Archbishop: Holy Family our inspiration as we move towards 2021

Archbishop Cushley has called for Catholic families to imitate the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as Scotland moves towards a new year under the highest Covid restriction levels.

Speaking during his online Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family, he said: "Today we remember in these times how our usual freedoms have been much curtailed for the sake of the common good. And that has got us all thinking about our families.

"With the highest level of restrictions coming into place in Scotland as of Boxing Day, our visits to families and friends are now very much restricted.

"This means that we have had to treasure every opportunity we have had to be together with family and friends in the last few days, in a way that our generation anyway has never had to face. It’s a sobering lesson for sobering times.

"But I'm hopeful that many of you will turn it to account and will learn again to value the affection and closeness of those around us, the importance of patience, small gestures and giving way to others, of peace and harmony in the home.

"As we all know, these things are rarely achieved without some effort. But we have examples at hand to help us. As I said (during Mass) on Christmas Day, Joseph and Mary very obliged to go on a journey to Bethlehem in the middle of winter when she was heavily pregnant . They were alone, far from family and help, and stuck in a stable when Mary had to give birth.

"But their love for each other and for Jesus kept them going. They have always been an example of love and support for us too, but in the context of a Covid Christmas, their perseverance, forebearance and affection for each other is more eloquent to us than ever.

"Let's learn from their goodness and their love for each other as we move forward towards a new year."

WATCH: Christmas Day Mass with Archbishop Cushley

Holy Mass for the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord, celebrated by Archbishop Cushley. Recorded at St Bennet's, Edinburgh.

Act of Spiritual Communion

My Jesus,
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.

Amen.

WATCH: Christmas Day message from Archbishop Cushley

Archbishop Cushley has thanked priests and parishioners in his Christmas Day message for 2020.

He reminded viewers us to have hope amidst a difficult year and to place their trust in Jesus Christ, while reflecting on lessons learnt in 2020.

He said: "I would like to express my sincere thanks to the clergy and to all of you that have helped them open our churches in a way that is safe and responsible.

"As we celebrate Christmas we remember Jesus was born in constrained and difficult times harder than our own. We should remember that no matter what happens today or in the future Jesus Christ is the son of God." Full transcript below.

Christmas Day Message

My dear friends, what a year this has been. We have learnt some sobering lessons and 2020 has been made sadder by the departure of many people who would be here if it weren’t for the pandemic.

Nonetheless, we have also learnt many lessons about how important we are to each other and how precious is the time that we spend together.

We’ve also learned the value of helping each other and reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves especially the poor, the elderly, the lonely, the sick, the dying, and those who are now facing unemployment in the present circumstances.

We have also a little more hope in our hearts now that a vaccine is being distributed and I'm sure that you will join me in congratulating those who have prepared it in such a short space of time.

I would also like to express my sincere thanks to the clergy and to all of you that have helped them open our churches in a way that is safe and responsible.

As we celebrate Christmas we remember Jesus was born in constrained and difficult times harder than our own. We should remember that no matter what happens today or in the future Jesus Christ is the son of God. He is the same yesterday and today and forever.He is our joy and our hope and our salvation.

As we look forward to 2021 we do so with gratitude for the blessings that we have received during 2020. and there are many in spite of and sometimes because of the circumstances in which we have found ourselves.

And we hope to learn some lessons about how important we are to each other and how we matter to each other and how we ought to look out for each other better. And we hope to learn how to appreciate and to treasure the liberties that we have taken for granted and the opportunities that we still have to gather with each other and two worship God, especially at Mass and in the sacraments.

I hope that you will have a happy and holy Christmas with you and yours and I pray that all of us will be able to have a very good new year. 

God bless you.

GALLERY: Happy Christmas to our Catholic schools!

Happy Christmas to the Catholic school community in our Archdiocese from our Education Team. Thanks for keeping Christ in Christmas!

Silent Night performed by Anna and Maddy from the Schola Cantorum at St Mary's Cathedral. Accompanied by Michael Ferguson. CD album With Angels & Archangels is available to buy here.

WATCH: Christmas message from Scottish church leaders

Archbishop Cushley is one of 10 figures who have each recited a line of a heartfelt message in a Christmas video from the Scottish Church Leaders Forum.

They decided to come together in recognition that many people are grappling with difficulties and uncertainties due to the impact of COVID-19. It is hoped that sharing the Good News about the birth of Jesus Christ will bring some comfort, hope and peace to those who are struggling.

The Scottish Church Leaders Forum was formed in March in response to the pandemic to speak on issues of mutual concern with one voice.

They are responsible for the ecumenical prayers published for every Sunday at 7pm.

Get ready for Advent with our Festive 5!

