Culture and Society

A close up of a set of rosary beads
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”The one patient for whom no doctor can do anything is the patient who doesn’t think that he has a problem. I have a good friend who is an alcoholic. Since you will never meet him, I will tell you that his name is Tom. He has now not drunk alcohol for ten years, but he still knows that he is an alcoholic. Before that, his drinking destroyed his family, his job, his home and very nearly killed him. One day during Lent ten years ago, the...
British cinema poster for Moonraker, illustrated by Dan Gouzee © United Artists
Over the last year, I have been reading and enjoying the James Bond novels. It is good to get beyond the famous movie franchise and see Bond and the narratives as they were originally portrayed by the author, Ian Fleming.Fleming’s prose is wonderfully visual and crisp. As the story-line in the novels develops, Bond matures: the tightly-coiled 007 of Casino Royale is simple, harsh and unforgiving; but as his friendships grow, he becomes more complex and thoughtful towards the final...
Old books
“It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.”When the Falklands war started, I was about 18 and we happened to be living next door to the Argentinean naval attaché. My mother heard the news on the radio and (being that kind of woman) immediately went next door to ask him what it was all about – and what in particular the Argentinians wanted with what she thought were some semi-detached bits of Scotland. He was horrified at the news, “...
Adolfo Nicholas SJ (right) with Pope Francis
The next superior general of the Society of Jesus, the thirtieth successor of St Ignatius, will be elected by the General Congregation convening in Rome on 2 October. It is just the thirty-sixth in our 476-year history and will include provincials and elected representatives from each province, the number depending on its size. For the first time, brothers, who are not ordained, will participate in the election. From Britain, the provincial, Father Dermot Preston, is joined by Father Damian...
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Saint Ignatius Loyola didn’t like meetings. More accurately, living in an age of slow and dangerous travel, he felt that frequent international meetings risked disrupting the work that Jesuits would be doing more locally. So rather than having regular general chapters, like the older religious orders, he stipulated that the Society of Jesus would only summon a General Congregation when a General Superior had died, and it was necessary to elect his successor, or “when it is necessary...
A man lights a cigarette in the dark
I have a very good friend who is a drug addict. He hasn’t used any “stuff” for about four years now, but he still calls himself a drug addict. And his story is the usual one.At about age 12 he started smoking cigarettes, not because he really liked them, but because it was fashionable, all his friends were doing it and also because it was a really good way of annoying his parents. About age 15, he began using a little marijuana because that made him feel good and because there...
A Child's Baptism on Flickr by Joe Green
Baptism  means being where Jesus is.  It places us in the place of Jesus.  The New Testament makes it clear that one of the most important ways in which this is expressed is through the fact that we pray the prayer of Jesus as we stand in the place of Jesus.  That is, in the Holy Spirit we say, ‘Abba, Father’. Yet where Jesus is, is in itself a many-layered notion.  Jesus is in the presence of God the Father and so when we stand where Jesus is we too...
The communal sharing of food
There used to be a tradition in Ireland that at a christening the godparents would give the newly baptised infant a little silver christening cup. But when my mother was asked to be godmother to my cousin Catherine, she didn’t have the money to get it immediately.But eventually it was bought.And then it had to be engraved.And then it had to be polished.And then I think if we are honest, it got a little bit forgotten about, gathering dust on a high shelf.Then my family moved to another...
Quote by Muhammad Ali
“People from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” [Luke 13.29]When I was at College, I had a friend Peter who is a Catholic and he shared a house with a Muslim called Abdul. They were both very religious people, each in his own way but, despite their differences, they got on very well. And it wasn’t until they had been staying together about six weeks that they had a really big argument about religion. Neither...
Credit Matt Lee via Unsplash
This month, Pope Francis has asked us to join him in a prayer for, and about, sports – that sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world. Do we ever think about sports as a topic for our prayer? Maybe, only when our favourite team is about to participate in a big match or prestigious tournament! Maybe the only time we ever might link our prayer and whatever sport we follow, or play, is at that moment, and it’s...

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