Frs. Michael Coutts, left, and Henk van Meijel on the set of the Daily TV Mass. Photo courtesy National Catholic Broadcasting Council

TV Mass priests help share Christmas hope

  • December 17, 2020

It is a sad fact that melancholy is a palatable state of mind for many as Dec. 25 approaches — especially in this year of the pandemic.

However, we must continue to kindle hope in our heart, says Fr. Henk van Meijel, who will preside over the Daily TV Mass on Christmas Day on behalf of the National Catholic Broadcasting Council (NCBC).

“The central theme of my Christmas homily this year is that there is always light at the end of the tunnel,” said the Jesuit priest who joined the priesthood at age 50 in 2006. “What are the blessings in our life that we can count each day, and what can we learn from our suffering?”

Van Meijel, lauded by viewers as a man who “speaks from his heart,” hit all of those thematic beats in his sermon, which he pre-recorded in the first week of the month. He and Daily TV Mass colleague Fr. Michael Coutts, S.J., are fully mindful that TV and online viewers from around the world desire a message evoking the imagery of a candlelight enduring in the dark.

Coutts, conveying a homily on Dec. 23, has spoken healing words in times of adversity before as his tenure as Daily TV Mass celebrant began the week of 9/11. He and his brother priests can also draw on the early weeks of the pandemic and Easter, when believers in Christ sought a rudder when churches were closed from coast to coast.

“I have considered the TV Mass from the beginning as an apostolate enriched to proclaim the Good News to all as Jesus was blessed by the Holy Spirit to do. If people live without hope there is no point to living actually. There was a constant need to give hope and to not distress over COVID so often because people are so tired of hearing about the pandemic.”

Those in hospitals and long-term care rooms, including Coutts’ parents, were on his mind as he spoke from the heart. Coutts, a past director of the Manresa Jesuit Spiritual Renewal Centre in Pickering, Ont., was stunned when the television audience swelled from the usual 20,000 to 80,000-90,000 viewers. On YouTube, viewership soared to as high as 413,000 on Palm Sunday.

Coutts’ and van Meijel’s homilies also strike an empathetic chord because they too have experienced the emotional devastation of COVID-19 as seven of their Jesuit brothers passed away from an outbreak at René Goupil House, the Jesuit infirmary community at Manresa.

Van Meijel says we need to maintain the perspective that we are fortunate to be Canadians.

“We are so blessed to live in Canada with all the social programs available to help the vulnerable,” he said. “What about the people who have so much less who live in shanty towns in Manila or Brazil?”

Hundreds of thousands of Catholics from around the world are expected to tune into the Daily TV Mass during Christmas week. Van Meijel knows a virtual Mass cannot match the communal praise of the newborn King. But he says devotion to prayer and daily reflection about small daily miracles can help inspire a mindset for meaningful worship.

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