In this final week before Advent we've put together five ways you can prepare spiritually for the new liturgical year which begins on Sunday.

1. Join the Archbishop's Advent talk this Sunday

Archbishop Cushley picks apart the impact of the pandemic with a message of hope as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. His talk is titled 'Unwrapping Advent' and it takes place on Zoom this Sunday (29 Nov) from 7-8pm. Register now: bit.ly/UnwrappingAdvent

2. Get familiar with St Mark

Advent is the start of the new liturgical year, where we hear St Mark's Gospel at Sunday Mass. Let Father Andrew Garden (St David's, Dalkeith) guide you in this video.

3. Practice charity

Parishes across the Archdiocese are running initiatives to help struggling families in their community this Christmas. If you can make a donation, please do so. Our Caritas, Justice & Peace Commission sent this article to all parishes on how we can practice charity in our parish during Advent. Check out the below video to see the amazing response to a toy appeal at St Francis Xavier's in Falkirk.

4. Pray the Rosary!

Join people across the Archdiocese on Zoom to pray for unborn children, their mothers and all Pro-Life intentions. Begins this Monday at 7:00pm and each following Monday in Advent. To register, click here.

Our Catechetics team has also put together this Meaning of Advent pamphlet telling you all about this important season. We'll also make available our Children's Liturgy at Home guide for each Sunday in Advent (click resources on this page).

Priests! Check out these handy online resources

5. Go on silent retreat

Take time out at St Mary's Monastery at Kinnoull, Perth, to prepare in joyful expectation for the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Charlie Corrigan C.Ss.R. will lead the retreat with inspiring talks in a time of prayerful, silent recollection, with opportunities to celebrate the Sacraments and join in community prayer.

If you're a priest, you can go on an Advent afternoon of recollection (online).

Generous parishioners pack hall with presents!

A Great Toy Giveaway will take place this weekend at St Francis Xavier's Parish in Falkirk thanks to the generosity of parishioners and the local community.

A parish appeal for toys, books and various gifts led to a church hall packed with presents, meaning struggling parents can give children a Christmas to remember.

Parish priest, Fr Jamie Boyle, said: "What an amazing response to our Toy Exchange. This will lighten the burden for so many families this Christmas and it’s good for the planet too!"

A parishioner posted a video on the Parish Facebook page and said: "When Fr Jamie came in and looked at the hall and saw everything, he filled up, because I don't quite think he could believe the generosity."

They added: "Thanks to the generosity of our parishioners we have loads of great toys, games, books, bikes, prams, dolls...all free to take away and hopefully fill a child with joy on Christmas morning."

The Great Toy Giveaway will take place in St Francis Xavier’s Hall, next to the library on Hope Street, 10:00am till 4:00pm.

Practical charity

Archbishop Cushley is encouraging parishes across the Archdiocese to do what they can to support struggling families this Christmas.

He shared a message from the diocesan Caritas, Justice & Peace Commission on practical steps to help those who need support, particularly at Christmas.

Fr Basil Clark, who leads the commission, wrote to clergy following the recent World Day of Prayer for the Poor: "We decided that this was not the year for yet another special collection, drawing resources from the parishes. We want to encourage Catholics to act by getting involved in practical acts of charity, locally, particularly as we approach Christmas, which can be a difficult and stressful time for parents in need."

Fr Basil has highlighted the following to parishes:

The Society of St Vincent de Paul The SSVP do a power of work for the poor in the Archdiocese. Many of our parishes have an SSVP conference in which members quietly work to give support to the poor and work with other organisations in bringing relief to those in need. In our Archdiocese, the SSVP runs a Caravan Project, giving holidays and respite breaks to families. It's furniture project makes hundreds of deliveries of free furniture to those who need it each year. To find out more about the work of the SSVP in Scotland visit its website.

Foodbanks Many supermarkets have donation trollies available. Please consider adding a children's toy to your shopping list to make a Christmas donation.

Schools Local schools often have a keen awareness of poverty in the local area. Look out for appeals from your local school to discover the range of  charity initiatives they may be running that you can donate to.

Charities

On a national and global level, it is easy to set up a standing order of even a very small amount to ensure you make a regular donation to charity. Some charities endorsed by the Church and which often run Christmas appeals include Missio, Mary's Meals, Aid to the Church in Need and SCIAF.

Prayer for the 2020 World Day of the Poor (Sunday 15 Nov)

Following World Day of the Poor, we encourage parishioners to pray for the poor in their community and across the world

Almighty, ever-living God, your beloved Son came to us in poverty
to win for us the riches of eternal life.
During His time on earth He taught us by word and deed.
From His death we learned of the immensity of His love;
from His resurrection we learned how to believe and to trust
that our lives have purpose from beginning to end.
Help us never to forget that every person has value and is loved by You.

Remind us that, as Your people grow older,
they do not cease to be people worthy of respect, understanding and appreciation.
Though the eyes of the elderly may grow dim,
we pray that their vision of everlasting life with You may grow ever stronger;
though their bodies may become frail,
we pray that their faith may empower them; though their minds may falter,
we pray that their memories may bring them comfort and peace.

Lord God, may we never forget your Golden Rule
to treat others as we would wish to be treated
and remember to apply that Rule most especially during the golden years of age.
Save us from falling into the trap of seeing the elderly as a burden.

We ask you, Lord God, to help us set aside material wealth
so as to recognise the spiritual riches of patience, compassion and love for all your people.
As we journey through this life side by side,
may we learn to support one another with the combined wealth of youth,
strength, wisdom and experience until we are called to the place you have prepared
for all those who are poor in spirit and rich in love.

We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

Christmas reflection from Archbishop Leo Cushley

Imagine being born in a stable.

The conditions would be cramped, dark and dirty. And you’d have the unpleasant odour of farm animals to contend with! Christmas card images of the nativity, while often beautiful, airbrush what it was like.

The reality is that our Lord was born in rather abysmal conditions by today’s standards. I don’t know about you, but that makes me marvel. The lesson here is that we’d all do well to imitate such profound humility. Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel was in obedience to the Lord: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Christmas is a special time because it brings out the best in people. When we’re humble enough to put others’ needs ahead of our own, everyone benefits.

There’s an annual rise in the number charitable donations each December. Churches and charities across Scotland and beyond hold toy schemes so children can wake up to a present on Christmas morning.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul, which has conferences in many parishes across our Archdiocese, has been busy with Christmas hamper and toy appeals as well as hosting Christmas lunches for the elderly. They couldn’t do it without your generous contributions to the SSVP box after Mass.

We all know that many people struggle at this time of year. While that’s easy to acknowledge, the challenge is to act. No matter how small the sacrifice – a charity tin donation, a coffee with someone who is lonely, a volunteering opportunity – we can all lend a hand. And if you already do this, please continue your good work.

Humility is the basis for opening our hearts and the inspiration to serve others. It leads us to focus a bit less on ourselves (good) and a bit more on others (better). St Bernard says: "Humility is the foundation and guardian of virtues."

When we begin to be more humble we better develop other attributes. How awful to be described as someone who only cares for themselves!

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is a model of humility. Her example of obedience to the will of God stands starkly in contrast with today’s ‘me first’ culture.

Her consent to become the Mother of God changed the course of history. Over 2,000 years later, Christians across the world continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, in a stable in Bethlehem, in such humble conditions.

May your Christmas be filled with peace and joy. God bless you all.

Archbishop Leo Cushley

Society of St Vincent de Paul prepares for landmark year

The coming year will be a big one for the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP) in Scotland - and is of special significance to our Archdiocese.

The foundation of the charity's first conference was at St Patrick’s in Edinburgh, way back on 25th May, 1845.

National President Danny Collins said: "As the time draws close to the end of 2019, we can reflect on the personal spiritual blessings that we received during this year and humbly recall the many acts of charity delivered to those in need that we gladly serve. The New Year is of particular significance in the historical journey of the SSVP as we celebrate our 175th anniversary.

"The coming year also marks the 50th anniversary of the National Council of Scotland, instituted in 1970."

The aim of the Society is to provide a means for members to practice Christianity by showing God’s love to their neighbours who are in need. Its work in our Archdiocese includes prison visits, providing caravan holidays  and helping people in financial difficulties on a person to person basis.

This Christmas, many SSVP conferences are providing food hampers and toys to individuals and families who are in need of a helping hand.

They include the Most Holy Trinity Parish, based at St John & St Columba's Church in Rosyth. Margaret Wilson (above) and fellow members have been busy collecting Christmas hampers, following kind donations from parishioners and the West Fife community.

In the far west of the Archdiocese, SSVP conferences will help distribute nearly 100 parcels collected at St Maurice's High School.

Writing in the latest edition of the Ozanam News, the society's magazine, Mr Collins added: "I wish to express my appreciation to all those involved with the SSVP in Scotland and hope that everyone has a Holy Joyful Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year 2020."

Nationally, next year will see events across the country to help celebrate the 175-years milestone, including:

Mon 25th May 2020: 175th Anniversary event St Patrick’s, Edinburgh.

Sat 13th June 2020: Annual Mass St Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow.

Sat. 29th August 2020: Annual Meeting Corn Exchange, Edinburgh.

To read the latest edition of the Ozanam News click here.