Pastoral Message: Holy Family 1996
PASTORAL LETTER OF BISHOP CORMAC MURPHY-O'CONNOR
To be read at all Masses
On the Feast of the Holy Family 1996
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is difficult to imagine that Laurel would have been a success without Hardy, or Torville without Dean, or St. Francis without St. Clare! There are others I could name, many of them married couples. On this feast of the Holy Family I want to take one very simple theme, namely, 'partnership'. Let me begin by saying something about perhaps the most common form of partnership, that of marriage. It is a very sensitive subject today when so many marriages seem overcome by difficulties but it is also true to say that we see on all sides successful and happy marriages. This is because people have the intuition to grasp the truth behind all successful partnerships: you don't form a partnership for its own sake - you do so in order to create something else. People live and work together because they want to achieve something that can only be best done when done together. People get married not just to do what 'I want to do' but in order to do 'what we want to do', namely, to make a home, bring up a family and share each others gifts. What I am trying to say is that the words,'What can we do?' are significant because they recognise that, as the poet says, "No man is an island"; partners operate as a unity and can do far more than the one person.
I have been using marriage as a kind of parable because, whether married or single, this applies to all human life. How much better can things be done when we do things together. The potential is enormous. How much faster and more deeply does Christian unity develop where Christians of various denominations ask, 'What can we do as fellow-Christians, as partners in service here in our town, our village, our distinct area of the world?'
Or in our own parishes, it is not only what you can do individually but what you can do as a community of prayer and witness that is the most effective;
Of course, the secret for us is our partnership with Jesus Christ. St. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians paints a graphic picture of the Church as the body of Christ with each one of us having something to contribute which no one else can give. All are necessary, all are distinct, but the whole body, that is the Body of Christ. I would like io think as we begin the new year of 1997, that we as a Diocese would be aware of how much- our partnership in service really means. It is with Christ by faith, and with each other, that we look out at our world and ask, 'What can we do today?' - I am sure part of the answer will always be to do the routine jobs as well as possible; but another aspect will be to do something new, perhaps quite small, which we never noticed before. As we look towards 1997 and the coming of the year 2000, let us strive day by day to live as partners in service in union with Jesus Christ and one with him in the family of the Church. The prayer after Communion today summarises it admirably: "Eternal Father, we want to live as Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in peace with you and one another. May this Communion strengthen us to face the troubles of life." May God bless you all during the coming year of 1997.
With my kindest wishes and prayers,
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Rt. Rev. Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.