Make a bright start to the new year
When I was younger, January was always my least favourite month of the year. It was dark, cold and time to go back to school. Christmas was over and there was nothing else to look forward to for months. New Year's resolutions would be made and almost immediately broken.
These days I must admit things aren't too much different for me. I'm sure other people feel the same. It's all too easy for us to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of modern life that we forget what's important. Once Christmas is over, we can be guilty of instantly putting the meaning of it all to the back of our minds as we begin focusing on returning to school, university, work, or whatever it might be.
Of course, the spirit of Christmas isn't something that lasts only as long as our turkey leftovers from the 25th; rather it is something that we should constantly strive to remember and to act out in our lives. The Incarnation, the Word made flesh, the birth of Jesus should never cease to be a source of awe and wonder for us. The fact that God loved us so much, sinners though we are, that He was willing to send his Son into the world to die for us, to reconcile us to Him, is nothing short of mind-boggling. And, quite frankly, I believe that it isn't spoken about enough nowadays. The greatest story ever told and hardly anyone seems to want to tell it any more.
I'm aware that all sounds a bit melodramatic; of course there are still people who are more than happy to talk about Jesus. Working at Animate gives me plenty of opportunities to see this. There is no shortage of young people who are enthusiastic about their faith and eager to share it. For example, discussions about the upcoming synod have been happening in schools across the Archdiocese. The synod in 2020 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for everyone in our Archdiocese to have their voices heard. Naturally the thoughts of young people are very important to us and so throughout the year many forms and questionnaires have been sent out to schools, forms which were also completed by everyone taking part in last summer’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes.
The feedback received was extremely interesting. Many of the young respondents feel they are not given the chance to talk about their faith as much as they would like, in school or at home. They are eager to learn more and expressed a desire for their schools to put faith more at the forefront. They want more Masses in school, more visits from parish priests and also more opportunities for Confession. At the same time, many also feel that people are very quick to judge them for having a faith and dislike how the Church is frequently portrayed in a negative light in the media and elsewhere.
On the back of all this, the Animate team decided to hold a pre-synod discussion of our own at Lowe House in November. It was an occasion for youngsters to offer their thoughts without fear of judgement or criticism. The evening was enjoyed by everyone involved (though that may have had something to do with the free pizza), and the young people expressed a desire to have such evenings more frequently. And so this month – on 8, 15 and 22 January – Animate will be hosting Alpha evenings for school pupils from Year 9 upwards. The evenings will run from 6–8pm and will entail social time, food and a discussion about a film from the Alpha series. Having watched several of these films, I know it will be a rewarding and engaging experience for everyone, with the opportunity to discuss our faith in an informal setting.
Therefore, as the Christmas season draws to a close and everyday life resumes, let us remember that the miracle of Christ's birth isn't something to contemplate just during December, but something that must shape our lives every day. And though the nights may be dark, with young people like ours, the future is bright.