Unless you somehow have a foot outside of your culture, the culture will swallow you whole. Daniel Berrigan wrote that and it’s true too in this sense: Unless you can drink in strength from a source outside yourself, your natural proclivities for paranoia, bitterness, and hatred will invariably swallow you whole.
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For MacMillan, Catholicism is not about sides or factions – “it’s much more profound than that” – and though he has been an excoriating critic of the banality of much post-Vatican II church music, he now finds the so-called “liturgy wars” wearing. “I can’t be bothered with any of that any more,” he tells me. “Sara’s death made me realise what is important in life, and what is not.”
We share the world with more than seven and a half billion people and each of us has the irrepressible, innate sense that we are special and uniquely destined. This isn’t surprising since each one of us is indeed unique and special. But how does one feel special among seven and half billion others?
Writing in the first person is always a risk, but the subject matter of this column is best done, I feel, through personal testimony. In a world where chastity and celibacy are seen as naïve and to be pitied and where there’s a general skepticism that anyone is actually living them out, personal testimony is perhaps the most effective protest.
I am convinced more and more that the secret of remaining young and beautiful is to stay in love like my friend, who remains beautiful inside and stays the same after so many years despite her weakening body.
The power of a subordinate clause, one nuance within a sentence and everything takes on a different meaning. That’s the case in a recent brilliant, but provocative, novel, The Ninth Hour, by Nina McDermott. She tells a story which, among other things, focuses on a group of nuns in Brooklyn who work with the poor.
We must look closely at the direction our lives are taking, at the social, psychological, cultural, economic and other influences that draw us away from our vocation as Christians. And then, we must turn from them. That is easier said than done. In fact, we cannot do it. We need the grace of God, a grace we embrace by believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that God forgives sin.
We live in a world of deep divisions. Everywhere we see polarization, people bitterly divided from each other by ideology, politics, economic theory, moral beliefs, and theology. We tend to use over-simplistic categories within which to understand these divisions: the left and the right opposing each other, liberals and conservatives at odds, pro-life vying with pro-choice.
There’s a line in the writings of Julian of Norwich, the famous 14th century mystic and perhaps the first theologian to write in English, which is endlessly quoted by preachers, poets, and writers: But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. It’s her signature teaching.
Taste is subjective. Keep that in mind as I share with you the ten books that most touched me this past year. That isn’t necessarily a recommendation that you read them. They may leave you cold, or angry at me that I praised them. Be your own critic here and one who isn’t afraid to be critical of my taste.
It was not too many years ago the dominant narrative of the Catholic Church was its fight against atheism, Communism, and secularization. The sub-narrative was the institutional Church’s battle against liberal theologians.But now the overriding narrative seems to concern the Catholic Church’s war with itself. In an increasingly divided world, the Church appears to represent something very different from a community of unity and reconciled diversities.
Nightmare on Downing Street: An enfeebled Government face political challenges on an unprecedented scale
It is impossible to predict what might happen next. Working all these years at Westminster, I have witnessed many crises, sat on the edge of my seat many times, wondering how each in a succession of prime ministers will weather the political trials they face – but doing so somehow always with a confident sense that right will prevail.
If laughter is based on knowledge and understanding (you can only truly laugh at a joke if you’re in on it enough to get it), then it seems to follow that the kind of laughter the Bible does prize is that of those who are in sync with the divine plan for the world, and who are on the right side of God’s covenant.
BROKEN ENGLISH: Catholics in England and Wales would continue to be restricted to the use of the current, much criticised, missal.
Last week, the Bishops’ Conference announced that in spite of Pope Francis’ instruction that they should have more authority over liturgical translations, Catholics in England and Wales would continue to be restricted to the use of the current, much criticised, Missal.
Shortly after the Russian Civil War, Leon Trotsky, the People’s Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs, sent a vexed note to the Soviet Politburo: “There is a church outside my window. Out of 10 passers-by … at least seven, if not eight, cross themselves when they walk past. And many of those who walk past are Red Army soldiers.”
There’s a growing body of literature today that chronicles the experience of persons who were clinically dead for a period of time (minutes or hours) and were medically resuscitated and brought back to life. Many of us, for example, are familiar with Dr. Eben Alexander’s book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.
When we are exasperated and driven to our knees by a tragedy which is too painful and senseless to accept and absorb our groans of helplessness are in fact the Spirit of God groaning in us, suffering all that it isn’t, yearning for goodness, beseeching God in a language beyond words.