No room at the inn. That’s been gnawing at me for months. A young girl in labor, and a distraught husband desperate to find a place for his young bride to give birth. A little privacy and perhaps the assistance of an older woman from the community for the young couple far from home and reporting in for the Imperial Census. But there was no room at the inn, any inn.
Let that sink in.
In all of Bethlehem there was no room at the inn.
Of course there were rooms. Plenty of rooms. They were all filled, but there was nobody willing to give up their room for a young girl in labor. Not one.
That was the darkness into which the Light of the World came that night over 2,000 years ago. It wasn’t that there was no room at the inn. There was no room in people’s hearts. How cold and hard those hearts must have been, every one of them, that they would consign a young girl in labor to the stable with all of its foul odor and indignity. Jesus had His work cut out for Him.
They had forgotten the core of the Mosaic Law, which was Charity and Mercy. They had forgotten Isaiah 58:
1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
The Messiah, whose own mother was made to endure childbirth amidst the filth of livestock, would later return to Isaiah when He taught us the criteria by which He would judge us when He returns in glory. In Matthew 25 He tells us:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
The boy born amidst filth and indignity that night so long ago would bring a light that burns so bright that it melts the hardest of hearts. That light is His word and the Church He founded to preach that word which lives in action. I’m so blessed and proud to have been born into that Church, and to have had a family that expected me to embrace that light.
They expected me to work with God’s plan for me to create an “inn” of my own, not just a room. Make your mark in service to the Church. Little did I know that my life’s work would begin, then come around again in middle age, with the latter day Madonnas of the Streets.
I began to see it when I started working with homeless teen mothers at Covenant House, Times Square, in 1983. It was there that I met Chris Bell, who would shortly leave and cofound with Father Benedict Groeschel his own group of maternity homes, Good Counsel Homes. Chris revolutionized the maternity home model by setting in place in-depth life skills training and education programs that enable women to be the providers for their families.
More than twenty-seven years later, Good Counsel is going strong and a new revolution in maternity homes is underway in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Room at the Inn.
It has been a blessing this year to become friends with RATI’s Director, Jeannie Wray. Catholic, and a cell biologist by training (what’s not to love?!), Jeannie has worked along with Abbot Placid Solari of Belmont Abbey and Dr. William Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College, to begin a home on Belmont Abbey College’s grounds for college women who become pregnant.
This dynamic trio has taken the war on babies to the heart of academia with a fresh new concept. Contrary to radical feminism’s assertion that it’s a choice between a diploma or a baby, this team is showing girls that there is ample room in their lives, and in their hearts, for both.
Earlier this year I was so excited by this new development that I shared with Jeannie my belief the concept will spread like wildfire.
Room at the Inn, and in the hearts of countless thousands of benefactors.
Ground was broken in June of this year for the new house at Belmont Abbey College. The house should be ready in June of 2012 and already five colleges have asked Jeannie if they might come and learn from Room at the Inn.
This past October 27 it was my great honor to be the keynote speaker at Room at the Inn’s annual banquet in Charlotte. Whatever I said wasn’t all that important. What was inspiring was the gathering itself. Over 1,100 people turned out to revel in their fellowship, their faith, and to open wide their hearts and wallets for perfect strangers. Integral to this effort has been the unified efforts of my brother Knights of Columbus in North Carolina.
Because of this outpouring of love, young mothers will know the dignity of mentorship, of a clean and safe place to live before and after the births of their babies, a place to have their children and complete their educations.
A howling rebuke to the satanic consumption of the innocents by the radical feminists.
Ample Room at the Inn, flowing from hearts set afire by the boy born amidst icy indifference so very long ago.
To Jeannie Wray, Abbot Solari, President Thierfelder, Chris and Joan Bell, and the staff at their homes, you are all in my heart tonight as I contemplate nativities old and new. You have all brought so much light into the darkness, and are the unsung heroes of the pro-life cause. The blessings of the Christ Child upon you and your benefactors this Christmas Triduum.
Merry Christmas, all.