Since the dawn of 2011 just weeks ago, our world seems to have been tested by endless experiences of hardship and upheaval. Behind each news account of human suffering, such as the perilous journeys of asylum seekers in search of freedom, or an act of violence in Arizona, there lies a story of a human person and their family. Hidden among the stark statistics of the thousands still being trafficked into sexual servitude or as cheap labour are tales of deep pain. Behind the ongoing economic struggles around the world, we all know of individuals worried about their future and that of their families and co-workers.
Many of us know people picking up the remnants of their lives after devastating natural disasters. The recent floods in Queensland and other parts of Australia have brought home to us the suffering of thousands around the world who have lost loved ones and everything they owned. They remind us again of the people of Haiti who have been waiting for over twelve months, hoping that they will be assisted to rebuild their lives. Now others in Brazil, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia join them in the confusion of loss and darkness of grief.
How often do we hear someone say “What on Earth is happening to our climate?” This year, the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing a particularly severe winter. In some areas, including Tullow, many have been snowbound for weeks. In the Southern Hemisphere, following decades of drought, summer has given way to torrential rains. Some rivers that had been dry for years have broken their banks, ruining agricultural lands and washing away precious top-soil. In this International Year of the Forests, Mother Nature seems to be calling us anew to a deeper reverence, respect and care for our fragile Earth.
However, we also know that each day dawns with a promise of new hope. With every challenge, human compassion seems to rise to new levels as people of goodwill and generosity stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those in need. Strangers reach out a helping hand and offer others gestures of kindness and practical support. People band together and raise their voices in advocacy against violence, the plight of the world’s poor or the pillaging of Earth. Everywhere, small but strong and bright chinks of light shine out through the darkness just as Isaiah promised and as people recognized so clearly in Jesus – “ the people in darkness have seen a great light and for those who sat in the shadow of death, light has dawned.” (Matt 4:16)
St Brigid of Kildare was honoured in her time as a woman of light. She is still celebrated as a woman of endless warmth and of welcome. On her feast day, may we look into our hearts to recognise and tend the seeds of hope we’ve been given to share so that the light may continue to shine brightly. As our preparations for the Congregational Forum unfold in coming months, may the vision of Brigid of Kildare rekindle our hope, and challenge us all to find ways in which we can awaken hope for those who still wait in the darkness of grief, homelessness and injustice today.
Our prayer is that as we come together to celebrate St Brigid’s Day with our Sisters and with partners in ministry, our thinking might be stretched further and our hearts enlightened and fired with new passion “to welcome all and not hold back in continuing our quest for greater justice for humanity and the earth.” (Congregation Forum Booklet 2007, Pg 2)
Blessings for a happy St Brigid’s Day!