Paul O'Reilly SJ

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...
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...
Asparagus by Tiffany Gallen on Unsplash
Not everyone likes asparagus.I know this because Glen - an American friend of mine - has recently “come out” as an asparagus hater after many years of silent suffering, false smiles and little white lies. But his thin veneer of civilization finally cracked last Thanksgiving at the family dinner (for Brits, think Christmas dinner, but with more patriotism). And he still believes that it would never have happened if his dad hadn’t insisted on a second round of bourbon before dinner. (Again for...
Image by Peter Oswald used from unsplash.com
I remember very clearly the day when I realised that I was just not cut out to be the medical director of a Christian hospital. It was the entire day that I spent trying to allocate fairly four prime car-parking spaces between six senior doctors. It was a huge issue involving wounded pride, insulted egos and bitter recriminations that never – even after the expenditure of vastly disproportionate time and all the charm I was capable of - reached any satisfactory conclusion. And the one thing in...
JPII Statue in Mexico by Jorge Zapata on unsplash.com
Some people will have just one vivid memory of the 2nd April, 2005. It was the day Pope John Paul the Second died – the greatest and best shepherd of our lifetime. That is the only thing that most people remember about that day.But the other thing that I remember from that day is that it was also the day I heard of the death of Dennis, the greatest church leader I have ever met personally. (Admittedly, I never met the Pope.) Not one, but two very great shepherds died that day.Our Holy Father’s...
The incredulity of Thomas who places his finger in the wound
Thomas’ problem is one that we all have – he speaks beyond his knowledge; he judges before he has considered; he condemns what he has not understood. Which of us has not done that?I once lived with a saintly old Jesuit. You’ll be pleased to know that we still have one or two. In his late eighties, he was incapable of even the simplest work, so he was sent to the noviceship to be a good influence on the wild young men that we once were.He loved it. He said that he was now too old to be anything...
Schindler's Factory in Krakow Schindler's list installation from wikimedia commons
‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’Tertullian, writing in the 2nd Century, says that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church. And, since he was there at the time, I guess we have to take his word for it.One thing that only occurred to me recently: martyrs are only canonized with hindsight, and usually a few hundred years after the event. In any culture, at any time, there are only a very few people with the integrity and foresight to...
Bread and Flowers from Unsplash
“I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11.25-26]Most Jesuits, in fact I think most people who have done the Spiritual Exercises, will tell you that the most difficult time is the three days which Ignatius asks us to spend in company with the Lord in the Tomb – the distance from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.It is a cold, hard, lonely silent place, sitting in...
A Bicycle in the grounds of a cloister or church
Why is it that we fast? Is hunger a good thing? Certainly starvation is one of the world’s great evils. Around the world, 200 million people will starve today. I come from a country where - not so very long ago - eight out of every 10 people were lost to probably the worst famine there has ever been - anywhere. Don’t try to tell us that hunger is a good thing!But a little hunger can be a good thing. A little hunger reminds us that human food and drink sustains us only for a short time. We need...
There’s a question I always love to ask my homeless patients. Usually I try to sneak it in near the end of a consultation when they’re not really expecting it. And when they have to respond quite quickly without having too much of a chance to think about it. And it is this: “when did you like yourself the most?”And pretty much always, it makes them stop and think and not really want to answer.Because generally by the time people get to meet the homeless GP, they’re not feeling very good about...

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