Christmas Day Mass

Christmas Day Mass

MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON THURSDAY, 25TH DECEMBER 2008 AT 11.00A.M. INTRODUCTION Dear Brothers and Sisters, A child is born for us – Jesus the Mighty God, Prince of Peace and Lord of all.  He comes to provide light in our darkness, hope and transformation for our world, a new focus for family and society. Today I remember all of you, your hopes and desires, needs and sufferings, as I offer this Mass.  At the end of Mass in the name of the Holy Father, the universal Shepherd of the Church, I will give the Papal...

Christmas Midnight Mass



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome to this special celebration of Christmas at Saint Patrick’s.  Tonight we come to the crib as we offer the Mass and encounter Jesus as our Lord.  In simplicity and humility we kneel before him.  In wonder we realise that God is close to every human being. 

While at a Catholic Mass it is only possible for Catholics who are properly prepared to receive Holy Communion out of reverence for the Sacrament, we are especially united with those not of the Catholic faith with whom we share this time of prayer, reflection and wonder.

Tonight especially our prayers are for those we love; for the sick, those who suffer from war, loneliness, hunger and anxiety.

In joy and humility let us call to mind our sins and ask the Lord to be near to our life and through our words and deeds to draw near to those with whom we share.


“On those who live in a land of deep shadow a light is shone, for there is a child born for us, a Son given to us.”
(Isaiah 9:1,6)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this night we ponder Mary preparing for the birth of Jesus with love beyond all telling, giving birth and laying him in a manger because there was no room at the inn.  In the seeming paradox of poverty and simplicity God has fulfilled his promise:  “You shall bear a Son and you shall call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.”  (Luke 1:31)

This moment had been expected for centuries and yet how differently did it unfold; when God would take care of us, step outside his distance, our world would be saved and God would make all things new.

We notice that there is no room at the inn.  Mankind has been waiting for God for so long and yet when he comes, in simplicity and love, we have no room for him.

The challenge this Christmas is to see truthfully that we are so preoccupied with our self, our own life and our own deeds that we do not find time for others, for our neighbour, for the poor, for God.  The richer we become, the more we fill up our space with self.

Yet it is in the touching love of a baby, born in the simplest circumstance, surrounded by love of which any parent would be envious, that God comes to us waiting for us to say ‘yes’.  The words in Saint John’s Gospel:  “He came to his own and his own did not receive him”, (John 1:11) remind us that God never forces the human heart, but invites us to re-examine our lives. 

We are in the midst of a serious economic downturn.  Many people in our community this Christmas will celebrate the coming of Christ without the certainty of employment and of material prosperity, which most Australians take for granted.  Their need provides a challenging invitation to us to divest ourselves of our preoccupation with riches and self and search out those in our community who are burdened and rejected.

Last Christmas Pope Benedict referred to some of the cribs from the late Middle Ages which are depicted as a castle in ruins to show that what went before has to give way to the fullness of Christ.  Saint Gregory of Nyssa says, in commenting on the words of Saint John:  “He pitched his tent among us.”  (John 1:14)  God took on poverty, weakness and suffering so that we who are torn and disfigured by sin can realise that God is drawing near to us precisely in paradox to give us the means to rediscover our lives and to direct them to him.

As we kneel at the crib and wonder at the simp

Fourth Sunday of Advent



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

God comes to meet each of us in the secret place in our heart with the most powerful invitation to follow him and respond to the plan that he has for each of us to contribute to the life of the world.

Mary’s yes to the puzzling and mysterious designs of the Creator is an invitation to us to remain faithful to him in prayer and courageous in our acceptance of what he can do with the love of our mind, heart and will.  ‘Here am I Lord, I come to do your will’.

Let us call to mind our sins.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The first holy places in Israel were those situations in which people had experienced the nearness of God:  Moses and the burning bush; Abraham and his call to go to a place that God would show him; Moses and the Ten Commandments.  Later on a memorial was erected at the places of these events.  Even later still, in the Jewish Temple, there were ten different degrees of holiness through which people could pass to signify their degree of nearness to the holy of holies, the Arc of the Covenant.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that Mary brought us the Holy One of Israel; the Lord she carried in her womb to bring us life and hope.  Because of her welcoming of God’s plan, her acceptance of the Saviour, her total oneness with his will, Mary shows us that while places are important, it is above all in the human heart that we encounter our God.  Her own response:  “I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let whatever you have said be done to me”, made Mary a person who welcomed others and led them to holiness.  Her own personal welcome of God is the gateway and the mirror to us, who seek to learn how to say yes to God in our life. 

Obviously, in our preparation for Christmas this means the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It means a readiness to forgive those with whom we have disputes.  It means an effort to have time for people in the tumultuous rush of everyday.  When Jesus was about to be born his parents found there was no room at the inn.  Perhaps our parallel might be too many worries, too many projects, too many parties, too much shopping, too many gifts, too many bills.  All of these things can crowd into the empty place where God wants to meet us in divine fullness.

So Advent is an invitation to clear away the clutter in our lives, to make time to stop and pray and welcome God.  If we do make the effort to make time, then we will be conscious that in the quiet silence we will find an ever widening welcome which God will fill. 

