This is what Bishop Mark Davies, the bishop of Shrewsbury, will be saying tonight in his Midnight Mass Christmas homily. (See homily in full below.) Recalling past struggles of the British people against "inhuman ideologies", the bishop will say:
In a prophetic and powerful call for action to defend marriage, Bishop Davies concludes:
"This, we recognise, is our moment, our, unique time to stand up for what is right and true as previous generations have done before us: to give witness to the value and dignity of every human life, to the truth of marriage as the lasting union of man and woman, the foundation of the family. In this we are assured of 'a light which shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overcome' (John 1:5)."Let's respond to Bishop Davies's courageous and powerful defence of our families over the Christmas season by following the example of Giles Rowe, one of SPUC's supporters in London, who has asked his parish priest:
"to include a prayer to Save Marriage in the bidding prayers ... [This] would be a good way to focus attention on the Pope's call to defend the family."(Marriage as an institution protects children, both born and unborn. Statistics show that unborn children are much safer within marriage than outside marriage. For more information on the full grounds of SPUC's opposition to same-sex marriage, see SPUC's position paper and background paper. Please do everything you can to support SPUC's Britain-wide lobby of Members of Parliament on marriage. )
Bishop Davies’s homily in full:
Across the centuries Christians have gathered amid the winter darkness and the shadows of night to welcome a Saviour who has been born for us (Luke 2:11). No matter how profound the darkness, how disturbing the shadows all the faithful have recognised on this night: “a great light has shone” in the words of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah (9:1); that “God’s grace has been revealed,” in St. Paul’s words, “and has made salvation possible for the whole human race”(Titus 2:11); have heard tonight the timeless message of the angels which first echoed amid the hills of Judea: “I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people” (Luke 2:10).
Past generations have gathered in this Cathedral on Christmas night amid many shadows which seemed to obscure the future for them. We think of the ideologies of the past century, Communism and Nazism, which in living memory threatened to shape and distort the whole future of humanity. These inhuman ideologies would each challenge in the name of progress the received Christian understanding of the sanctity of human life and the family. Britain’s war-time Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, a man without clear, religious belief, saw in this deadly struggle nothing less than the defence of Christian civilization. The alternative he vividly described as a dark age made more protracted by the perversion, the misuse of science. Few of our political leaders today appear to glimpse the deeper issues when the sanctity of human life and the very identity of marriage, the foundation of the family, are threatened.
Tonight we might happily recall Shrewsbury’s Elizabeth Prout who set out from this town to become England’s Mother Teresa: one woman who went out to confront the darkest impact of the industrial revolution armed only with her newly-found faith. The industrial revolution which saw in its darkest slums the undermining of marriage and the family, of religious practice and of human dignity and life itself on a massive scale. Elizabeth’s faith gave her the unflinching conviction in the face of claims that such degradation of human beings was the inevitable cost of progress, to defend human dignity and especially the dignity of women.
We gather on this Christmas night amid the shadows of early 21st Century Britain. As the eyes of the nation turn to this “child born for us” (Is.9:1) tiny and frail, it is this beautiful revelation of the Son of God which casts a searching light on the darkest shadows of our time. The widespread neglect and ill-treatment of the frailest, elderly people in our society: concerns high-lighted in the Care Quality Commission’s recent report. The growing concerns about end of life care and what is happening to the most vulnerable in our hospitals. This dark side to our society is surely connected to the discarding of human life from the beginning in legalised abortion on an industrial scale, in reproductive technologies, in embryo experimentation which our laws have sanctioned. “Today there exists a great multitude of weak and defenceless human beings, unborn children in particular, whose fundamental right to life is being trampled upon” Blessed John Paul II reflected in his 1995 letter The Gospel of Life, “if at the end of the last century, the Church could not be silent about the injustices of those times, still less can she be silent today” (Evangelium Vitae n.5).
This Christmas we are also conscious of new shadows cast by a Government pledged at its election to support the institution of marriage. This vital foundation of society, the 2011 census indicates, now stands at perhaps is lowest ebb. At such a moment the Prime Minister has decided without mandate, without any serious consultation to redefine the identity of marriage itself, the foundation of the family for all generations to come. This is again done in the name of progress. The great English writer, G.K Chesterton, warned: “progress is a useless word; for progress takes for granted an already defined direction; and it is exactly about the direction that we disagree” (American Notes). The British people have reason to ask on this night where is such progress leading?
In the face of what is presented as this inevitable march of human progress we recognise once more the Saviour born for us: Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11) who meets us all along the path of history. The same Lord who promised those who follow Him would be called to give witness amidst the most testing circumstances (Mt. 10:17). This, we recognise, is our moment, our, unique time to stand up for what is right and true as previous generations have done before us: to give witness to the value and dignity of every human life, to the truth of marriage as the lasting union of man and woman, the foundation of the family. In this we are assured of “a light which shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overcome” (John 1:5). “On Bethlehem night,” Pope Benedict reflected in 2005, “the Redeemer becomes one of us, our companion along the precarious paths of history. Let us take the hand he stretches out to us …” (Urbi et Orbi Message, Christmas 2005). This is the good news once more offered to the whole people (Luke 2:10). The invitation to take the hand of the Redeemer stretched out to us in gentleness, in such humility because He seeks to take nothing from us, Pope Benedict reminds us, but only to give to all the light of life.
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