Featured Image: Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Wien, Stephansdom — 2018 — 3147” / CC BY-SA 4.0

We begin this week with the genealogy of Jesus which is recited in many churches and religious houses each Christmastide. It is a reminder of the rich and ancient history of the Church, and it acknowledges Christ – the new born baby – as the culmination of these histories and traditions and stories and communities of Israel. The adult Jesus announces this to his own people in the Gospel.

Pope Francis reminds us that this new-out-of-old dynamic is ongoing in the Church for all time, and Austen Ivereigh demonstrates how fidelity to the practices of the earliest church communities can give us the freedom to keep the Church renewing herself in our days. Finally, Joan Chittister shows us the importance of steadying ourselves with firm footing on the inheritance we have been given, in order to bring about new beginnings.

Opening prayer

If you are using this prayer by yourself at home, then remember that you are not alone. You are a valued member of this group, you are sharing this retreat together. Each person will pray and ponder in their own time and place, but the Spirit is with each and every one and all of you. You are together in God.

A: Creator of the world, eternal God,
B: we come together from our own places for a little while.

A: Redeemer of humanity, God with us,
B: we have come with all our differences seeking common respect

A: Spirit of unity, go-between God,
B: we have come with stories of our own to a place where stories meet.

A: So here, in this space, let us take time together. for when your people gather and stories are shared, there is much to celebrate and honour.
B: In your name, three in one God, pattern of community. Amen.

Adapted from “Iona Abbey Worship Book”, 2001. copyright © WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland. Reproduced by permission.


Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:16-20

Pope Francis on Fidelity

Peter and Paul were not just two individuals with their own personalities [and traditions]. They represent two visions within much broader horizons. They were capable of reassessing things in the light of events, witnesses of an impulse that led them to stop and think – that is another expression we should remember: to stop and think. An impulse that drove them to be daring, to question, to change their minds, to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes, but above all to hope in spite of every difficulty. They were disciples of the Holy Spirit, who showed them the geography of salvation, opening doors and windows, breaking down walls, shattering chains and opening frontiers. This may mean setting out, changing course, leaving behind certain ideas that hold us back and prevent us from setting out and walking together.

This is important: everyone has a part to play. The Pope, the Cardinal Vicar and the auxiliary bishops are not more important than the others; no, all of us have a part to play and no one can be considered simply as an extra. At that time [of the Acts of the Apostles], the ministries were clearly seen as forms of service. Authority derived from listening to the voice of God and of the people, inseparably. This kept those who received it humble, serving the lowly with faith and love. Yet that story, that journey, was not merely geographical, it was also marked by a constant inner restlessness. This is essential: if Christians do not feel a deep inner restlessness, then something is missing. That inner restlessness is born of faith; it impels us to consider what it is best to do, what needs to be preserved or changed. History teaches us that it is not good for the Church to stand still. Movement is the fruit of docility to the Holy Spirit, who directs this history, in which all have a part to play, in which all are restless, never standing still.


Optional Resources

1: It is the custom in many monastic communities on Christmas Eve to read the entire genealogy of Jesus, beginning with Adam (Luke) or Abraham (Matthew), tracing the generations down through David and finishing with Joseph, betrothed to Mary. It is a long read!

Genealogy of Jesus and Matthew Incipit, Donald Jackson, ©2002 The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.    

Information about The Saint John’s Bible can be accessed here:

2*. The whole body together: this video is produced by the London Jesuit Centre. Austen Ivereigh takes us through the tradition of Synodality in the Church from the earliest days of the Acts of the Apostles.

3* : Write it down: Sister Joan Chittister OSB (This video starts when Joan is in the middle of telling a story about a newly forgetful old couple)

Write it Down with Sister Joan Chittister   (Youtube)   All rights reserved. Used with permission of Joan Chittister, OSB (

Questions to Ponder

1: What is your initial reaction to all or any of this source material?

2: What do you consider the essentials of our faith that have derived from the the apostles, or from tradition. What are the different views within your group. Listen carefully to each other. Even if you cannot agree amongst yourselves, try hard to understand why someone else might think differently.

3: What aspects of your faith cause you to be restless? Think about those aspects that you feel need to be implemented more fully or effectively, and those aspects where you might feel the Church needs to be more relevant to the needs and struggles of the World. It is likely there will be lots of different ideas and opinions. Remember the values of Spiritual conversation from week 2, and take care to listen care-fully without rushing to judgement. It can be difficult! This isn’t the time to try to make changes or decisions. It is the time to listen to the Spirit talking to us.

Closing prayer

A: As we continue in our retreat together, in this day and in our lives
B: May we be grateful for the blessings of this day, today and each day.
B: May we be grateful for the new stories and new ways of thinking we have explored, today and each day.
B: May we be grateful for kind company, heedful to God, heedful to ourselves and heedful to each other, today and each day

A: God who speaks so that all may hear you
B: Bless all that we have heard and honoured in our work today

A: God who has chosen your story to be part of our story
B: Enliven us with the grace of the stories we have shared and celebrated.

A: God who chose to be one with us, be with us now
B: As we recognise ourselves in the faces of this community around us   

A: God who has been faithful to us since the beginning of time
B: Keep us faithful to your Spirit amongst us as we are inspired to kindness and creativity and vision.

A: God from whom all gifts come, who shares our adventure, and delights in our friendship
B: We thank you for your presence with us as we continue in our retreat this day, and each day of our lives. Amen