And so we come to the end of another year and as I write, the news headlines remind us of the death of football legend Pelé and Pope Emeritus Benedict. The agony that is Ukraine continues. For many, 2022 was a year we are more glad to see the end of than many. However, “To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say “Yes”, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, and above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover. That’s not easy but the basic “yes”, the conviction that God has created men, that he stands behind them, that they aren’t simply negative, gives love a reference point that enables it to ground hope on the basis of faith.” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict
We are challenged locally with an often-hidden poverty that is both material and personal. Loneliness creeps silently around our communities. Yet, this was a year of examples of great courage, when very often the little acts had great significance. If you need a small gem of inspiration, do listen to a brief interview between Nazarin ZaghariRatcliffe and tennis star Andy Murray, on Thursday’s Today Programme on BBC4 (iPlayer).
The following was written in the Financial Times soon after her release from six years in an Iranian prison: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: ‘I don’t know how I survived.’ Her life with her family feels at times surreal, almost like holiday or a dream. She is the accidental celebrity, stopped on the streets and asked to take selfies with strangers. Her name is shouted out on the Tube when people see her. “It’s sweet … and it’s humbling,”” she tells me. She has finally seen her husband serene and smiling, after watching him troubled for so many years. “He keeps telling me every single day that it’s good that you’re back, it’s good to have you back, and reminding me that these are very precious moments. We have gone through a lot to come out of it stronger. She knows that both of them still need to recover. “We’re different people but we share the same pain. Even though he wasn’t in prison, he suffered in a different way. It takes patience, flexibility, understanding.” Financial Times.
Our parish too has been inspirational in 2022, reaching out quietly, or as a group(s), to the needs of others. Our numbers slowly return, thank God. This is not a statistical pleasantry, but the joy of knowing what gathering in community means to us all. Thank you to all our generous parishioners who make this happen. Our Ministers of Word and Communion. Our musicians and singers, the many groups within the parish, not forgetting our schools, teachers and Governors. All who help build a haven of peace and celebration in the Parish of the Durham Martyrs.
Thanks to our new Capuchin friends, Brothers Paul and John, who have made an invaluable contribution. Finally, thank you for your generosity to me with gifts and cards at Christmas and I know that Brothers Paul and John, both laid low with the flu as I write, would wish me to convey their thanks also. Have a Happy and Peaceful New Year.
Fr. Colm 31st December 2022