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4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) – Reflections from the Life and Writings of Joseph De Piro

Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 94(95):1-2,6-9; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28.

Reflection

The prophet is the one, called by God to speak his word to today’s world. In the book of Deuteronomy God promises his people to raise another prophet that, like Moses, will speak with authority. The role of the prophet was to speak the words God commands him to. In the Old Testament, God raised many prophets to lead and challenge his people to continue following God’s word. This promise to the People of God reaches its fulfilment in Jesus, the anointed one who, not only speaks God’s word to his people, but is God’s word, is himself God.

In the gospel Jesus does not base his teachings on the teachings of other prophets or teachers of his time, but speaks with authority. The Greek word for authority is εξουσία (exousía) which literally means ‘out of his own being.’ The being of Jesus is the being of God! We can never speak with authority, like Jesus did, instead we speak God’s word that fills us and overflows from our way of life.

Paul too was a prophet in the early Church. He encouraged the Corinthians to focus totally and solely on God. Married people love each other and bring God’s word to each other. They are invited to live and love as one body. Paul encourages them to love each other as if their own body. They need to be careful not to be distracted with the many earthly needs that can take up their time. By comparison, the celibate lives a much simpler life as he does not have to be concerned about partner and family. Both the married and the celibate equally give glory to God by living and witnessing God’s word. They are both equally called to be prophets among those they encounter.

 

Further Reading

In his book Found among sinners, (Malta: MSSP Publ., 2010) Martin Cilia mssp often refers to Joseph De Piro’s prophetic charism.

Throughout the history of the Church the Holy Spirit inspires and calls different people in different cultures at different times to be prophets in their own world. It was a call to live the Gospel in a way that inspired others to follow their footsteps. Each founder or foundress received a special charism from God to be specifically given to the Church at that particular time in history. As Joseph De Piro puts it, It was a new page and a new insight in one’s response to God’s love and call. (p.30)

This transformation in the life of founders is characterised by a greater awareness towards the poor and a decision to be in solidarity with them, resulting in the gradual emergence of the need for a specific type of presence in the pursuit of a work or a multiplicity of works. At each turn, confusion and risk mark this re-orientation but the sense of urgency prevails over the uncertainty. The keen evangelical insight becomes a force and a power that move the person beyond his/her imagination and leads him/her to live life in a prophetic and evangelical way. (pp.31-32)

De Piro believed that this was part of his priestly vocation, “the priest should cry out and raise his voice as a trumpet, and keep alive the flame of the Catholic faith. When selfishness triumphs and the poor are ill-treated, the priest who preaches the commandment of evangelical charity with apostolic courage should remind all of justice.” He was conscious of this prophetic calling, “the priest reminds you that the surplus of wealth does not belong to you, it is the patrimony of the poor. Help the poor, love him because he is your brother.”(pp.119-120)

Another field into which De Piro put energy was vocational work, “one of the best efforts of missionary work is to help to promote other missionary vocations.” Besides promoting and supporting missionary vocations at home in Malta, De Piro had a prophetic vision of promoting indigenous vocations. (p.125)

De Piro’s missionary spirituality was sealed with a great desire for unity, both in the Church and in particular in his Order. In his life he worked towards this goal. He knew that without a united community witnessing to the one whose wish is to unite would not have the desired effect. This vision for unity was prophetic in De Piro’s time; there could be no real ministry if it did not have at its core and aim unity with God, with others and within the Christian churches. (pp.137-138)

De Piro believed in God’s dream that unity is a must in order for the world to believe. He writes: “I must gather them! One cannot but rejoice at the consoling prophecy which pleased the Divine heart of our Lord… and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” A missionary work should fulfil such wish of the master with responsibility. De Piro made his own the vision of the prophet, “The wolf and the lamb meet together; they eat from the same grass and drink from the same valleys to unite their forces so that hand in hand they try anew to befriend other animals. Yes, diverse races join together; the black mixes with the white, the savage with the gentle; the deprived with the virtuous, the poor with the rich, the old with the young, without considering their diverse nature they unite together in one thing and one force. They eat from the Eucharistic bread which makes them one nature, one body, one blood, one soul under one Lord who do not wish anything except unity, belief, justice and mercy.” (pp. 138-139)

 

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Year B

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 24(25):4-6,7b-9; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20.

Reflection

In this Sunday’s readings, at the beginning of another liturgical year when we are once again invited to reflect on our discipleship of Jesus, the readings speak about the calling of four disciples, the response of the people of Nineveh and the need to be prepared for the moment of our encounter with God.

We are all called to be disciples; we are called in many and various ways. In the gospel Jesus invites four fishermen leave their father’s business and follow him more closely, becoming catchers of people. Jesus also invites all who care to listen to his message, telling them that the kingdom of God is close and they need to repent, turn to God, be prepared and believe the Good News.

The first reading, from the book of Jonah, speaks of the urgency felt by the people of Nineveh. As soon as they heard the prophet’s message, they repented, proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth. Jesus is not asking us to put on sackcloth, but he expects us to show our determination to change our life and to follow him by the way we live. I cannot be satisfied with simply listening to the word of God. I need to accept the message, leave the style of life I have been living and turn to God, like the disciples and the people of Nineveh.

Paul reminds us of the need to be always alert. We do not know when it will be our time to meet God; what we know is that our time is getting shorter. The end of times does not need to come with a big bang, darkening of the sun and falling stars, it comes the moment I die and am welcomed into God’s presence. Paul is not promoting a fear of death and of our meeting with God, but is inviting us to be prepared for this encounter.

Further Reading.

The meditation about death, a part of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, was an important aspect of Joseph De Piro’s spirituality.

For Joseph De Piro, the year 1898 was not only the year of his great ‘yes,’ but also a year during which Joseph and his family, went through very difficult times. In the beginning of that year, Alexander and Ursola De Piro decided to go to Italy for a holiday. In Florence Alexander felt sick. When they arrived in Rome his condition worsened and he died suddenly on 10th January. At the age of 49 he left Ursula a widow, and his nine children orphans. Berti, the sixth sibling in the De Piro family, also fell seriously ill and died shortly after.

