Thursday, December 29, 2016

Three Christmas messages from Ireland’s newest bishop

Ireland’s newest member of the hierarchy, Fintan Monahan, marked his first Christmas as Bishop of Killaloe by issuing not one Christmas message, but three: a written one and two video messages, one in English and one in Irish.

In his written message, Dr Monahan, who was consecrated as a bishop this September, begins by writing that it is “with great delight and happiness” that he has the privilege of offering a seasonal greeting and blessing as head of the Killaloe Diocese.

He writes that at this time of year, we look back at the 12 months gone by, savouring and enjoying the good times, while acknowledging the difficult times as well. “This has been a most significant year for us as we remembered the events of 1916, the sacrifices of many for the freedom of our nation, one hundred years ago.”

His English-language video message begins differently, with a reflection based on a newspaper photograph of a piece of graffiti in Northern Ireland that reads ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ and on a Christmas card bearing the message ‘I pray that the peace of Christ will disturb you this year’.

“The message of Christmas, when we move beyond the little baby in the crib, is very challenging. It calls us to be people of faith, to be people of love. It calls us during Christmas time to reach out to other people: maybe refugees, poor people, the homeless, maybe those that need a visit around this time of year. It’s a very challenging message: to be a genuine Christian, to be a follower of Jesus Christ and that is fundamentally the message of the crib.”

The Irish-language video message starts with an tEaspag Fiontán Ó Monacháin reminiscing about the first Christmas Eve after his ordination. That night, after celebrating Midnight Mass, he went to the top of Cnoc an Phobail, a hill in his parents’ home parish of Carraroe, and he looked out over Galway Bay to the Aran Islands where, remarkably, he could see candles lit in the windows of the islanders’ houses.

The candles lit on Christmas Eve, he says, are there to light the Blessed Virgin and St Joseph on their way and are also a sign that the Holy Family is welcome to come into the house. “They are a lovely symbol that Mary and Joseph are invited into our homes, our communities and, most of all, into our hearts,” he says.

One thread common to all three Christmas messages is an appeal by the Bishop to take greater care on the roads. 

In the Irish-language message, he says road accident numbers increase at this time of year for a number of reasons, one of which is drink driving. In his written message, he says that “Unfortunately the number of road fatalities has risen again this year. We pray for vigilance, alertness, care and concern on our roads at all times.”

He finishes his written greeting with the words: “At this special time of the year, this time of profound religious significance I pray that the message of the Christ-Child would be reborn in our diocese, our land, in our homes, in our hearts and souls this Christmas season. Peace, joy, health, happiness, along with many blessings and graces to all for a joyful and fulfilling new year in 2017.”

To see Bishop Monahan’s English language video message, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6EwiXnSiOg.

Chun a theachtaireacht físe i nGaeilge a fheiscint, téigh go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCdmYvURO3g.

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