2009-12-25 GENERAL HOUSE

Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life

In this city of Rome, on a day like today, more than 1500 years ago, the then Pope, Leo the Great, proclaimed to the faithful gathered to celebrate the Nativity: ?Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal life. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing?.

It is a beautiful thing on this night to feel oneself in communion with millions of people who, from one end of the earth to the other, rejoice in the birth of Jesus. There is no place for sadness when life is born. In the silence of our hearts, we recognize that our lives are fuller thanks to Jesus passing through them.
Amidst this profound joy, we feel especially united with our Brothers who are celebrating this feast in difficult circumstances. I would like here to remember two of our communities who, at this time, are under strong pressure.

In the first place, the community of Nyangezi (D. R. of the Congo), which was attacked on the 5th of October, in what appears to be a campaign to terrorize the religious communities of the region. In a letter to the President of the Republic, the leaders of the Catholic Church state: ?Practically every day we have to deplore crimes against innocent populations? The population of the south of Kivu is in shock, seeing that the Catholic Church has become a target. You know its role in society, as well as its involvement in the democratization of our country. Will it be that ecclesiastics (priests, brothers and sisters) are only considered as bothersome witnesses of all the violations of human rights perpetrated on such a scale in the south of Kivu for more than 14 years??

In the second place, our community in Peshawar (Pakistan), a population which finds itself in an area of much conflict, near the frontier with Afghanistan. The Brothers have been repeatedly threatened, and the college where they carry out their apostolate, St. Mary?s High School, was partly damaged on 23 November as the result of an enormous explosion produced in an attack on the International Intelligence Services.

Dear Brothers of Nyangezi and Peshawar, the love, support, and prayers of the Marist family are with you on this very special night. You remind us of the deepest sense of the word ?incarnation?, in solidarity with thousands of innocent victims who have nobody to take up their cause.

I am aware that these two communities are only two examples, among others, of Brothers living in difficult situations. And with them, we seek also to remember Brothers who will be spending this Christmas in situations of loneliness and isolation, indeed of clandestinity. All are assured of our remembrance and love.
Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The personal encounter with Jesus brings us deep joy because it makes us aware of our dignity and the dignity of every human person. Returning to the Christmas Sermon of Saint Leo the Great, we find these vibrant words: ?Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God?s own nature?, which recalls another of his sermons where he says, addressing not only Christians: ?Wake up, O man, and recognize the dignity of your nature!?

To wake up and recognize one?s own dignity. Isn?t this what we aim to achieve in our educational works? Isn?t this what we are called to do in committing ourselves to ?promote the rights of children and young people at all levels in our Institute?, as the XXI General Chapter asks us, ?defending those rights before governments, non-governmental organizations, and other public institutions??

A happy Christmas to all the Marists of Champagnat, committed to the Marist mission.

I ask the Lord?s blessing for each and every one of you, so that we may continue being promoters and defenders of the glorious human dignity throughout 2010, wherever we are.

Happy Christmas!

Br. Emili Turu, Superior General
December 24th, 2009


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