Happy New Year to you all! During the last few days of Advent and the first days of Christmastime it was a great joy to be at home and with family again. As the new year broke, I was in Leeds celebrating with two friends who had just been married. One of the most wonderful experiences for me as a seminarian over the last few years has been the opportunity to watch various friends coming to the altar of the Lord to dedicate their lives to Him through the Sacrament of Marriage and family life. When serving at the nuptial Mass I have found it a profound privilege to witness the love on these couples’ faces throughout the liturgy – especially in those moments when they catch each other’s eye.
The presence of families – our own, and those of our friends – is an integral part of the formation for priestly ministry. It is families who are often best placed to support and challenge us when we need it most. Taking for granted the inspiration of the Lord’s gift of Himself to the Father through His Passion, and the Lord’s gift of Himself to us in the celebration of the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), it is the total self-gift of husband and wife to each other that makes the commitment to celibacy most understandable as a gift rather than an obligation.
It is pleasing then that as we begin the new calendar year we start with the liturgical celebration of Our Lady under her title of Mary, Mother of the Church. It was from His Cross that Jesus gave His Mother to the Beloved Disciple, and in turn the whole Church. But now in this Christmas season we are able to come to Our Blessed Mother as the infant Jesus and enjoy her tender love and care for us.
Before the Christmas break, I went to St Martha’s Convent in Rottingdean for the weekend with the other members of my year group. In the chapel there I was especially moved by the statue of Our Lady, by the way the relationship of the infant Jesus with his Blessed Mother was portrayed with His reaching to touch her face. Similarly, as we begin 2019, and continue through it, may we be more aware of the closeness to us of our Blessed Mother – and with her, Jesus – in all of our joys and sorrows.