From the Bishop


By The Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange     12/24/2015

When I was growing up, Christmas cards often said something like “Merry Christmas – from our house to yours.” Reflecting on that phrase I would like to extend my Christmas greetings and prayer and thanks to all of you as we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We soon will hear the words or the chant “Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.”

I wish all of you a very blessed and joyful celebration of the birth of Christ – all 12 days of it! Some of you may remember that I wrote of my last moments going through our family’s home one final time this past summer on a hot summer day in June. The house was empty except for a few boxes here and there in the attic, many of which were my notes from school. Remembering all of the Christmases in the past, and how our Christmas decorations were stored in the attic, I happened to run across two wax figures that had belonged to my grandparents – a snow man and Santa Claus, and they were in a box upside down and I was able to retrieve them! The Christmases of my parents last years did not have the lights and trees of earlier years when we were all home and young. Yet, what joy this year, because there is now a young Catholic family living in our home, and once again, the house is alive with young children and beautiful Christmas decorations which shine now once again in the short and dark days of an Illinois winter on Douglas Avenue! I am sharing these pictures with you now in this column.

Seeing the Christmas tree once again in our former family home, I am reminded of these words of Pope Emeritus Benedict which he just said when the Christmas Tree for St. Peter’s Square was presented in the Piazza. He said: “I am delighted that you bring the path of friendship from north to south in this way and bring that friendship to the world. Because this tree lights up not only St. Peter’s Square in Rome, but illuminates the wider world, is seen by all people and is a sign of light, friendship and reconciliation and goodness. The tree tells us that God is our friend and that we are therefore friends and siblings with each other. So this is a message that we need right now when there is such a threat of hostility and terror. All the more we stand in friendship to bring light into the world. “

As the composers (Phillip Brooks and Lewis Redner) of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ once wrote “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” Whatever our hopes and fears of these years may be (and they are many) I pray that the celebration of the Birth of the Lord will again echo God’s faithfulness to us that in the Incarnation of His Son He has indeed “pitched his tent among” and is with us daily to bring us the gifts of hope, peace daily and eternal life. A very blessed and holy Christmas season for you and your loved ones, safe travels, and thank you for your witness of faith and all that you do for so many! On December 24, 2001, Pope John Paul II preached in St. Peter’s Basilica: “To the people, oppressed and suffering, who walked in darkness there appeared ‘a great light.’ A truly ‘great’ light indeed, because the light which radiates from the humility of the crib is the light of the new creation. If the first creation began with light (see Genesis 1:3), how much more splendid and ‘great’ is the light which inaugurates the new creation: it is God Himself made man! Christmas is an event of light, it is the feast of light: in the Child of Bethlehem the primordial light once more shines in humanity’s heaven and dissipates the clouds of sin. The radiance of God’s definitive triumph appears on the horizon of history in order to offer a new future of hope to a pilgrim people.”

A very blessed season of the Birth of Christ to your loved ones and friends. I also pray that this Christmastide the light of Christ may once again connect with the lives of many who seem far away from the family of faith. You are welcome to be with us and to join us in singing and praying “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight!