DEAR reader, among the many letters I received last month, there is one that struck me very much. It is a letter from which much pain emerges, but also a lot of love and, ultimately, a glimmer of hope. For lack of space, I had to shorten it a little, but this is basically what our friend from Ireland wrote to me:

Dear Father, I am writing to you with a broken heart. Christmas is fast approaching, but for me it will not be a day of celebration even if we all remember the birth of Our Lord. That day, in my home, there will be two empty chairs at the dining table. Two seats that represented everything in my life: my father and my mother, both dead last February following complications from Covid-19.

At times I feel like it is only a nightmare from which I am going to wake up, but I know it is not. Unfortunately, this is as real as this sheet of paper on which I am writing to you.

I know this may sound very childish, but I’d like to ask you something that would be a great Christmas present for me. Could you please pray to St. Anthony with your brothers to grant me the opportunity to dream of my parents? I could tell them all the things that I have in my heart which I missed telling them when they were with me.”  

We cannot hide from ourselves how hard and painful the year that is coming to an end has been to many of us who, like our Irish friend, have lost loved ones, and how much apprehension it has caused in every family. However, it is precisely in the most difficult moments that perhaps the deepest meaning of Christmas emerges most, since it is the center of our faith and the focal point of an endless hope.

In this regard, it is quite striking what Pope Francis said at the conclusion to an audience a few days before Christmas last year. After exhorting everyone to pray for one another, the Holy Father invited all the faithful to live the Christmas Season by looking at the example of Mary and Joseph who, on the Holy Night, did not find a place to welcome them, yet they never lost trust in God, in his love, in his plan of salvation.

I know dear reader, I know dear friend from Ireland, sometimes loneliness can seem dark and infinite, especially during the Christmas Season and in a particular way if you have lost loved ones. However as Christians we must never forget that, in addition to so many good people around us, there is a very special family who is always ready to help us. It is made up of three people: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I think sometimes we forget that we can always turn to them when trying to connect with other people. We simply have to open the doors of our heart and let them in. We must free ourselves from all the bolts and latches that lock the door of our heart and let the strength of that love which flooded the earth on Christmas Eve enter into us. Remember that Jesus, Mary and Joseph are always ready to help us. They stretch out their arms and wait patiently for us to open our heart to them – whether it’s Christmas or any other day. And if we are able to keep them in our hearts we will never feel lonely and Christmas will have no end.

I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with renewed blessings of God’s goodness. Jesus is born! Let us rejoice!

P.S.: Dear Irish friend, rest assured that my Franciscan brothers and I will remember to pray at the St. Anthony’s Tomb for your intention.

Updated on December 07 2021