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opinion/commentary View Comments

Born in a Manger?
By Sam Lucero
Source: The Compass
Published: Wednesday, December 22, 2010
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If Joseph and Mary were alive today, looking for a place where Mary could give birth to Jesus, where could they find solace? After some online and empirical research, I've concluded that it would not be in a stable filled with animals. No, today it would probably be in a storage unit.

This theory first came to me while driving to work recently. I noticed construction workers pouring concrete in a lot next to an already existing storage unit facility. Apparently the units were all filled and more were needed. On my five-mile drive to work, at least four storage unit facilities exist. Two of them are "climate-controlled" and one is heated.

No swaddling clothes needed to stay warm here.

I confess to knowing something about storage units. Before moving to Green Bay in 2008, I rented one to store goods while waiting to buy a new home here.

According to the Self Storage Association (yes, there is such a thing), the self-storage industry has been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. commercial real estate industry in the last 35 years. There are approximately 46,000 primary self-storage facilities in the United States with rentable space that totals 2.22 billion square feet.

That's a lot of space for wise men, kings and barn animals.

Nearly one in 10 U.S. households currently rents a self-storage unit, reports the Self Storage Association, which is up from one in 17 in 1995. It's a profitable business as well, with the industry grossing $22 billion in 2009.

What do these statistics tell us? I believe they indicate that we Americans are controlled by our possessions. Rental units are no longer used simply to store furniture while a family relocates. Today they serve as long-term rentals to store goods. We own so much that we have to rent storage space to hold all of our stuff that doesn't fit into closets, attics and garages.

Not all Americans rent storage units. Not the estimated 2 million to 3 million who are homeless every year, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Most of these Americans cannot even afford to rent an apartment. Fortunately, churches and communities team up to provide shelters for the homeless, especially during the winter months.

Isn't something wrong in our country when there is such a disparity between the haves and the have-nots? When an estimated 7 square feet of storage space exists for every man, woman and child in this country, yet homeless shelters struggle to find enough space to accommodate people living on the streets?

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the modern-day Joseph and Mary wouldn't take shelter in a storage unit after all. Storage units have locks to protect all of the worldly possessions inside. Jesus, the son of God, was born to give hope to the hopeless, to unlock the hardened hearts that bind us to our possessions and blind us to the suffering of others.

Given the choice between a heated storage unit and a crowded homeless shelter, Mary and Joseph would choose the latter. For while the cries of the poor are heard here, so too are the voices of justice that give shelter and comfort. Isn't their example why the Son of God was born among us?
____________________
The preceding commentary is used as part of a licensing agreement with Catholic News Service.


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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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