a Nonviolent Force.” Just sayin’.

Following are some images of Rita’s December 18 funeral service and burial.

Sister Brigid McDonald, CSJ (above) and Sister Kate McDonald, CSJ (below) leaving their sister Rita’s funeral service at Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel in St. Paul, MN – Monday, December 18, 2023.

Above: Sister Jane McDonald, CSJ, holding the youngest member of the McDonald family at the funeral reception for her sister Rita – December 18, 2023.

Above: With my dear friend Kathleen at Rita’s funeral reception.

Related Off-site Link:
Minnesota Sisters Who Became Sisters Made a Habit of Fighting for Peace and Justice – Kathy Berdan (Pioneer Press, March 21, 2019)>

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Celebrating the “Sisters of Peace”
The Inspiring Brigid McDonald
Beginning the Process
Making My Consociate Commitment
The Vatican and U.S. Women Religious
Three Winter Gatherings
In Wintry Minnesota, An Australian Afternoon Tea
Award-winning “Hellraisers” at It Again
Alliant Action
It Sure Was Cold!
Walking Against Weapons

Opening image: Photographer unknown.
All other images: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Christmas 2023 – Reflections, Activism, Art, and Celebrations

Artwork:Christ in the Rubble” by Kelly Latimore

Christmas Day has been and gone here in Minnesota . . . and although I missed spending this special time of year with my family and friends in Australia, I feel very fortunate to have many wonderful friends here in the U.S. with whom I was able to celebrate all that the Winter Solstice / Christmas season signifies.

Right: A scene from the Jacquie Lawson animated Christmas card that my mum sent me from Australia. It’s called “The Olive Tree.”

I must admit I’m finding it a challenge to feel joyful and to celebrate this year, especially with all that’s going on in Israel and Gaza. Accordingly, this Christmas saw me engage in some justice and peace activism so as to feel as though I’m staying engaged and making a difference. For me, such activity is the seedbed of joy.

Tonight I share some images of this activism, along with some commentary (with added links) about the ongoing crisis that prompted it. I also share a few images of some of the Christmas celebrations I’ve been part of here in Minnesota. In addition, I share some of my favorite reflections on the meaning and significance of Christmas. I hope you find these reflections as meaningful and inspiring as I do.


It is challenging to convey glad tidings of great joy this Christmas when terror, sorrow, and death fill the days of so many.

A genocide unfolds in the land of Christ’s birth.

Over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza over the past two months, in the wake of terrorist attacks [in southern Israel] by Hamas on October 7. Two million Palestinians have been displaced, amounting to 85% of Gaza’s population.

Israeli families mourn the horrific slaughter, torture, and unknown fates of hundreds of hostages who remain in captivity.

Such brutality cannot justify the indiscriminate response Israel has taken since October 7th – shelling neighborhoods, bombing hospitals, schools, churches, blocking exit routes, and access to humanitarian aid, food, water, medical care, fuel, and electricity, subjecting innocent Palestinians to a relentless cycle of revenge-driven bombardment.

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as, “a crime committed to with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part.”

Bethlehem, Christ’s traditional birthplace, located in the occupied West Bank, has canceled Christmas celebrations. Even today, the Jenin Refugee Camp was subject to air raids by Israeli Defense Forces.

Jesus Christ was a Jew, born amidst the obscurity of oppression, in a Judea occupied by the Roman Empire. Not much has changed in two thousand years. The horrors unfolding in Bethlehem and throughout occupied Palestine should prompt us to decry a genocidal war, engage in the ongoing struggle for Palestinian liberation, while simultaneously advocating for Jewish safety, condemning terror attacks on innocent communities, families, and civilians, and a return for all hostages.

Christmas calls us to advance the vision Jesus of Nazareth passionately spent his prophetic existence heralding, a world liberated from demoralizing systems of oppression, despotic regimes, and the insanity of war.

Doing so requires an immediate, lasting ceasefire in Gaza, and opposing U.S. funding (to the annual tune of $3.3 billion) for Israel’s military industrial complex that maintains an occupied Palestine. We must advocate for restorative and transformative geopolitical solutions to realize peace, justice, and reconciliation in the land of Christ’s birth.

. . . Solidarity for all those who mourn. May our tears be the seeds for a liberated Palestine and a Holy Land cherished by all people of goodwill.

