Culture and Society

Homeless men asleep on church benches
“Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”My worlds of priesthood and medicine don’t often collide, but just and again it happens – usually it’s funny; sometimes it’s sad; just now and again it’s inspiring.Just recently, I came across in this very Church one of my patients who, he wouldn’t mind my saying, is homeless and has quite a lot of both physical and mental health problems. And it...
Thatched_roof_houses_in_Guyana
“I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love.”The best – the very best - church leader I have ever known is not a priest, or a nun, or indeed any other kind of “professional” religious. He is an Amerindian lay church leader and he works in a Church community in a little village in the Amazon, many thousands of miles away from here. Perhaps I should explain: in the Rupununi, there are about 30,000...
As students all over the world enter exam season – are we putting them under too much stress?  Exams and anxiety go hand in hand, we all want to do well when we face a test. Jesus’ ultimate test was when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and we are told that he sweated blood as he prayed before his arrest.  This is no exaggeration – sweating blood  is a medically acknowledged phenomenon, Hematohidrosis, that has been observed in times of great stress....
praying with the rosary
In this month of May we’re asked to pray with Pope Francis for respect for women: that in every country of the world, women may be honoured and respected, and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed. The pope’s Evangelisation Intention concerns the Holy Rosary: that families, communities and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelisation and peace.It’s well known that, not long ago in our own history, women had to struggle for the most basic of...
Close up of a guitar being played - image from unsplash.com
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is play guitar in church, in South America, in the dark.I always used to enjoy playing with the Cathedral choir. But what would often happen is that just as we were playing nicely along a little hymn then suddenly, with no warning, all the lights would go out and we would be plunged into the most absolute darkness. The Blackout came without warning, or prediction, apparently at the time of its own malevolent choosing. Perhaps it was just my...
Long shot of whiskey being poured into a glass with ice.
“By this love you have for one anotherEveryone will know that you are my disciples.”Our religion is – or should be – the most complete possible expression in our lives of the love that God has shown to us. Sadly, it is not always so; there have been times when religious difference has caused people to fail enormously in love for one another. Even people who call themselves Christians have sometimes failed to love other Christians of a different stripe. Nowhere has that...
An older man praying
“when you grow oldyou will stretch out your hands,and somebody else will put a belt round youand take you where you would rather not go.”I think we’ve all had experiences of being taken where we would rather not go…Until about five years before his death, Father – I’ll call him Father John - was not the best loved man in the British Province of the Society of Jesus - not by a long chalk. He was respected certainly, admired even, for his zeal, commitment,...
A farmer on his farm, ploughing
Here in the northern hemisphere, spring arrives around now yet many of us feel anything but spring-like, despite the fact that the Lord is risen indeed and that plant-life in our gardens, city squares and window-sills is burgeoning, even blooming. There just seems too much to sadden, even terrify us, too many reasons to repudiate hope. It feels that our days are darker, not brighter. But the new life is springing; “now the green blade riseth”, as we can sing. We can learn much from...
Parent holding baby's hand
We all know that if something is too good to be true, then it probably isn’t. We’ve all been fooled at some time and none of us wants to be fooled again.Most people have more sense than to believe things that cannot possibly be true. Things like, if you have seen a man killed before your own eyes, seen him dead, you are not going believe that he is alive, well and going around doing miracles unless you see at least the same quality of evidence put before you. That’s why all of...
George C Scott as General Patton
Obscure half-forgotten films can sometimes be the source of rare gems of wisdom.One afternoon in the late 80’s, lazily watching afternoon TV instead of writing a theology essay, I became engrossed in a fine little TV movie called “The Last Days of Patton”. It was a sequel to the legendary film, “Patton” and also starred George C. Scott reprising the role of General George S. Patton which earned Scott an Oscar in the original 1970 movie.Patton was a remarkable leader of men; arrogant and half-...

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