Paul O'Reilly SJ

Homeless men asleep on church benches
“Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”My worlds of priesthood and medicine don’t often collide, but just and again it happens – usually it’s funny; sometimes it’s sad; just now and again it’s inspiring.Just recently, I came across in this very Church one of my patients who, he wouldn’t mind my saying, is homeless and has quite a lot of both physical and mental health problems. And it...
Image by Noah Grezlak on unsplash.com
Just recently, when I was a teenager, I used to spend a lot of time volunteering at a home for adults with severe mental disabilities - people who as a result of accident of birth or disease had brain injuries and so had the bodies of adults, but the minds of children.And one day we took a group of them to a Safari Park. For anyone who hasn’t been, that is a kind of zoo where the animals are kept free to roam around the parkland and the visitors drive through in vehicles. It’s...
Thatched_roof_houses_in_Guyana
“I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love.”The best – the very best - church leader I have ever known is not a priest, or a nun, or indeed any other kind of “professional” religious. He is an Amerindian lay church leader and he works in a Church community in a little village in the Amazon, many thousands of miles away from here. Perhaps I should explain: in the Rupununi, there are about 30,000...
For many years I lived in South America in a place where most of the people aren’t Christians. And so it would often happen that many of the people who would come to Mass wouldn’t actually be Catholics. They came because they wanted to feel close to God and they felt that in Church. And also, if we are honest, they came because it was free. In their religion, you had to pay at the door, so they couldn’t get over the fact that here, you only had to put into a voluntary...
Shamrock courtesy of unsplash.com
The story of the Shamrock is one that everyone half knows. The half that everyone knows is the bit where St Patrick is trying to explain to the ancient Irish the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and was - like many preachers before and since - having a bit of a struggle with the whole business of how God could be both One and Three at the same time. Then he chanced upon a tiny plant - the Shamrock - which had three leaves, individual, different & distinct - but was united in a single plant...
image of Remembrance Day parade in Enniskillen bomb 1987 from bbc.co.uk
What exactly is a ‘Spirit’?I remember once hearing a child of 11 being asked that question. It was a Holy Communion catechism class and she was meant to give the answer that the class had been told the previous week. The only problem was that she had not been there the previous week, so she had to make it up. She said: “The spirit is the bit of you that lives on after all is rest is dead and gone.”I thought that was pretty good on the spur of the moment.As you may be...
The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance (Confession). This window depicts a Priest raising his right hand in absolution of a penitent in Confession. James Bradley on Flickr
“‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’”I have a friend who is a politician -but don’t hold that against him. He is really not like other politicians, at least as you may have read about them in newspapers. For one thing, he’s not actually very good...
Long shot of whiskey being poured into a glass with ice.
“By this love you have for one anotherEveryone will know that you are my disciples.”Our religion is – or should be – the most complete possible expression in our lives of the love that God has shown to us. Sadly, it is not always so; there have been times when religious difference has caused people to fail enormously in love for one another. Even people who call themselves Christians have sometimes failed to love other Christians of a different stripe. Nowhere has that...
A shepherd watches over his sheep
I don’t get to say this very often, but for once, I think I really know exactly what Jesus is talking about. My family is from the hill-country of Donegal – good sheep-farming country. And my great uncle William was a good shepherd. Every day until the day he died at the age of 92, the first thing he had to do was to go and check on the sheep and make sure that nothing bad had happened to them during the night. So every morning, before dawn, he would get up, walk the three miles up...
An older man praying
“when you grow oldyou will stretch out your hands,and somebody else will put a belt round youand take you where you would rather not go.”I think we’ve all had experiences of being taken where we would rather not go…Until about five years before his death, Father – I’ll call him Father John - was not the best loved man in the British Province of the Society of Jesus - not by a long chalk. He was respected certainly, admired even, for his zeal, commitment,...

Pages