Few people have seized the imagination of their own and subsequent generations of Catholics like Francis Xavier, whose feast day is celebrated today.
Eleven pm. The only word on my planning sheet so far is “death”. After 15 minutes of staring at the page and doodling in the margin, the only other word added to the document is “complicated”, underlined several times in now blunt pencil.
It’s hard to adjust to the new post-sanity political landscape. The Times (of London) devoted the top half of page three on Saturday to “one of Donald Trump’s most prominent and provocative supporters”, Milo Yiannopoulos.
This year is likely to go down in contemporary history as one of shifting political paradigms. Next year may hold even more dramatic shifts with the prospect of elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
After the most glorious golden October – with, among other things, the best display of bright rowan berries I have ever seen – the weather turned like the clocks as we moved into November with night frosts, biting winds and snow caps on the high Galloway hills.
It’s hard to stay untouched by the sadness of November. Bare trees, rotting leaves, low skies and shortening days. The hills were white with snow and a thin wind harried me as I walked into town. A death in the family deepened the gloom. Although it was only three o’clock, night was gathering.
Our highest judiciary should apparently be sacked. No matter how Ukip’s Suzanne Evans tried to dress up this view as unimpeachable on the Today programme, the infantile reaction underlying it was plain: the judges should be sacked because they don’t agree with “us”.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Brendan Cox, widower of the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, have both sounded the alarm about a serious deterioration in civility and social cohesion that is connected to the EU referendum and subsequent events.
While the rest of the world was watching the Princess of Wales talking to Martin Bashir on BBC television in 1995, I was waiting at the accident and emergency department of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital after coming off second best in a tussle with a dentist who seemed to have taken a dislike to me. Much better now, thank you for asking.
The first funeral I ever did was a week after arriving as a deacon at St Canice’s in Kings Cross, the red light district of Sydney. I was asked to do a “pauper’s funeral”, the appalling Dickensian name given to a state-funded cremation.
The trouble with great debates is that a few dominant themes create such a cacophony that they drown out other critical questions, especially if they are complicated and long term. The Great Brexit Debate is becoming a classic example.
A peculiarity of the unseen hands that compile the Court Circular is that, out of a sort of cultic reverence, the Queen is referred to as The Queen, as though even such a common item as a definite article were amplified by its proximity to the monarch.
Two weeks ago I read in The Tablet that bishops in some parts of western Canada were instructing their clergy that they were not obliged to give “Last Rites” or say Requiem Mass for individuals who opted for “assisted dying” – recently legalised in Canada. I find this not only distressing but bizarre.
London for me, since I was a teenager, has always been an oasis. I first came to the city as a 16-year-old. My parents had met in London and married here before returning home to raise their family. My mother had always explained to me that the sectarianism of Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s was not to be found in London.
I hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not have any trouble at customs on the way back from meeting the Pope in Rome. The Most Revd Justin Welby had been given a replica of the head (The Times called it the “handle”, which doesn’t sound right) of the crozier of Pope St Gregory the Great, the man who sent Augustine to England to become the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
An American friend of mine once declared despondently that the United States was still an experiment, and it was too soon to say whether it was working. If he was right, the current presidential election may turn out to be its critical moment.
One of my least favourite questions at dinner parties is the dreaded: “What do you do?” Perhaps it is just the circles I move in, but most people I encounter don’t know what theology is, and are quite likely to think that I said “geology”.
As much as I disagreed with most of what the late Christopher Hitchens had to say about religion, on the 1 October 2009 he and I were in furious agreement.
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