Spiritual Journeys

A sign pointing toward happily ever after - photo from Unsplash
Some years ago, I knew a young woman, a teacher, whose dearest wish in life was to be married and to have a large family. However, her first problem was that she couldn’t find a “good man”. Apparently there is a widespread shortage of “good” men. There are lots of men around, but apparently not many “good” men. But, eventually, when she was 32, she found a possible candidate. After only two years of courtship, agonised decision–making and huge telephone bills, they were married and settled down...
Jigsaw Credit Hans-Peter Gauster via Unsplash
I was fascinated to come across the work of the psychologist Paul Bloom recently. In his book Against Empathy –  The Case for Rational Compassion, he challenges the received wisdom about the importance of empathy.  The ability to empathise, “to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” is rightly valued. We also know that all sorts of pathologies come from a lack of empathy - psychopaths, sociopaths etc. When Donald Trump tweets negatively about a particular group or country, we are...
2016 Presidential campaign Wikimedia Commons
Some years ago, a young English trainee journalist was invited to have the experience of going on the campaign of an American presidential candidate. Like most trainee journalists, he had little respect for politicians (and not just American ones). He saw them as vain, boastful, proud men – and women, with few principles and even fewer scruples - sometimes corrupt, often complaisant, almost always deceitful. But he thought it would be good experience anyway, so he went. And, straightaway, his...
Woman praying Credit Guilherme Romano
Pope Francis constantly invites us to think about specific concerns and challenges that face all of humanity and the Christian’s mission in the world. We are not only to think about these issues but to take them into our prayer then, from there, to try to be more open to whatever action we might be drawn towards, in the power of the Good Spirit. His Prayer Network, which anyone can join, is the principle means by which the Holy Father shares these prayer-requests with the rest of us, indeed...
Photo by Walter Chávez on Unsplash
The Gospel for the fourth Sunday of Advent, tells us the story of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus.  At this moment Christ comes into our world.   As we say in the Angelus “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and she conceived by the Holy Spirit”.  At Midnight Mass, as we move into our celebration of Christmas, we shall hear the story of the birth of Mary’s child.  On the Sunday after Christmas the Feast of the Holy Family...
Fr David Stewart SJ
Pope Francis said, in a powerful and outspoken intervention reported on Friday, that "The presence of God today is also called 'Rohingya'." This of course was the word that he had carefully avoided using while he was in Myanmar. This came in Bangladesh, to where he had next travelled. The report had it that he next said: "Maybe we can't do much for you, but your tragedy has a place in our hearts. For those who have hurt you, and above all the indifference of the world, I ask your forgiveness."...
Damian Howard SJ at Nick Austin SJ's final vows
Homily by Fr Provincial Damian Howard at the Final Vows Mass of Nicholas Austin SJ, 1st December 2017.Nicholas Owen Austin’s adventure in the Society of Jesus began in September 1996 when he entered the novitiate in Birmingham under the druidic tutelage of the late Fr Patrick Purnell, a much-missed Welsh Jesuit. Two years later Nick pronounced his first vows during a Mass celebrated in Harborne, Birmingham. On that occasion, he promised that, at a later date, he would “enter the Society of...
Elderly woman credit Bill Hamway
December is a full month. There’s Advent, Christmas and New Year’s Eve and so much else in both the Church’s calendar and in the secular world. It’s cold and dark in our northern hemisphere. Our cities and towns try to counter the seasonal gloom by means of the lights, decorations and consumerism of the commercial season. Followers of Christ typically lament how little of Christ there is in Christmas any more, while some in authority make it their business to eradicate what little is left,...
Nick Austin SJ preaching at Farm St
When friends, family or colleagues learn that I’m about to take my Final Vows as a member of the Society of Jesus, they are often surprised that it has taken this long. I have been a Jesuit for 21 years, and a priest for 11. ‘And you still haven’t taken Final Vows? I knew that Jesuit training took a long time, but I didn’t know it took that long!’ Well, I guess we’re slow learners...During a Mass on 1st December at Farm Street Church, I will kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and take vows of...
Fr Holman with Fr Carlos in Golra Sharif
I spent the month of July this year in Pakistan, responding to a request from the Jesuits there for assistance with retreats for religious. I directed the Presentation sisters and some of the Jesuits, while another Jesuit directed the Sisters of Jesus and Mary and the Daughters of the Heart of Mary.For much of the time we were based in the northern hill town of Murree, 7000 feet above the cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, where the climate was cool in contrast to the oppressive summer heat...

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