After the hopeful, and undoubtedly busy, Advent and Christmas periods, we have begun 2018 back in the ordinary routine of life in Rome. The Church, too, has returned to 'Ordinary Time' in the liturgical calendar. Yet, in reality, a life lived in Christ is always extraordinary, new and in development. This is true not only of our personal faith journeys, but also of the whole Church. Jesus, born in a crib and visited by wise men, continues to call us onwards to Himself as His plan for our lives unfolds.
Let me return briefly to the Christmas period in Rome and give you a flavour of our celebrations at the Venerable English College. These included the annual Advent meditation in which the choir, known as the Schola, chanted Christmas hymns interspersed with thematic scripture readings. This gentle period of reflection allowed us all to meditate on the mystery of Christ's becoming incarnate to save us from the power of sin and death. It was followed by a somewhat different side of college life – the Advent Show. After the light-hearted entertainment held in our impressive crypt, the community and friends from across Rome enjoyed some mulled wine and panettone together.
If Christmas afforded us a time of hope, reflection and relaxation with family and friends – a celebration of the hope of all hopes, Christ the Lord, the Saviour of humankind – during the last couple of months, there have been developments which bring the gift of hope in a concrete way. Archbishop Paul Tighe of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications admitted two of our community as candidates for Holy Orders. This is when a seminarian receives the clerical collar, a sign of mutual discernment between him and the Church regarding their vocation to priesthood – an engagement proper, if you like.
Another joyful occasion was the ordination of our seminarian Carl Mugan to the diaconate, which took place on the Feast of St Thomas of Canterbury, 29 December. It was a blessing to see Carl, with whom I have been in Rome these last three years, ordained deacon, as well as to spend time together with other seminarians, priests and people of the diocese. The Lord continues to work and give gifts to us all. We have thus entered 2018 with a new deacon to serve and to love after His own pattern in the diocese.