As you leave the Beatitudes community in southern France, you drive through vast woods where you encounter brothers and sisters on bicycles in long white robes - their monastic habit – and you get the feeling that you have stayed much longer, probably because there is such immediate conviviality and fraternity here.
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What does it mean to “be born again, to “be born from above”? If you’re an Evangelical or Baptist, you’ve probably already answered that for yourself. However, if you’re a Roman Catholic or a mainline Protestant then the phrase probably isn’t a normal part of your spiritual vocabulary and, indeed, might connote for you a biblical fundamentalism which confuses you.
The problem in the world and in the churches, Jim Wallis suggests, is that, perennially, conservatives get it wrong and liberals (over-reacting to conservatives) then don’t get it at all. Nowhere is this truer, I believe, than in how we discern the finger of God in the events of our lives.
Simone Weil once commented that it’s not enough today to be merely a saint; rather “we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment.” She’s surely right on that second premise; we need saints whose virtues speak to the times.
Peru’s people had a very different energy, a special quality. I know I’m generalising, but so what? Nations do produce stereotypes, and the majority actually do conform. I mean, if Mario Vargas Llosa can get away with saying, just last week, that “Britain... still seems to me to be the most civilised and democratic country in the world” then I can surely generalise enthusiastically about his homeland.
Might the current crisis in the Church be a moment of renewal? A sociologist of religion argues that the best hope for a revitalised Church might lie in dialogue with a ‘post-secular’ world. Perhaps this moment just might be an opportunity for the Church – laity and leaders – to dig deep into the Catholic tradition and to search there for resources that could help it to forge new relevance.
Growing up as a Roman Catholic, like the rest of my generation, I was taught a prayer called, The Act of Contrition. Every Catholic back then had to memorize it and say it during or after going to confession. The prayer started this way: Oh, my God, I am truly sorry for having offended thee and I detest all of my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. …
News headlines in the UK are often focused on the number of foreign citizens moving to the UK from abroad, with those going the other way getting less attention. Emigration figures show that although the number of British citizens moving abroad has slowed slightly, there were still 121,000 people choosing to up-sticks in the year to September 2018.
Across Europe the hegemony of centre-right and centre-left governments have been challenged by populist movements. Brexit has polarised the nation, driving people towards the extreme ends of the spectrum instead of towards the middle. It is this factor above all that made Theresa May's approach so difficult.
Many Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants, I suspect, may not be very familiar with Rachel Held Evans or have read her works. She wrote four best-selling books, Inspired, Searching for Sunday, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Faith Unraveled.
Famous icon poignantly symbolizes the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Russian painter Andrei Rublev's 'The Hospitality of Abraham' icon from the 15th century has long been perceived as an evocation of the Trinity.Three characters are sitting around three sides of a table, leaving open the symbolic possibility of the viewer joining them.
Our differences are not a threat but a treasure. Jean Vanier, the Founder of L’Arche, who died in Paris on May 7th wrote those words, but their truth is far from self-evident. One might question whether those words are simply a nice-sounding poetics or whether they contain an actual truth. Our differences, in fact, are often a threat.
The Ascension, which the Church celebrates this Sunday, is often misunderstood as the moment when 40 days after Easter Christ suddenly vanished from the earth. As a Cistercian abbot explains, the true story of the Ascension is very much more attractive and mysterious.
During the years that I served as a Religious Superior for a province of Oblate Priests and Brothers in Western Canada, I tried to keep my foot inside the academic world by doing some adjunct teaching at the University of Saskatchewan. It was always a once-a-week, night course, advertised as a primer on Christian theology, and drew a variety of students.
A reporter once asked two men at the construction site where a church was being built what each did for a living. The first man replied: “I’m a bricklayer.” The second said: “I’m building a cathedral!” How we name an experience largely determines its meaning.
Hell is never a nasty surprise waiting for a basically happy person. Nor is it necessarily a predicable ending for an unhappy, bitter person. Can a happy, warm-hearted person go to hell? Can an unhappy, bitter person go to heaven? That’s all contingent upon how we understand hell and how we read the human heart.
Different spiritualities stress one or the other of these: the ascent, the descent, or (less commonly) maintenance, but a good spirituality will stress all three: Train your eyes upward, don’t forget to look downward, and keep your feet planted firmly on the ground.