Columnists

Did the Russian Government meddle in the Brexit referendum, like it almost certainly meddled in the American presidential election?

I CAN’T QUITE find the light switch,” said the don showing me round. So we stood in the darkness in the chapel of Queens’ College, Cambridge, and looked at its shape by the light of the waning gibbous moon.

MY ADVENT TREAT was a concert for the season at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, of music from Ora, a choir directed and created by Suzi Digby.

Regular readers of this column will know that Pope Francis gets a very positive rating from me, both theologically and in terms of his personal style.

WHILE “TRYING to roast a chicken” Prince Harry “went down on one knee” and began his proposal of marriage. Meghan Markle said “Yes” even before he had finished. Of the chicken we learn no more.

It’s the same question around this time every year. “Mum,” says my youngest daughter. “Have you bought the Advent calendar yet?” She’s talking about the chocolate calendar she and her sisters have had every Christmas since they were toddlers: but this year, there’s a lot more on offer than chocolate in the shops.

THE BEST conversations not only don’t exclude politics and religion; they’re the substance of them.

Recently, I saw the digitally reworked film of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

A great book is lying there for someone to write on the strange death of European Britain.

Is it all right to say that I enjoyed the funeral of Patricia Llewellyn, the television producer?

THE TROUBLE with the BBC’s new radio series Living with the Gods, Neil MacGregor’s reflections on the “role and expression of shared beliefs around the world”, is the title.

Since Pope Francis’ recent motu proprio liberated us from the bondage of Liturgiam authenticam (at least potentially), I have been thinking a lot about what I believe a good – or even a good enough – liturgical translation might be.

“MADRE!” exclaimed the woman in charge of the little railway station at Montserrat, “You’ve missed the last cable car.” This is the excitingly swaying capsule that wings the visitor 2,000 feet up to the monastery on the side of the serrated ridge a few miles from Barcelona.

Nobody likes to admit it, but the central mission of Pope Francis is emerging as the dismantling of the legacy of Pope John Paul II.

Most television bores me. I say this without pride, for it is not a virtue to be bored by anything. But I struggle to engage. So much it of it seems to contribute no enduring richness to life, to offer no sustenance for the journey.

Isn't it too brilliant that the anniversary of the Reformation is at Halloween?

No one who aspires to the job of prime minister can say they were not warned of the frustration and unhappiness it so often brings.

As a priest I enjoy presiding at weddings. Though many couples these days are profoundly unchurched, and some find it difficult to articulate why they want a church wedding …

“I CAN’T EVEN DO IT,” exclaimed Michael Rosen, “the tongue-twister of it!” He was on a Radio 4 programme that I caught by chance, The First Jazz Poet.

When it comes to chastity or honour, most people can’t see what the problem is

I found myself staying in the house of a fervent Catalan nationalist a couple of years ago in the completely walled old town of Montblanc.

Articles keep appearing in the Tory press warning that the Conservative Party is in terrible trouble.

Saints, like angels, traditionally come in “categories”. There are cherubim, seraphim, powers, thrones, dominations, angels and archangels, and, similarly, there are apostles, martyrs, confessors, doctors, bishops, monarchs (kings and queens), popes, Religious and virgins.

There is something ineffably poignant about the coverage of the poor woman in the parish of Holy Redeemer, Slough, who has been attending funerals of complete strangers for the last 14 years and turning up for the buffet afterwards.

Barry Larkin committed suicide in 1995. No one in his family or among his friends knew he was chronically depressed.

September is the month of creation, and I’ve been wondering how widely Laudato si’ has been read since it was promulgated in May 2015.

I went to Germany last week to find the Holy Grail but on the way I stopped off at Aachen to take a look at the chapel that Charlemagne built for himself shortly after the year 800.

The most awful thing about an empty nest is this: there are no half-measures.

Our seemingly perpetual Euro-drama has reached Psalm 2:1 levels – “Why do the nations” – or, in this case, does the nation – “so furiously rage together?”

This is not a cheerful column. In the past few weeks a very dark topic has come up for me and I want us all to think about it. It is “the seal of the confessional” …

Gender politics, I have to confess, leave me cold and the latest aspect of it – gender fluidity, or neutrality, leaves me even colder.

“Of course,” Cormac once confided, “it’s a little sad to think that when my obituaries come to be written, they will concentrate on the abuse affair.”

Muslim Viking cheesemongers had not until recently entered into my perspective on European history.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has, alas, been unwell for some time but he dealt with his illness in the only way possible for a man of his ebullient temperament, by getting out and about.

Having a Mass celebrated in one’s living room is a rare experience, one my family has been blessed by several times over the years, when we have been visited by a Jesuit friend from Africa.

A very important ethical debate that could affect the future of humanity itself has been triggered by the announcement that scientists have successfully corrected a defective gene in a human embryo … The prospect suddenly opens up of ridding the human race for ever of an ancient scourge.

An incidental pleasure of looking up a word in the Oxford English Dictionary (last printed in 20 volumes) is to find an entry not updated for more than a century. Such is the case with lubricious, unrevised since 1903.

This was A-level results week, and the anxiety levels – always high, of course – have been in the sky … What’s been particularly scary for young people and parents this year is that former education secretary Michael Gove’s reforms have kicked in, with tougher exams designed to make it harder to achieve the top grades.

On 15 August we celebrate Mary’s Assumption. There is nothing in the doctrine that says Mary didn’t die. Of course she did – she was a human being. The Eastern Church celebrates the feast of Mary’s Dormition, of her falling asleep.

I know absolutely nothing about the Diocese of Ahiara in Nigeria, and nothing in this column should imply that I understand what is going on there or that I have any specific brilliant ideas to sort out a situation that has clearly become both fraught and painful.

The papers have been full of Arcade Fire, the globally popular Canadian indie rock band. That is like saying the woods are full of edible fungi. You have to know where to look.

A few days ago, I submitted my doctoral thesis. Stepping out afterwards into the sunlight, I was dazzled by the clouds and the clover and the bees, overtaken by the strange dizziness that ...

How much does the average congregation at Sunday Mass understand what is going on?

When I contemplate the 31 pages of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – more generally known as the “Great Repeal Bill” and published earlier this month – a number of thoughts occur.

Six years ago Catherine Pepinster called me to ask if I’d like to have a go at being part-time editor of The Tablet’s books pages.

There was brisk traffic on Twitter this week for images of a sign that the Pope has stuck on the door of his room: No whining.

Many Australian Catholics are feeling a bit punch-drunk. In February the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released data regarding the number of cases of abuse since 1950. There has been some dispute about how the numbers were crunched but, however you look at them, the extent of the abuse by priests they reveal is shocking and disturbing.

As those of you who read this column regularly may be aware I quite often find myself struggling for usable images of the Trinity.

Prescriptions for antidepressant drugs have more than doubled in the past 10 years, a sure sign that the national mood is on a downward curve.

I have listened to Tim Farron’s resignation speech at least four times. Mainly, it should be said, out of admiration, but my curiosity as to why he resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats remains unsatisfied.

Mea culpa. I got it wrong – profoundly wrong.

It’s summer drinks party season in west London: but the parties are muted, and there’s an air of faint embarrassment that the champagne corks are popping in the shadow of Grenfell Tower.

When serious things happen it proves hard to keep God out. After the attack against Muslims at Finsbury Park, when a van drove into a crowd in the early hours of Monday, The Telegraph included a brief round-up of MPs’ reactions.

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