Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

I am currently beginning a retreat with the Bishops of the Province of Los Angeles. This is customary for many Bishops’ regions in these early days of the new year. This was our custom in Region X (Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas) when we all were on retreat together at the Oblate Renewal in San Antonio.

The images of some of the Christmas pageants and programs in Orange I placed on this blog for a reason. At every one (whether at Holy Family Cathedral, St. Joachim’s in Costa Mesa, St. Catherine’s Academy, or Mission San Juan Capistrano) mention was made of the importance of solidarity with , and being in “communion in Faith” with the families in Newtown Connecticut. I wrote a letter to the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church on behalf of our Diocese, to let him , his families, and all those in Newtown to let them know of our prayers for them, and that we truly were with them in the face of this tragedy. The gospel of St. Matthew, in the last week of Advent, spoke of the name that Jesus was given “Emmanuel” – “God with us.” This is what we have to remember now, that even as we seek to respond to violence and offer solutions, the birth of Christ means that God is with us in all moments.

By our lived faith, we can become “icons” or images of Faith or belief to others whom we meet, in all moments of life. In this light, I would refer to the following quote from Pope Benedict’s new reflection: “Jesus of Nazareth – the Infancy Narratives.” In the closing pages, Pope Benedict comments on Mary’s response when Jesus had stayed behind in the Temple:

“Mary in this passage is presented quite consciously by Luke as the model believer: ‘Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord,’ as Elizabeth had said to her (Luke 1:45). With the observation that appears twice in the infancy narratives–that Mary kept the words in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51)–Luke is pointing, as we have said, to the source on which he drew for his account. At the same time Mary appears not only as the great believer, but as the image of the Church, which keep God’s work in her heart and passes it on to others.” [pp. 125-126]

May the example of the Mother of the Lord help us to do just that in this new year, in all moments of our lives.

A blessed new year to all

+Kevin W. Vann