, the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is reminding the faithful to keep focused on Christ this time of year.
In the CCCB’s Christmas message, Bishop Pierre Morissette writes:
When we find ourselves caught up in decorations and advertisements, God invites us to take a moment to recognize the Light and the Word which is at the heart of our lives.
The Bishop of Saint-Jérôme concludes the message:
May this Christmas season revive in us a sense of solidarity, sharing and simplicity. May it also help us rediscover what is most essential in life: to love God, and to love our neighbour even as we love ourselves.
You can read the message, or listen to it, in its entirety on the CCCB website HERE
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, the Archbishop of Ottawa
, has also released a Christmas message, incorporating into it the Year of the Priest.
I invite all the faithful of the Archdiocese to grasp the meaning of Christmas and celebrating the Year of the Priest by making a personal confession in 2010, and to begin to pray now for the priest who will communicate to you God’s pardon.
... For some this may mean the first celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation in years, perhaps decades. If you need help, the priest you approach will be only too glad to assist you.
... However, the effects of a sacramental experience of God’s peace in the confessional or reconciliation room can, we believe, bring blessings to both penitent and priest.
To read the entire message, continue reading below, and also be sure to check out Archbishop Prendergast's blog HERE
Archbishop Prendergast's Christmas Letter 2009
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we note that Pope Benedict XVI has designated a special Year of the Priest lasting from this past June until the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 11) 2010.
Christmas reminds us, then, of God’s saving plan in becoming human. And that, on leaving this world to return to the Father, Christ wanted priests to carry on his saving mission in the Church. The divine paradox is that God wishes weak and fragile human beings to continue Jesus’ mission in the world today
The Epistle to the Hebrews says that in Jesus “we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.”
When the author goes on to speak of the human priest he describes him as one “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people” (Hebrews 4:15-5:3).
Recently we have become all too aware of weakness and sin in the priesthood. And that could cause us to hesitate to call on their ministry. What a loss that would be for us and for them!
Instead of drawing back, I invite all the faithful of the Archdiocese to grasp the meaning of Christmas and celebrating the Year of the Priest by making a personal confession in 2010, and to begin to pray now for the priest who will communicate to you God’s pardon.
For some this may mean the first celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation in years, perhaps decades. If you need help, the priest you approach will be only too glad to assist you.
However, the effects of a sacramental experience of God’s peace in the confessional or reconciliation room can, we believe, bring blessings to both penitent and priest.
What the Christmas story illustrates so vividly, that “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16) becomes real in the priest’s absolution—the wiping away—of our sins given by Christ through his frail human representative.
Hearing confessions and granting the Lord’s forgiveness cannot but touch the heart of the priest and remind him constantly of his desire at his ordination to live as a communicator of God’s mercy.
In Bethlehem centuries ago angels announced to shepherds the news that a saviour—one who would take away their sins and reconcile them to God—could be found in a newborn baby lying in a manger.
The shepherds were so moved by their encounter with the Christ Child that they told everyone they met of what they had experienced. This stirred up wonder and awe in them as they heard “what the shepherds told them” about this Child (Luke 2:18).
May our encounter with the gentleness of the forgiving love of Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation help us reach out to those who desire to find peace with God.
The Holy Father will soon proclaim the Curé d’Ars, St. John Marie Vianney, as the universal patron of priests, both diocesan and religious. In doing so, the pope intends to underline how the ministry of hearing confessions renews the Church. May it be so for us in the Church of Ottawa!
My prayer and that of my brother priests is that the peace and joy of Christmas may be yours at this holy season and throughout the New Year.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Terrence Prendergast, S.J.
Archbishop of Ottawa