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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.
Amongst the greatest evils of our century must be counted the fact that the churches are so divided one from another that there is scarcely even a human relationship between us; at all events there is not the shining light of that holy fellowship of the members of Christ, of which many boast in word, but which few seek sincerely indeed.
To be more in touch with our souls we might examine an older language, the language that religion, poets, mythologists, and lovers used before today’s dominant materialism turned our language about the soul into the language of chemistry and mechanism. We cannot understand the soul through any scientific description but only by looking at its behavior, its insatiability, its dissatisfactions, and its protests. A soul isn’t explained, it’s experienced.
Despite the rise of Evangelicals and Pentecostalists in Latin America, the Catholic Church is not necessarily on the decline, according to sociologist Jean-Pierre Bastian.
The parish is the perfect venue for evangelisation, but the opportunities that present themselves have to be grasped. It helps if everyone who deals with the public is tuned in to these opportunities. St Francis de Sales (a patron of communication) taught that you catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel full of vinegar.
The original disciples did not come to recognise the divinity of Jesus Christ as a result of reading a theological textbook. They did so by reflecting prayerfully on their personal experience of his life and discussing (and no doubt arguing) amongst themselves about what he had said and how and why he had died – and what came after.
Thirty years ago, the American Educator, Allan Bloom, wrote a book entitled, The Closing of the American Mind. This was his thesis: In our secularized world today our language is becoming ever-more empirical, one-dimensional, and devoid of depth and this is closing our minds by stripping us of the deeper meanings inside our own experience. For Bloom, how we name an experience determines to a large extent its meaning.