by ehistoryadmin on December 20, 2016

Leinster Leader, Saturday 23 December, 1916


Christmas this year will again be celebrated in all its religious and social aspects under the shadow of the great and devastating war, and its observances will be largely coloured by the calamity into which the great nations of the world have been plunged. Not alone the belligerent powers, but neutral States to a lesser extent, feel the effects of the struggle which has disorganized the international structure in all its relations, and interrupted the commercial intercourse which is reacting so seriously on the way vitals of human existence. Blood and treasure are still freely and extravagantly poured out in the mutual destruction and devastation produced by a war of such magnitude, and the purpose of which, if not sordid, is at least opposed in its prosecution to Christian teaching and civilised ideals. It must, however, afford a certain amount of consolation and hope that on the eve of this the greatest Christian Festival, when prayers go up for peace and goodwill amongst men, that the possibility of peace amongst the warring nations is a subject of discussion, although not very promising for immediate realisation. Furthermore, it must be also a matter of gratification to us here in Ireland to have it announced that in the effort to restore peace to war distracted Europe the position and influence of the Pope are recognised as powerful aids to bring back the nations to those paths of peace and Christianity which make for the advancement of humanity. The temporal power of the Pope is not, of course, acknowledged or recognised, and the making or waging of war is at all times abhorrent to the Pontiff; but as Peace Maker, his Holiness stands almost supreme today, and the prayer will go out from Catholic Ireland that the supplications and vigils offered and observed all through this dreary and bloody struggle will be rewarded by a realisation of those hopes of peace which Benedict XV has struggled and prayed for. Although, Mr. Lloyd George’s official pronouncement in the House of Commons, in reply to the German peace proposals deprives us of hope of an early settlement, still a stronger and growing feeling in this direction is not beyond the bounds of possibility. In indulging in Christmas reflections such as these, and in anticipations of the religious consolations and social enjoyments which the festival brings, our thoughts naturally go out to the men at the front and the hardships dangers and sacrifices exacted from them, and from which even this holy season may not bring relief or relaxation. We had hopes when peace proposals were propounded last week that at least an armistice might be arranged for the Xmas and allow a brief cessation of the carnage that goes on, and which is so much opposed to the religious teachings and spirit of the Season. Since this may not be, we must only content ourselves with wishing them whatever consolation is possible by those reminders that recall past and more happy celebrations of the Feast, and those tokens of sympathy and goodwill which may soften the pangs of sorrow and regret which absence from home at such a period and under such circumstances must occasion to even the bravest and most self-sacrificing. While first place in our thoughts must thus be given to the fighting men, it would be a mistake to allow our commiserations to blind us to the obligations we owe to those at home and around us in maintaining unbroken all those traditions and customs associated with the Feast. Its religious observance must of course, be our first consideration as Christians, and it is not for us to remind our readers of the solemnity and beauty of the great spiritual story and mystery it enshrines. The preparation and meditation necessary for the observance of the Feast, visits to the Church, the decorations therein the representation of the lowly, through yet sublime. Stable at Bethlehem – all recall the sacred circumstances leading up to the event which heralded the redemption of man, and the memory and celebration of which is kept as green today as the decorations employed as emblems to recall it, after the lapse of over nineteen centuries. In the religious exercises of the Season a place will be found in our prayers for those away in the far-flung battle-fronts, and for an early release from the horrors to which they are subject. In the home and the social circle many an empty seat will be found this season, and with the closing of the year will be relegated to the past some of the saddest and most tragic chapters to be found in human experience. We must, however, make an effort to overcome the depression which these engender, and derive whatever consolation we can in the contemplation of the heroic feats and unexampled bravery and endurance universally exhibited, and the ultimate triumph of those principles for which they fought to vindicate their unsullied honour and purity of purpose. And if such a vindication is not forthcoming in our life-time, the suffering, self-sacrifice, and heroism which the world conditions demanded, and were not denied, will prove the inspiration of future generations who will look back with pride on them, and yet make good the realisation of the objects for which they were made. It is, perhaps, in the domain of charity that the fullest scope may be found for giving effect to those thoughts of peace and goodwill which the Season awakens, and never, perhaps since black Forty-seven were the conditions and prospects so unpromising for the poor. An early and severe winter has come to make the conditions of scarcity and high prices of provisions and necessaries more miserable, and individual charity may do much lessen the inevitable suffering produced by the abnormal times and circumstances through which we are living ; but this must be supplemented by organised effort. Nor must the little ones be forgotten at such a Season, and although on the threshold of life, we must not allow the pall of the war to weigh too heavily on their minds. As the men and women of the future they will have their own difficulties to overcome and their own problems to solve, and their years of happiness and innocence must therefore be pandered to by all those little presents, toys, and games dear to the child mind. It must be remembered, too, that many families depend upon the industries thus created for their subsistence, and a sudden dropping of such customs would mean a corresponding effect on the Christmas fare and means of existence of others. In conclusion,, we hope and pray for the consummation of a lasting peace between the warring nations, and a return to that reconciliation and mutual feelings of goodwill which the Christmas tide awakens in the Christian heart, and the when the Holy Season is next observed we further hope to see it honoured by the nations, chastened by the vicissitudes of war, making amends for the neglect of the past in practicing those Christian virtues the observances of which would never allow the underlying evils which primarily were responsible for the war, to prevail. In this spirit, we wish all our readers a Happy Xmas and a Brighter New Year.

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