One of Joseph’s contemporaries witnessed that Alexander had objected to Joseph’s becoming a priest. Alexander’s death meant that the young Joseph was now free to decide his own future. The deaths of his father and his brother had an effect on Joseph. From his discernment notes before choosing the priesthood we learn that these family tragedies clearly influenced Joseph. In his reasons in favour of becoming a priest De Piro lists death on its own, refers to his father’s death and also mentions his brother’s illness. One may easily get the impression that Joseph abandoned Law and joined the priesthood because of his fear of death. De Piro wrote: “The meditation on death. Upon reflecting on my life I feel that this is the true condition to which I am being called.” Joseph does not hesitate to admit his fear of death; he also explains that he does not stop on fear. His fear encourages him towards perfection.

De Piro lived a different spirituality from that common among his contemporaries. Death was usually considered only as one of the ‘last things.’ Joseph indicates that death has to be continuously in one’s mind so that one can uninterruptedly struggle towards perfection. Thus death assists the individual prepare himself daily for the final end. Through this way of life, death becomes: “the means by which I can reach true happiness.”

 

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Year B

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Samuel 3:3-10,19; Psalm 39(40):2,4,7-10; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20; John 1:35-42.

Reflection

God calls. God is not limited by whom he may call, where or in what circumstances this call happens. For young Samuel it happened in the middle of the night and he needed to be guided by Eli to understand what this meant for him. Andrew and the other disciple of John were following their teacher when they met Jesus, and immediately they left John the Baptist and started following Jesus. For Cephas, the call came through his brother who had just met Jesus and could not resist sharing the news with him.

In the first letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul explains that God calls us for himself. Our body is for the Lord and makes up the Body of Christ, of which we are members. In order to hear God’s call we need to be constantly on the alert, we cannot sleep because God calls in the middle of the night or at the tenth hour; God calls directly or through a friend or a situation we are in. What is certain is that God calls!

 

Further Reading

In his book Found among sinners, Malta: MSSP Publ., 2010, p. 102) Martin Cilia mssp reflects about Joseph De Piro’s call and answer.

Louis J. Luzbetak (The Church and Cultures, New York: Orbis Books, 1993) says that “a spirituality of mission presupposes a deep but humble and obedient sense of personal mission, a conviction tied to an unshakeable trust in God.” De Piro’s spirituality of mission starts with the basic notion that he felt called by God. Defining one’s calling is difficult, but in the words of Whitehead and Whitehead (Seasons of Strength, New York: Doubleday), “A Christian vocation is a gradual revelation – of me to myself by God.… In this vision, a vocation is not some external role visited upon us. It is our own religious identity; it is who we are, trying to happen.”

In this light we can understand the importance that De Piro attaches to his vocation. He recalls the experience on the 8th of May, 1898, as the moment when he made the decision to follow this inner voice, “Last year it was the same Madonna who offered me to her divine son on this earth.” He felt a strong desire to become a priest. This was to have great consequences on De Piro’s life. Coming from a very wealthy family, he had many possibilities open in front of him; he had to give up his studies in law. He saw God’s providential hand in everything, even the unexpected death of his father, who had objected to the idea of his son going for the priesthood. In a letter to his mother, De Piro wrote, “According to our judgement, this year has been a year of misfortune. This is our way of looking at it, because God does nothing that is not perfect, and his works cannot be but good. On this occasion I can say without fear that the consolations we have experienced have been greater than the grief caused through our great loss.”

De Piro’s calling was rooted in the awareness that “Jesus prefers those who wish to remain hidden. When He chose me to be one of his ministers, He found me among sinners.” He understood his vocation as the answer and a deep desire to be near the One who called him. De Piro deeply believed that, “we have been created just to love him,” and that “God will give himself completely to those who leave everything for his love.”

This deep awareness of being called played a central role in De Piro’s life. The Lord Jesus was his life and his model; “Jesus’ life on earth has been an act of self-giving. And he wants his followers to be perfectly follow his steps.” The uniqueness of Christ lies in the fact that he followed the voice of the Father fully with all its consequences, even unto death. De Piro pondered on Augustine’s words that, he who gave him all he had, wanted him to give him all he was. De Piro reflects and prays: “You have never liked sacrifices and holocausts. You have given me a body. Indeed, you have given me a body, a heart, a soul. Behold I offer them to you, I consecrate them to the glory of souls.”

After having said all this, we still fall short of picturing the depth of De Piro’s calling. In his own words, “It is fitting that some secrets of the heart are left only to Jesus.” On the other hand, his writings show clearly that for him, to follow Jesus meant first and foremost to know and chose in daily life God’s unique calling for him. De Piro made his own the question of the young man in the gospel, “O good Master, what should I do to obtain eternal life? Follow me. Behold, in this consists our calling!” The idea of regarding his own vocation as a valuable starting point for his spirituality developed. De Piro’s only wish was to “remain a priest without honours; for me the priesthood is the highest honour.”

 

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Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7; Isaiah 12; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11.

Reflection:

Jesus begins his ministry with an experience of the Father’s love. Mark tells us how, when Jesus came up from the Jordan, the heavens were torn apart and the voice of the Father was heard: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’ This declaration of love of the Father to the Son, in the presence of the Spirit, would have enlightened Jesus as he undertook his ministry of revealing the Father’s love to his disciples and to the world.

The prophet Isaiah describes what is expected of the servant of the Lord. In great humility he is to go out and show the people that the kingdom of God has arrived. His signs of healing and forgiveness of sins give witness to Jesus’ message.

Through Jesus we too are children of God and beloved of the Father. Our job too is to witness to the coming kingdom of God. Our role is to recognise the work of the Spirit within us and share God’s love with all around us.

 

Further Reading

The Baptism of Jesus came at the beginning of his public life, a life that to contain many moments of support, approval, joy, satisfaction and fulfilment, mixed with opposition, envy, hatred and sadness. As a human person Jesus would not have been strong enough to face and live all this had he not experienced the Father’s love all along his life. The Father’s love encouraged the Son, Jesus, to live through each moment of his life.

Similarly, the Servant of God Joseph De Piro had moments of joy in his life; he had instances of satisfaction, gratification and fulfilment. He also lived through moments of sadness, disheartenment and desolation. De Piro’s experience of the Father’s love for him in his life empowered him to go on until the end.

De Piro experienced the love of the Father through the Son: the Incarnate God (God like us), the Suffering God (God with us who are suffering), the Eucharistic God (God within us), and the God with a Wounded Heart (God for us). He also experienced God’s love in His continuous Providence: the Father provided him with the money he needed for the orphanage children and the Society’s members; the persons he looked for in order to help him start and push forward his small Society; the energy he required in order to serve his large amount of ministries running concurrently. The love of the Father urged De Piro to always go forward, quickly and lovingly.

 

 

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Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6,12-14; Psalm 127(128):1-5; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:22-40.

Reflection:

God was incarnate for us and took on a human body with everything that this entails. For a human child to grow to maturity they need the protection of a human family. This was also true for the child Jesus. Today we celebrate this reality as we are invited to look at the family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

In the first and second readings, the Word of God teaches us about love and respect in family life. The fourth commandment invites us to honour our father and our mother. The book of Ben Sirach presents us with a reflective reading on how to fully respect our parents. In a similar way, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul invites the ‘saints’ to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient; but above all this, those who are chosen by God need to witness to the life of God within them through the love that they share. These characteristics need to be visible primarily within the context of the family.

In the gospel we read about Mary and Joseph who, like good and devout Jews, present their first born son to God in the temple. In Jesus, God himself enters his temple and is welcomed by Simeon and Anna. As much as we would prefer life in to be happy and simple, we know from our own experience that it is fraught with trouble at each step of the way. The Holy Family too had to face their difficulties; a sword would pierce Mary’s soul too! Perhaps through these troubles, we can rest assured that like Jesus, God’s favour will always be with us too!

 

Further Reading

Joseph De Piro celebrated a wedding ceremony on more than one occasion, and as part of the ceremony he always delivered a homily. In one of these sermons De Piro spoke about the preparation that the couple were expected to undergo in the lead up to marriage. They need to be aware that they were going to pronounce their marriage vows in the presence of God himself, and God will make the couple one. Since God created the man and the woman for each other, He also provides what is necessary for the couple to live together. He provides all the graces necessary for the couple to live married life as God wants them to.

“Be ever mindful of the holiness of the matrimonial state and, animate yourselves by this consideration to a discharge of your obligations. May you never lose sight of the sacred promises you are about to utter, as the basis of your confidence in each other. Remember also that mutual fidelity which you now profess, and which is so strikingly represented by the ring used in this ceremony, as the seal of your lasting and happy union.”

The Servant of God highlighted a most important reason related to the marriage between a man and a woman. In marriage they are called “… to support and comfort each other;” husband and wife are expected to “… promote each other’s happiness.”

 

 

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Year B

The Epiphany of the Lord.

Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 71(72):1-2,7-8,10-13; Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6; Matthew 2:1-12.

Reflection:

Scripture speaks of the different ways how God revealed himself to us. The Old Testament speaks about God’s self-revelation in creation and then through the prophets. Finally he reveals himself through his only Son (cf. Heb 1:1-2). In the prologue, John speaks of the final Word of God spoken to humanity (cf. Jn 1). Luke speaks of the baby being born and revealing himself to Mary and Joseph and to the shepherds (cf. Luke 2). Matthew goes even further and brings in the wise men from the East who come looking for the king that was born.

The mystery of the incarnation is the story of God’s revelation. The incarnation does not stop on Christmas day, but continues through the ministry of the Church as it goes forth and proclaims the message of God’s love and mercy to all peoples. The wise men from the East are the first gentiles to hear the message, today the Church continues to carry on this mission in different countries, evangelising and re-evangelising the good news.

The feast of the Epiphany is another moment when we can remember and celebrate our ministry of mission and evangelisation. For us with a missionary charism, we celebrate this day as another moment when God reveals himself beyond any physical or cultural boundaries, inviting all to share in his love and in his life.

 

Further Reading.

Joseph De Piro expressed his missionary spirit in the rules he prepared for his missionary society, in the almanac and in his sermons.

In the constitutions of his Society, the Founder spoke about the ad gentes missionary activity in two different sections, under the section about ‘Ministries,’ he spoke about ‘Missions,’ then he spoke about the ‘vow of Missionary Service,’ a fourth vow he added to the traditional three.

De Piro placed missions first among the apostolates of the Society.

In the constitutions, the section about missions has been placed as the first one among the various ministries of the Society. Then in the opening paragraph of this section the Founder was very explicit about the priority of the evangelisation ad gentes for the members of his Society, “… the Missions are among our main ministries…”

Without any geographical limits.              

In the second paragraph of the constitutions, the Founder indicated that the members were expected “to work among people who lacked ministers of the gospel.” The Servant of God was indicating that there were to be no territorial boundaries regarding the evangelisation of the members of his Society. Speaking about missions, De Piro repeated this unconditional consecration of the members of his Society, “the vow of missionary sevices obliges everyone to be always ready to go to any part of the world.”

Within the parish context.

“In our churches, besides preaching, the sacraments of reconciliation, and other activities, the Missionaries are to perform those duties that are normally to be expected in a parish.”

Always obedient to the local Church authorities.

The Missionaries are expected to minister, “always according to the local bishop’s wishes.”

Accountable to their immediate superior of the Society.

De Piro emphasises accountability and demands it from formators, in the parish ministry and from those evangelising in ad gentes missions.

“Every week, the superior of the Mission, is to inform his immediate superior about all noteworthy events, and to ask his advice and direction. The same applies to those who, because of their ministry, do not live with their community.”

The prayer life of the evangeliser is a support for his evangelisation.

“If the Missionaries, because of their mission, are deprived of the great benefits of community life, they are to keep alive their desire of their personal perfection. They need to observe better the holy rules of the Society and be faithful to the daily meditation and examination of conscience, and also to the other practices of piety.”

Prayer for evangelisation itself.

De Piro was busy all the time, he was continuously doing one thing or another. The witnesses who knew him spoke of this characteristic of his. Even the Saint Paul: Almanac of the Institute of the Missions proves this. When De Piro wrote about a role model in missionary life, he often emphasised this about him. He also believed that: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” Therefore he insisted that the members of his Society should:

“… as soon as they are assigned to a mission, they are to welcome this as coming from the hands of Divine Providence. Immediately they are to start praying for the people they would be evangelising.”

During their mission, the missionaries must continue, “…to pray every day for people in their care…”

Leading an exemplary life.

Man leads by example. After insisting on the importance of prayer, De Piro draws missionary’s attention towards a personal good life.

