Christmas 2022: Sounds of the Season 

– Br. Michael, ofm   

Every Christmas card we see shows the Baby Jesus either sleeping peaceful or attentive and happy. Mary is put together, hair neatly tied backed and ready to welcome guests after giving birth. Joseph often stands beaming with delight just gazing at the beauty of the scene. While this is beautiful and invites us into the peace we are seeking, it does not capture the sound, the noise, the reality of the holy night. On the night of nights when God came to earth, birthed into the world by a teenager, it wasn’t sanitized and perfect; it was messy and organic. This is beauty, this our God meeting us in the reality of our lives.


This Advent we have been pondering sounds of the season. I have offered reflections from my life; some of the stories were moments captured from my childhood while others were stories invoked by images and items. Sound is one of the great gifts of our senses; it alerts us, it expresses emotions, it invites us into living. I have met very few people who are deaf, and yet in their not hearing there is still a sense of sound or ways to express it. As we step into Christmas, I continue to ponder sound and also the messy, and beauty. Those of us who have the gift of hearing are invited into this season with story, scripture, music, greetings and even creation. Can we take this gift and allow it to penetrate these holy days? We must not let words or songs just loft past us but allow them to touch our hearts, awakening us to the Word Made Flesh – God With Us here and now. Let us remember Mary cried out in labour pains, the Baby Jesus cried, Joseph (although silent in scripture) had to have asked for a place to stay and to find some words of comfort for his new family. Remember the sheep bleated, other animals nestled in the hay, birds chirped, the angels sang, the shepherds fell down in praise then spread the good news, and heaven and nature sang. There is nothing silent, tidy or perfect about any of this. In the intrusion of a birth, our God came to us and the message has been love ever since. Let us again pick up this love message of good news – Our God With Us in this season and sound it into the new year.


In the messiness of our lives during the Christmas Season with people coming and going, life unfolding, sickness and health still present, world issues still unfolding, conversations wanted and unwanted, longings not being met and so on, let us be attentive to what our heart is hearing. How are all of these an invitation to come to the crib and hear the chaotic cacophony of joy, hope, longing, seeking, promise, hurting, unfolding and love?


Do you hear what I hear?


I hear the voice of Divine Love – Our God. In the everything of this feast, in the moments celebrated and the moments hurting our God again declares, “This is for each one of you my beloved children, for you are always in my heart.” Let us attune our heart this season to voice of love again and again, it will come in unexpected ways; like a child of long ago born in stable, letting out his first cry while lying in a manger.



A dozen songs for your listening and heart reflection as we celebrate the season of Christmas:


Do You Hear What I Hear? – Harry Simeone Chorale or Bing Crosby


Come Darkness, Come Light – Mary Chapin Carpenter


The Friendly Beasts – Burl Ives


Children Run Joyfully – St. Louis Jesuits


Hark the Herald Angels Sing – L’Angelus


Joy to the World – Boney M


Now the Bells Ring – Rita MacNeil


Ding Dong! Merrily on High! – Choir of Clare College


The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth – Jann Arden


Go Tell It On The Mountain – Anne Murray


Momma Mary – Roger Whittaker


My Soul Magnifies The Lord – Chris Tomlin



Each of these songs move us beyond being caught up in perfectly crafted nativity scenes. They invite us to hear and notice the sounds which filled the first Christmas and continue to speak to our heart this Christmas and always.



As we celebrate this Christmas Season

may our ears and hearts be attentive

to the song of God sung into our heart

and may the sounds and songs of the season guide us

into new encounters of Divine Love – God With us

as we journey into a New Year.






From the Friars and Staff at Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre

we wish you a

Blessed Christmas

filled with peace,

goodness and hope.


Blessings to you in 2023!


Thank you for

your prayers and support.




Photo Credits:

Stephanie Klepacki

Katherine Kinch

Advent 2022: Sounds of the Season IV

– Br. Michael, ofm   

When I was very young, my bedroom was at the top of the stairs which led down to the kitchen. Our original home was built in the early part of the 1900’s. This meant there was a floor grate in the landing at the top of the stairs to allow heat to fill the second floor. It also meant voices lofted up into my bedroom.


Many of us would have memories of having to go bed while there was still company at the house. I also have these memories. Laying in bed, trying to fall asleep as my parents and their adult friends would visit into the night. No matter how hard I tried to stay away, I would be lulled to sleep by their voices and laughter. A place of comfort and security.


