Happy New Year of Care
In December, Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service asked me: “What gives you hope for 2021 as it begins? And what do you hope Catholics will do to make 2021 a better year for everyone?”
Cindy’s excellent questions prompted me to wonder what the traditional ‘Happy New Year’ greeting meant in the good old days ‘BC’ – before COVID-19.
“Here’s wishing you more of the same good things,” I decided it meant, “along with, if possible, a bit of improvement.”
But that doesn’t work this time around.
As Pope Francis often repeats, so eloquently, “Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned [from the annus horribilis 2020 is] the need to improve what we were already doing … is denying reality” (Fratelli tutti 7).
Right! So the first step to really meaning “Happy New Year of 2021” is to stop fantasizing about the old normal. The vaccine is good and important, but it won’t bring 2019 back. Don’t even think of it!
Instead, we have to wish each other an entirely new, a radically new, new year of 2021, going forward differently and not turning back.
Paraphrasing Pope Francis’s homily on the first day of the new year, 2021 will be a good year only if we start taking care of each other and of our common home. And make no mistake; in this perspective, “each other” doesn’t mean “our own and forget the rest”; it means all our brothers and sisters, beginning with the neediest and most vulnerable, as well as future generations too.
That’s my hope and prayer for us as Catholics and as Earth-dwellers: “Happy New Year of 2021” means seeing clearly, for the first time, that our only sound hope and our only sustainable happiness will come from caring for each other and our common home. Nothing less, despite the enormous effort and major changes this new way of life will require, will make the new year happy.
This is what I wish for you, and to you I promise the same. “To all I offer my best wishes that the coming year will enable humanity to advance on the path of fraternity, justice and peace between individuals, communities, peoples and nations.”
So perhaps you can say with me, “Happy New Year of Care” to everyone we meet!
 Pope Francis, “A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace,” Message for the 54th World day of Peace, 1 January 2021.