Christmas Day 2007 Midnight Mass

Christmas Day 2007 Midnight Mass

MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, AT MIDNIGHT ON CHRISTMAS EVE 2007.INTRODUCTIONDear Brothers and Sisters,In the deep silence of night we come to the crib.  There we see a baby, who is our God.  He possesses the glory of the divine, yet is seen in the weakness of our humanity.  God comes to meet with us.Tonight as I offer Mass for all the one million and sixty thousand Catholics in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, for you, and for those close to you, my prayer is that you will discover the peace of Jesus Christ and the light that comes from him,...

Christmas Day 2007 Mass



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We welcome Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, born among us, light in our darkness, to bring us hope.

Today we are one with Catholics all around the world and with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, in whose name I will give the Papal Blessing at the end of this Mass.

May Jesus, the Lord and Saviour, meet you in the simplicity and joy of his coming, give you hope and make you bearers of peace to the world.

Let us call to mind our sins, that our hearts may be open to him.


“Today is born a Saviour; Christ the Lord.”
(Luke 2:11)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We remain deeply conscious that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Saviour of the world.  The Gospel we have just read speaks of the dynamic word spoken before all time, communicated to John as the true light that enlightens all.  Even though people rejected him he gave a tremendous power to be sons and daughters of God to those who did accept him.

Today we come face to face with the Lord of all life in the weakness of a baby.  Christmas is always a wonderful feast because it underlines for us just how near our God is to us.  God has fashioned each of us.  We can be lost through sin.  Now by the coming of Jesus Christ in a way that we will understand, he shared our weakness, and he invites us to share his glory.

This is a day when families gather and in this Mass we are challenged to reflect on the importance of Christ’s birth.  God came to us as a baby, looking for our love and compassion, that he might lift us up to hope and new light.  That is why in our Psalm we have sung:  “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.”  The paradox of meeting with a baby, which almost automatically draws out a response of love; we become young and playful again, we pull funny faces, we try and engage with the baby in the simplest human way, so that God comes to meet the depth of our being to save us and give us new hope.

The challenge for us is to have his mind and heart and will, to live by his truth, to live by his will for us, even though it is hard to discern and often involves struggle against sickness, but above all to be his witnesses.  All the ends of the earth have seen.  Then in the Gospel: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)  But we cannot exist in a comfortable Christianity if our relationship with Jesus is something which is only for me, because accepting Jesus means to love him, to be committed to truth, but also to be committed to God’s plan for our humanity.  He wants us to be saved.  He wants compassion and openness to reach into the hearts of people.  The service that we must give to our society is threefold.

  1. An untiring respect for life from womb to tomb.
  2. A dedicated respect for the world in which we live as God’s gift.
  3. A readiness to see others, particularly the weak, the new arrivals, those who suffer as our brothers and sisters and to reach out to them with compassion.  

The service, which Catholicism renders to our society, must be based on knowledge of Christ and his truth, on love of the Saviour and on the readiness we have to look at them in the way that he looks at them because our Saviour is born to the world.  “Jesus brings to all the love of the Father in heaven.  He is the Saviour of the world.”  He challenges us, do not be afraid, open your hearts to him and receive him so that his kingdom of love and p

Fourth Sunday of Advent



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In two days time we will commemorate the birth of the child, who is God with us.

Jesus’ coming, revealed by the angel to Mary, prepared for many centuries and announced in our world, is always an invitation to new life and hope.

God is coming closer to us than we would ever imagine.  Humbly and with love we call to mind our sins that we may welcome him.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

One of the most frequent phrases in the whole of the Scriptures is ‘do not be afraid’.  These words of the angel encouraged Joseph with his terrible worries about Mary and about the coming child.  It has been used again by Gabriel to Daniel (10:12), to Zachary (Luke 1:13), to Mary (Luke 1:12-30), it was said by the angels to the shepherds startled by Christmas glory and Jesus said it to the apostles when they thought that he was a ghost walking on the water (Mark 8:50).  A voice at Jesus’ Transfiguration told Peter, John and James not to fear (Matthew 17:7), and the same assurance was offered to Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 28:5).

The ‘do not be afraid’ of Christmas is a challenge to engage with the fact that God is near.  In the first Reading God is with us.  We are invited to receive blessings and reward from the God who is our Saviour and like Arhas, we are reassured that God is near to our ordinary, everyday lives.  We can be very constant in the knowledge that God is no distant patriarch.  In Jesus, God shared our human nature.  In the words of the Christmas carol – “Tears and smiles like us he knew and he feeleth for our sadness and he shareth for our gladness.”

In these days as Christmas approaches we rejoice that God wishes to draw near to us, inviting our hearts to be open, repenting of our sins, filled with hope for what we can be in God’s providence in the future.   Whether young or old, whether this is our first adult Christmas or our last, the same beautiful invitation is given, to believe that our God is real, that in Jesus he is near, that through him our human nature is ennobled and given hope.

The challenge for us this Christmas is not only in these days but the whole year, to live by the hope that we have in Jesus, to triumph in his nearness, to know as Saint John said that perfect love casts out fear, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who will transfigure our wretched bodies into copies of his glorious body.  

Our human life is transformed, our friendships, our family, our relationships are transformed, as Mary remained constant and fearless in giving herself to the mystery of God’s entry into this world, just as he seeks to enter in the same unique way into the life of each one of us.  We do pray:  “Lord, fill our hearts with your love, as you reveal to us by an angel the coming of your Son as man.”

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.

