Culture and Society

Credit Josh Applegate via Unsplash
July is the height of summer for most of us in the northern hemisphere; schools and colleges complete their syllabi for the year and, for the minority of us who can afford it, holidays and August beckon. So many of us have no chance of a holiday, either in the sense of going away somewhere different or in the sense of respite from a lived reality marked by suffering, by poverty or by violence. Sometimes, too, we’re tempted to take a holiday from our lived faith, from the obligations that we...
A rifle, from unsplash by Thomas Tucker
The Monthly Intentions of the Holy Father are our way of sharing his concerns and taking these into our own hearts and prayer. Sometimes these concerns can be uncomfortable, even challenging. That is because they must be about real-life issues and these can often be complex and awkward. Our Christian faith is no better than superstition if we restrict it to safe topics or only with a restricted range of concerns, deemed appropriate. This month’s First Intention of the Holy Father is one such –...
Asparagus by Tiffany Gallen on Unsplash
Not everyone likes asparagus.I know this because Glen - an American friend of mine - has recently “come out” as an asparagus hater after many years of silent suffering, false smiles and little white lies. But his thin veneer of civilization finally cracked last Thanksgiving at the family dinner (for Brits, think Christmas dinner, but with more patriotism). And he still believes that it would never have happened if his dad hadn’t insisted on a second round of bourbon before dinner. (Again for...
A class of children. Used from Unsplash.com
To be honest, I’m not generally the best with commandments, either at giving them or keeping them. But two experiences have really changed my understanding of what they are.The first was a time in my life before I became a priest when I was sent by my Jesuit superiors to be a teacher. I was not good at it and I did not enjoy it. My big problem was that I just could not keep order in class. One word from me and the children did whatever they wanted to do. I tried everything I could - I tried...
Allegreto Nuzi
The Pieta gallery in Stonyhurst College contains a remarkable 14th century painting.  This beautiful altarpiece on wood, in its original frame, repays taking a few minutes out of a busy day to appreciate.It was painted by Allegreto Nuzi, a little-known 14th century painter from Fabriano, in Ancona in northern Italy. He served his apprenticeship as a painter in Florence and Siena in the 1340s, where he fused the traditional Sienese Byzantine linear style of painting with the more three-...
JPII Statue in Mexico by Jorge Zapata on unsplash.com
Some people will have just one vivid memory of the 2nd April, 2005. It was the day Pope John Paul the Second died – the greatest and best shepherd of our lifetime. That is the only thing that most people remember about that day.But the other thing that I remember from that day is that it was also the day I heard of the death of Dennis, the greatest church leader I have ever met personally. (Admittedly, I never met the Pope.) Not one, but two very great shepherds died that day.Our Holy Father’s...
Credit Andrew Itaga via Unsplash
Generations of Catholics have long known the month of May as Mary’s month. Ignatian spirituality provides us with a wonderful way of combining the Pope’s First Intention of this month, “that Christians in Africa, in imitation of the Merciful Jesus, may give prophetic witness to reconciliation, justice, and peace”, with our particular devotional focus this month.  St Ignatius recommends, in his Spiritual Exercises, that we take our petitions to Our Lady and ask her to present them to her...
Stephen Power SJ with brothers at the opening mass of GC36
There were several firsts at the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus last year. It was the first time tablets had been used by the members for electronic voting, making it a ‘paperless’ Congregation. GC36 elected the first Superior General from outside of Europe: Fr Arturo Sosa SJ from Venezuela. It was the first time that a General Congregation had been addressed by a Jesuit Pope. And it was also a first for six Jesuit Brothers, who took part in the General Congregation as ‘...
Schindler's Factory in Krakow Schindler's list installation from wikimedia commons
‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’Tertullian, writing in the 2nd Century, says that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church. And, since he was there at the time, I guess we have to take his word for it.One thing that only occurred to me recently: martyrs are only canonized with hindsight, and usually a few hundred years after the event. In any culture, at any time, there are only a very few people with the integrity and foresight to...
April’s First Intention of the Holy Father, commended to all of the people of God for their prayer, points towards a big topic that will become even more prominent next year, at the next meeting of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. The preliminary work has already begun towards that next gathering, which will deal with young people’s concerns and vocations. For this month, Pope Francis asks that our prayers be joined to his, that young people may respond generously to their vocations and seriously...

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