– Phillip Clark
via Facebook
December 25, 2023

Above: A woman and child stand before a wall in Tel Aviv, Israel with pictures of hostages being held in Gaza after they were kidnapped from Israel by Hamas gunmen on October 7, 2023. The October 7 attack on Israel by the paramilitary wing of Hamas resulted in the killing of 1,139 people – 695 Israeli civilians, among them 36 children, as well as 373 members of security forces and 71 foreigners. Many of those killed were also tortured and/or sexually brutalized and mutilated. At least 44 nations denounced the attack as terrorism. (Photo: Reuters)

Above: Palestinian women and children evacuate following an Israeli airstrike on the al-Sousi Mosque in Gaza on October 9, 2023. The Israeli government’s military response to the October 7 attack by Hamas has been widely condemned for a number of reasons, though mostly for its terrorizingly indiscriminate bombing and staggering number of civilian deaths (20,000+) and injuries. (Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)

As Americans celebrate the holiday season and enjoy a merry Christmas with their families, and children in the U.S. and Europe are busy rehearsing nativity or Christmas plays at school, it will not be merry at all in Palestine, the birthplace of Christ. In the Holy Land, where Palestinian baby Jesus was born in a manger and where Christ’s message of love, compassion and caring for the oppressed was heard for the first time, Palestinians live their lives in daily fear under the gun of Israeli soldiers and armed settlers. According to UNRWA, the United Nations refugee authority, 271 Palestinians, including 69 minors, have been killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank this year — a record since the Second Intifada.

In the West Bank town of Jenin, residents have emptied the streets and children hide indoors as Israeli tanks and snipers raid the city. The Jenin Refugee Camp has been targeted with drones and repeatedly invaded with armored bulldozers that tear up streets. Since October 7, 58 Palestinians have been killed in Jenin alone. Last week, Israeli soldiers stormed Jenin’s Freedom Theatre, a renowned cultural institution, ransacking the place, knocking down walls, destroying theater and office equipment, confiscating computers and assaulting theater staff. They later beat up, handcuffed, blindfolded and abducted Mustafa Sheta, the Freedom Theatre’s general manager, and Ahmed Tobasi, the theater’s artistic director, from their homes. Zoe Lafferty, the theatre’s associate director, described the attack to the Middle East Eye as a form of “cultural genocide.”

In any given year, around Christmastime, the Church of the Nativity receives hundreds of thousands of visitors and worshipers. This year, Bethlehem — home to more than a quarter of a million Palestinians — is besieged like other towns in the West Bank. It is shrouded in darkness, sadness, tears and agony. Since October 7, a large number of people were rounded up in Bethlehem and put in jail without being charged under Israel’s “administrative detention” policy.

The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem declared the cancellation of Christmas celebrations in a solemn announcement on November 10. The Church of Nativity has canceled its Christmas festivities, put away its Christmas decorations, and instead of the church’s normal nativity scene, it placed baby Jesus on top of a pile of rubble inside the church.

– Michel Moushabeck
Excerpted from “If Jesus Was Born Today,
Would He Be Under Rubble?

December 18, 2023

We are angry.

We are broken.

This should have been a time of joy; instead, we are mourning. We are fearful.

20,000 killed. Thousands under the rubble still. Close to 9,000 children killed in the most brutal ways. Day after day after day. 1.9 million displaced! Hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed. Gaza as we know it no longer exists. This is an annihilation. A genocide.

. . . We are outraged by the complicity of the church. Let it be clear: Silence is complicity, and empty calls for peace without a ceasefire and end to occupation, and the shallow words of empathy without direct action — are all under the banner of complicity. So here is my message: Gaza today has become the moral compass of the world. Gaza was hell on earth before October 7th.

If you are not appalled by what is happening; if you are not shaken to your core – there is something wrong with your humanity.

. . . To our friends who are here with us: You have left your families and churches to be with us. You embody the term accompaniment – a costly solidarity. “We were in prison and you visited us.” What a stark difference from the silence and complicity of others. Your presence here is the meaning of solidarity. Your visit has already left an impression that will never be taken from us. Through you, God has spoken to us that “we are not forsaken.” As Father Rami of the Catholic Church said this morning, you have come to Bethlehem, and like the Magi, you brought gifts, but gifts that are more precious than gold, frankincense, and myrrh. You brought the gift of love and solidarity.

