This year let us make Christmas not just the celebration of an event that happened long ago and far away. Let us make it real for us now. Let us make Christmas all about the coming of Jesus anew for each of us personally. The German mystic Angelus Silesius said, “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.”
Only in the encounter with our weakness will we be open to God. Therefore, may we allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives, not only during Christmas but every day. May He radiate the Light of his presence from within us as sharing and selfless love, expressed in compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and, overflowing generosity.
“If we allow God into our hearts and into our world, if we allow Christ to live in our hearts, we will not regret it: we will experience the joy of sharing his very life, as the object of his infinite love.” ~Benedict XVI, Holy Mass with Dedication of the Church of the Sagrada Familia and of the Altar, Nov. 7, 2010
This Christmas, we want to celebrate the birth of Jesus, no longer in the manger of Bethlehem, but this time, in 2020, in the midst of the most challenging circumstances many of us have ever experienced, may he be born in the manger of our own hearts.
How can all this happen? Perhaps we’ll find the true meaning of Christmas when we:
- Remove the masks of our pride, selfishness, worldliness, righteousness and allow ourselves to be contaminated by God’s grace, goodness, and love.
- Become infected with God’s love and then spread it to the rest of the world with all that is good, loving, true, beautiful, and holy.
- Vaccinate ourselves against the secularistic attitudes—those falsehoods that we don’t need God, the Church, religion, prayer, or the sacraments; as well as the divisive and destructive attitude of self-sufficiency.
- Keep at a distance all that inhibits us from being instruments of God’s grace and glory — or anything that prevents us from being His disciples, apostles, and missionaries.
- Sanitize not just our hands but also our minds, our hearts, and our souls from germs of any impurity. Cleanse ourselves from anything that is not of God and separate us from Him and each other.
Although 2020 saw so many events and activities canceled or postponed, many others still managed to happen, though looking a little different. Here are a few highlighted in my blog during the year that I’d like to encourage you to visit; if you have not already.
USCCB Fall General Assembly
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gathered for the 2020 Fall General Assembly from November 16-17 existed this year in a virtual format. While I admit I enjoyed attending from the comfort of my office without traveling, I did miss the personal interactions and conversations with my brother bishops. Dialogs, which usually occur during the general meetings, in small groups, during breaks, or during evening receptions, an essential and fruitful aspect of the mission of the USCCB, were sorely missed. However, I am still Impressed by the breadth of what we were able to cover and accomplish—-continually grateful for today’s technology. Read more about my experience in the November 25th blog.
Pope Saint Pius X Youth Awards
On Tuesday evening, December 1, I had the honor of conferring the Pope St. Pius X Youth Award on forty-seven worthy recipients. One thing we can say about 2020, the special events of our lives, most likely celebrated unlike ever before, are the ones we will never forget. I want to once again congratulate and recognize the 2020 Pope St. Pius X Youth Award recipients. As we’ve seen with the social media posts from the Office of Faith Formation, all of these young men and women are inspiring and worthy of the award.
FACE Fall Scholarship Dinner
As a faith community, we have enjoyed this event for many years. We look forward to a time when we can all come together again to celebrate those involved in Catholic Education and to raise much-needed scholarship funds to bring it within the financial reach of more students. Our Catholic schools and organizations like FACE work tirelessly to make it possible for our children to learn and to grow in a safe, nurturing, and faith-filled environment. Read more about the success of the virtual event on the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education website.
Many Special Masses
The COVID-19 building capacity limitations have, without a doubt, been one of the most difficult consequences of the pandemic. Priests and parishes went above and beyond to ensure those prepared for sacraments were able to receive them. The ability to livestream Masses came as, and continues to be, a blessing for those who wish to attend any of the diocesan or parish special liturgies.
Besides being available when live, recordings of these 2020 Masses and ceremonies are still available on the Diocese of Fall River YouTube channel. In 2020, we celebrated a priestly and transitional diaconate ordination, an interfaith service for peace and justice, admitted seventeen men to the Candidacy for the Permanent Diaconate, held the annual Mass for Peace, along with many confirmations and holiday Liturgies.
Keeping the Faith
In the August 19th Building Faith blog, I highlighted some of the ideas parishes across our Diocese implemented to stay connected with the faithful and help keep the faith and hope alive. In a recent Evening for Parish Leaders hosted by the Office of Faith Formation, I shared my hope for a re-energized Church following the pandemic. Since no one can say precisely when it will end, we must use the time now to continue to be creative in how we share the faith. Two parishes in our Diocese were even awarded Parish Excellence Awards for their innovative virtual outreach and catechesis. As we move into 2021, I am excited and encouraged by how the Fall River Diocese has navigated these unprecedented days of 2020. While we eagerly await the end of the pandemic, we must also not put off the work of evangelization waiting for it.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha