The Season of Christmas in the liturgical calendar begins on the eve of Christmas Day and lasts until the Sunday after Epiphany, which falls on 8 January 2023. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ. The hope of Advent is fulfilled, the remarkable moment when “the Word was made flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14).
For many in our communities, it will not feel like a moment of hope. More and more people are being dragged into degrading poverty by the cost-of-living crisis. The message of Christmas is one of God’s solidarity with the poor, because the Son of God who was rich became poor for our sake (2 Cor 8-9). Those who work or volunteer in the Caritas Social Action Network are ambassadors of that solidarity.
Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, reminds us that “God’s word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us: ‘As you did it to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt 25: 40)” (1). Jesus, born in poverty, identified himself with the poor and calls us in service for and with those who are poor.
In his 2019 message for the World Day of the Poor, the Holy Father said that the poor need the love of God made visible by the “saints next door”, the people who by their lives express the power of Christian love. Those who are poor in our country today need help with the basics of life as never before, but they also “need our hands, to be lifted up; our hearts, to feel anew the warmth of affection; our presence, to overcome loneliness. In a word, they need love” (2).
In the CSAN community of charities and dioceses across England and Wales, the “saints next door” are working harder than ever to help those trapped in poverty, to restore dignity and hope to those who are in despair. We are also working to challenge the causes of such high levels of poverty. Political decisions can make the situation better. We urge everyone again to join our cost-of-living campaign and write to their MP. For details please visit: https://www.csan.org.uk/cost-of-living-crisis/.
We are also asking the Catholic community to find a place in their hearts and home for a family displaced by the brutal war in Ukraine. In the season of Christmas, we reflect on a young family far from home who found “no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). In the Cycle of Prayer for Christmas we are asked to pray for migrants and refugees, and expectant mothers. Not everybody has the capacity to consider taking in a displaced Ukrainian family, but for those who might have room, we ask you to consider being a host. For more details of our Homes for Ukraine Matching Service in partnership with St John of God Hospitaller Services, please visit: https://sjog-homesforukraine.uk/.
If you have any ‘good news’ of the work of charity in your local community, please contact your local press or radio station to let them know. Invite your MP and local councillors to see your project, so that hope might be spread in the Season of Christmas and others may be inspired by your witness. If you are looking for opportunities to volunteer, please visit our website where you will find details of all the CSAN members and the work they do to challenge poverty and restore dignity. You’ll find them all at: https://www.csan.org.uk/member/.
If your parish community is looking for ideas about how to help in the cost-of-living crisis, you’ll find a helpful guide from Caritas Salford at: https://www.caritassalford.org.uk/news/cost-of-living/.
For a more detailed programme on how to deepen your parish’s understanding of Catholic Social Teaching and how to discern social action, you can sign up for the Caritas Westminster Love in Action resource, free for members of the CSAN network, at: https://www.caritaswestminster.org.uk/love-in-action.php.
From all the trustees and staff at Caritas Social Action Network, we wish you a blessed and peaceful Christmas Season. Thank you to all the staff and volunteers in our member charities and diocesan Caritas agencies for your inspiring work on the front line of poverty in all its manifestations. Your work brings hope to many.
Raymond FrielCEO, Caritas Social Action Network
(1) Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 179
(2) Pope Francis, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/poveri/documents/papa-francesco_20190613_messaggio-iii-giornatamondiale-poveri-2019.html, accessed 12.12.2022
More information on the Season of Christmas can be found at: https://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Calendar/Seasons/Christmas.shtml