Thirty-five years ago this week, on March 24th 1980, a great, holy man was martyred. Oscar Romero, the Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador, was shot by agents of a right wing death squad while celebrating mass in a hospital chapel. On May 23rd this year he will be formally beatified. A cautious, quite conservative bishop when he was appointed to the largest diocese in El Salvador in February 1977, Romero had always spoken about Catholic Social Teaching and the need for justice, albeit vaguely - some might call it diplomatic, others simply timid or appeasing.
Once again, all the retreat talks given by Fr Laurence Freeman OSB, during this year's Holy Week Retreat on Bere Island, County Cork, Ireland from Palm Sunday 29 March to Easter Sunday, 5 April, will be made available on webcast by the World Community for Christian Meditation. The free subscription will allow you to get notified on upcoming webcast and other news about the retreat.
I've always had a rebellious streak in me, obedience was never an easy vow. I've found that authority figures don't always act in one's best interest despite what they say. So for me issues of justice and truth are never far from my dealings with people. Sometimes I've been too impulsive, like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, but there are other moments when the world is a troubling place and I can only respond by standing with people, even if it means misunderstanding from others! I see Jesus as one who made that type of decision so often, done with deep compassion. To follow him means that I too, like all disciples of Jesus, need to open my heart to God with my own loud cries and tears!
Happy Saint Patrick's Day! See As I Arise Today - a beautiful visual reflection from the Salesians - with words from Saint Patrick's Breastplate.
If you were asked the question, 'do you live by the light of truth?', I hope (as no doubt you do) that the answer would be a resounding 'yes!' But the evidence from our media is that plenty of others prefer darkness to light, and as this Sunday's gospel points out, prefer to hide from the light of truth in case their actions should be exposed. Each and every day tales of atrocities done to life, human and animal, greedy and wanton violation of earth's resources at the expense of others fill the pages of our papers and the screens of our TVs.
I am sharing different Lenten insights with you from our Eastern sisters and brothers, but one thing strikes me as essential, that no matter what church we belong to, we see Lent as a journey together in prayers and faith, where all our differences cease to matter because we all belong to the Christian family. Whilst we have the luxury to live out our observance in relative comfort, many of my own Church as well as so many Eastern Christians are not only observing a harsh Lent but a daily Via Dolorosa, a real Way of the Cross!
I'm glad I had a monastic training, even though I am now a Melkite priest, the Rule of Benedict still helps me work out the checks and balances of my life both personally and as a priest and academic. It points me at the gospel working in life and reminds me that I am still a 'monos', a seeker of God, who must 'put nothing before the love of Christ!' (RSB 4.)* That's why the reading from Exodus 20 means a lot to me, especially the first three commandments about God. Jesus in the New Testament adds that wonderful touch by reminding us
I have a big problem with the story of Abraham’s sacrifice on Mount Moriah, and I know I am not alone. Richard Dawkins for one calls it a ‘disgraceful story’ with overtones of abuse. Soren Kierkegaard in his work ‘Fear and Trembling’ tackles the tale by imagining four ways in which Abraham experiences the event, including the kind of perpetual trauma and unease he would have about his understanding of God forever after, and what about poor Isaac? But even Kierkegaard does not understand Abraham, he says he can only admire him!
Sometimes it is good that we move out of the confines of our own tradition and discover what other Christians do. This is particularly important in seasons such as Lent because it might help us sharpen up our own attitudes. Because our Middle Eastern communities are now participating in a Lent that makes them real sharers of the sufferings of Christ, I felt that we could learn a little more about their customs and spiritual tradition to help us reflect on Lent. These are our sisters and brothers, part of the great Church of Christ, suffering for their belief in Jesus, modern confessors of the faith!
This Lent, Archbishop Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, has sent us Meditations on the Stations of the Cross in his capacity as Episcopal Shepherd of the Syrian Commission for the Family. They are deeply moving and I hope that you will appreciate them and encourage the Parishes to pray them in solidarity with the Persecuted Church. Syria has now entered a 5th year of continuous war .. there is nothing more to say .. and in presenting us with the Stations of the Cross the Archbishop of Damascus.
Later this year, Pope Francis will release a much anticipated encyclical on care for creation. In preparation for the encyclical and Easter, the Ignatian Solidarity Network are offering a Lenten reflection series. Authors from around the world have written short reflections from their experiences of caring for creation and the day’s readings. These daily reflections examine our faith and how we practice environmental stewardship. Writers for the first five days were: John Shea, SJ, Brian O'Donnell, SJ, Kathy O’Keefe, Garrett Gundlach, SJ and
When I was a child (as St Paul would say!) I never lost a sense of wonder and excitement of seeing a rainbow and trying hard to find where it touched the ground! I never did manage to be in that magical place which I imagined would be filled with all those colours. I never thought much of the crock of gold story; I just wanted to find the end of a rainbow. Later on, of course, as I did my theology in the story of God’s covenant with Noah, the sign of the bow took on a different meaning, but I’m afraid I didn’t really think much about it until much later on.
