25 Dec – Christmas Midnight Mass, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh



When he came among us, the Son of God was born and lived in a family – the holy family of Mary and Joseph. By so doing he conferred a great value on family and on marriage. The example is there for all of us to ponder.

I gladly and warmly welcome all who have come home to Armagh for Christmas. Is it not amazing how Christmas always turns our thoughts to home? Surely one of the loveliest things about Christmas is that people make a huge effort to get home to be with their families at this time of year. If this is not possible, we still turn our minds to home – we write and phone – send cards and gifts. For those without a home or family, Christmas can be difficult. But usually there are good and generous people who rally round to ease the pain.

But Christmas is a time when we see what our family really means to us. We realise the importance and centrality of the family as the cradle of life and love. We realise that it is in our families that we first learn what it means to love and be loved, to trust and to be trusted. In our families we get our first ideas about truth and goodness, we develop our talents, become aware of our dignity and prepare to face our unique individual destiny in life

No wonder, therefore, that institutions, such as marriage and the family, which fulfil an important and irreplaceable role for the individual and society, have traditionally been honoured and cherished and supported. It is very important that the family be given all the assistance it needs to fulfil its responsibilities as the most stable and loving context for raising children, and that marriage, the foundation of the family, should continue to have a special position in the social and legislative framework. The legal recognition of marriage reflects the social commitment which husband and wife make for the good of society and for the procreation and education of children. That good needs to be promoted and supported rather than eroded and undermined.

Jesus was born poor, lived and died poor. But it is also true that he was born into a family that was rich in love, outstanding in its dedication, fidelity and willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of others. These are the values, which Christmas invites us to consider and to cherish.

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