During Advent Catherine Gorman from our Theology team remembers Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and reflects on the journeys that thousands of people still face today.
As we count down to Christmas we can get caught up in all the merriment and festive preparations. But what is this Advent season really about?
Use our Advent calendar throughout the season for daily prayer and reflection.
Advent is the time when we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ, now and at the end of time. We are reminded that Jesus is the Emmanuel – God with us. God is with every person, in every situation. No one is beyond the reach of God’s love.
Throughout all the festive hustle and bustle, I try to hold on to the idea that this is what we are really journeying towards – God’s love.
Richard Sloman is CAFOD’s Middle East Programme Officer. Here he reflects on his time in Lebanon where almost 40 per cent of the population are Syrian and Palestinian refugees. Richard visited one of Lebanon’s twelve Palestinian refugee camps – home to 450,000 people, one in ten of the country’s population.
Bourj el Barajneh in Beirut, Lebanon is one of the world’s oldest refugee camps. Established in 1948, it’s home to more than 31,000 people. These women, men and children live in just one square kilometre of land. That’s roughly 31 people for every square metre of earth.
Mary Lucas, our representative for the Middle East, describes what life is like for one young boy living in Gaza.
Mohammed was just nine when he and his sister, Doha, were orphaned. It was a hot summer in 2014 and the people of Gaza were struggling to survive an extreme military bombardment. Apartment blocks were falling in clouds of dust throughout the territory. Some nights, entire neighbourhoods were given a few minutes’ warning to leave – fleeing their homes to find safety wherever they could.
Mohammed’s family had to leave their home as it wasn’t safe. They were evacuated to a nearby school and like so many caught up in the conflict, struggled to get the essentials. Water pipes were damaged and food was expensive and running low in shops because of the bombing.
To ensure the family could survive, Mohammed’s parents would wait until there was a ceasefire and run to collect water and food.
That day, they decided to check on the house that they had spent years investing in for their family. As they approached the house, an explosion killed them both instantly. Shortly afterwards, another bomb reduced the house to rubble. Continue reading “Christmas in Gaza”
Sue Cooper, a CAFOD supporter from Corpus Christi parish in Wokingham, reflects on what Advent means to her as a time of hope and light amongst the winter gloom and darkness.
How I dislike this time of year. The dark nights and the cold, wet weather force me inside, and living in an area of the South where it rarely snows, there’s not even that brightness to lighten my mood. The news, too, speaks of horror in Syria and tumult in Iraq as well as an uncertain future for us here. It is miserable, but amidst the gloom there is hope.
The Sunday Mass readings throughout Advent warn us to ready ourselves and our anticipation of future events is filled with light and expectation. We have not been abandoned in the darkness, there is one who is coming to us who brings peace and cares for those on the margins. And in preparation to welcome the one who comes, we must respond to the call of John the Baptist and “repent” and change our ways. As the weeks unfold the anticipation and the excitement grow: the Word is made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us, is coming!
As we prepare for Christmas, Advent is a time to take stock of what has happened in the past year. As a family, we post up pictures on our website with short captions to share with our extended family and friends what we’ve been up to. It’s a time to consider those who have died during the year, our achievements and perhaps ponder the “might have beens”. Continue reading “Advent: Hope amidst the gloom”
This year, CAFOD supporter Stephen Garsed is encouraging fellow parishioners at Our Lady and St Edward’s parish in Preston, to think about living simply and loving abundantly this Christmas. Here are his top six suggestions…
The word we hear so often in the weeks before Christmas is ‘tradition’. It is particularly promoted by the glossy magazines who like to sell us the concept of ‘the perfect Christmas’.
Rachel Simkin is CAFOD’s World Gifts Co-ordinator. She was inspired to share the story of 10-year-old Florence, who set herself a fundraising quest to buy World Gifts knowing they would bring a smile to others.
When I first heard about Florence’s quest to fundraise for World Gifts, I found it inspiring to hear of her energy and was delighted that she was encouraging so many to join her quest. Then I was even more amazed when I learnt she was just 10 years old!
Florence is one of CAFOD’s youngest local volunteers and has succesfuly inspired her Rotherham community to buy World Gifts to help communities across the world.
“I thought it was an awesome idea,” said Florence. “I really wanted to help people who didn’t have what I have got. Last Christmas, I asked my friends at school to make a donation instead of sending Christmas cards to each other. I made a speech after Mass and told the parishioners I would be selling raffle tickets and the winner of the raffle would get to choose the animal’s name.
“Everyone at school and in my parish joined in and it was so successful we raised enough money to buy two goats, Kathleen and Rosie, and Maisey the piglet.”
But Florence didn’t stop at Christmas; she decided to volunteer for CAFOD and organise more events throughout this year to encourage her fellow pupils to fundraise and learn about others across the world.
CAFOD volunteer Trevor Stockton, from St Anthony of Padua parish in Wolverhampton, reflects on the significance of Advent in his life, past and present.
Advent was a word I didn’t know about until I started going to church in my teens. The period before Christmas and Christmas itself really took on a new meaning for me thereafter.
Before then, as a child in a working class family in the 1940s, Christmas was simply all about having a few treats that we didn’t get all year round. Having an ordinary stocking filled with nuts, dates, a tangerine and other similar luxuries was amazing. A few, and I mean a few, simple presents followed by a family Christmas meal made the day. There was no television and the day continued with playing games. So, the weeks before Christmas were spent in anticipation of this special time.
Now, Advent means trying to put the religious significance into perspective against a backdrop of a society which seems to see Christmas as a purely commercial, money-making, money-spending time, whatever the cost to self, others and the environment.
After I have had the annual tussle with myself about the negatives of this commercial approach, Advent’s true significance to me is as a time of preparation for the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus – who forms the basis of our Christian faith.
Rachel McCarthy, who works in CAFOD’s Theology Programme, reflects how we can continue to bring the mercy of God to our global family throughout Advent.
On Sunday 20 November, Pope Francis sealed the Holy Door on the Year of Mercy. This past year has been a wonderful opportunity for us to experience the richness of God’s mercy. And the Jubilee has moved us to bring the tenderness of God to all, especially the most vulnerable.
It is worth reflecting back on the Year of Mercy, to understand how we can continue to make mercy a meaningful part of our lives. For me, mercy is a fruit of prayer. Earlier this summer, I walked through the Holy Door of a cathedral in southern France. It was a beautiful shrine: on the entrance of the door I admired the painting of a tree, reminding me of how God holds all of creation in the palm of his hand. Kneeling before the statue of Our Lady, the Mother of Mercy, I felt God’s tender closeness, holding me tight.
The Year of Mercy has ended, but the Lord’s mercy is everlasting. From generation to generation, God shines out his faithful love to all creation. From the child in its mother’s womb to the woman who has reached the end of her life, God raises us up in infinite mercy. This is a gift given to all- no matter who we are, where we come from, or what we have done.
Mercy opens my eyes. Christ opened the eyes of the disciples through acts of divine mercy: through his blessing of the adulterous woman, his tears for Lazarus, the washing of the disciples’ feet. Today, we see the need for mercy all around us. In our own neighbourhoods and across the world, many are cold, hungry, troubled, and longing for love. Rivers are polluted, forests are stripped bare, and beautiful creatures are being killed for profit.