“Once they arrive in their place of mission, they need to keep constantly in mind St Paul’s words, ‘we are the pleasing aroma of Christ’ (2 Co 2:15), and to be happy with the room, the bed and the food which they are given.”

As days go by, the members must remember that life is itself a form of evangelisation. “… everyone must be careful not to give the slightest bad example by the way they live and the way they treat those who they are called to evangelise …”

De Piro continued to emphasise that evangelisers must be always discreet in their apostolate, attentive in observing boundaries and never to mix roles. He mentioned such things as matchmaking, being involved in the drawing up of wills, and being godfathers.

With regards to discretion in evangelisation, the Founder wrote, “… they are to watch not to overstep the red line, causing spiritual harm for themselves and others.”

De Piro’s understanding of evangelisation.

In the Constitutions De Piro writes:

“In a strict sense, mission entails the sending of two or more missionaries to a parish or another place to minister with the bread of the Word of God, and to offer the most Holy Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ by means of the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.”

In one of his sermons, De Piro presented his concept of evangelisation very clearly. Between 1918 and 1920, De Piro served as rector of the Maltese Diocesan Major Seminary. A little later, a newly ordained priest who had been a seminarian during those two years, invited the Servant of God to preach the sermon in his first Solemn High Mass. As De Piro was preaching on the occasion of the feast of a priest, he presented the teaching of the Good News as the work of the priest, but from De Piro’s words one can easily see what the Servant of God understood by evangelisation itself:

“Our society … has made great progress in the arts, science and all kinds of inventions. Those who love their country are therefore happy with this advancement of civilisation. However, progress alone is not enough, society still needs a light that can lead it to glory. Religious instruction is an absolute necessity. Society needs to be taught how to behave in God’s presence. Who can address this need? I cannot give you an answer, nor can the ancient philosophers, even less the modern ones. Jesus Christ will provide the answer. He points towards the priest, his ambassador, and tells us that he is the light that could lead us to glory. Jesus Christ speaks and orders: ‘Go and teach’ (Mt 28:19). In another place, as confirmation of his mission, he says: ‘Those who listen to you, listen to me’ (Lk 10:16). If society bans the Catholic priest, it deprives itself of all good. To reject the priest leads to eliminating Jesus Christ, and where he does not reign … there is darkness not light, errors not truth, and death not life, because only Jesus can say: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ (Jn 14:6).

Whenever error starts to spread in a country and minds become darkened and hearts corrupt, the priest cries out loudly to keep the Catholic faith alive. When egoism triumphs, when the poor, the widows and the orphans are ill-treated, it is the priest who preaches about love in the gospel. With apostolic courage he reminds everyone of that justice … that awaits us in the next life. When family life is endangered, the priest can bring back peace and serenity, order and harmony and can help put the family back on the right tracks, restoring its dignity. The priest speaks to everyone, young and old, powerful and weak, rich and poor, intelligent and ignorant, kings and subjects. Through his word everything becomes sacred, children, people, government. His message is only one, love God, love one another, be virtuous, avoid evil.”

Evangelisation of the whole person.

De Piro did not want to be misunderstood when presenting the last instruction. He did not want the members to think that evangelisation concerned only the spiritual aspect of the human person. Therefore he encouraged the members of the Society to think about the formation of the human dimension of those they evangelised.

“Missionaries are called to evangelise the non-Christians and they should not refrain from educating them also in civic matters. This indeed contributes to their spiritual wellbeing …”

A non-possessive evangelisation or planting of the Church.

The Founder concluded his section about missions by writing about an attitude that had to form part of their evangelisation of the ad gentes countries.

“Once, by the Lord’s help, they complete their mission, the missionaries are to leave the field of evangelisation as soon as possible.”

De Piro did not want the members of his Society presume to control those they evangelised. Rather, he urged them to leave the place when they finished their duty, and this was to be done in a brisk way.

Indigenous clergy.

De Piro promoted “the indigenous clergy movement.” In the 1929 Almanac the Founder wrote:

“Recently we have seen the missions flourish. We do not owe this simply to the great zeal lit in the hearts of the Christians for the Popes’ invitations. It is a result of the work of indigenous clergy, priests who have been ordained from the mission country itself. From its early days, the Church has always understood the necessity of the local clergy.”

De Piro wrote two articles about indigenous bishops in 1927 and two articles about the foreign missionary and the indigenous clergy, and about an indigenous bishop, in 1931.

What made De Piro so enthusiastic for evangelisation.

Joseph De Piro was imbued with the love of God the Father, expressed in a special way through the various mysteries of Jesus Christ.

In his sermons the Servant of God often spoke about the Lord’s incarnation. The Son was sent by the Father among us, he became like us, and while he lived among us he worked out the mission the Father sent him to execute. He showed us the Father’s love.

The mystery of the passion and death Jesus suffered for us, sinners, influenced the Servant of God since his early youth and continued to help him move forward throughout his life.

For Joseph De Piro, the Eucharist was the continuation of the incarnation. The sacrament invented by Jesus and through which he becomes one with us.

Sacred Heart of Jesus was for the Servant of God nothing less than the abode of the divine love and therefore that which continuously saves us.

Permeated with this divine love, De Piro, could not resist telling his brothers and sisters, personally or through others, Maltese living in Malta, migrants, and people in ad gentes countries, about this divine love.

He also always preached that faith was:

  • the civilization and the holistic amelioration of the human person;
  • that which introduces liberty in human society;
  • the giver of life; and
  • the light for all humanity.

When one reflects on these words one can understand why De Piro was so enthusiastic for evangelisation!

 

 

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Year B

January 1st – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 66(67):2-3,5,6,8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21.

Reflection:

On this first day of the new year, the Church in its liturgy invites us to meditate on the reality of Mary, the Mother of God. Last week we marvelled at the fragile, young new-born child laid in the manger. He looks, feels and acts like a normal human baby; there is nothing to indicate to us that he is in fact the only Son of God. Jesus is fully human, like us in all things, except that he cannot be touched by sin (cf. Heb 4:15). One wonders what Mary and Joseph thought and felt as they held their first born child. One would presume that Mary was not impressed to have to give birth in a smelly stable, not even in the shelter of the local inn!

