Christmas Message 2019 from the Head Chaplain


A Chairde,

Christy Dignam’s famous song ‘Crazy World’ was first released in 1993. Written around the time his daughter Kiera was born, he looked at her, and aware of his own personal shortcomings asked the question: “How can I protect you in this crazy world?” Like Christy, we all want what’s best for our children. Yet a recent study on youth mental health in Ireland finds a significant increase in young people suffering from anxiety. The number has in fact doubled since a similar survey was conducted in 2012.

Despite our personal shortcomings and the daily reality of life in an anxious world, we too want to protect those we love and the environment we live in. During the past year, we saw children and young people speaking up about the urgent need to protect our environment, our common home and all of its citizens. As Christians we approach this concern for our environment with a spirituality of incarnation. We believe this world is entrusted to us by God; that all of creation is sacred and we have a duty to respect it.

In October I was privileged to meet with Pope Francis while attending an International Conference on Humanitarian Law. In an address to Military Bishops and Chaplains he reminded us to ‘never tire of remembering that even amid the devastations of war and conflict every person is immensely holy’. It is no secret that in this past decade the number of non-international conflicts in our world has risen from 30 in 2011 to 70 right now! This is of great concern, particularly for those involved in the promotion of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. The Pope invites us to live by our values and encourages young people to be ‘sensitive to other cultures and their richness and committed to a global citizenship, in order to promote the growth of one great human family’.

In this Christmas of 2019 we are reminded that we are all sisters and brothers who are blessed and holy. What is of concern to our sisters and brothers in Syria and Lebanon or Sligo and Limerick is surely of concern to us all. The message of Christmas is one of Joy and a belief that everyone is born in the image of God. It’s an invitation to be inclusive and to make room in our lives for something or someone new. It invites us to care for all, especially the weakest of our brothers and sisters. I am particularly conscious right now of those ‘fighting personal battles no one knows about’. Be assured we are here for each other in solidarity. Your Chaplaincy Team, along with various Defence Forces Personnel Services, is here for you; providing Pastoral Care and Spiritual Support for the living and Honour for those who have died. 

To our colleagues serving overseas at this time; Go raibh míle maith agaibh, for your most valuable service in the work of peace among our vulnerable sisters and brothers. Thanks also to your families, for their support which is vital and very much appreciated. To all who are serving at home or overseas during the Christmas season I thank you for your service, whether on land, sea or in the air. To family and friends of deceased members of our Defence Forces, please be assured of my prayers and those of our Chaplaincy Team at this time. May the souls of our serving and retired personnel, especially those who died during the past year Rest in Peace. Solas na bhFlaitheas dár n-anamacha.

On behalf of the Chaplaincy Service, may I wish everyone in Óglaigh na hÉireann, serving and retired, and your families a very Happy Christmas and every blessing for 2020!

Go bhfága áilleacht na Nollag sonas ort go deo.

An tAthair Séamus Ó Madagáin

God’s love endures forever (Psalm 117)

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