WASHINGTON (CNS) – The ask for baby items heading to the Holy Land couldn’t be more appropriate: “swaddling clothes needed.”

The Gospel of Luke mentions, after all, that Mary wrapped the baby Jesus in “swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

But the “swaddling clothes” of modern times come in the form of onesies, the one-piece clothing item for babies, and it’s the indispensable item the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation has been asking for as a gift to give to newborns in Christ’s birthplace.

Through a clothing drive at Washington’s Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, the hospital has collected a mound of them underneath an altar of St. Francis and the first nativity depiction.

“One of them had a note, ‘With love from Howard University,’ ” said Father Jim Gardiner, an Atonement friar, who blessed the items Dec. 13, recalling one of the messages left behind by a donor.

There’s something about clothing a baby in Bethlehem for Christmas, said Michele Burke Bowe, of the hospital’s Washington-based foundation, about the success of the clothing drive now in its fourth year. 

The Catholic hospital expects its staff will deliver about 4,700 babies this year. 

Though the clothing drives ends in December, the foundation accepts donations for its other works, including a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit cares for critically ill newborns, at birthplace
ofhope.org.