I am certainly grateful for the outpouring of care and support I have received from the wonderful people with whom I work and share life on a daily basis, as well as those beyond the diocesan offices who have offered their share of consolation. People have been very conscious of the deep pain for my daughter and her husband but also for us as parents and grandparents. It has been a year of moving through uncharted waters, and yet there have been those around me ensuring I did not go under. We have also been like that for each other as family.
This is certainly the time of year when the focus is on family. Most people go to great lengths to connect with families, and to embrace the sense of belonging this affords. It is also a time of the year when people of our Christian faith recall the story of Jesus’ coming into the world - the Messiah, Emmanuel, God is with us. This is the time when we speak of peace on earth, good will to all, happiness, joy, love and hope for the year ahead. Even in this secular nation of ours, it is a time for stopping, for taking a break and drawing breath. In almost all workplaces, the email traffic will significantly reduce and the pace of life will be manageable for a short time with the amount of traffic on our roads during the week noticeably less. It is indeed a wonderful time of the year as we sing “Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright”.
I encourage you to visit our website and listen to this year’s Christmas message from Fr Brian Mascord. Our faith is such a blessing to us when we attest to God being with us, and among us, at every moment. And this God is not a distant God, because Jesus came to show us what it means to be fully human and fully divine. The struggle comes from pondering the wood of the cradle and the wood of the cross at exactly the same time. Life is not one or the other but both. We are continually being invited to share in the mystery of paradox. That does not sit comfortably with those who want answers and solutions. Life is messy and unpredictable, and we need God and each other to hold the tensions.
Ray Collins, the Director of Schools, retires at the end of the year. Ray has served in education since 1973. He was acclaimed at his farewell Mass a couple of weeks ago but I wish to acknowledge him in this message. Ray is a man of deep faith who was raised in a faith-filled family. It is this faith that Ray held within him and his daily encounters and decisions. He did not separate the professional from the spiritual, he asked the deeper questions of situations in which leaders find themselves. He was proud of his heritage and of his own growing family. He had a purpose and lived that purpose. Many of us here, and around the diocese, will miss his story-telling. I know I will miss his presence at meetings and just being around. I certainly wish him well with the unfolding of this next phase of his life with his wife, Annette. He has been a generous and diligent servant of our God.
During the week I came across this poem by William Wallace:
When the child is at the centre
When the child is at the centre,
When the babe is in the stall,
When the adult nurtures wonder,
When the carols warm us all,
Then the fragments come together
And the vision shines as one
In each particle of being,
In each daughter and each son.
When the angels come as people,
When the wise ones dwell inside,
When the shepherds are the workers,
When the babe our inner guide,
Then our Christmas comes each moment
That our minds perceive God’s grace.
Every time our hearts are opened
We see Christ within each face.
Sing and dance the Christmas story,
Celebrate the Child’s great feast,
Be the festive wine and dancing,
Be the joy that grows like yeast,
Fill the heart with thankful praises,
Clear the mind of dismal thought,
Celebrate the Christmas wisdom,
Dance the Way that Jesus taught.
Wishing you all the dance and song of Christmas. May our churches be filled with people, song, joy and wonder this coming Christmas Day. And may your families also be filled with song, joy and wonder.
Thank you for your faith and witness in a world that needs more faith and witness.