Showing posts with label england. Show all posts
Showing posts with label england. Show all posts

22 Jan 2016

DNA, Headless Skeletons of York

We've been learning quite a bit about humanity's family history recently: thanks partly to our increasingly-detailed knowledge of DNA and the human genome.

I'll be taking a look at what scientists are learning about Roman Britain, Anglo-Saxons, and headless skeletons....

...I'll also indulge in an uncharacteristically-terse (for me) explanation of what science is doing in a 'religious' blog....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

26 Jun 2015

Beavers, Floods, and Yet Another Dire Prediction

Beavers are back in England, which is good news or bad news: opinions differ on that point.

Quite a few folks died when drains blocked up in Nigeria's capital. Then a gas station exploded. There's more rain in the forecast, so their troubles are far from over.

Finally, there's a new doomsday prediction in a brand-new publication. Madagascan lemurs are imperiled: but not, I think, cockroaches, rats — or humans.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

12 Jul 2013

'Who is my neighbour?' Sunday Reflections, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), Vincent Van Gogh, 1890 

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 10:25-37 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?"  And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii  and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"  He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." 

After lunch today I was talking to a parishioner from St Columba's Cathedral, Oban, here in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles in western Scotland, surely one of the most scenic dioceses in the world. He told me about some of his Irish ancestors. About four generations back one of them was widowed and married a second wife who bore him four children. Sadly, her husband died when the children were still young. The family of her husband's first wife managed to throw her and her children out so that they could keep the house.

The young widow and children took to the road and headed north. In a village not too far away they met a family who saw their plight and took them in, giving them a new home. Some years passed and one of the widow's children married one of the children in their host family. The man who told me this is descended from that couple.

His story shows two extremes, rejection based on greed and welcome based on generosity, a willingness to get involved in the sufferings of others and to offer them a way out of their situation.

In his homily last Monday at Mass in Lampedusa, the tiny Italian island where so many refugees from north Africa have landed while others died in trying to reach it, Pope Francis referred to this Sunday's gospel: 'Where is your brother?' Who is responsible for this blood? . . . Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility; we have fallen into the hypocritical attitude of the priest and of the servant of the altar that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the Good Samaritan: We look upon the brother half dead by the roadside, perhaps we think 'poor guy,' and we continue on our way, it’s none of our business; and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.

Further on Pope Francis asks,  'Who among us has wept for these things, and things like this?' Who has wept for the deaths of these brothers and sisters? Who has wept for the people who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who wanted something to support their families? We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of 'suffering with': the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!

The Good Samaritan, like the Prodigal Son, is as real to us as are the members of our our own family. Yet he exists only in a story, but one that touches our hearts and challenges our values, if we allow it to do so. It's not a story about 'them' doing something helpful to others 'out there' but about one individual, a member of a group that Jews generally looked down on, taking personal responsibility in helping another individual suffering right in front of him.

Fr Patrick McCaffrey, 1944-2010. Photo by Fr Gary Walker, April 2010

Fr Pat McCaffrey was a classmate of mine who died suddenly in Pakistan on 18 May 2010. His first mission was Fiji, where he worked especially with Indian-Fijians and becoming fluent in Hindi. He was then part of the pioneering Columban group that went to Pakistan in 1979. Later he worked with people of Pakistani origin in northern England, living in Bradford. He celebrated Mass once a month with Pakistani Catholics in Nelson. Much of his work in Bradford was with refugees from the troubled Middle East. He was then reassigned to Fiji. But his final posting was back to Pakistan.

Father Pat's niece Siobhan McCaffrey describes his death in Following in Father Pat's Footseps, an article she wrote after visiting Pakistan: On our last day, we travelled to the town of Murree, a seven hour drive from Lahore, situated on the side of a steep hill, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Murree was where Father Pat died. He had been visiting lay missionaries there. He had left the convent [of the Presentation Sisters where he had just celebrated Mass] around 6:00am to catch a bus to Rawalpindi. He was rushing to catch the bus when he died. The only person around was a street-sweeper, considered the lowest of the low in Pakistan’s caste system.

This man had seen Father Pat holding on to the rails outside the compound and then fall back onto the road. He went to his aid but was unable to help. He raised the alarm at the convent and the Sisters came.

We thanked the street-sweeper for trying to help our uncle. He apologized for not being able to save him and explained that it was his moral duty to try, but that God had decided to take him and there was nothing he could do.

Father Pat's whole life was that of a follower of Jesus who had never forgotten the experience of weeping, of 'suffering with' the poor. And God surely blessed him in allowing him to celebrate Mass just before he died and in sending a man from the poorest of the poor to be the first to come to his aid, a Muslim who, like Father Pat himself, had never forgotten the experience of weeping, of 'suffering with' others.

