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December 21, 2015

When we visited Barcelona's Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) Basilica in September, I was struck by the reverence in the carving of the Magi displayed on the WCR's front page this week. The sculptor had caught the only reason that would draw three men to travel long distances over hostile terrain to gaze upon a baby - awe at the birth of the Saviour of the world.

A week later, we encountered a family who had recently fled northern Iraq to escape the persecution of Christians. The couple showed us some of the video of their wedding a couple of years earlier which had been attended by 1,000 people and where their families' affluence was apparent. Now, they had next to nothing, the husband was without work and lacked the ability to speak the language of the country in which we met them. Their possessions were few, their prospects uncertain.

What they did have was their faith. They too were the Magi who had travelled a huge distance so that they could worship the Saviour. They brought the gifts of themselves and their undying faith which are worth more than gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Although we had no language in common, somehow the husband and I managed to communicate. He was dismayed that the village church across the street was empty and that in this new land, where freedom of religion was taken for granted, so few practised their Catholic faith.

He asked about the situation in Canada, and I said it was not so different. Churches are far from empty, but only a small proportion of Christians see attendance at Sunday liturgies to be an essential part of their lives.

The world has known the visitation of the Lord, the incarnation of God himself. Somehow, other things are deemed more important. Yet, no event is more awesome than the birth of the Christ child, nothing more worthy of adoration than the God who became human. The reverence of the Magi is carved in stone in Barcelona and carried in the hearts of a family not so far from there. Why do Canadians turn away? Why do we take it for granted?