Yet, hidden underneath that human body there is hidden a divine nature. Jesus set aside his divinity to be born among us as human, remaining the divine Son of God, sharing in God’s nature, one with God (cf. Phil 2:1-11). The child born of Mary, lying in the manger, is the Son of God. Mary did not simply give birth to another human child, but to the Son of God himself. This reality was not easy for the early Church to understand, until it was clearly defined by the Council of Ephesus, in the year 431.

On the cross Jesus asks the beloved disciple to take Mary ‘as his own,’ taking her as his mother, becoming brother of Jesus and son of God (cf. Jn 19:26-27). John does not name the beloved disciple, making it possible for us to enter the scene and accept our place as sisters and brothers of Jesus, daughters and sons of God. We too are beloved by God! As children of God, we too, like Jesus, share in the inheritance of the Father.

 

In 1932, as the Church celebrated 1,500 years from the definition of this dogma by the Council of Ephesus, Joseph De Piro published an article about this mystery in his almanac.

MATER DEI, MATER DEI, MATER DEI (Mother of God)

In Ephesus, St Paul spent two years evangelising. One day, he ordered all books promoting superstition to be burnt, and a large bonfire was held in the city’s main square. This brought about the reaction of the pagans who started shouting “Long live Diana!”” and went on a rampage against Paul and the Christians. Notwithstanding this, St Paul still showed his love toward the citizens of that city, and in his letter addressed to them, he reminded them of what he had done for them, and how they ought to respond to his teachings about Jesus Christ.

St Paul’s mission had not been in vain. Many years later Ephesus became a city devoted toward Mary. A magnificent basilica in Mary’s honour was erected there, and it became the venue where the Fathers gathered for the Third Ecumenical Council. That Council, presided by St Cyril as the Pope’s representative, condemned Nestorius’ heresy. When the Council proclaimed Mary as Mother of God, the Ephesians held a spontaneous manifestation. This time it was not against the Christians, but against a heresy, or rather, in favour of the doctrine of the Church that has just been proclaimed by the successor of Peter, the Holy Pope Celestinus I, represented by St Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria. In the streets and squares of Ephesus, as the people held lighted torches, instead of “long live Diana,” the happy exclamation “Long live Mary, the Mother of God” was heard.

What follows is a first-hand account written by St Cyril to the Alexandrians, keeping in mind that he was Nestorius’ rival.

“The Holy Synod was held in the large church of Ephesus, dedicated to Mary Mother of God, on the 22nd of June (431). After a discussion that lasted a whole day, we finally condemned Nestorius, that blasphemer, who chose to not participate. The gathering of two hundred Bishops decided that he can no longer be considered to be a Bishop.

“The entire population of the city spent all day expecting the Council’s judgement. When they heard that that blasphemer was divested of his dignity, there was a unanimous praise for the Council and the people started glorifying God that, at last, the enemy of the Faith had been defeated.

“When we, the Council Fathers, walked out of the church, the people, carrying lighted torches, accompanied us to the residences where we were lodging. Even though it was late, the joyous feast was great. There were many illuminations, and some women even walked in front of us swinging incense burners.

“Thus, yet again, the Church was victorious because, in troubled times, she looked toward the Vicar of Christ and heeded his words. As a commemoration of this victory, the Bishops at this Council added to the Angelic greeting the prayer we often repeat every day, “Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Pope Pius XI, through the letter he wrote to Cardinal Sincero, expressed his wish that the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus be celebrated in a fitting way by the whole Church, both in the East and in the West. After all, Mary, proclaimed Mother of God by this Council, is the Mother of all Christians.

Following the Pope’s desire, all Rome set in motion and together with, it the whole of Italy. One of the major events was the National Marian Congress that was concluded with a procession with the image of Our Lady venerated at the Major Basilica dedicated to Our Lady under the title of ‘Health of the Roman Peoples.’ Besides Rome, we can say that the whole world, in one way or other, celebrated the centenary of the Council of Ephesus and the greatness of Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. Malta, having been devoted to Mary since the early years of the Church, was extremely glad with the Pope’s initiative and wanted to adhere to his wishes. A huge celebration was held on Sunday 25th October last year at the Floriana Granaries, and, through the Vatican press, the devotion of the Maltese toward Mary became known throughout the entire world.

The Bishop of Malta’s idea of holding a solemn celebration to commemorate the Council of Ephesus was indeed an inspired one. The focus was upon the devout image of Our Lady venerated at the Greek Catholic church in Valletta, under the title of ‘Our Lady of Damascus’.

This image of Mary is called ‘of Damascus’ because it has been honoured in the city of Damascus since time immemorial. The Scriptures tell us that a lively Christian community was present there from the very beginning and it attracted the zeal of Paul of Tarsus, the champion of the Law of Moses. One can say that Damascus played an important part in the conversion of the Apostle our father. Tradition holds that this image of ‘Our Lady of Damascus’ was painted by St Luke, who was deeply involved with the Christian community in Damascus. It is therefore probable that he gave them this image of Mary to reward them for the veneration they had toward her.

We would like to say something about the way this image found itself in Malta, enhancing our Christian Faith. This image was greatly honoured by the Christians of Damascus and, through it, they received many graces. At one point, Damascus was conquered by the Muslims, and the Christian religion started to gradually disappear. This cherished image of Our Lady, nevertheless, was left there, and it remained in Damascus till 1415. Witnesses said that they saw the image, preceded by a light, entering the port of the Island of Rhodes where the knights of St John were stationed. Some sailors said that, as soon as they saw that mysterious light, they started to follow it. The knights immediately recognised the image as that of Our Lady venerated in Damascus. Since then, the knights have kept it and venerated it with great affection, and when Rhodes fell to the Turks in 1522, the knights did not leave the image behind, eventually bringing it with them to Malta in 1530. After being kept for a some time in Senglea, in 1587 the image was placed in the church where it still resides today. It was indeed appropriate that this image was chosen to be the focus of the celebrations to commemorate the Council of Ephesus.