Siobhan McCaffrey (left) at her Uncle's grave

7 Dec 2012

'I am the Immaculate Conception'

The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, El Greco, painted 1608-13


Gaudens gaudébo in Dómino,
et exsultábit ánima mea in Deo meo;
quia índuit me vestiméntis salútis,
et induménto iustítiæ circúmdedit me,
quasi sponsam ornátam monílibus suis.

Entrance Antiphon

I rejoice heartily in the Lord, 
in my God is the joy of my soul; 
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation,
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, 
like a bride adorned wit her jewels.

Full post here.

21 Feb 2012

The Crown

Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel The Crown takes readers on an odyssey through the England of Henry VIII during the bloody period of the dissolution of the monasteries as seen from the point of view of a young Dominican novice. There are many aspects of this extraordinary novel that contemporary Catholics will find that they can relate to, namely the confusion in the Church and the compromises of many of her members to political persecution and social expediency, as well as the heroic stand taken by those with the courage to speak truth to power. In Tudor England, speaking truth to power, or even silently trying to follow one's conscience, often meant dying a hideous death. Young Joanna Stafford finds that in those intense times there is no such thing as spiritual mediocrity; either she must take the high road or face perdition. Joanna is not one to settle for less than heroism anyway, having entered a strict Dominican monastery where she looked forward to an austere life of poverty, chastity and obedience. When she leaves the monastery without permission to help a relative who is condemned to death for championing the Catholic faith, she sets off a chain of events which lead her on a spiritual journey into the heart of the mysteries of faith, of sacrifice, and of royal power.

The title of the book signifies a mysterious relic, the crown of a holy Saxon king, which Joanna is commissioned by the wily Bishop Gardiner to find for purposes of his own. Joanna knows that not finding the crown could mean the torture and execution of her father, who already languishes in the Tower of London.Yet, along with the elusive and tangible crown, there are many other awe-inspiring crowns in the novel, the crown of martyrdom, the crown of virginity, the crown of Our Lady, the blood-splattered Tudor crown, the pagan crown of ancient monuments at Stonehenge, the crown of the foundations of a lost monastery and the Crown of Thorns. Even as the symbolism of the crown is repeated throughout the novel, so Joanna finds her vocation tested as she learns to overcome her worst fears. It is a story in which spiritual victory comes as the fruit of earthly defeat.

One plot element in The Crown involves a series of famous tapestries which hold clues to solving several puzzling scenarios. Even as the tapestries are woven by the nuns at Dartford Priory, the author has woven her story so that many clues hidden in the narrative, which make the novel a mystery and a thriller as well as an intriguing work of historical fiction, containing many details of monastic existence and of the struggles of the poor in the sixteenth century. It is refreshing to see the Reformation from a Catholic point of view, one reminiscent of Robert Hugh Benson. I came away from the book marveling at how God's plan is like a vast tapestry of which we only see a tiny portion and yet every thread has a distinct purpose. Through her stumbles and falls, Joanna is confronted with her own weakness yet she rises with new strength, gaining insights which help her to see beyond the surface of things.

Here is my interview with the author Nancy Bilyeau.

(*NOTE: The Crown was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.)

6 Aug 2011

"A Tale of Two Cities" and the Paradox of Sacrificial Love

My sons and I returned home the other night from a long, wonderful day trip to New York State to see my parents, my brother and his family. My husband and I settled in to watch a movie: "A Tale of Two Cities," a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production from 1935. The film, an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic tale, is the story of men and women who become caught up in the bloody aftermath of the French Revolution.

If you are expecting instant payback for your time, this is not the movie for you. The film builds its characters and its suspenseful plot methodically. Be patient. By the end of the movie, I promise you will be on the edge of your sofas. The movie's sensibility is profoundly Christian and seeks to answer the question: What is one's purpose in life?

Read more here.

28 Jul 2011

Day for Life

On Sunday July 31st, the Catholic Church in England and Wales marks its annual Day for Life, an observance called for by the late Pope John Paul II to celebrate the dignity of every human life. 

This year, the theme of the Day for Life focuses on the meaning of authentic happiness – a theme that Pope Benedict discussed with children and students from Catholic schools during his pastoral visit to Britain in September last year:

"Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts".

Fr John Sherrington is a moral theologian from the diocese of Nottingham and is shortly to become auxiliary bishop of Westminster – his Episcopal ordination will take place on September 14th in Westminster Cathedral. He told Philippa Hitchen about the importance of this Day for Life, celebrated in parishes across England Wales this Sunday….


Give us a sign