Paul O'Reilly SJ

Sheep on the mountainside
Some people, even some Christians, wonder whether being a Christian really matters and whether having a Church and a priest and people going to Mass every Sunday really makes any actual difference in the world. I admit that I occasionally have those doubts myself. But then I think of the flocks of sheep that I have known without a shepherd.You see, I once saw an actual flock of sheep without a shepherd. It was in the Rupununi in South America. I don’t know how it had happened, but a group of...
 A young woman gazes upwards. A cross is behind her.
“Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” [John 20.9]“So, what exactly is the point of the ‘bodily resurrection’?”I was once asked this question in a pub by a journalist. And, as always, when I find myself talking in a social environment with a journalist, I hear somewhere off in the background the words of the Police caution… “but anything you do say may be taken down and used in evidence…”But drink had been taken, so I did...
         "Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,                it remains only a single grain;                but if it dies,                it yields a rich harvest.”Well, yes, but the question I’ve always wanted to...
Sunlight breaks through trees. Photo by Kristine Weilert on unsplash
“The man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.”When I was a novice, I used to work in a parish where – because they were giving me all the bad jobs - they put me on what we used to call “drinkers’ duty”. Every morning, from about 7 o’clock onwards, about 20-30 men and women would come up to the church and they would stop in and tell me how much alcohol they had drunk the previous day. And my job was to write it down –...
God made me and God doesn't make junk - Anonymous
“…they discussed among themselves what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.”One of my patients has a favourite T-shirt which he often wears to consultations with me. In block red capitals (presumably he has concerns about my eyesight) it says, “Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future.”Having lived with quite a few saints in my time, I can heartily attest to the former. But, just in case I have to live with them again, the story I am going to tell you is about the latter….Now, you may...
one beer later written on the cap of a bottle
It is not very often that a persons life is changed in a single day, even in a day of recollection. I have a friend called Chris, he tells me that between the ages of 16 and 22, he did absolutely nothing but play football, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco and other drugs and chase girls, - mostly without success. Every night he came home drunk. After six years of this his mother was distraught. She simply could not cope any longer. She spoke to her parish priest. He wasn’t much help (and she wasn’t...
Rosary beads a traditional form of prayer
Just about this time fifteen years ago, my old French teacher died – “Monsieur Sam”, of Wimbledon College.When we were boys of 13, religion really didn’t mean very much to us. We had not yet experienced in our own lives any real need for God. But Monsieur Sam, our new French teacher, insisted on starting our French course by teaching us the Rosary in French. We found out that it was the first thing he taught every class he took.And he explained to us very simply why he did that – it was because...
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...
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...
Hands holding coins and a sapling.
I have a friend who is a professional fundraiser. Like professional politicians and professional journalists, professional fundraisers are commonly regarded by a cynical public as professional liars whose only contribution to society is to part the gullible from their money – a kind of Darwinian economic determinism. That is, of course, when they are not morally blackmailing overly generous little old ladies to the point of suicide. (Sadly, there are real such examples.)But my friend assures me...

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