My dear friends in Jesus Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
I welcome this Advent more than any before. It brings us a new start as we prepare ourselves for a celebration of Christmas that will be, in many ways, very different from what we have been used to.The past couple of weeks have been dominated by a number of ZOOM meetings. This time last year I had no idea what ZOOM was. The past several months have dramatically reduced my travel. So many trips cancelled, both local and abroad. Plans lie in tatters, and even the good news of vaccines being available hasn’t brought any immediate change. And now there is Christmas to sort out.The best we can hope for is that Mass will be open to the public, even though numbers attending will have to be managed carefully. I know many priests will be able to celebrate several Masses and thus offer more people chance to get to Mass. But popular times such as Midnight Mass are likely to be harder to manage. ‘No room at the inn’ will become ‘no room at the church’. I do hope that churches will be found open throughout Christmas Day and on into the Octave so that people can at least come in to Our Blessed Lord and visit the crib, and find time for personal prayer.And that brings me to a point I’ve mentioned in previous Advents; the importance of households displaying a crib at the heart of their decorations. Add to this the possibility of families and individuals creating Advent Wreaths. Do be careful of the fire risk of course! The effects of candles burning in an otherwise darkened room can be magical and soothing.For many, then, it will be a poorer Christmas than we have been used to, and certainly more restricted than we would ever wish for. But a poorer Christmas need not diminish Christ. There is something more authentic about it, something that helps us see the essentials rather than the trimmings and trappings. The Christmas story we never tire of listening to is immersed in poverty and inconvenience, and yet the light of hope and joy blaze through.The Government has announced the cutting of international aid from .7% to .5%. It is argued that with so many increased needs here in the UK we cannot justify spending so much on foreign aid projects. It’s a hard call in some ways, but it represents a promise broken and an abandoning of some of the world’s poorest people. What saddens me is the amount of money and resources wasted even in these current difficulties. May the Catholic community not lose sight of the poor. May we be generous to those in need so that we may be ‘heirs to the treasures of heaven’.
With the assurance of my blessing and prayers,