Bishop's Christmas Message 2013

Christmas and Families

What do you first think of when you hear the word “family”? I would guess it is not families in general, but your own family. And those thoughts may be glad and grateful, or they may be painful and poignant, or perhaps all of the above.

At Christmas, both the joys and sorrows of our family experiences seem more intense, as many families come together at this time. When there are distances, whether geographical or emotional, the reality of separation is equally intensely felt. The personal history that only a family shares: the memories, the jokes, the love, the fights: gives special depth to our time together and still affects us when we are apart.

Families are powerful. In the first few years of a person’s life, the groundwork of our character as social beings is laid. Most of us learnt to speak, to relate to others, to eat, dress and wash in our family. The deep pattern of our values was established then, not so much through direct instruction, but through hearing and watching what our parents said and did - and what they didn’t say, and didn’t do.

Families are a powerful human and cultural force, for good and ill. For this reason, the Church has a special concern for the quality of family life. In fact, the Christian family has been described as the “little church” or the “domestic church.” Here, the basic lessons of faith and morals can be given, in ways much deeper than mere words.

Our Diocesan Assembly this year discussed the family as one of the major topics. Now, Pope Francis has called a meeting of the Synod of Bishops next year with the theme “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelisation”. This Extraordinary Assembly will be followed up in 2015 with a General Assembly on the same theme.

I have already distributed copies of the Synod’s preparatory document to our parishes and groups in the Diocese. Our initial response will incorporate what we learnt in the Assembly process, with the addition of contributions from priests and people in the coming weeks. I invite you to be part of this work and pray for the powerful guidance of the Holy Spirit in it.

This Christmas, let’s turn to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and find in our companionship with them, deep lessons for the life and faith of our own families.

+ Michael McKenna

Bishop of Bathurst

Christmas 2013

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