Bishop di Falco – Merry Christmas 2021!

Bof !

Despite the wan lights, the junk trees, the games drawn from the great organs which trumpet the annual melody of happiness, it is very difficult to find reasons to really rejoice around the child God whose birth Christians celebrate. He came to teach humans to love, to hope. Has his message been heard? If so, it seems to have been long forgotten. It even seems that, according to the new European directives, it is preferable to avoid the word « Christmas ».

You should know, Mrs Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality, who made this declaration that a tree whose roots are cut dies, that it is the same for the peoples. Those of Europe, no offense, are Christian, Judeo-Christian.

All the more reason to proclaim that it is Christmas despite a very gloomy atmosphere.

The pandemic makes us view others as threats. We must not approach, touch, kiss, meet. All this is lived in a deleterious atmosphere: violence of all kinds, social injustice, unemployment, poverty, not to say misery, illnesses, insults, threats, slanders, settling of scores, harassment, denouncement, strikes, surge of hatred, contempt , antichristianism, anti-Semitism, racism, are deployed on social networks (or, if you prefer, in the cafes of the media trade), thus unfold like daily fireworks under very dark skies. Not to mention the migratory genocide, an overwhelming mirror that reflects back to us the image of our powerlessness and our selfishness.

Soon there will be more human blood than salt in the Mediterranean.

Ok, I stop. I was asked for an editorial for Christmas, I got off to a bad start! But I think that looking reality in the face, it is not pessimism, but to make an observation to try to open a way of hope, that which one can draw, when one has faith, in the strength to love of Christ. This strength is found in all hearts.

The proof !

A few years ago, I was providing commentary during the midnight Christmas mass broadcast by RTL. Yes, you read that right, RTL was broadcasting a midnight mass for Christmas! It was the time when secularism had not yet prevailed …

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Often, after the broadcast, I received reactions from listeners. This time it was a phone call. At the end of the line, an old lady: « My name is Marie, I listened to you last night on my little radio, » she said to me (when you listen to mass on the radio rather than on television, is that we do not have a lot of means). I’m all alone and, since I wanted to talk to someone, I looked for your number. I wanted to thank you for last night, your presence comforted me. »My interlocutor told me that the loneliness was often very heavy. Following this exchange, I visited him regularly. She lived in a sort of hospice where, in a miserable room, were several boxes. She occupied one, tiny, with nothing but an iron bed and nightstand.

The second episode happened in the interval between two Christmases. He had been preceded by another even more unexpected phone call: « I am the sister of a boy whom you met in summer camp, » said my interlocutor, « Patrick killed a man during an argument. He has just been arrested and charged. He asked me to let you know. He would like you to write to him. « 

What had happened?

Patrick and his best friend were together in a cafe, drunk. A customer had started to insult another disabled consumer. Enraged by such cowardice, Patrick’s friend had left the establishment to go home. But he returned, armed with a rifle which he pointed in Patrick’s direction. In the ensuing brawl, Patrick grabbed the gun and fired at his friend, fatally injuring him.

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After the call from Patrick’s sister, I remembered perfectly the teenager he was when he took part in a summer camp organized by the Social Action of the Armies in Rimplas, in the hinterland. Nice. I was then the deputy director. Among more than 150 children, Patrick had left me with the memory of a turbulent, happy, very angry and brawling boy with whom I had sometimes had to get severely angry. He would have been without fuss, I might have forgotten him. I wrote to him and regular correspondence set up. I had the opportunity to visit him while he was incarcerated in the Beaumettes prison in Marseille.

The following December 24, I found the microphone for midnight mass. I took the opportunity to address myself indirectly to Marie, the old lady, and to Patrick, the prisoner, to show them that I was thinking of them who, on Christmas Eve, were alone.

In the mail of the following week, two letters reached me: one from Marie and one from Patrick. What was my surprise to discover that they were each asking me for the other’s address! « I heard what you said about Patrick, » Marie wrote to me, « it hurt me to think of this young man in prison, I would like to write to him. « For his part, Patrick said to me: » How sad for this old lady all alone! I would like you to give me his address to write to him. « 

This is how a correspondence is established between an old lady and a young inmate from a retirement home to a detention house.

It was for me a beautiful Christmas present, one of the most beautiful, of those that the child God allows, even had recourse to the radio waves!

I wish you a Christmas of love, affection, friendship and hope. And, if you’re lonely, think of him, he’s here, he’s come for you.

Jean-Michel di Falco-Léandri is Bishop Emeritus of Gap and Embrun

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