Indeed, there is another challenge for us today in the words of Kathleen Norris, who wrote on the Annunciation in her book, Amazing Grace, in 1998, inviting us to treasure the story we have read in the Gospel and to ask these important questions:
When the mystery of God’s love breaks into my consciousness, do I run from it?
Do I ask of it what it cannot answer?
Shrugging, do I retreat into excuses?
Or, am I honest enough to respond from my deepest, truest self in the place where God alone and I meet and say something new – a yes that will change me forever?
When we look at Mary, her faithfulness, which was so transforming, we can see that God led her to a greatness that she had never imagined because of that yes.  She can lead us to a peace and hope and a use of our abilities that we too had never imagined was possible.  We too can say and live:  “I am the servan

Mass for the retired priests of the Archdiocese of Melbourne at George Maher House, Clifton Hill



My dear brothers in the priesthood,

At the end of another year I come with joy and hope to celebrate Mass with you in thanksgiving for our common gift of priesthood in this season of Advent when we remember how near the Lord is to our lives and how strong is his message of encouragement, inviting us to contemplation and thanksgiving.

As we call to mind our sins, let us ask the Lord that he will give us light and continued hope for the future, as we pray for each other and for all priests.


My dear brothers in the priesthood,

Today we spend a few moments of reflection in thanksgiving for the year that has passed, for the friendships that we have shared and for those who support us here in our time of retirement.  Family members and friends also have joined us to remind all of us that those who receive ordination are priests forever and that every prayer and deed we perform is of value for the salvation of souls.  Indeed, a time of retirement with freedom from administrative tasks can provide the ideal atmosphere for prayer and reflection.

In Advent we turn our minds back to the first coming of Christ, born in a stable at Bethlehem, to our commemoration of this event with the approach of Christmas, and to the unshakeable awareness that at the end of our life we will meet God face to face, where he in justice and mercy will welcome and respect the decisions we have made with regard to our life.

At all times, but particularly at present, it is important to remember that our life is supported by being a man of prayer. 

Father Jean Galot, S.J., said: 

“There is no reason to contrast personal holiness with priestly activity.  These belong together; they strengthen each other.”
Saint Teresa of Avila would stress that spending time in prayer is often wasting time with God, seemingly useless but of great importance in the life of the priest. 

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said this: 

“Prayer is the food of life of a priest.  A priest who does not pray cannot stay close to Christ, he cannot allow Christ to use him as he wants to use him.  The fruit of prayer is always the deepening of faith and unless the priest has that deepening of faith it is very difficult for him to pray.  And the fruit of faith is always love, and if a priest does not love how will he help others to love.  And the fruit of love is service, service as Jesus said:  ‘I have come among you as one who serves’, and the priest is meant to be that one to come among his own and be the servant of all.” 

Pope John Paul went on further to say: 

“Do not be afraid that time dedicated to the Lord will take anything away from your apostolate.  On the contrary it will be the source of fruitfulness in the ministry.” 

And Pope Benedict goes on further:

“Let us not be consumed with haste, as if time dedicated to Christ in silent prayer were time wasted.  On the contrary it is precisely then that the most wonderful fruits of pastoral service come to birth.  There is no need to be discouraged on account of the fact that prayer requires effort, or because of the impression that Jesus remains silent.  He is indeed silent, but he is at work …

The faithful expect only one thing from priests; that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God.  The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics.  He is

Mass for Principals of Catholic Schools



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tonight as we come towards the end of another year in the service of the Gospel and in the magnificent work of leadership, teaching and service, which Principals perform in our many schools, we are invited to focus on the Word of God.

By our own personal conversion of heart we are invited to make a highway for our God across the desert.  From the high mountain of truth we proclaim that our God is near.

As we call to mind our sins and remember our failures, let us also be mindful of our capacity for growth through oneness of mind and heart with Jesus Christ and his Church.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With sentiments of great esteem I celebrate this Mass with you.  Increasingly Principals of schools are undertaking additional responsibilities for nurturing, caring and leading our young people.  The last sentence of the Gospel, “it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost”, is a strong reminder of the mission that we are given by the Church as teachers.

I am deeply conscious of the concern which you show to all of our young people.  It is true that parents are the first and best teachers of their children in the way of faith.  Your leadership as Principals and teachers is a valuable amplification of that parental role.  Many of you are parents yourselves and you know what constant leadership, encouragement and the occasional challenge are necessary in a family.

Similarly, in our schools, you can sometimes stand increasingly across the divide between parental expectations, the mission of the Church and what you know is good educational leadership.  Often it will be your leadership which will help parents to realise the parameters of faith and the great gift which is offered and to encourage them and their families in taking hold of that gift.  We know that our faith comes from Jesus Christ.  It was entrusted by him to the Apostles and is given to the Church to safeguard and proclaim so that the saving message and activity of the Lord and his intention that all should be saved will come to the reality of our families.

Encouragement and challenge to see the Church’s vision will often be a considerable part of the work that you do.  Sometimes when parents are concentrating on the preparedness of young people for life and the high standards which modern education demands they can be forgetful of the holistic responsibility which we in Catholic education have to integrate with an understanding and living of faith a vision of the human person, which enables us to work at preparing our young people at all levels to be believing Catholics, well fitted for all aspects of their future life, enriched by the vision of personhood and the knowledge of God which is the catalyst to a lifetime of growth in faith and of contribution to society.

This work is not without its challenges.  Sometimes there is a lack of appreciation of what you are trying to do or a skewed view of the real priorities.  There can be a tendency to brush faith aside rather than to see it as a catalyst to a whole human vision.  Indeed, I do believe that one of the great challenges of the modern society is for us to continue to emphasise the value of the family and the dignity of personhood.  If I would see anything as the foundation of what we are doing together it is to provide the underpinnings of faith, family and the unique human dignity of every child as the base upon which our educationa