The preparation for the event started with three days of sermons delivered in all the parishes of Malta by preachers chosen specifically the Bishop. On the evening of Tuesday 20th of October, the centenary celebrations were inaugurated with a solemn procession carrying the miraculous image of Our Lady of Damascus from the Greek Catholic church to St John’s Co-Cathedral. The main celebrant was Mgr M. Gonzi, the Bishop of Gozo, assisted by the Chapter of Cathedral of Malta. When the procession arrived at St John’s, the Bishop’s Vicar, Fr. Paul Galea, enthused with love toward Mary, delivered a moving sermon. With fine words fitting for the occasion, he reminded us how, in Malta, the devotion toward Mary dates back to the time of St Paul’s shipwreck on our shores. St Luke, who accompanied Paul, left us not one, but two images of Our Lady. One is painted directly on the rock surface in Mellieha, while the other is on wood, housed in the Mdina Cathedral. Since those early days, the Maltese have always had the greatest veneration for them both, and recently they were crowned by Bishop P.P. Pace.

He then reminded us that the first titular of the Co-Cathedral was the image which we have just mentioned, and that nearly half of the parishes of Malta and Gozo, including the Gozo Cathedral, are dedicated to Our Lady. He referred to the beautiful and devout habit of families praying the Rosary together every evening. He also mentioned the widespread devotions linked to the Carmelite scapular and to the cincture in honour of Our Lady.

Fr Galea then gave a list of the crowning ceremonies that have been held in honour of Our Lady: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Valletta; the Immaculate Conception, Cospicua, Our Lady of Tal-Herba, Birkirkara; and of the Nativity of Mary, Senglea. Referring to the prayer We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God, he explained that, the crowing of the image of Our Lady of Damascus, will be a reminder of the celebrations held to mark the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus.

The opening celebration was followed by three days of events organised by the Diocesan Marian Congress committee. These were held in Italian at St John’s Co-Cathedral and in Maltese at the Jesuit church. The best orators, both ecclesiastic and lay, delivered well-prepared speeches regarding the nine aspects under which Our Lady ought to be honoured: (1) Mary Theotokos, Mother of God, (2) The divine maternity and Christian mothers, (3) Malta and Mary, (4) The divine maternity of Mary in Catholic Dogma. (5) The Divine maternity of Mary and purity of the soul. (6) Before and after the proclamation. (7) Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. (8) The Eastern Church and the Virgin Mary. (9) The Council of Ephesus and the Primate of Rome.

The Pontifical High Mass, celebrated in the Greek Catholic rite at St John’s on the 24th of October, enhanced these centenary celebrations. The presiding celebrant was Mgr Paul Schirò, titular Bishop of Benda, assisted by other prelates of the same rite, who, apart from the Papas of Malta, came from Sicily for the occasion. The ceremonies of the concelebration were really moving, especially the sharing of the unconsumed Bread by the priests who participated. The Bishop himself, after removing his liturgical vestments, kindly offered the Bread to the priests.

The solemn conclusion was held on Sunday 25th of October. In the morning, the Bishop of Malta celebrated a Pontifical High Mass at St John’s Co-Cathedral in front of the image of Our Lady of Damascus. As usual, he was assisted by the Cathedral Chapter. In the afternoon, the miraculous image of Our Lady was carried, accompanied by an immense procession, to the Floriana granaries. It seemed that all Malta was there, because the crowd filled this very large space. The crowd could follow the speeches over a loudspeaker installed on the bell tower of the church, overlooking the granaries.

When the Bishop of Malta, Mgr Caruana, assisted by the Bishop Michael Gonzi and Papas Schirò, first crowned the head of the Child and then that of Our Lady, the crowd could not contain its joy. When the Bishop kissed the crowned image, the whole assembly exploded in a hearty and enthusiastic applause. At that moment, all those present felt that they wanted to be united to the Bishop in that act of veneration and love towards Mary.

The 25th of October proved to be really a heavenly experience. Even though it came after eighteen years, it was a vivid reminder of the Eucharistic Congress. It is hard to pick the most moving moment: was it the procession towards Floriana? Was it the moment of the crowning? Was it the singing of the Te Deum? Was it the procession back to St John’s, and the reception it got at Kingsway, Valletta? What is certain is that all those who took part returned home full of joy. Another moving moment was the handing back of the image to the Greek Catholic Papas by the Bishop. In a way, it reminded us of that very tender action which took place on Calvary, when Christ entrusted his beloved mother to St John.

In Gozo, the Bishop celebrated the fifteenth centenary with the solemn consecration of the new church built over the ancient sanctuary of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu. Here again, the people of our sister island showed that they, too, are really devoted to Mary.

After the last homily delivered by the Bishop of Gozo, the people of Gozo, too, cried out: Mater Dei, Mater Dei, Mater Dei!

Our Missionary Society wanted to show its love toward Our Lady by organising a literary evening for our boarder students. The evening concluded with approving a resolution to make our small voice heard by the Bishop. We asked him to place another pearl in the crown of Mary, Our Most Holy Mother, through the dogmatic definition of the glorious Assumption of Mary, a title so dear to the Maltese.

(Saint Paul: Almanac of the Institute of the Missions, 1932. Tr. C. Sciberras mssp)

 

 

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The main theme of Advent is that of vigil. We are encouraged and formed throughout this pre-Christmas season to wait for the coming of the Messiah, the one who already manifested himself historically, but who will reveal himself in glory at the end of time. The liturgy during the approximately four weeks of advent is pregnant with the cry of a people who knows very well that their personal and national condition needs a change, and cling dearly to the promise of a saviour. “Tear open the skies and come down to earth” cries out the prophet Isaiah (Is 64:1). “I have called upon You, for You will answer me, O God; Incline Your ear to me, hear my speech. Wondrously show Your loving kindness, O Saviour of those who take refuge at Your right hand,” reiterates the Psalmist (Ps 17:6-7). And in another Psalm, God is even given a nudge “Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever” (Ps 44:23). Scripture is full of this dire need of a people who recognises its shortcomings and aspires for a fresh start that will endure forever.

Following this theme on a personal level, we can identify various stances of waiting:
•  We can do it passively because we have gotten accustomed and grown comfortable in our status quo;
•  We might pretend that we are waiting like the others but what others desire is not a priority in our lives;
•  We might be waiting anxiously because we have doubts about the fulfilment or are not sure of the outcome;
•  Or we might see the waiting time as an opportunity to do our part in becoming more receptive to the accomplishment of the promise and the new life that is given to us.

In the meantime, we are waiting. We can even run the risk, with all the lockdown restrictions, that the Christmas promise becomes secondary to the vaccine one. It will pass us by as a simple one-off Christmas, best not to be repeated.

