Imagine being born blind and living into adulthood without ever having seen light and color. Then, through some miraculous operation, doctors are able to give you sight. What would you feel immediately upon opening your eyes? Wonder? Bewilderment? Ecstasy? Pain? Some combination of all of these?
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I am traveling in the United States, a country where one of the fastest growing religious identifications is “former Catholic” and where over the past few years the number of people who describe themselves as having no religion has topped one in five. Many of those, of course, are former Catholics.
On the eve of the Communist Party National Congress, which will usher in a new leadership in the world’s most populous country, China’s top-ranking churchman is warning not to expect “too much” from the leadership changes. However, he remains “optimistic” that relations between Beijing and the Vatican will improve “in the long run.”
The effect of religious practices on our wellbeing is of growing interest. But in looking at the links, we must not confuse the two. 'What is not being asked is what religious traditions actually teach about the link between faith and health.
In her most recent book, a series of essays entitled, When I was a Child I Read Books, Marilynne Robinson includes an essay called Wondrous Love. She begins the essay autobiographically, confessing her deep, long-standing, faith as a Christian and her ever deepening wonder and awe at the mystery of God.
Anyone who has ever tried to overcome an addiction can answer that question. A clear head, a clear vision of what's to be done, and a solid resolution to leave a bad habit behind is only a half-job, a first step, an important one, but only an initial one. The tough part is still ahead.
Cormac Murphy-O’Connor tells Cole Moreton and Edward Malnick that the Catholic Church is in rude health and he is still, aged 80, its faithful servant Cormac. Murphy-O’Connor could have been wearing ermine and sitting in the House of Lords by now.
Art can save your soul – providing pride does not get in the way. I also read recently the moving testimony of a convert from Islam, whose journey into the Church was aided by Michelangelo’s Pieta in St Peter’s. Again, the French (secular) Jewish philosopher, Simone Weil, was deeply influenced by the metaphysical poets in her own journey towards acceptance of Christianity (though she chose not to be baptised).
If you put all the books you own on the street outside your house, you might expect them to disappear in a trice. But one man in Manila tried it - and found that his collection grew. Hernando Guanlao is a sprightly man in his early 60s, with one abiding passion - books.
Nikos Kazantzakis once suggested that there are three kinds of souls and three kinds of prayers: When I look at life, I also see three great struggles, not unlike those so poetically named by Kazantzakis. And each of these has a corresponding level of Christian discipleship.
Several years ago, I was at church meeting where we were discussing liturgical rubrics. There was heated discussion over a number of issues: Should the congregation be standing or kneeling during the Eucharistic prayer? What is the most reverent way to receive communion? Should laypersons be allowed to cleanse the chalice and cups after communion?
They will be looking for work. But as they sleep in the bed that was theirs when they were ten, and eat "a proper" breakfast made by their mother, they must wonder how to reconcile their return to a childish life with appearing autonomous and ambitious in job interviews.
Cardinal Carlo Martini has denounced the church's conservatism from beyond the grave – he's right on some counts. So was Martini right about the church being quite so out of date? Indeed, is it the place of the church to adapt wholesale to the spirit of the age? Or rather, does it not have a role to speak out against the ideas of the times, to be prophetic?
The rich are getting richer, and we are almost beyond surprise at how rich that is. Every day, our newspapers, our televisions, and the internet, report financial compensations that, even just a generation ago, were unimaginable. And what's our reaction? Difficult to judge. We express indignation and protest that this is out of proportion, even as we nurse a not-so-secret envy: I wish it was me!
The Education Secretary talks about the bishops, free schools and his admiration for the Pope. “Education Secretaries come and go,” he says, “but the Catholic Church’s role in education is global and enduring.”