We needed this. For this season, maybe more than anything, we were troubled by the silence of God. In these last two months, the Psalms of lament have become a precious companion. We cried out: My God, My God, why have you forsaken Gaza? Why do you hide your face from Gaza?

In our pain, anguish, and lament, we have searched for God, and found him under the rubble in Gaza. Jesus became the victim of the very same violence of the Empire. He was tortured. Crucified. He bled out as others watched. He was killed and cried out in pain – My God, where are you?

In Gaza today, God is under the rubble.

And in this Christmas season, as we search for Jesus, he is to be found not on the side of Rome, but on our side of the wall. In a cave, with a simple family. Vulnerable. Barely, and miraculously surviving a massacre. Among a refugee family. This is where Jesus is found.

If Jesus were to be born today, he would be born under the rubble in Gaza. When we glorify pride and richness, Jesus is under the rubble.

When we rely on power, might, and weapons, Jesus is under the rubble.

When we justify, rationalize, and theologize the bombing of children, Jesus is under the rubble.

Jesus is under the rubble. This is his manger. He is at home with the marginalized, the suffering, the oppressed, and the displaced. This is his manger. . . [And] THIS is the incarnation. Messy. Bloody. Poverty.

This child is our hope and inspiration. We look and see him in every child killed and pulled from under the rubble. While the world continues to reject the children of Gaza, Jesus says: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” . . . “You did it to ME.” Jesus not only calls them his own, he is them!

We look at the holy family and see them in every family displaced and wandering, now homeless in despair. While the world discusses the fate of the people of Gaza as if they are unwanted boxes in a garage, God in the Christmas narrative shares in their fate; He walks with them and calls them his own.

This manger is about resilience – صمود. The resilience of Jesus is in his meekness; weakness, and vulnerability. The majesty of the incarnation lies in its solidarity with the marginalized. Resilience because this very same child, rose up from the midst of pain, destruction, darkness and death to challenge Empires; to speak truth to power and deliver an everlasting victory over death and darkness.

This is Christmas today in Palestine and this is the Christmas message. It is not about Santa, trees, gifts, lights, etc. My goodness how we twisted the meaning of Christmas. How we have commercialized Christmas. I was in the USA last month, the first Monday after Thanksgiving, and I was amazed by the amount of Christmas decorations and lights, all the commercial goods. I couldn’t help but think: They send us bombs, while celebrating Christmas in their land. They sing about the Prince of Peace in their land, while playing the drum of war in our land.

Christmas in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is this manger. This is our message to the world today. It is a gospel message, a true and authentic Christmas message, about the God who did not stay silent, but said his word, and his Word is Jesus. Born among the occupied and marginalized. He is in solidarity with us in our pain and brokenness.

This manger is our message to the world today – and it is simply this: this genocide must stop NOW. Let us repeat to the world: STOP this genocide NOW.

This is our call. This is our plea. This is our prayer. Hear, O God. Amen.

– Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac
Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church – Bethlehem
Excerpted from “Christ in the Rubble: A Liturgy of Lament
December 23, 2023

On Christmas Eve I attended a rally and march organized by a number of Minneapolis-based justice and peace organizations. I’m pretty sure the event was billed as a "pro-Palestinian" rally. And that’s okay.

Yet I, in attending this event, held in my heart both the Palestinian people and the Jewish people in that part of the world that many call “The Holy Land.”

As I explained later to a friend, I went so as to stand in solidarity with the humanity of both Jews and Palestinians.

Following are more images from this event.

It’s almost like all this devastation and suffering – this aspirational genocide – should be stamped “made in America.” What good does it do to tell Israel to try not to kill the civilians (at least 7700 children have been killed by U.S.-made bombs), when we keep resupplying their weapons no matter what?

THIS YEAR, I SWEAR TO GOD, the Christ child has been born not in Bethlehem, but in Gaza. And we are helping Herod to slaughter the innocents.

– David Weiss
via Facebook
December 20, 2023

The Christmas Eve rally and march in Minneapolis was one of a number of similar protests that have taken place across the U.S. since Israel launched in Gaza its military response to the October 7 Hamas attack.

