Christmas Article – Clare Champion

Christmas Reflection

Pics of Christmas Eve Mass – Ennis Cathedrdal

As always, the season of Advent flies and seems to disappear like the blink of an eye with all the busyness in and around us.  What a lovely time it is for many with all the excitement and anticipation of the season, holy and secular.  Advent, Christmas and the restful days post-Christmas days often encourage a nostalgic looking back on what has been in the year just gone by.  That’s before the energy and new beginnings of the fresh year around the corner kicks in.

In Church and religious terms it was a lively and energetic year with so many things getting off the ground again, as was the case with several other areas of life, post-Covid.  It was great to see people able to gather safely again for funerals, weddings and various sacred rituals and rites of passage.

The international Synodal Pathway led to many fruitful meetings, discussions and times of discernment all over the world and in the diocese of Killaloe.  It is probably the largest ever world-wide consultation exercise ever conducted.  We look forward to much more of that on a more local scale with the Irish Synod continuing between now and 2026.

It is a great source of inspiration and delight within our own diocese that our New Lay Ministers were commissioned and have taken up appointments this year.  For the most part they have been really well received and are doing great work in the area of Pastoral Care and Catechesis.  We pray God’s blessing in their important work.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to be a source of sadness and suffering to so many.  As so often happens the generous response of welcome and compassion of the Clare people has been second to none.  It must be a great source of consolation and pride that the county has one of the largest intakes of refugees and asylum seekers of any county.  We continue to pray for peace and do whatever we can materially to support, care for and welcome the new residents in our country.

Care for the environment continues to be a huge source of worry and concern, with the continuing wounds being inflicted on our planet by our activities and life-style.  While progress with the efforts of COP27 in recent weeks were slower than many wished and anticipated, a lot of significant progress is being made.  Whether that is sufficient or not to ensure that permanent damage is done remains to be seen.  An excellent film/documentary on this issue called “The Letter” was put together by the Holy See and Pope Francis and is available to view free of charge on Youtube.  This follows on the issues raised by Pope Francis in his well received publication on the environment from 2015, Laudato Si. The enlightened Columban priest, Seán McDonagh, a native of our own diocese (Nenagh) has been for years highlighting this important issue for our planet.  He notes the important breakthrough, courtesy of the thinking of Pope Francis in the area of moral theology where damage done to the environment is regarded a serious evil.  He gives a stark warning that “Christianity needs an Extinction Liturgy in which the sadness of the extinction of the many wonderful creatures, created by God can be expressed.  Such liturgies might inspire us to protect biodiversity locally and globally in everything we do.”

The year past had many other challenges also.  The recent cold snap, focused our attention on rising fuel prices (some more friendly to the environment than others!), the difficulties in making ends meet, the rising number of homeless and care for the isolated, elderly, and lonely is ever on the agenda.

At a time like Christmas, as the carol calls it “In the bleak mid-Winter” we look to the message of our faith to give us hope.  The birth of Jesus, the incarnation of a God who is personal, down-to-earth accessible gives us courage, consolation and direction.

A reflection sums up that hope.  It’s called First Coming, by Madeleine L’Engle;

He did not wait till the world was ready,

till men and nations were at peace.

He came when the Heavens were unsteady,

and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.

He came when the need was deep and great.

He dined with sinners in all their grime,

turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.

In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.

To a world like ours, of anguished shame

he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,

to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.

In the mystery of the Word made Flesh

the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane

to raise our songs with joyful voice,

for to share our grief, to touch our pain,

He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

A very happy Christmas to you and yours and blessings for the new year, 2023.

✠ Fintan Monahan – Bishop of Killaloe

Clare Champion Article Friday 23rd of December 2022