Ten years ago, while still Pope, Benedict XVI wrote a Letter of Encouragement (an Apostolic Exhortation) after the Synod on the Word of God. The letter is full of many good things, it is rich and deep. Right at the heart of the letter is the message that the Word of God is not just something on a printed page, but rather a person; the Word of God has been given to us, proclaimed to us so that we might encounter, meet and experience Jesus Christ who is God’s living Word.

During the next year, beginning the First Sunday of Advent and continuing until the end of 2020, The Year of the Word – the God Who Speaks begins, and we, the Church in England and Wales, are being encouraged to focus and concentrate on encountering God, the God who speaks to us and shares his love so that we might have life in abundance.

During the course of the year there will be various events organised locally and diocesan-wide. However, I hope that there will also be events in your parishes organised and led by you and your priests. If there is a prayer group or bible study group in your parish or your area, then this can be a focus for you. If these do not exist in your parish or area, why not begin to gather to study God’s Word and to encounter the living Word of God in the Scriptures? You could ask your parish priest to help you. There are also plenty of resources online if you put “The God who speaks” into your favourite search engine.

As we move into the New Year there is a second strand of action. You may have been aware that over the last couple of years there has been a “Dowry Tour” in which the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham has been travelling around the country. The statue came to our cathedral in December 2018. The purpose of this “tour” is to help prepare us to rededicate ourselves and our country as the dowry or the gift to Mary.

Similarly, there will be key events and key dates leading up to the rededication on Sunday March 29 2020. Again, all information and resources can be found online at dowrytour.org.uk.

It was through the “fiat”, the “yes” of the Virgin Mary, that Incarnation took place. Mary is very much our model as we enter into this year. Through her faith, she disposed herself to allow the Word of God to become flesh in her. Although there is only one woman who is the Mother of God made man, each one of us, in faith and through the sacraments, can be filled with the Word of God and bring Jesus to birth in our lives.

There are many good things on offer here. Even if we just avail ourselves of a few of them then we will be on course for a blessed and peaceful New Year

Yours in blessed hope,