As I ponder this memory, I can’t help but consider those who have no shelter or safe place to rest. As we draw near to Christmas we may be longing for moments of the past, hopeful for a miracle, or seeking to let go or make changes. Yet there are those who will simply take a clean bed, a hot meal and warm smile. As we draw near to Christmas let us not only get caught up in the delights of the season but also in what we see and hear around us. Let us get caught up in the voices we hear, the longings expressed and the reality of our God desiring to come to us.


Unlike the guests welcomed to my parent’s table well into the night, Mary and Joseph did not receive the same welcome. Consider as, artist Scott Erickson points out, it would have also been family and relatives which would have closed the door in Joseph and Mary’s face, not just some strange innkeeper. Let us remember Mary and Joseph were not in the comfort of their home and within days of the birth of Jesus they became refugees. Consider all they heard and saw and endured. In this final week of Advent as our anticipation turns into excitement and creates demands to make it all perfect, let us remember God came (and still comes) to us in the messiness of life. This Fourth Week of Advent invites us to tune our ears to the voices of loved ones and strangers, of the orderly and disorderly, for we never know when we will hear, “do you have room for us tonight?”


May the doors of hearts open this week greeting the Word of God and fellow companions on this last stretch of the Advent path. Let us be attuned to the quiet knocking, the loud banging and the gift of listening which transforms our heart this week and always. Like my bedroom of long ago may the sound of goodness loft into our hearts and fill this week with peace.


For your listening and heart reflection as we journey in this Fourth Week of Advent:


Listening again to People Look East is always good during this final week of Advent.


Beyond the Moon and Stars  – Dan Schutte

This Advent hymn is a story of journey. It calls us to listen for the voice of hope in the unexpected God moments of our daily encounters.

Where have you heard the voice of hope this season? Who has caught your ear and heart this season?


O Come Divine Messiah – Fr. Kent O’Connor has a good version with hint of Irish.

A French Carol dating back to the 16th century. This seasonal favorite is full of life and echoes our longing for hope and light to fill us.

What are you hoping for in this final week of Advent? What do you need to hear?


O Come, O Come Emmanuel  – Friar Alessandro sings a beautiful version in the traditional Latin.

Dating to the 9th century this is the hymn of the season. The lyrics match the O Antiphons which mark the last week of Advent, announcing titles of the Messiah.

By what name do you call Christ? What is your prayer to Emmanuel?


His Name is Joseph – Sarah Hart

This song is written from the heart of Mary as she receives news of God with us and her prayer

for Joseph.

What invitation do you hear in this song? Who are you praying for?


O Little Town of Bethlehem

This haunting tune is an invitation to notice how our God comes to us in the humblest of places.

Are we places of welcome? Are we ready to welcome the Light?




As this Advent Season enters its final leg,

may the familiar sounds of life awaken us

to the song of our heart and to those seeking shelter,

and may the sounds and songs of the season guide us

as our God comes to us in unexpected ways.




Photo Credit: Kraken Images


Advent 2022: Sounds of the Season III 

– Br. Michael, ofm   

Ding Dong! Ding Dong!

Their chime echoes through the sky!

Ding Dong! Ding Dong!

They carry our prayers to the Most High!


Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, there were two things that caught your attention in town – the bells of the churches or school and the bells of the fire hall. Either of these bells called us to pay attention and more often than not prayers came with them as they rang.


Our church bell always rang five minutes before Mass, for the most part it still does today. While I was growing up, a gentleman by the name of Sam would ring the bells. He would sit in the same spot in the choir loft near the bell chord right at the top of the stairs. Sam had a bright smile and was always welcoming. When he rang the bell, everyone in town knew that the Catholics were up to something. Bells ringing from a church are a powerful witness of where two or more are gathered in the name of Christ, he is present. It is also a great invitation to come and see, come for you are welcome or to pause and offer a prayer.


Here at the Retreat Centre where I minister, we ring bells several times over a retreat weekend. We ring them to call people to prayer, to meals, to presentations and to gather. They echo out across the yard down into the ravine and bounce off the hill. They catch your attention, delighting children and calling retreatants to notice the gift of the sacred they are encountering. They are rung for justice, freedom and peace.


This past summer at my Grandmother’s funeral, as we left the church with her casket, the church bells tolled. Slow, long gongs echoed down the streets as the family gathered to bid farewell. You could feel the vibration of the bells in your body. They were in a way uniting us as a family. As each bell tolled it was a testament to a life well lived, a life rooted in Christ and again invitation to pay attention. The invitation to pay attention was for each of us there to carry forth her legacy.