I am often asked as bishop what the answer is to all the problems we face today. People wonder how we, in such challenging times, can live the vocation of marriage and the family; the call to ordination or the consecrated life; or the apostolic life of a lay person in the world? The answer is always before us, if only we have the eyes of faith to see! Jesus Christ Himself truly present: awaiting us in the Holy Eucharist and in Confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Christ wants to give us every grace we need, if only we turn our hearts and minds to Him.
The Cardinal Hume Centre in Westminster works with homeless young people and families to help them overcome poverty and homelessness and reach their full potential. The words of Cardinal Basil Hume give guidance and purpose to the work of the Centre. His pragmatism and prayerfulness are still the roots of the Centre and his Benedictine values, are what makes it such a special place. Throughout Lent the Centre are publishing Cardinal Hume's weekly Lenten Reflections. They say: "By sharing some of his words with you, we hope that you will find
Let’s start with Paul’s exhortation to us in 1 Corinthians, it’s a reminder of what we should be, especially as Lent begins for many of us this week, (I say many, because some of our Eastern Christians follow a slightly different calendar and so start on the 23rd February). It’s a simple mantra: imitate good models of faith, give glory to God by what we do and say and pray. Don’t be offensive, try to be pleasant; don’t be selfish, think of others! Easy? No, it’s a tough call!
I must admit, I don’t often feel like Job, fed up with work, wondering if things will ever change, fretting over the unremitting problems of life. I do, as I get older, wonder where time goes, in some ways the days, months and years are like that swiftly moving weaver’s shuttle he mentions! But then I suspect I am lucky, the black dog days, though they happen, are more than compensated for by the enjoyment, fun and delight of being alive and with others. Something I am very thankful for.
God certainly makes news, because the media loves to pick up on religious themes, sometimes in a sympathetic way but quite frequently to critique ideas and practices of faith. Of course the more provocative the statement concerning religious matters, the better the story, especially if it generates a heated debate. In the western media this often occurs when those who challenge religions worth or place in human affairs are called upon to comment about such things as sickness, suffering and the existence of benevolent God.
In his diary written in the Warsaw Ghetto, Chaim A Kaplan wrote this entry for October 2nd 1940: Again: everything is forbidden to us; and yet we do everything! We make our "living" in ways that are forbidden, and not by permission. It is the same with community prayers: secret minyanim in their hundreds all over Warsaw hold prayers together and do not leave out even the most difficult hymns.…Near the main synagogue some side room is chosen with windows facing the courtyard, and there hearts are poured out to the God of Israel
In their joint declaration of November 30th 2014, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew mentioned the ecumenism of suffering: ‘…we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer,
Listening to the reading from the Prophet Jonah we cannot fail to be moved! God saw the sorrow and repentance of the people of Nineveh, and spared them in this story. Today IS ignored the cries of the people in Mosul and destroyed the existence of the Christian community! The irony cannot be lost on us; now people claiming to do this in God’s a name are destroying Mosul/Nineveh! But in Jonah’s story the big difference it is about coming together not rending asunder.
I believe the publishing this week of the cartoon of the prophet
Mohammed on the cover of Charlie Hebdo was ill-judged, badly timed and a huge mistake.
Yes the publishers have every right to say what they want and publish what they like but that does not mean they should do so in every case. Why seek to offend when you could befriend? Is it necessary to use your freedom to insult others if you are serious about building a peaceful, just and diverse society?
How does God speak to us? Perhaps in our dreams, to comfort, encourage and enlighten us, like Jacob and Joseph discovered. Or, do we hear the Lord’s voice in the still spaces of the night like Samuel? For people of faith it seems very natural that somehow we do connect and communicate with the One who loves us more than anything. After all, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, our body is a Temple of the Lord where the Holy Spirit dwells; in each other we recognize the icon of Christ.
I have been a priest in London for over 40 years now. For many of those years Irish people in London lived in the shadow of IRA and UDA Terrorism. It was a very difficult time to be Irish in London. Airey Neave an MP was blown up in his car in the car park of the House of Commons. One of our Pimlico parishioners just happened to be walking past Chelsea barracks when the IRA bomb there went off and he was killed. We had bombs in the City of London, in Guildford, in Birmingham and people were angry that these terrorists could so cold-bloodedly kill innocent people.
The baptism of Jesus is a wonderful feast, in the simple words of Mark’s Gospel we see the Christ who was promised descend from Jordan’s banks into the waters and the heaven’s torn open to reveal Jesus as part of the Trinity, with him the voice of the Father and the descending spirit unite them all in love. Jesus’ baptism was literally a watershed in his life. From it all his mission flowed, until that day when the veil of the Temple rent in two as he gave his life up for us on the Cross and rising from death revealed the Resurrection.
Of all the nativity festivals, the Epiphany is perhaps the most colourful and yet, at least in Anglo-Saxon cultures, the most neglected, it is really eclipsed by the earlier Christmas feasts and the celebration of the New Year, it is the full stop at the end of the holidays! Here’s our chance to reclaim this feast as a purely religious festival. One idea might be to make it a day of hospitality, welcome and ecumenism. The readings for the feast point out that the ‘Magi’ represent the world beyond faith confines, beyond our denominational securities.