I want Advent to be different. I really want to try and value these next few weeks, to realise why God is giving us this time to prepare, and most importantly, to discover how this season is relevant to my life right now. As I sat and prayed about all this, I realised what an amazing this time could be, how much it could impact my relationship with God, if I let it.
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If you are English you may be unaware that 2016 is the quincentenary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia. In More’s native London, the anniversary has passed almost unnoticed, apart from a few low-key events at Somerset House. But the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Flanders has gone to town on it, with a programme of no less than 78 Utopia-themed projects.
In 2014, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) was recognized as a saint of the Catholic Church, and may God be praised for it! No one with the slightest amount of historical sensibility would doubt that he was a figure of enormous significance and truly global impact. What is it that made this man worthy particularly of canonization, of being “raised to the altars” throughout the Catholic world?
Professor Dani Rodrik of Harvard, writing in his book, The Globalization Paradox, describes the current phase of globalisation as hyper-globalisation, fuelled by an unprecedented burst in technological change. This, and the domination of free-market thinking in the aftermath of the Cold War, has fuelled it. The world now appears to be altering faster than at any time in its history.
The phenomenon of an aging population tends to be analysed through an economic lens and the issue of care for the elderly is often used as a political football. But how often do we step back and think clearly about our hopes and expectations for old age?
Religion itself thrives in places where liberal individualism fails. That’s the real clash of civilisations. By 2010, there were 2.2 billion Christians in the world and 1.6 billion Muslims, 31% and 23% of the world population respectively. The secularisation hypothesis is a European myth, a piece of myopic parochialism that shows how narrow our worldview continues to be.
A seminarian I know recently went to a party on a Friday evening at a local university campus. The group was a crowd of young, college students and when he was introduced as a seminarian, as someone who was trying to become a priest and who had taken a vow of celibacy, the mention of celibacy evoked some giggles in the room, some banter, and a number of jokes about how much he must be missing out on in life.
A teacher asked her class of nine-year-olds to draw a picture of the Ascension. Not surprisingly most of them did a fairly conventional portrait of Jesus rising up into the clouds. One of her students, David, who was a particularly gifted artist, had Jesus blasting off into the sky. Down the side of Jesus’ white garment was the word “Nasa”.
The Pope’s recent apostolic exhortation emphasises the need for the Church to be sensitive in the way it applies its teaching on marriage and relationships. No sooner has Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, appeared than there is an eagerness to claim that it does – or does not – involve a change in church teaching.
We’ve all had the feeling at times when in the face of a dire situation we need to do something, but there’s nothing we can do, no magic wand we can wave to make things better. But there is something we can do.
New York, 11 September 2001; Madrid, 11 March 2004; London, 7 July 2007; Mumbai, 26-29 November 2008; Nairobi, 21 September 2013; Paris, 13 November 2015 – and now Brussels, 22 March 2016. These are among the “days of infamy” when terrorists have indiscriminately slaughtered innocent civilians who were going about their daily lives.
For nearly two years, I explored the minutia of the historical data on whether Easter was myth or reality. I didn’t merely accept the New Testament at face value; I was determined only to consider facts that were well-supported historically. As my investigation unfolded, my atheism began to buckle.
The foot-washing ceremony during the Holy Thursday service will look different in some churches next week. A theologian and liturgist hopes that this change will lead to a recovery of the true meaning of the ritual. A curious link between the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Jean Vanier and Pope Francis is that each has attracted media attention – somewhat bewildered if not adverse – by their involvement in the washing of feet.
Fear is the heartbeat of the powerless. So writes Cor de Jonghe. That’s true. We can deal with most everything, except fear. The late Belgium spiritual writer, Bieke Vandekerkehove, in a very fine book, The Taste of Silence, shared very honestly about the demons that beset her as she faced a terminal illness at age nineteen. She singled out three particular demons that tormented her as she faced the prospect of death, sadness, anger, and fear.
We have to balance the need for alleged victims of sexual child abuse to be taken seriously against the need to protect those who cannot answer for themselves. ‘I don’t know if Bell was an abuser. But I am asked by Bishop Warner to take it on trust.’
As a cinemagoer, I’m being carefully targeted for conversion to a philosophy of life. If I don’t like it, that’s my problem. After all, this philosophy of life is completely self-evident to the film-makers, and assumed to be acceptable and attractive to every sane citizen. So advertising our Christian history is not intruding dangerous propaganda into a neutral and benign space. It is competing with existing propaganda, existing philosophies and ideologies. No wonder it’s a challenge for some.
Would you believe they want to make state schools even less Christian than they already are – accusing our many excellent Church schools of being ‘socially divisive’ and of promoting ‘segregation’ – and to revise the Coronation and services of remembrance to make them more inclusive?
Some years ago I was challenged by a Bishop regarding an article I’d written. We were talking in his office and the tone eventually got a little testy: “How can you write something like that?” he asked. “Because it’s true,” was my blunt reply.