       This year we have not been alien towards vigil. The pandemic has ushered us into a season of unexpected vulnerability, dependency on others, face to face with the unknown, and exposed the basics of human nature. As Church we waddled with humanity to make sense of what was happening to us and tried to decipher the signs of the times: do we pitch tent in these conditions or just wait for the storm to pass? The answer comes to us in mixed feelings of success and failure stories. In the future we would surely be able to make a much better assessment. In the meantime, we are waiting. We can even run the risk, with all the lockdown restrictions, that the Christmas promise becomes secondary to the vaccine one. It will pass us by as a simple one-off Christmas, best not to be repeated.
Some days ago, I was near the nativity crib at St. Peter Square. Without entering into the argument whether these last century, futuristic ceramic statues, merit to be there representing our faith, I was struck by one pervading thought. This strange representation, lacking the emotional warmth associated with Christmas, was shouting loud uncomfortable truths:
• God came and still comes to us in the least expected ways
• Incarnation is about God taking the shape of the least and the less beautiful
• God’s salvation breaks down our fantasies, reshapes our expectations, and surprises us with its creativity. God gives us a new narrative.

This Christmas will be one to be remembered. What we will remember it for very much depends on our current stance in life:
• If we cling to our status quo, we will wait out the pandemic till normality adopts us again in its bosom. We will have something to talk about in the future but probably understand nothing. Christmas might feel unwelcomed this year or not real. God’s salvation does not fit our program.
• If anxiety about our future tends to challenge our hope, then maybe we are still in a position to realise that the crib is set, and there is a great probability that God will notice our struggles and pitch his tent right in our midst despite of the pandemic. God’s presence thrives in these conditions. With the psalmist we are invited to utter a heartfelt cry to God to wake up.
• If we are at home with God’s ways then we rejoice in God’s surprises. Notwithstanding our global current crises, God will yet again embrace humanity and nudge it forward by shaking us up.

Dear brothers and sisters in the Paulist missionary Charism, this is the appointed time in the purpose of God, the Kairos moment, when we are called to bring good tidings to all people of good will. In simplicity we can witness that God is the Emanuel everywhere and at all times. In generosity we risk all we possess to incarnate God in the poverty around us, becoming one with the needy. In faith we continue to mature even this year, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Once again, I would like to take this occasion to thank all of you for the love and energy you are putting in all the missionary ministries entrusted to us, and for keeping each other in our prayers.

Blessings,

Fr Mark Grima mssp

Superior General

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Year B

Christmas Day

Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 97(98):1-6; Hebrew 1:1-6; John 1:1-18. (Readings of the day.)

Reflection:

Christmas is the celebration of the Emman-u-el, God-with-us. The Word himself was made flesh and lived among us. In his gospel narrative of the birth of Jesus, Luke tells us that Mary had to give birth to Jesus in a stable, because there was no room for this to happen at the inn where they were staying. The new born Son of God was laid in a manger, a feeding trough for the animals.

Poverty and evangelisation are present at the scene in Bethlehem. Jesus set aside his being as God and stooped down to the level of humanity, not merely becoming human but even becoming a slave to humanity (cf Phil 2:1-11). The first people to pay homage to the new born messiah were the marginalised shepherds who roamed the fields tending their flocks. Jesus’ option for the poor was visible throughout his earthly life.

Jesus is the Word made flesh. The fullness of God’s revelation. Through his birth Jesus revealed to us the Father. He is the visible face of the invisible God. Throughout his life he preached God’s infinite love and mercy, finally revealing the extent of God’s love for humanity on his cross.

Being one with the poor and the marginalised, and preaching God’s word were the two pillars of Joseph De Piro’s life and ministry.

 

 

Further Reading:

‘They shall name him Emman-ue-l, God-with-us.’

Joseph De Piro’s love for the materially poor and those lacking evangelisation is one image of God’s presence among us.

When we examine the life and activity of Joseph De Piro we notice that the Servant of God gave contributed immensely to the Maltese society, and the universal and local Church. Some of were minor services, which only committed the Servant of God for a brief period of time and involved only a little of his mental and physical energies. Other responsibilities required a greater commitment of time and energy. Ministries in this latter group were characterised by (1) his love towards the underprivileged of any sort, and (2) his love for evangelisation, starting with ‘the evangelisation to the faithful’ in Malta, continuing with the ‘re-evangelisation,’ ‘second evangelisation’ or ‘new evangelisation of the Maltese abroad, and his efforts at ‘first evangelisation’ or the ad gentes missions.

These two major contributions of De Piro are very important because:

(a) They occupied most of his time. Many of his other activities, such as his membership in many ecclesiastical and civil committees, implied only short periods of time. On the contrary, the Servant of God dedicated most of his time and energy for the underprivileged, especially in the orphanages, and in favour of evangelisation, especially through the foundation and strengthening of his Missionary Society.

(b) While he carried on other duties, he continued with the charitable activities and his evangelisation.

(c) In almost all his ministries, there was always the reflection of his love for the underprivileged and/or evangelisation. Here are some examples:

From 1904 to 1907, Fr Joseph De Piro was at Qrendi for health reasons. According to a priest witness, the Servant of God evangelised to the Qrendi priests and to those of the nearby parishes by helping in their ongoing formation which they lacked.

At a time when the teaching of religion, both for children and grown ups was lacking, the Servant of God regularly travelled on foot from Mdina to Mtarfa, to teach catechism to the children of that area. He opened allowed the catechist brothers to teach religion at the first small house of the Society in Mdina. In the orphanages where he was director, De Piro visited the catechism classes and examined the boys and girls before their first Holy Communion and Confirmation.

The Servant of God strongly objected to his being made canon of the Metropolitan Cathedral. The main reason was that he wanted to live the simple life of the poor and the needy.

As canon of the Metropolitan Cathedral, De Piro was frequently invited for liturgical and paraliturgical celebrations in various Maltese parishes. On these occasions he paid particular attention to preaching, he thoroughly prepared the sermons or meditations. He wrote down the whole sermon and tried hard to really communicate with the listeners. While the text is generally written in Italian, he often inserted the correct Maltese equivalent of certain words  to use the correct word when preaching.

De Piro was director of Fra Diegu Orphanage, Jesus of Nazareth Orphanage, St Joseph’s Orphanage, Santa Venera, St Joseph Orphanage, Gozo, the Home for Babies, Santa Venera and St Francis de Paul Orphanage, Birkirkara. Each of these were for poor and orphaned boys and girls of his time.

