I gladly wish each and every one of you a happy New Year.  I am sure that you have already wished many people a happy 2012.  I am quite certain that when you think of those who are nearest and dearest to you, on this first day of the New Year, your deepest desire for each one of them is for their happiness.  How often we hear it said, especially by mothers about their sons and daughters:  “I don’t mind as long as they are happy”.

But what makes for genuine happiness someone may ask.  If we were to set about drawing up a shopping list of the components of happiness, I am quite certain that peace would always come at the top of the list.  So, I extend to all of you my heartfelt good wishes that 2012 may be marked in your life by peace and goodwill.

Today is World Day of Peace.  It coincides, each year, in the Catholic Church, with our celebration of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God.  It is not really a coincidence but a matter of deliberate choice.  Mary, the Mother of God, is our mother too.  

In his last Will and Testament, Jesus gave her to us to be our mother.  It happened on Calvary as he hung, dying on the Cross for love of us.  Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved, standing there so he said to his mother:  “He is your son”.  Then he said to the disciple:  “She is your mother”.  
In that instance John represents every disciple of Christ in every age and in every nation.  And in his Gospel, that same disciple wrote:  “From that time the disciple took her to live in his home”.  This means a special personal relationship between not only the disciple, John, but every disciple and Mary.  It means the admission of Mary into the innermost regions of one’s mental and spiritual life.  It means that we too enlist the help of Mary in our search for peace for ourselves and for our families.  We are very wise to do so because this account of the crucifixion points to Mary who, with a mother’s care, takes part in the struggle against the powers of darkness and negativity and so becomes our sign of hope.  

Mary is called:  Queen of Peace.  At the wedding feast of Cana, she showed herself to be not only a peacemaker but a custodian of the peace.  Mary had spotted that a disaster was looming which would threaten the peace and stability of the relationship of that newly-wed couple – they had no wine.  Just imagine the blame and the bickering that would have followed if nothing was done.  But something was done by Mary.  She interceded with her son, Jesus, and the disaster was avoided.

Mary is called, Queen of Peace for another reason.  She is the mother of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace.  With his own body he broke down the wall that separated the Jews and the Gentiles and kept them enemies.

Today we give thanks for the peacemakers in our own time and in our own place, who have not only broken down the walls of hatred and separation but built bridges of understanding and friendship and, in this way, made peace.  Today we give thanks not only for all those peacemakers who made peace at international levels – healing old hurts and hostilities – but also for those who make peace in families and in homes  
Today we give thanks for those peacemakers on our own island, many of them women like Mary, who did so much by word and deed to make peace and to consolidate peace.  They did so very often by recognising the dignity of everyone they met and by respecting that dignity.  They were able to do so, not alone because they were able to see further than others, but because they first experienced, in their own lives, the peace and justice which they proposed to others.  They had the ability to educate others in the ways of Justice and Peace.

Pope Benedict in his message for this World Day of Peace deals with the task of educating young people in justice and peace.  He does so because he believes that young people, with their enthusiasm, can offer new hope to the world.  The Pope begins by saying that we need to pay more attention to the concerns of young people and their difficulties.

I am certain that all those involved in raising awareness of suicide will be immensely heartened by the Pope’s observations that “attentiveness to young people and their concerns, the ability to listen to them and appreciate them….represents a primary duty for society as a whole, for the sake of building a future of justice and peace”.  

I recently met some people who are involved in providing support for families affected by suicide.  Their aim is to discover how to offer hope to people who feel that they have lost hope.  One such organisation, SOSAD – Save our Sons and Daughters, based in Drogheda, has, as its slogan:  There is Hope”.  Its founder, Peter Moroney, set up SOSAD to raise awareness of suicide and to help combat suicidal feelings through support, counselling and emergency phone lines.

The ability to listen is necessary in many areas of life but this is one which it is extremely urgent.  Suicide is now the biggest killer of young men in Ireland, but not only young men.  It is vitally important therefore that society, as whole, take on board its responsibility in this matter and give careful consideration to the challenge of listening appropriately to the concerns of young people.  

At the present time young people see how difficult it is to find a job and to form a family.  The greatest challenge, however, is that of communicating to young people an appreciation for the positive value of life.  

We Christians believe that God created the visible world in all its richness and beauty.  The human person is the summit of the work of the Creator – and human life is sacred.  When God’s original plan of sharing the happiness of Heaven with the human race was sabotaged by sin, God prepared another plan.  He would send his son to reveal his merciful love for all of us.  

Today we honour the part played by Mary in the fulfilment of that plan.  With her ‘yes’ to the proposal that she become the Mother of God, she went along with God’s plan and made herself available to play her part.  She teaches us the importance of putting our trust in our Creator, who is our first beginning and our last end.  She teaches us the importance of the Gift of Faith – a gift to be requested and treasured.

Today, Pope Benedict challenges all of us to help young people appreciate the gift of life and to awaken in them the desire to spend their lives in the Service of the Good.  

He issues that challenge to educators in the first place and especially to parents, since parents are the first educators of their children.  He asks parents to spend time with their children.  I know I am speaking to people who have spent a lot of time in the service of the good, who spend an adequate amount of money on your families and who spend quite a lot of time with your families.  Pope Benedict encourages all of that.  He would wish you to tell your children of the happiness you get from helping others, and of the importance of one generation looking after another.  

Pope Benedict asks young people not to yield to discouragement when faced with difficulties.  Be confident in your youth and its profound desire for happiness, truth, beauty and genuine love.  He says:

“I ask you parents and grandparents to remind the young people that they are never alone.  The Church – like every good mother – wishes to offer her children the most precious gift she has – “The opportunity to raise your eyes to Jesus Christ – who is himself Justice and Peace”.

The Holy Father ends his letter with a powerful plea – to us all – but especially to young people.  He asks us:  ‘Remember one thing:  Only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantee of what is really good and true – a God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is Everlasting Love – only an unconditional return to God can save the world.

What a city Armagh would be if everyone really appreciated the positive values of life.  There would be no bullying; no exploitation.  What a difference it would make if we all really wanted to spend our lives in the Service of the Good.  

Jesus gave us Mary, his mother to be our Mother too – especially in our moments of darkness and discouragement.  

To her do we come;
Before her we stand;
Sinful and sorrowful

She points us to the Church, the Body of her son which says to all of us:

May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you

This is no superficial blessing but an offering of help and support for every day of the New Year.  We, in turn, respond with works of kindness towards our neighbour.  As we wish each other a happy and peaceful New Year, we recall them, peace is not a blessing already attained.  It is a goal to which each and all of us must aspire by giving our world a more humane face.

Some people put their hopes on Euro 2012, the Olympic Games and American football for a happy 2012.  I hope they help but I prefer to set my sights on the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June.  Its motto – Communion with Christ and with One Another can provide the way forward.




It its New Year’s Day.

We celebrate it by placing the New Year, and all it will bring,ac under the protection of Mary, the Mother of God

This is World Day of Peace.

Every mother wants her child to be happy and to be at peace – real peace
•    Peace with oneself –
•    Peace with our family – and our neighbours
•    Peace with God