Spiritual Journeys

An older man listening
An old friend of mine is a cardiologist - a specialist heart doctor. In fact, he is probably the most respected specialist heart doctor in his country. After a stellar academic career, he became at 43 the youngest professor of cardiology in his country’s history. Through his research, he has introduced new techniques and better treatments which have saved the lives of many hundreds of patients. And he is also a good man - a man of great prayer and personal holiness – rather more so than is...
Philip Harrison SJ, far right
Perched high in the Colombian Andes, the city of Bogotá basks in strong sunlight and is battered by rain in equal measure. It is home to one of three centres for theological formation in Latin America that train young Jesuits preparing for life as a priest or a brother. In this crucial stage of formation, the aim is to cultivate a thorough understanding of our Catholic faith, in such a way that it can give meaning and hope to those we will meet in the many situations in which Jesuits live and...
Bernard Hall SJ shares memories at Leo Arnold's funeral mass
Fr Provincial Dermot Preston SJ has just returned from the funeral of Leo Arnold SJ.  In the last year Leo had been living in the Peter Canisius retirement community close to the Jesuit Curia, but for much of his apostolic life he had been based at the Biblicum in Rome. Leo was an Arabic scholar and in the early 60’s was assigned to Beirut; but in the mid-70s, with the onset of the civil war in Lebanon, he was re-missioned to Rome. Leo was a frequent summer visitor back to the UK doing...
Lifted hands in praise
For the next twenty Sundays, we hear the voice of Matthew in our Sunday gospels. From the earliest days of Christianity, this gospel has been the one most quoted by the Fathers of the church and most used in her liturgy. One reason for this is the abundance of the teaching of Jesus that it includes: Matthew is surely a scribe “trained for the kingdom of heaven who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:51). He is the evangelist who offers us the most elevated...
Young girl with tear running down her face
“I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.”I have a friend – a good and holy Jesuit who is also a world-renowned Biblical expert. I’ll call him Fr John Smith. And his particular expertise is in Biblical languages – he is supposed to know many of the languages which existed in Palestine in Old Testament times, which is not bad at his current age of 92!But, to tell you the truth, he is also an...
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 man holds a loaf of bread
I think I know how John the Baptist must have felt when everywhere he went people kept asking him “Are you Elijah – come back from the dead?”. Everywhere I went in Guyana, people always used to ask me: “Are you related to Bryan O’Reilly?”To which I had to respond: “only as brothers in the Lord”. It seemed to disappoint them hugely. One couple came to see me from three hundred miles away in Brazil because they had heard that Fr O’Reilly was back in the Amazon and were so disappointed that my...
Credit jtdirl at Wikipedia
‘SPIRITUALITY’ is a word that the famous and very popular Jewish Rabbi, writer, and broadcaster Lionel Blue said he felt uneasy and uncomfortable to use, “because,” he wrote “I am not a see-through spirit.” It is easy to see what he meant. Spirituality can seem to exclude all the normal human pleasures and practicalities of human life, and can be an unfortunately woolly word sometimes cloaking some pretty woolly religious thinking. Yet we need the word to cover the spiritual needs of human life...
Humpty Dumpty and Alice John Tenniel via Wikimedia Commons
In the fantastic world which Lewis Carroll describes in his book Through the Looking Glass, the young Alice meets a whole host of very strange creatures. Among them is an old sheep who spends her time knitting while running a small shop which is packed with curious things. After peering around for some time, Alice decides to buy an egg, and when she takes it with her it gets larger and larger and more human – complete with an enormous face. The large human egg is called Humpty Dumpty, who finds...
The Amazon river by wiki chaves on unsplash
When I was in South America, I met an American woman doctor – a gynaecologist - who also worked in the Amazon for many years. And gradually, after about a year, when she had got to know me, she told me her story. She had first come to the Amazon ten years previously just for a few weeks and fallen in love with the country – the land and the people. And also she had realised how much her skills as a gynaecologist were needed and appreciated. So, after a long discussion with her husband, they...

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