History of the Nativity

History of the Nativity

By Jennifer Miele and Jordan Whiteko

It was Christmas Eve in the town of Greccio, Italy, in 1223. According to many historians, St. Francis of Assisi was preparing to deliver the sermon at Mass that night and knew a large crowd
would be gathering.


It is said that St. Francis, devoted to the virtue of poverty, set up an empty manger inside a nearby cave, complete with a live ox and donkey, to help the townspeople understand how simply Jesus entered our world.

According to Lay Dominican and Catholic author Gretchen Filz, “(Francis) was inspired to recreate the original Nativity scene to overcome the rampant greed and materialism prevalent
at that time in Italy.”

“St. Francis, of course, as the patron saint of animals, included the ox and the donkey, because of his love of nature and all of God’s creations,” said Father Timothy J. Kruthaupt, Pastor of St. Peter Parish, Brownsville, and St. Cecilia Parish, Grindstone.

“According to an eyewitness, in the midst of the celebration, a beautiful baby appeared in the manger. Francis picked up the baby and embraced it. It was an amazing experience for everyone,” Father Kruthaupt said. “For multiple years after that, the townspeople of Greccio tried to recreate what Francis had done, as did all the surrounding towns. It spread throughout Europe and beyond.”

Father Kruthaupt has a great love for St. Francis and has traveled twice to Assisi, Italy, the hometown of St. Francis.

“I was touched by the amazing basilicas but also the beauty of the spirit that is so present there. People of every race, nation and tongue visit Assisi, and they all feel an ownership interest in Francis and his credo of peace with all on earth, the animals of God’s kingdom and all the people of our world,” he said.

Father Kruthaupt noted that during his life, St. Francis’ message began to spread. About an hour away from Assisi, in Greccio, he developed the physical manifestation of the incarnation of Jesus that has inspired faith in millions of people.

“It’s an amazing tradition that has been expanded and developed. But what some people may not know about is the many miraculous things that happened afterward,” he said.

“The hay used in the first crèche was retained by the people there, because they knew about Francis and his powerful miracle-working presence. As they touched animals and other human beings who were suffering from illness and disease with the hay, there were records of amazing cures occurring.

“Such an auspicious start to this amazing Christmas tradition is a source of inspiration for all of God’s children.”


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