ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER
TO THE EMPLOYEES OF THE HOLY SEE AND OF THE HOLY SEE
STATE OF THE VATICAN CITY ON THE OCCASION OF THE CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
Paul VI Hall
Friday, 21 December 2018
Dear brothers and sisters,
thank you for coming, many even with family members. I liked to say hello to the families, but the prize is for the great-grandmother, 93, with her daughter, who is a grandmother, with her parents and two children. The family is so beautiful! And you work for the family, for the children, to carry on the family. It is a grace! Guard families. And Merry Christmas to all!
Christmas is a joyous feast par excellence, but we often realize that people, and perhaps ourselves, are caught in many things and in the end there is no joy, or, if there is, it is very superficial. Why?
I was reminded of that expression by the French writer Léon Bloy: "There is only one sadness, [...] that of not being saints" (La donna povera, Reggio Emilia 1978, page 375, see Esort. Ap. Gaudete et exsultate, 34). Therefore, the opposite of sadness, that is joy, is linked to being saints. Also the joy of Christmas. Be good, at least have the desire to be good.
Let's look at the crib. Who is happy, in the crib? I would like to ask you children, who love to look at the statues ... and maybe even move them a bit, move them, angering their dad, who arranged them with such care!
So who is happy in the crib? Our Lady and St. Joseph are full of joy: they look at the Child Jesus and they are happy because, after a thousand worries, they have accepted this gift of God, with so much faith and so much love. They are "overflowing" with holiness and therefore with joy. And you will tell me: by force! They are the Mary and Saint Joseph! Yes, but we do not think it was easy for them: saints are not born, they become, and this is true for them too.
Then, the shepherds are full of joy. Even the pastors are holy, sure, because they responded to the announcement of the angels, they immediately rushed to the cave and recognized the sign of the Child in the manger. It was not obvious. In particular, in the cribs there is often a young shepherd, who looks towards the cave with a dreamy, enchanted air: that shepherd expresses the astonished joy of those who welcome the mystery of Jesus with a child's spirit. This is a trait of holiness: to preserve the capacity to be amazed, to wonder at the gifts of God, to his "surprises", and the greatest gift, the ever new surprise is Jesus. The great surprise is God!
Then, in some cribs, the bigger ones, with so many characters, there are the trades: the cobbler, the water trapper, the blacksmith, the baker ..., and so on and so forth. And everyone is happy. Why? Because they are "infected" by the joy of the event in which they participate, that is, the birth of Jesus. So their work is also sanctified by the presence of Jesus, by his coming among us.
And this also makes us think of our work. Of course, working always has a part of fatigue, it's normal. But in my land I knew someone who was never tired: he pretended to work, but he did not work. It was not hard, of course! But if everyone reflects a little of the holiness of Jesus, it takes very little, a small ray - a smile, an attention, a courtesy, an apology - then the whole work environment becomes more "breathable", does it not? The heavy climate that sometimes we men and women create with our arrogance, closures, prejudices, and work is even better, with more fruit.
There is one thing that makes us sad in our work and makes the work environment sick: it is chattering. Please do not speak badly about others, do not speak badly. "Yes, but that dislikes me, and that ...". Look, pray for him, but do not speak badly, please, because it destroys: it destroys friendship, spontaneity. And criticize this and that. Look, it's better to keep quiet. If you have something against him, go and say it directly. But do not speak badly. "Eh father, it comes from itself, to speak badly ...". But there is a good medicine not to speak badly, I'll tell you: bite your tongue. When you feel like it, bite your tongue and so you will not talk.
Even in the workplace there is "the holiness of the next door" (see Gaudete et exsultate, 6-9). Even here in the Vatican, of course, I can testify. I know some of you who are an example of life: they work for the family, and always with that smile, with that healthy, beautiful hard work. Holiness is possible. It's possible. This is now my sixth Christmas as Bishop of Rome, and I must say that I have known several saints and saints who work here. Saints and saints who live the Christian life well, and if they do something bad they beg pardon. But they go on with the family. You can live like this. It is a grace, and it is so beautiful. Usually they are people who do not appear, simple people, modest, but who do so much good in their work and in their relationships with others. And they are joyful people; not because they always laugh, no, but because they have a great serenity inside and know how to transmit it to others. And where does that serenity come from? Always from him, Jesus, the God-with-us. He is the source of our joy, both personal and family, both at work.
So my wish is this: to be holy, to be happy. But not saints, no, no. Normal saints. Saints and saints in flesh and blood, with our character, our faults, even our sins - we ask forgiveness and we go forward - but ready to let ourselves be "infected" by the presence of Jesus in our midst, ready to come to Him, like the shepherds, to see this event, this incredible sign that God has given us. What did the angels say? "Behold, I announce unto you great joy, which shall be of the whole people" (Lk 2:10). Will we go see it? Or will we be taken by other things?
Dear brothers and sisters, we are not afraid of holiness. I assure you, it is the path of joy. Merry Christmas to all!