In The Catholic Key Bishop Johnston wrote a Christmas note to us entitled “Christmas and Christ the Immigrant.” I think his message bears repeating.
“I wish all of you the blessings of joy and peace as we celebrate the nearness of Jesus over these coming days of Christmas. The nativity (or birth) of Jesus was revolutionary. It marks the turning point in history because God chose in love to identify and unite himself so absolutely with our humanity and all that goes with it. He was hungry, thirsty, poor, tired. He laughed and he wept, he suffered and he died. He was also an immigrant. For reasons beyond his family’s control, he fled with Mary and Joseph to a foreign country for safety and security. Jesus teaches us in the Gospel that when we show concern, help and charity to those who are in similar situations, we do it for Him. As we celebrate with our families in the security of our homes, let us be especially attentive this year to those children and families that are migrants and immigrants who are among us seeking security and peace for themselves, but who often live in fear and uncertainty. In doing so, let us be mindful that they carry a special dignity because the Christ child chose to be an immigrant at Christmas. Merry Christmas!
This year Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos because he knew it was a place of great pain for refugees. On the flight to Greece he told reporters, “This is a trip marked by sadness and that’s important. It’s a sad trip. We are going to meet so many people who suffer, who don’t know where to go, who were forced to flee, and we are also going to a cemetery – the sea, where so many have drowned.” In the month that followed Pope Francis was given the life jacket of a young girl who had drowned. Oscar Camps, founder of a non-profit Spanish organization that attempts to rescue migrants caught at sea, said the following when offering the life jacket to the Pope: “Each boat-load of people has a dramatic tale to tell…families are separated, orphaned children who lost their parents along the way now find themselves in a strange country, a continent that is not their own, and no one to help them.”
Within days after his meeting with Camps, Francis spoke to a group of Italian youth while holding the girl’s life jacket.
“Let us think of this little girl: what was her name? I do not know: a little girl with no name,” the pontiff said, according to Vatican Radio’s translation. “Each of you give her the name you would like, each in his heart. She is in heaven; she is looking on us.”
As he explained the encounter with Oscar Camps Pope Francis said,
“He brought me this jacket and with tears in his eyes he said to me, ‘Father, I couldn’t do it – there was a little girl on the waves, and I did all I could, but I couldn’t save her: only her life vest was left..’”
“I do not (tell you this because I) want you to be sad, but (because) you are brave and you (should) know the truth: they are in danger – many boys and girls, small children, men, women – they are in danger,” he said.
This story is taken from an article in Celebration entitled “Refugees in Our Midst” by Denise Simeone. The children responded by presenting Pope Francis money for the children of Lesbos. They signed a letter that stated, “We children promise that we will welcome anyone who arrives in our country…” As the Pastoral Council has been discussing Holy Spirit Parish outreach we too have been considering what our response to refugees should be. It is timely in that Bishop Johnston has asked us to be attentive this year to these brothers and sisters and the need is great.