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.
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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.
When he was young, my son struggled to acquire language but would happily watch silent movies and leaf through children’s picture books. I discovered that if I drew a cartoon strip and showed it to him, I could help him to understand and prepare for a family event or an outing to the park. When I didn’t take the time to do this, if something unexpected happened, it would lead to a tantrum or worse.
The Church can offer a message of encouragement to all of us to recognise and cherish the blessings of ageing, which, in turn, will help to overcome some of the challenges. Parishes can play a vital role in this by highlighting how older people can help us all to value the precious gift of life and prompt us to live that life fully.
There’s a real difference between our achievements and our fruitfulness, between our successes and the actual good that we bring into the world. What we achieve brings us success, gives us a sense of pride, makes our families and friends proud of us, and gives us a feeling of being worthwhile, singular, and important.
Britain’s very public grief: How the loss of Princess Diana changed our response to death. In the summer of 1997 I was – like many people at the time – more than a little intrigued by Princess Diana. My day began with scanning the papers, and they were brimming with stories about Diana. Like many women, I sympathised with her over her problems with her ex-husband, her difficulties with the former in-laws, and her desire to be the best possible mother to her two young sons.
The complexity of adulthood inevitably puts to death the naiveté of childhood. And this is true too of our faith. Not that faith is a naiveté. It isn’t. But our faith needs to be constantly reintegrated into our persons and matched up anew against our life’s experience; otherwise we will find it at odds with our life. But genuine faith can stand up to every kind of experience, no matter its complexity.
One year ago, virtually everyone who knew him was stunned by the suicide death of the most prominent American Hispanic theologian that we have produced up to now, Virgilio Elizondo. Moreover, Virgil wasn’t just a very gifted, pioneering theologian, he was also a beloved priest and a warm, trusted friend to countless people.
Joy is an infallible indication of God’s presence, just as the cross is an infallible indication of Christian discipleship. What a paradox! And Jesus is to blame. Like any loving parent, God wants his children to flourish in their lives, to make the sacrifices necessary to be responsible and altruistic, but not to see those sacrifices themselves as the real reason for being given life.
Yes, our lives, with all their tensions, restlessness, youthful immaturities, adult depressions, cold lonely seasons, times of doubt, times of desperation, breakdowns, and occasional irresponsible exuberance will surely be marked by flirtations and encounters that seem to exhibit desires that are not for the bread of life. But, they are, ultimately, and one day they will find and know their full consummation.
“To whom else shall we go? You have the message of eternal life.” Peter says these words to Jesus. But they are spoken in a very conflicted context: Jesus had just said something that upset and offended his audience and the gospels tell us that everyone walked away grumbling that what Jesus was teaching was “intolerable”.
There is a well-known quote from US children’s television host, Fred Rogers, which often circulates on social media in the wake of horrific events: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”