A few weeks ago, as a friend left Oxford, she gave me a CD of Christmas carols by the choir of Magdalen (her college). I told her this would come in mighty handy on Christmas Eve, for our community Veillée.

Veillée (vigil) is a lovely tradition in our congregation. Sometime on Christmas Eve we come together, bringing readings, carols, reflections, poems and prayers which speak to us of Christmas. Over the course of an hour or so we share them, with time for silent prayer and reflection in between. There's no specific running order, no designated "slots"; each one shares something when it feels appropriate, and often one contribution will seamlessly flow into the next.

So I'm typing this with the carols playing in the background, as I make my choice. Of the Father's heart begotten is definitely up there, as are In dulci jubilo and Tomorrow shall be my dancing day. And then there's Ninna Nanna di Gesu Bambino (Baby Jesus's lullaby), a cheery, traditional song in Piemontese - my father's dialect. Listening to it makes me smile for all sorts of reasons. I recall my mother crooning a ninna nanna in her own dialect, Cremonese, and my father teaching me Piemontese nursery rhymes. But I also smile because of the choristers' accents! Piemontese is a harsh, gutteral dialect: its vowels stretch and drag, its consonants clash and collide; it bears little resemblance to Italian, with its melodious cadences and sharp vowels (it's actually more like Catalan and Occitane). But nobody told the choir master about this, and so the choir sings Piemontese words with perfect Italian accents (which is the equivalent of singing On Ilkla Moor baht'at in 1950s newsreaders' RP) - and I imagine my father, grandparents et al having a good chuckle up there in heaven!

And finally... a couple of hours ago I read the Christmas greetings from our sisters in The Philippines. They quoted something written by M Josefa Bulto, who was Superior General 1967-70, and who died recently aged 106. Her words were written in the late 1960s, a time of profound change for the world, and for Church and religious life - but they are just as relevant for life now, with all its challenges and crises in among its joys and loveliness.

Christmas will once more bring before us this little Child Who is a stumbling-block to our questioning minds, and Who will always be a "sign of contradiction".

May we, at this time of radical and speedy evolution, go ahead unceasingly, despite uncertainty and obscurity, sure of Him Who has come to save us and Who will always be with us as Saviour, Guide and Companion on the way.

Happy Christmas and many blessings to you all.


  1. I've been waiting for this and was not disappointed. Happy Christmas!

  2. Beautiful. Thank you, Silvana! xx


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