Christmas of peace and hope can be timely antidote to ‘permacrisis’ – Bishop Leahy’s Advent letter
Sunday, December 18, 2022: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has expressed hope that the true joy of Christmas, peace and love, will be the ultimate reprieve from the sense of ‘permacrisis’ engulfing us today.
In his advent pastoral letter distributed at masses across the diocese this weekend, Bishop Leahy also urged people to make an extra effort to reconnect with those they may have lost contact with during COVID and for the faithful to help reconnect those who lost contact with the Church also during the pandemic.
And he thanked the faithful for their commitment to their faith at a time when it’s “not always easy to be Catholic”.
He wrote: “The Collins Dictionary word of the year for 2022 is ‘permacrisis’, referring to the almost permanent news of one crisis or another. So often this year we’ve heard of the refugee crisis, the Ukraine crisis, the cost of living crisis, the climate crisis, the Covid-19 crisis, the economic crisis, the energy crisis, the A&E crisis, the schools child abuse crisis. It’s as if we are lurching from one crisis to another with the result that some can feel ‘bothered and bewildered’, as one commentator puts it.
“Thank God for Advent and Christmas. The power of these seasons is such that, at least for a while, most of us can suspend the ‘living in crisis’, and can enjoy time in the comfort and joy of loved ones, of family. These seasons remind us that we need to lift up our hearts and lift up each other’s heart. The antidote to bewilderment is to focus on hope.”
Bishop Leahy said that we can keep hope alive by remembering with thanksgiving the good things that are happening, by paying attention to small details where we can show love to others.
“Yes, the small daily acts of love go a long way to spreading hope. And now, not least because of the ‘permacrisis’, those small details may include just calling around to the neighbour, friend, relation that maybe, for reasons of Covid-19, we lost somewhat lost contact with. I’m thinking, in particular, of people living alone, people who are elderly, people who are ill, people who lost loved ones perhaps during the year.
“Sometimes it’s just letting them know you are there, that you are thinking of them that can make a difference, that can light that candle of hope. So if you have the slightest inclination that someone might appreciate that visit, that call, that small detail, please act on it. It could bring hope. And if everything is fine, you’ve, at least, reconnected. And that’s something we all need consider now that the worst of Covid-19 has hopefully passed. It is time to reconnect. It will bring hope.”
Bishop Leahy, however, said, that we should not leave everything that happened during the pandemic behind. “I think many of us find ourselves rushing around again. But let’s not forget what we realised during the Covid-19 lockdown – we had time to slow down, to be attentive to relationships and to give time to reflection and prayer. Covid-19 might pass but let’s hold on to the value of prayer, reflection and meditation.”
Pope Francis, he said, recently recommended we take 2 minutes each day, simply going back over our day, looking out for where the Lord has been present and at work in our lives that day. “In other words, count the blessings, notice how we’ve reacted to situations, ask for mercy for our failures in loving. It’s important to carve out moments of prayer, silence and reflection in our lives.
“We can so easily slip into letting our soul, our interior life, become like a public square where everything and anything passes through. We can find ourselves filled with so many noises that enter us simply from idle chatter or chat shows or sensationalist programmes with the result that the air we breathe is not lifegiving and wholesome and can suffocate our soul.”
Bishop Leahy also reflected on the gains for the Diocese itself across 2022, including good participation in training sessions put on for lay people in the areas of funeral ministries, Safeguarding and Eucharistic Minister preparation; the appointment of a new Director for Youth Ministry and Lifelong Learning. He particularly noted the completion of the two year Certificate in Pastoral Leadership programme by 20 participants from across the Diocese who are now looking forward to sharing their talents and skills at the service of others in the Diocese.
In wishing all well as we approach Christmas, Bishop Leahy acknowledged the difficulties in being Catholic. “I want to thank all the faithful in the Diocese for their commitment to the faith. It’s not always easy to be Catholic these days. It takes a little more backbone than in recent times gone by. I am mindful too there are many changes happening in our Diocese in the light of a reduced number of clergy. I want to thank parishioners for embracing change and seeing how best to move forward. I am very grateful to clergy who minister so generously in an environment that can be hostile or simply indifferent and I ask you to remember them too in your prayers.”
He concluded: “One final thought. Perhaps with Covid-19, people you know have lost regular contact with the Church. This Christmas might be an opportunity to invite them to re-connect. In doing this, I think you’d be helping them come ‘home’ to God for whom our heart is made, the heart that, as the psalm puts it, will be restless until it rests in God.”