As we come to this mid point of Advent, with this Rejoicing-Joy Sunday, I have been thinking about the bells. Their different tones and the way they cry out (like John the Baptist) and the different invitations they are on our journey. As we enter this Third Week of Advent, I have also been thinking about bells that ring inviting donations to help those struggling. Another invitation to pay attention; this journey is not done alone we are always in relationship. Sadly, I have also been thinking about the bells which are not ringing out in churches and communities where war is wrecking havoc. This too calls us to pay attention. It is an invitation for us to be the vessels who will restore joy and hope, even in the simplest of ways.


As we enter this Third Week of Advent let us be attentive to the bells we hear.

What are they calling us to pay attention to? What is their invitation?

How are they reminding us of hope and joy as they echo out?

Do you have a bell in your home? Ring it a few times this week – it may even vibrate some joy!


For your listening and heart reflection as we journey in this Third Week of Advent:


Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn – Marty Haugen (Brent Holl cover is good)

This lively hymn is about invitation and paying attention. It speaks to our struggles and longings but like a bell chiming calls out with hope.


What are you being awakened to this Advent?


Let the Valleys Be Raised – Dan Schutte

This anthem speaks to the joy and hope that comes with the dawning of the birth of Emmanuel. The lyrics tell the story of John the Baptist. This song like a chorus of bells rings out with promise.


What area of your life is in need of being made smooth?


I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – various artists have covered this song,

Casting Crowns and Johnny Reid have great versions.

This poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863 during the American Civil War, is now a song which may touch our hearts deeply this year and remind us we too are vessels of hope, justice, joy, freedom and peace.

Who do you need to make peace with this season?

Who do you need to offer hope and joy to today?


As this Advent Season enters the midpoint,

may the gifts of bells and paying attention help us to attune to the song of our heart

and may the sounds and songs of the season guide us on the journey

as our God comes to us in unexpected ways.



Advent 2022: Sounds of the Season II 

– Br. Michael, ofm                 

I grew up in an amazing time of listening options for music. The coming to life of an 8-track, the warmth of vinyl records, the convenience of cassettes and the clarity of sound on CD. Now I simply just go to my favorite app and scroll. I realize now with listening to a record I was being taught in small ways the gift of waiting and patience. It takes time to prepare the player, select the right side of the record and then carefully place it on the turntable and if the needle (or stylus) did not have an automatic option, you had to lower it to the record. Each of these important elements so as to hear the songs were lessons in waiting and patience.


The season of Advent is a call to waiting and patience. The world around us is in Christmas overdrive and yet our Advent journey is slowly (or even if quickly) unfolding with invitations to be attentive to how we wait and lessons of patience. Are we agitated in our waiting? Do we see the gifts patience is teaching us? Can we invite waiting and patience into our Advent days ahead?


When I was a child, I loved the day Mom reached out the Christmas records. Her stack of vinyl was stored away each year and released sometime in December (another lesson in waiting and patience). It was a magical day when returning from school or from some snow time and the lights of the living room were turned down, the winter darkness was settling in and the big chest record player lofted out carols and hymns to greet us as we entered our warm home. Walking into the darkened living room was like walking into a grand concert hall as the songs crescendoed and faded out. With only the light of the record player control panel gently I would stand and watch the tender ebb and flow of the record producing sounds of orchestras and beautiful voices. I was captivated and held (then and still today when I stop and listen to a record). In some ways I was caught up in waiting and patience, allowing this moment to fill me and simply be.


I’ve been thinking about the records and songs and the need for waiting and patience as we journey in this Advent time. I am being reminded in this season to wait with expectant hope; listening for the invitations of newness and revival. I am patiently tuning my ears to the voice of God which comes to me in others, in creation, in the quiet and in the music as my heart prepares room for the One whose birth we wait to celebrate.


What are you listening too?

What are you waiting for this Advent?

What is patience calling you to pay attention to?


For your listening and heart reflection as we journey in this Second Week of Advent:



Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – Rain for Roots


A familiar Advent hymn with an awareness of patient waiting. This version features children voices calling out with longing and promise.


How are you waiting for the Savior?



People Look East – Marty Haugen


This is one of my most favorite Advent Hymns. It has a great feel of preparation to it and yet an invitation to patiently wait for the time to celebrate.



How does patience invite us into greater awareness in our living?




As this Advent Season unfolds


may the gift of waiting and patience help us to attune to the song of our heart


and may the sounds and songs of the season guide us on the journey


as our God comes to us in unexpected ways.




Photo Credit: Joe Vasquez