I have a friend named Freund. He is a Catholic priest and has been for close to 50 years. Our friendship goes back much further than that since we were in the seminary together. A missionary, he was in South Africa less than two years ago doing what he does best – putting words to his faith so that others might hear. Joseph T. Freund, CSsR.

Joe is a blatant and shameless New Yorker, with a wry sense of humor and a smile that tells you he knows it. He also knows people – and Yiddish. And he is a poet. Our seminary friendship was about many things but mostly the enchantments of the written word. Back then we were both very self-conscious as writers; well, at least I was. I wrote like I spoke, trying to please others or to express what others needed to hear rather than what I wanted to say. I like to think I grew out of that. I know Joe did.

I am writing about him because he called the other day to console me about the recent loss of my twin brother. I had mentioned that Christmas was having a tough time wedging its way into my consciousness and he had read me a Christmas poem he had just written to lift my spirits. I barely listened. Then he sent it by e-mail.

When I received it, I was working on this column under an unusually tight deadline. My head kept taking me elsewhere. But Joe’s Christmas poem was like an ancient Siren that kept singing to me, so I have decided to share it as my Christmas greeting. I know he will not mind.

How To Craft A Nativity Scene

Take a cave crowded with sheep and oxen,

A trough bedded with straw,

A snow-hushed winter’s night;

A brown-eyed girl of sixteen

And her husband of twenty;

Myriad clusters of caroling angels

Sparkling their song across the midnight sky

Like silver and crystal bells sounding Peace;

Ten or twelve shepherds, heads uplifted

And staring in awe,

At the single, brightest star you’ve ever seen

Hovering over the hill;

And God just become a baby.

Then kneel.

And hush . . .

Don’t make a sound.

© J. T. Freund

Merry Christmas, joyous holidays and peace to all.