The Servant of God was nominated director of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Workshop where girls who had left an orphanage could learn a trade and earn some money. Another charitable initiative.

During the years of the First World War, De Piro was asked to contribute by being the secretary of the Fondo Vescovile per pane ai poveri durante la Guerra (1914-1918) committee. This was obviously another charitable organisation!

Between 1915 and 1918 De Piro very faithfully carried out all his responsibilities as secretary to Archbishop Mauro Caruana. He gave special attention to the demands of the Maltese migrants in great need of priests and religious who could help them live their faith.

Between 1918 and 1920, De Piro was Rector of the Major Seminary, Mdina. During these two years the Servant of God practiced a lot of charity towards the seminarians who could not pay their fees. He improved the material aspect of the Seminary life and practiced justice with teachers.

De Piro formed part of the National Assembly (1918-1921). All along these years he lived his love for his fellow Maltese by the formulation of a draft constitution for Malta, one which enabled the Maltese to have self-government, something lacking until 1921. Quite clearly another type of need!

Joseph De Piro intervened in the Sette Giugno riots of 1919. He did not enter in the long history of conflicts between the British and the Maltese, but only at the moment when injustice was being inflicted on the poor people.

De Piro was made Senator in the Third Maltese Parliament (1932-1933). Here he only intervened twice. His first intervention was when he was asked to express his opinion about inheritances in favour of charitable institutes. The second intervention regarded in a special way the young girls who had just left some one of the orphanages and who had no family to go to.

De Piro accepted St Dominic Savio Oratory, Birkirkara, and became its director on condition that it continued to cater for the formation of the children of the common people.

The Servant of God cooperated with the Dame di Carità whose aim was “… to help the cases of poverty ….” Therefore a charitable initiative again.

He was a member of the Governing Board of the Malta War Memorial Hospital for Children. Quite obviously charitable!

In 1927 the Servant of God started the first ad gentes mission of his Society by sending Br Joseph Caruana to Ethiopia.

De Piro became director of the Missionary Museum and the Missionary Laboratory, two initiatives with which to support the Ethiopia mission.

De Piro was the originator, author and publisher of the ‘Saint Paul: Almanac of the Institute of the Missions.’ This was a missionary publication.

In his speech on the occasion of the blessing of the foundation stone of the Society’s Motherhouse, St Agatha’s, Rabat, the Founder referred to the scope of this House. It was to serve as a home for the formation of missionaries.

De Piro was very close to the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus. Their foundress, Madre Margerita De Brincat, called him ‘superior general and father.’ The assistance he gave these religious sisters was not so much because they were religious, but rather because they ministered at Fra Diegu Orphanage, an ecclesiastical charitable institute. In the ‘Saint Paul; Almanac of the Institute of the Missions’ the Servant of God used to write short information about these sisters. He promoted the missionary activity these nuns were doing in Ethiopia.

De Piro helped Guzeppina Curmi and her companions to found the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Jesus of Nazareth. He did this in view of their main aim, the Jesus of Nazareth Orphanage. He also helped the Sisters introduce a missionary spirit in their constitutions.

He aided the Daughters of the Sacred Heart to set up and strengthen their religious Congregation. The help he gave them was already a charity in itself. Then they were founded to help in the education of the children of the poor.

(d) When De Piro thought of the poor he also considered evangelisation, and vice versa:

When the Servant of God planned to go to St Joseph’s Orphanage, Malta, he also thought that from that place he could start a missionary society.

In several of the drafts of the original constitutions of his missionary society he mentioned orphanages as one of its main works. In two of the orphanages, St Joseph’s, Malta, and St Joseph’s, Gozo, he introduced the members of his missionary society to take care of the children.

He worked for the care of poor children, the main aim of the Oratory, Birkirkara. There he also started the aspirandate for prospective members of his missionary society.

While dedicating himself to St Joseph’s Orphanage, Malta, he started the novitiate for the Brothers of his society there.

 

Like St Paul, Joseph De Piro could have said that he has become all things to all.

 

 

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Local councils and shopping centres have begun ‘dressing up’ their community spaces for Christmas. What a lovely surprise to find the nativity scene displayed amidst the lights and colour of the commercial world. Some nativity scenes are small and insignificant, perhaps found in one shop window but how wonderful to find larger, well-placed displays in shopping centres. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus are there and often the three well-dressed Kings with their gifts tastefully presented.

But where are the shepherds?

I went checking the Christmas cards available and found that Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the Kings and a star are there in varying combinations but no shepherds.

We sing about shepherds in traditional Christmas Carols. When we coordinate children’s pageants, we have plenty of shepherds. We knew the shepherds well once, but it seems they are disappearing from public display and possibly from our consciousness.

The shepherds were the first to witness the birth of Jesus and in the Gospel of Luke we find them front and centre. It was within the ordinariness of their daily lives that they met Jesus. They were not the important kings or leaders; they were simple ordinary folk doing the hard-daily task of caring. They would have been tired and shabby after days watching the sheep. They knew the landscape and their flock well, but they were drawn to Jesus.

This year, the shepherds remind me of those many ordinary workers who have been working tirelessly day after day, caring and protecting those who come into their care. During COVID-19, we have been made aware of the many, many ordinary workers who are now heralded as the heroes:

The aged care workers, the cleaners, the lowly paid hospital workers, the security people and nurses, have a new-found dignity in the public eye. Those who have supported refugees, asylum seekers, prisoners, the homeless, those suffering domestic violence and those in quarantine.

Those seamen stranded on boats throughout the world keeping imports and exports flowing, not able to disembark anywhere. Teachers, parents and grandparents who took on the task of education of children when schools were closed.

You know all these people and many more who are the ordinary, often low paid workers or volunteers who have been drawn to service and care as were the shepherds.

The Shepherds need to be in the nativity scene this Christmas, if not in our towns and cities, then in our minds and hearts. The good news of the Christmas story is that the Shepherds had the best view and ever since, have announced to the world that God loves the humble and lowly ordinary worker.

On behalf of Fr Silvio, Fr Mario and the Parish Council, thank you and wish you all and your family a very Blessed Christmas.

Fr Jude Pirotta mssp
Parish Priest

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