By Lisa Zengarini
In a Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Holy Family, which was celebrated on December 27, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW), called on Catholics to pray not only for their own families, but also for the Church, God’s family, so that they may both be places of compassion, forgiveness and love, especially in these difficult times.
Covid-19 has disrupted our homes
Cardinal Nichols begins his reflection by focusing on the word “ecology” which derives from the Greek root “oikos”, meaning “home”, and which – he explains – can be applied not only to the natural world, but also to our homes and to the Church. Both these “homes” have been disrupted this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, he notes: “Home life has been tested, and financial worries burden many. Separation from loved ones has been painful and many have lost loved ones in death, with little chance to grieve them fully”. This is why the Prayers of the Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family, asking for God’s blessings on our homes so that they may be “places of kindness and joy”, are particularly meaningful this year, Cardinal Nichols points out. Quoting St Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, the letter reminds that these words mean “compassion, gentleness, patience and forgiveness” and, most of all, love, and that the Apostle applied them in the first place to the Church, that is “to us, chosen by God to be a witness in the world to God’s love and compassion”.
Pray for our families and for the family of the Church
The Archbishop of Westminster therefore calls on the faithful to pray for their own families, but also for the family of the Church: “We can ask for God’s blessing on this family, this ‘ecology’ in which we live, the ‘ecology’ of the Church”, he writes recalling how the Church too has been under strain over these last months because of the pandemic. He adds that, this year, Church life in Britain has also been “stained” by the “emergence of the picture of the abuse inflicted on children and vulnerable people in the Church over the last fifty years” (in reference to the recent publication of the Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse - IICSA), reiterating his deep regret for the mistakes made even by himself.
Fix your eyes on the Lord
Amidst these difficulties, Cardinal Nichols encourages Catholics “to fix their eyes on the Lord, on the Child Jesus”, who “never forsakes the Church, his own Body” and “remains with us always”. Quoting Pope Francis’ recent Letter “Patris Corde”, he also encourages them to turn to St Joseph too, “as the protector of the family of the Church”, and “a guide in times of trouble”.
“As we come to the end of this year, a year of such pain and difficulty, try to see this ‘bigger picture’: that our lives are in the hands of God; that our Church is constantly consoled by the presence of the Holy Spirit; that our world is God’s work of art”, the letter concludes.