Mass for the Profession of Sr Claire Skehan RSM



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am delighted to be with Sister Kathleen Tierney and the Sisters of Mercy and so many friends, as Sister Claire makes her Religious Profession, yet another step in a long journey in which the Lord has invited her again and again to faithfulness, mindful of the challenging words at the beginning of chapter two of the Book of Ecclesiasticus:  “If you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.  Cling to him and do not leave him so that you may be honoured at the end of your days.”  

Furthermore, for Sister Claire, just as for Catherine McAuley, the secret of peace of heart is found in the words of the prophet, Micah:  “This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8)

As we prepare to come before our God in praise and thanksgiving, let us remember our frailty and the wondrous and mysterious nature of God’s call to each of us.

“Put your trust in God.  He will never let you want.”
(Catherine McAuley, Letters, page 107)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

These words written by Catherine McAuley to a young Superior are illustrative of the call that God gives to each of us.  Catherine McAuley had long been moved to tremendous compassion by the plight and suffering of the poor.  Indeed, later she will write in the First Rule:  “To act with great tenderness, removing all anxiety from the mind of the sick, so that they may be able with tranquillity to give every good to God alone.”

When the Callaghans left their property to her, the main works of mercy, which she had envisaged, gradually developed.  She had never intended that her lay organisation of compassion for the sick might become a Religious Congregation.  Yet, her unshakeable trust in the Holy Spirit inspired all that she would do for the sick.  “That I will lead them along paths, I will turn darkness into light before them and rocky places into level tracks.  These things I will do and not leave them undone.”  (Isaiah 42:16)
Initially in 1829 the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Murray, approach Miss McAuley and asked her to let him use her lay organisation for the renewal of Catholic life and pastoral care.  However, at the mature age of fifty-two Catherine overcame her hesitations at becoming a religious because of her trust in God’s faithful love.

It is this same faithful love of God that has led Sister Claire Skehan throughout her life.  Many of you here have known her for as much as thirty-nine years, as I have, or longer.  We have respected and admired her gifts, her dedication to nursing, instructing nurses, caring for the sick and now for the care of the elderly.  Her life has demanded courage and challenge in faithfulness to the call that the Lord has given and as with Catherine McAuley today’s moment of profession brings a new peace because of her trust in the Holy Spirit and her desire to live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God.

We know that God’s ways are mysterious and the way they unfold in our lives can often be difficult to understand.  Yet his faithfulness is constant and his call to the public consecration of religious life is an invitation publicly within the Church to profess consecrated life in chastity, poverty and obedience as a personal entry into the mystery of God’s call and of his supporting grace.

As you all know, in the Church’s tradition religious profession is a spe

Mass celebrated at Justin Villa



Dear Brothers in the Priesthood,

Today in preparation for our meeting with Christ at Christmas we celebrate the feast of Saint John of the Cross.  

His major Treatises; the Ascent of Mount Carmel, the Spiritual Canticle and the Living Flame of Love have greatly influenced the spiritual life.  As a doctor of the Church his writings are looked up on as a guide for the faithful soul endeavouring to embrace a more perfect life.

As we remember that we are but sinners open to the Lord’s transforming power, let us ask that the example of John of the Cross may lift us to the flame of union with God in faith, hope and charity.


My dear Brothers in the Priesthood,

Today’s Mass underlines for us the search for sanctity which is the basis of all priestly ministry.  While remembering that the spirituality of a diocesan priest centres around the Eucharist, it is our identity with Christ in celebrating the Eucharist that draws us like a magnet to true holiness.  

Today in that spirit of search I propose that we reflect on some of the parts of Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptionis Sacramentum, after the Synod on the Eucharist.

The dynamic shaping our priestly life is above all our constant reflection on the spirituality proper to diocesan priests.  Forty years ago it may have been deemed that if priests were considering the paths of holiness they may go to a religious congregation.  However, the Vatican Council taught something different.   “Priests will acquire holiness in their own distinctive way by exercising their duty sincerely and tirelessly in the spirit of Christ.”

What we all know is that the three-fold munus of sanctifying, teaching and governing are shown in the whole life of the Church.  When we speak of the spirituality of the diocesan priest, we inquire – “what spirit inspires us to find meaning in life?”  The Spirit o God is our incentive and inspiration.  However, the spirituality centred on Christ has specific features in our priestly vocation, our ministry and our mission.

Pope Benedict reiterated in his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis:  “The Eucharist is constitutive of the Church’s being and activity”, and in this sense it is the centre of the Church’s life.  And if the Church is the heart of the Church’s life, it must also form the spirituality of all Christians.  In Sacramentum Caritatis Benedict XVI affirms:  “The Eucharist as a mystery to be lived meets each of us as we are and makes our con --- existence the place where we experience daily the radical newness of the Christian life.  

Eucharistic sacrifice nourishes and increases within us all what we have already received with Baptism and its call to holiness, and this must be clearly evident in the way individual Christians live their lives.”  (No. 79)

However, the Pope adds:  “The Eucharistic form of Christian life is seen in a special way in the priesthood.  The spirituality is intrinsically Eucharistic and the priest should make his spiritual life his highest priority.  His call to seek God tirelessly, remaining attune to the concerns of his brothers and sisters, entering more deeply into communion with the Lord, and allowing oneself to be possessed by God’s love.”

My brothers, for each of us the many years of priesthood have challenged us to have a special experience of being touched by Jesus, of being loved personally by him and becoming capable of responding to that love.

We need to remember that the Eucharist i