The Strenna, the Message, the Way forward for the New Year


by Bro. Dave O’Hara SDB

I have had a great Christmas! I hope you can say the same for yourself. It’s a great time of celebration, community and family, unfortunately sometimes life circumstances can take over but hopefully we can all experience Christ being reborn in our lives in some way or another.

Crib2015I started off with Christmas Eve mass in my community and it went very well. There were a good number of locals who added to the occasion and I got to use my vocal chords for once in a blue moon, not that they added to the occasion! After a nice gathering after mass it was into the kitchen to get things ready for the next day and while it took quite some time it was very enjoyable. Christmas day began with mass and then it was straight back into the kitchen. Thank God a good time was had by all.

I headed back home in the late afternoon and I picked up on the radio that there had been a number of deaths from early morning. Such a tragedy on Christmas day. It really stopped me in my tracks that a young person had died very close to where I am working this year. I was shocked and it was an awful high to come down from. It totally put things back into perspective for me. It was great being back to the family on Christmas day, but during the exchange of gifts I pretty much choked up because I couldn’t get the news I had heard out of my head. Nevertheless, everyone was happy with their gifts, they only go some way to expressing relationship but it went well.

Strenna_2016_ENGIm delighted to have seen the latest video on the Strenna for 2016 entitled; “WITH JESUS, we journey together in an adventure of the Spirit!”. The Strenna seems quite an abstract thing, for me it did for a long time. I’ve very slowly learned that it is not a plan or a prerogative but more of a message from the Rector Major, something to consider for the year ahead. It began with Don Bosco of course, it was his message to his boys in the Oratory and thankfully it has continued on, albeit on a more international scale so it does somewhat lose its intimacy. At the same time, the message is very relevent, to become closer to the Spirit, the Holy Spirit and to see it as our guiding hand in our lives.

The Holy Spirit is a communal thing, something we all feel individually but we experience it together. It only but brings us together and it struck me when watching the English video on the Strenna how connected I felt to where I work and the death that occurred there on Christmas day. I believe we are all desensitised, to the goings on of the world today but I am grateful my heart reacted in some way to the news I heard on Christmas day. That’s selfish in itself, but it’s only to feeling the Spirit in my life that I will be transformed, so I’m at least happy I can feel the Holy Spirit in some way even though I have a long way to go.

I think it’s a question of; ‘how local is local?’. There are too many daily disasters to recount, and there are enough TV channels to show them. What the Strenna is challenging me to do, in my brief understanding of it is to embrace the Spirit, to embrace Christ, and to journey with others. Our heart strings are pulled all of the time these days but at the end of the day there is only so much we can do. I’ve often caught myself thinking; ‘well I’ve my own things going on’ or ‘that’s a few miles away whatever’, but therefore I am putting limitations on the power of the Holy Spirit and well I can’t do that now!

P1120748I am reinvigorated by the Christmas season, I am invigored by the Strenna, as long as we are able to embrace the Spirit we need to give a hand out to be embraced. I have to count my lucky stars in that there had been no tragedy in my family this Christmas, that we are all safe, happy and well, but as a follower of Don Bosco, as a follower of Christ, I cannot avoid the responsibility of even giving due regard to those on my doorstep. I need to learn to not just give greater regard but to be a better person in this way and to help others who are not too far away from me. But what greater thing is there to do? What greater gift is there? All I know is that when I actually get up and help others, not just pray for them, it won’t even be me, it’s the Holy Spirit working some kind of wonder in my life, that for a few seconds I have been open to.

Here’s to a great Christmas, to hope in the New Year, to a invigorating Strenna and to the building of God’s Kingdom!