Many of these protests have been organized by the group Jewish Voice for Peace. The image above, for instance, shows Jewish activists and allies holding a protest demanding a cease-fire in Gaza on December 14, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo: Jewish Voice for Peace)

In reporting on these protests, Jake Johnson wrote the following in a December 15 article for Common Dreams.

On the eighth night of Hanukkah, Jewish activists and allies took to the streets of eight U.S. cities on Thursday to demand an end to the bloodshed in Gaza, blocking traffic on bridges and highways in a show of opposition to the Biden administration’s continued support for the Israeli military’s atrocities.

“It is horrifying to watch the U.S. government fully fund the Israeli government’s relentless bombing campaign and the destruction of the people of Gaza,” said Sara Bollag of the Washington, D.C. chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which helped organize the protests in Seattle; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Minneapolis; and Atlanta.

“I am here, as the great-granddaughter of a victim of the Holocaust, doing everything in my power to stop another genocide unfolding before our eyes,” Bollag added.

In the nation’s capital, demonstrators holding signs that read “Cease-Fire Now” and “Never Again for Anyone” and singing Hanukkah prayers shut down an overpass.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s December 14 Minneapolis protest took place on the Franklin Ave. Bridge, close to my home in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis. (Photo: Judy Griesedieck for MPR News)

In reporting on this protest, Matt Sepic wrote the following in an article for MPR News.

A small group of demonstrators with the group Jewish Voice for Peace marked the eighth night of Hanukkah Thursday night with a protest calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Nine activists with the group stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the Franklin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, holding electric candles in the shape of a menorah and stopping traffic.

Organizer Leah Soule says the fighting needs to end immediately to ensure a lasting peace in the region.

“Hanukkah is all about the miracle of light persisting, and our strength will persist to fight for freedom and dignity for all and for the end of violence in Palestine by the Israeli government,” she said.

“I’m heartbroken for the people who’ve lost family and for those who lost their lives on October 7,” Soule said. “And for me today here, I’m focusing on what I can do to end further violence and that is to call for a ceasefire and to call for an end to aid to the Israeli military.”

In terms of understanding the deep need for – and the ways to actually build and maintain – peace in our world, the U.S. 2024 presidential candidate best equipped for the task is Democrat Marianne Williamson. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact. Go visit her website to see for yourself. In particular, visit here. I’ve been supporting Marianne since she launched her 2024 campaign in March of this year (and I supported her 2020 run as well). She recently shared a reflection on her substack, Transform, about the situation in Israel and Gaza. Following is an excerpt.

I spent last Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, closed this year due to the tragedy of current events in Israel and Palestine. That of itself is a metaphor for the darkness of the world. But we needn’t be in an outer structure anywhere to experience the meaning of this day. Sitting in my apartment in Washington DC, I was thinking about Christmas trees. The most grounded piece of nature is embellished with lights and ornamentation; what a symbol for the intersection of nature and the divine. I was thinking about what it would mean for me, in my own life, to forgive everyone and everything and have faith beyond what reason can bestow. Questions raged within me like storms that only the hand of God could calm. As I sat there quietly, I felt the presence of an indwelling One. And as I looked at a tree outside my window, something began to happen.

Given that it’s December the trees outside my apartment have lost most of their leaves, the ones now left sort of golden brown. At that moment, as I was looking outside, suddenly sunlight hit the leaves in such a way that they began to sparkle brilliantly. The tree was transformed into a tree all lit up for Christmas, complete with a star shaped leaf on top. The sun turned the entire tree into a burst of light. I did not have to be in Bethlehem to see it. The spiritual Bethlehem is in the heart and it partners with the brain. The mystery clearly uses both.

Had I not considered just moments before that I have to forgive everyone and everything, I don’t think I would have seen the light-filled vision of the tree. Yes, the physical phenomenon would have occurred – but I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed it. It lasted perhaps a minute and I might have been walking into the kitchen right then. Had I not just reflected on the power of faith and what it means for me, the physical phenomenon would have occurred but I wouldn’t have received its message. The spiritual isn’t something different than the world; it is a difference in how we see the world. It opens our eyes to things we wouldn’t otherwise perceive.

May Christmas be real for you and yours today. May every dried up leaf turn into new life for you. May an opening within your mind and heart flood you with love and peace. May forgiveness wash you clean and set you free of inner turmoil. Today’s world is indeed a darkened sky, but the star of Bethlehem signals new hope. I know it’s there, because I felt it in my heart today and I saw it outside my window.

– Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from “The Spiritual Bethlehem:
What Is Born Inside Our Hearts

December 25, 2023

Above: My colorful and glittery Christmas tree – Minneapolis, December 21, 2023.

I appreciate Marianne Williamson’s take on Christmas trees, articulated in the previous excerpt.

The most grounded piece of nature is embellished with lights and ornamentation; what a symbol for the intersection of nature and the divine.

Above: No snow for Christmas in Minnesota this year. Instead, we had what MPR News meteorologist Bill Endersen called a “soggy, green Christmas.” (Last year was more typical.)

Above: A Christmas Eve game of Ludo with Adnan, my saaxiib qurux badan – St. Paul, December 24, 2023.

Above: At my friends Joan and Matt’s annual Christmas Eve gathering. From left: Zach, me, Handrick, Joan, John, and George – Mendota Heights, MN, December 24, 2023.

Left: Matt, Ben, and Joan.

Above: Christmas Eve 2023. Seated from left: Ben, Kelly, Dave, Stacy, Handrick, George, Ian, and Nathan. Standing from left: Joan (busy at work in the kitchen), John, Zach, Chelsea, and Angela.

Above: Christmas Day dinner at my friends Noelle and John’s home in St. Paul. From left: Kevin, Scott, Alicia, Silvie, Paul, Liana, John, Noelle, and Amelia.

Right: Amelia with her Uncle Scott – December 15, 2023. Amelia's about to place the Christmas Angel atop her grandparents’ Christmas tree!

Above: This year’s Yule Log dessert and its creators! From left: Alicia, Noelle, Amelia, Liana, and Paul – December 25, 2023.

Speaking of desserts. . . . Growing up in Australia in the 1970s, I can well remember my paternal grandmother, Belle Smith, making plum pudding for Christmas. She would have at least one wrapped in a special type of cloth (cheese cloth?) and suspended from a little makeshift frame in the back bedroom for weeks before Christmas. This was how all the fruit and alcohol in it would be marinated to perfection! Nanna also made one or more fruitcakes for Christmas. They were also rich and delicious.

I’ve long tried to find a good fruitcake here in the U.S. but to no avail. This year I bought four imported Irish fruitcakes (made with Irish whiskey!) from St. Patrick’s Guild in St. Paul (above). I took one of them to work on Friday, December 22 to share with my colleagues. It was a great hit with them!

Above: The Christmas Hare!

Above: A charming image of my friend Deandre and his cat companion Tyga – December 20, 2023.

Deandre may be experiencing homelessness very soon (though not, for now, Tyga). So if you can take some time to say a prayer for him, please do so! Also, if you live in Minneapolis and think you can help him out with a place to stay, even for a few days or weeks, please contact me via the comments section. Thanks!

As a Quaker who believes that “there is that of God in everyone,” I know I’m called to share in the risk of incarnation. Amid the world’s dangers, I’m asked to embody my values and beliefs, my identity and integrity, to allow good words to take flesh in me. Constrained by fear, I often fall short – yet I still aspire to incarnate words of life, however imperfectly.

Christmas is a reminder that I’m invited to be born again and again in the shape of my God-given self, born in all the vulnerability of the Christmas story. It’s a story that’s hard to retrieve in a culture that commercializes this holy day nearly to death, and in churches more drawn to triumphalism and ecclesiastical bling than to the riskiness of the real thing. But the story’s simple meaning is clear to “beginner’s mind,” a mind I long to reclaim at age seventy-five.

An infant in a manger is as vulnerable as we get. What an infant needs is not theological debate but nurturing. The same is true of all the good words seeded in our souls that cry out to become embodied in this broken world. If these vulnerable but powerful parts of ourselves are to find the courage to take on flesh – to suffer yet survive and thrive, transforming our lives along with the life of the world – they need the shelter of unconditional love.

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, the best gift we can others – whatever their faith or philosophy may be – is a simple question asked with heartfelt intent: What good words wait to be born in us, and how can we love one another in ways that midwife their incarnation?

