What I didn’t get to share with the people of Little Buffalo

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By Archbishop Gerard Pettipas, C.Ss.R.

IMG_2634 At St. Joseph parish, John D’Or Prairie, Northern AlbertaI was due to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass in Little Buffalo in the evening of December 24th.

I headed out from McLennan in enough time, even given the challenges of a dark night sky and recent snowfall. However, I didn’t make it to my destination.

I drove more than once along the stretch of Highway 986 where I knew the community of Little Buffalo was, but could not find the exit from the highway into the community. By the time I received better directions, too much time had lapsed; those who had gathered for Mass in the longhouse figured I just couldn’t make it, so they returned to their homes. I did likewise.

The homily I had prepared was a reflection on the popular hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem. One line that especially got my attention was: “… the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” As we begin a new year in the life of the world, I would like to share with all of you what I didn’t get to share with the people of Little Buffalo on Christmas eve.

As I think about life in our present-day world, I have great hopes as well as deep fears. In a strange way, hope and fears seem to mingle. This is how these strike me: My hope is for peace, because my fear is that violence will kill not only people’s bodies, but their souls; my hope is fueled when I hear of victims of violence forgiving those who have hurt them, rather than looking for revenge

My hope is for the wellness of the earth, because my fear is that we will make the earth sick; my hope is strengthened when I read in the newspaper of lakes and rivers, once polluted, being restored to life and health

My hope is for strong and loving families, because my fear is that self-interest and self-concern will smother all love; my hope is nourished when I meet people who truly love one another in their families. There is no such thing as a perfect or ideal family…every family has its struggles, and it’s so encouraging to see people in these struggling families doing their very best to grow in love.

My hope is for community, because my fear is that individualism and greed will set the agenda for society; my hope is encouraged when I see people who genuinely care for others, and are willing to treat others with dignity and respect, especially the most vulnerable in society – children (especially the unborn), the elderly, the sick.

As we begin a new year, I pray for each and all of you. I join our Holy Father in praying for our families – the subject of the Bishops’ Synod coming up in October. I pray for the health of one and all, especially our spiritual and emotional health. Our physical ailments are the least of burdens that we suffer. I pray for religious freedom in those countries where minorities are persecuted; there are increasingly more places around the globe where this is the case.

Archbishop Gerard Pettipas, C.Ss.R., is shepherd of the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan in Northern Alberta.