Recently we celebrated the Epiphany of the Lord. This significant celebration traditionally marks the end of our Christmas season and I’m sure as the month of January continues to move, we have once again returned to the familiar and the routine.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 21 January 2009

starofbethleham

The Epiphany tells the story of a group of people who were searching for meaning and purpose in life. They looked beyond conventional religion; in fact their search was fuelled by a puzzling star that shone brightly over an unknown village and an even more insignificant stable in its surrounding countryside. This bright star revealed to them the beginnings of our Christian story, the birth place of the infant Jesus. This bright star announced a new time an opportunity for new beginnings and an invitation for all people to be filled with new life, joy and peace. For this reason the message of the Epiphany is a lasting one throughout the whole year. We are all invited to discover Christ in the familiar and routine places that is our daily lives.

During Christmas many people in the parish where I live Bagenalstown, have discovered the presence of Jesus through three wonderful children, whose story mirrors that of the wise men in search of Christ. Patricia, Prosper and Prince come from Malawi a Country in Africa Known for its Political instability, injustice, war, violence and poverty. There mother Grace, fled the country with her children some months ago, in the hope of being able to rear her family in a safe place, with the possibility that her children could realize their gifts and talents. That search for a safe place brought her to Europe and eventually to England. Grace had heard of Ireland and the many good opportunities that are available through education in our Country. She arranged for her children to be brought to Dublin and to then declare refugee status. While the children were allowed enter the Country, their mother was not admitted and has remained in England since in the hope of her Children being soon reunited with her.

For the past two months Patricia, Prosper and Prince have live with a Foster family in Bagenalstown. This family, Paddy and Ann Gardiner, have in many ways personified the Bethlehem experience, where the wise men were once filled with great joy at the presence of their God. The Children have adapted very well to living in a new place that is so different from the environment in which they begun their young lives. The children are full of love and goodness and have brought great joy not just to Paddy and Ann but to our wider community. They attend our local primary schools and have all ready forged new friendships with the children of our parish. It is not known how long they will remain, but their presence is special and reminds us all to appreciate the things that we so often take for granted. This was the first Christmas that Santa ever visited them. Appropriately these children carried the infant Child on Christmas morning and laid him in the manger. Christ has come to liberate, to unburden and to generate hope.

May the bright stars like these children remind us all that Christ is alive.