Parker Palmer
Excerpted from "The Risk of Incarnation"
On Being
December 24, 2014

Christ’s birth reminds us of the eternally new beginnings God offers to humanity. The grand irony is that we do not have to travel far to discover the Light that animated the Magi’s quest. We have only to embrace our highest Selves, and realize humanity and divinity have never been separated. This is the cosmic truth heralded by Jesus of Nazareth’s physical manifestation – we are all divine expressions of humanity; capable of being vessels full of grace, truth, love, joy, and peace.

May we allow the Incarnation to illumine our minds, and awaken to the reality of the marvelous presence of God in all things.

Phillip Clark
via Facebook
December 25, 2016

Christmas can help us readjust, help us see the Divine more transparently in life, in places where we would least expect. A barn, for example, a baby. The Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas is a call, our belief in it a commitment, to seek awareness of the Divine free of the impediments of culture, class or even catechism. That process calls for a degree of openness most of us rarely embrace or even know as possible. Yet I have a feeling the Divine is so imminent, so within the essence of things, that it is only a matter of learned blindness that keeps us from seeing. It is not something natural to us to be so dense. We can do better. We can break through.

– Angie O’Gorman
Excerpted from "The Divine is Greater Than Our Dogmas"
National Catholic Reporter
December 23, 2011

I will light candles this Christmas.
Candles of joy, despite all the sadness.
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch.
Candles of courage where fear is ever present.
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days.
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens.
Candles of love to inspire all of my living.
Candles that will burn all the year long.

Quote of the Day – Sabrina Salvati
– January 2, 2024

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:

Light and Dark: “Both Holy, Both Life-Giving”
In This Time of Liminal Space (2022)
The Christmas Miracle
Honoring the Darkness While Remembering the Light
Christmas for Mystics
Christmas 2020: A Time of Loss and Grief, Gratitude and Hope
Christmas 2018 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas in America, 2018
Christmas 2017 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas 2016 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas 2015 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas 2014 – Reflections and Celebrations
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Christmastide Approaches
No Room for Them
The Christmas Tree as Icon, Inviting Us to Contemplate the "One Holy Circle" of Both Dark and Light
Quote of the Day – December 1, 2014
Something to Cherish (2012)
A Christmas Message of Hope . . . from Uganda (2011)
Quote of the Day – December 26, 2010
Christmas in Australia (2010)
John Dear on Celebrating the Birth of the Nonviolent Jesus
A Bush Christmas (2009)
A Story of Searching and Discovery
The Christmas Truce of 1914
Clarity and Hope: A Christmas Reflection (2007)
An Australian Christmas (2006)
A Christmas Reflection by James Carroll

“Nothing About Today is ‘Unprovoked’”
In the Midst of the “Great Unraveling,” a Visit to the Prayer Tree
Phyllis Bennis: “If We Are Serious About Ending This Spiraling Violence, We Need to Look at Root Causes”
Eric Levitz: Quote of the Day – October 11, 2023
Something to Think About – October 12, 2023
Prayer of the Week – October 16, 2023
Voices of Reason and Compassion on the Crisis in Israel and Gaza
Ta-Nehisi Coates: Quote of the Day – November 2, 2023
Jehad Abusalim: Quote of the Day – December 8, 2023

The Magi as Archetypes of “Witchy Faith”
Mary Magdalene: “A Courageous Woman . . . Infamously Maligned”
Acknowledging Where We Are
Quote of the Day – April 15, 2020
Phillip Clark on the “Karmic Wake Up Call” of a Year Ago
In the Wake of Trump’s “Catastrophic” Election, Phillip Clark on the Spiritual Truths That Will Carry Us Forward

Christmas for Mystics
In the Garden of Spirituality – Marianne Williamson
Marianne Williamson Launches 2024 Presidential Campaign
Progressive Perspectives on Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Run
More Progressive Perspectives on Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Run
Marianne Williamson: “Repairing Our Hearts Is Essential to Repairing Our Country”
Marianne Williamson’s “Radical Idea” of Putting People First
Marianne Williamson: “We Need to Disrupt the Corrupt”
“Let the People Decide”: Marianne Williamson on the DNC’s Efforts to Deny and Suppress the Democratic Process

When Charity Becomes the Weapon
“New and Very Dangerous”: The Extreme Right-Wing Infiltration of the George Floyd Protests
Making Love, Giving Life
Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?

Minnesota celebration and activism images: Michael J. Bayly.