Bishop O’Connell Christmas message • Spirituality Day for priests • Seminarian gathering with Bishop • Chancery holiday schedule

Bishop O’Connell Christmas message • Spirituality Day for priests • Seminarian gathering with Bishop • Chancery holiday schedule

Christmas: Make it last

A Christmas message from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could hold on to our youthful Christmas excitement and enthusiasm for our whole lives?

Remember what it was like when you were younger, how you waited with such expectation and joy for Christmas Day to arrive? The lights, the decorations, the Christmas carols, the presents all directed our attention to December 25. Of course, the focus of these things was largely the secular aspects of our annual Christmas celebration. Nothing bad about that unless they were the only things that Christmas meant to us, whatever our age.

Of course, as Catholics, we know that Christmas has a much deeper spiritual meaning – its original and enduring meaning: The Son of God, Emmanuel, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah was born in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. “A Child is born for us, a Son is given us,” predicted the prophet Isaiah 800 years before the birth of Christ. Those years continuously added excitement and enthusiasm to the people of God as they waited for the long-promised Messiah to come.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could hold on to that kind of expectation all our spiritual lives? That is what the Holy Season of Advent is meant to help us do each year until Christmas arrives.

The Christmas story is the same as ever, it doesn’t change: The Virgin Mary and Joseph, the child, the star, the angels, the manger, the crib, the shepherds, the wise men.  We repeat the scriptural story each year. 

But Christmas is not just a story or a set of static images like those in our nativity sets. Christmas is about what difference the coming of Christ made and still makes in our world and in our lives. Do we look forward to its annual commemoration with the excitement and enthusiasm Advent provides? Do we stop to consider what Christmas truly means, what the Lord Jesus Christ means to us? The story may not change but do we, as a result of hearing it again, telling it again? Are we more grateful, more blessed, more spiritually motivated to draw closer to the Child of Bethlehem, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords?  Do we tell Jesus that he is welcome into the humble crib of our hearts, especially after all we’ve been through?

Let’s get that excitement and enthusiasm going again.  Stop in church and say a prayer.  Read some Scriptures, perhaps the Christmas story in the beginning of Matthew and Luke. Go to Confession. Get to Mass whenever you can. Give something to the poor. Show an extra bit of love to your family and friends. Don’t let the days of Advent and Christmas pass you by.

After all, Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Messiah, came for you! Now that’s something to get excited about.  Make your enthusiasm last.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Chancery holiday schedule

Chancery operations will be closed Thursday, Dec. 23; Friday, Dec. 24; Monday, Dec. 27, and Friday, Dec. 31 to allow time for staff to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their loved ones.  Chancery staff will begin to work remotely Tuesday, Dec. 28 in response to recent reports of rising COVID infection rates. While remote, staff will be reachable via email and voicemails will be returned. Unless otherwise announced, normal business operations will resume at the Chancery Jan. 10. 

Advent Spirituality Day invites priests to consider what Church needs most from them

Taking time to step away from their everyday responsibilities and consider questions related to their well-being, more than 100 priests of the Diocese gathered for the annual Advent Spirituality Day Dec. 15 in St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Toms River.

Keynote speaker, Father James Greenfield, reminded attendees of how important it was for them “to stay grounded and resilient as ecclesial leaders,” even as they deal with many challenges in ministry today.

Father Greenfield, who is a member of the Oblate of St. Francis de Sales and president of De Sales University, Center Valley, Pa., asked the gathering to consider: “What does the Church most need from us as priests today” in light of the “unique moment we find ourselves in and given the realities of these uncertain times for our Church and our world.

“Covid-19 has taught us that many of the things we considered to be normal or necessary parts of life in the 21st century could be interrupted or canceled in an instant,” including  sacramental celebrations, hugs, travel, sharing meals, classes, weddings, even funerals, Father Greenfield said. To cope with the changes, he added, the focus then becomes, “Instead of trying to return to the old normal, perhaps it’s time to create something new?”

Such an approach, Father Greenfield continued, “takes perseverance, persistence and patience.”

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Bishop’s gathering of seminarians was time for prayer, building fraternity

Since the Diocese’s seminarians pursue studies for the priesthood in two different seminaries, Mount St. Mary in Emmitsburg, Md., and St. Charles Borromeo, Wynnewood, Pa., opportunities are provided throughout the year where they can get together, catch up and hopefully, strengthen their fraternal bonds as they prepare to become priests.

One such occasion each year is right before Christmas when they join Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., for Mass and a dinner. This year’s Mass, which was for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, was celebrated Dec. 18 in the

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell said, “The Scriptures throughout these past four weeks describe God’s promise to David and its fulfillment in Jesus, called ‘the Son of David.’ They also tell us that God’s Revelation of the coming of Jesus was full of surprises, that David would have a long line of royal descendants culminating with a final king, Jesus Christ,” Bishop O’Connell said. 

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