By the grace of God, Mar Jacob Angadiath, the Bishop of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago and Permanent Apostolic Visitator to Canada, send this greeting and message to all the priests, men and women religious, and beloved people of God, living in USA and Canada.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
We are in the preparation for welcoming Son of God who was born of Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christmas celebrates God’s love, peace and hope to humankind. Let us prepare ourselves to enjoy the blessings of Christmas in our individual and family life and ask the divine grace to be the heralds of the message of joy, peace and hope everywhere. During this Christmas season let us make an ardent prayer to the Lord together with St. Francis of Assissi:
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy”.
Christmas is the celebration of God’s presence in the midst of human beings. God descends from heaven to make His abode with us. The Lord said unto Abraham: “I am the Almighty God: walk before me, and be perfect” (Gen 17,1). To walk before God or to be in his presence is the fundamental responsibility of all human beings. During this Christmas, let us make sure God’s loving presence in our life situations and respond to that presence positively in all possible ways.
God wishes family to be the heaven on earth. He gave form to the first family with the intension of making it a paradise/heaven. He wished the primordial couple to be in His presence and to participate in His life and mission. This is the dream of God about each and every family.
The power of Evil who destroyed the first parents’ life in the Garden of Eden, continues his strong influence to turn away our families from God. Our families confront lot of struggles and problems in fulfilling their responsibilities according to the teachings of the Church, especially in the present society which is characterized by the dictatorship of relativism and other dangers in the social, cultural, scientific, political, economic, and communication spheres. Relativism makes people to stay away from the Church, leading them to an immoral life and a broken relationship with God and fellow beings. It destructs family bonds and leads to the loss of values and lack of faith within the family.
Bishops’ special Synod, held in Rome from October 5-19, 2014 was discussing “the Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization”. In the presence of various challenges to family, it is the fundamental duty of the Church to provide better pastoral care to our families.
It is the responsibility of the parish community to cater the various pastoral needs of the family life. In view of giving better co-ordination and animation to the various programs for the psycho-social and spiritual empowerment of the families at the parish and mission levels a Diocesan Family Apostolate is established.
As per the discussions held in the last meeting of Diocesan Pastoral Council and Priest Conference, hereby I announce a “Year of Family” from December 25, 2014 to December 25, 2015 to be observed in our diocese. “You are God’s field, God’s Household” (I Cor 3,9). Let this be our motto for this family year. The official inauguration of this Family Year is to be done in our parishes and missions on December 25, 2014. Rev. Fathers are requested to follow the pastoral recommendations for the Family Year at the parish and mission level given from the diocesan center.
It is also a matter of great joy that ‘Eighth World Meeting of Families’ takes place in Philadelphia (September 22-27, 2015) during the observance of Family Year in our diocese. The theme for this family meet is: “Love is our Mission: the Family Fully Alive”. Together with the universal Church, let us try our best to make our families fully alive in love. May the Baby Jesus who became the center of family through his Incarnation shower His abundant graces on our families. Let the Holy Family of Nazareth be the right model to our families in accomplishing the responsibilities entrusted by God.
The universal Church observes a Year of Consecrated Life from November 30, 2014 to February 02, 2016. The aim of this year is taken from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: “You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things” (No. 110). The three focuses of the Year of the Consecrated are: 1) look to the past with gratitude, 2) live the present with passion, 3) embrace the future with hope.
The consecrated life is a gift to the Church. It is at the heart of the Church, a decisive element of her mission. Let us thank God for the wonderful blessings, received through the life of consecrated persons and pray for more vocations to religious and consecrated life. In a special way let us raise our hearts to Almighty God in gratitude for raising two consecrated persons from our Syro-Malabar Church, St. Chavara Kuriakose and St. Euphrasia, to the zenith of holiness. Let us translate their life in the imitation of Christ in our day to day life.
The life of baptized persons who lead a consecrated life or family life should be inspired by the Word of God that became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the prophet whose presence gives us hope and vision to lead our life with great joy and confidence in the midst of the difficulties of life. This is the message of Christmas.
Wish you all a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year. May the grace of Baby Jesus be with you always.
Mar Jacob Angadiath
Bishop, St. Thomas SyroMalabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago