Coronavirus on the edge of a grimpen, where there is no secure foothold...
The pandemic has suddenly thrown our affluent and seemingly secure and safe lives into a tailspin. In fact, the security and certainty was always an illusion, and in East Coker T.S. Eliot ponders life’s shifting uncertainty. The line that always catches my imagination is, “On the edge of a grimpen, where there is no secure foothold.” Eliot liked word games, and the very strangeness of the word “grimpen” served his purpose. The word is not in the dictionary. We may not know what a grimpen is, but we suspect it is the endless bog, the slough of despond, the windswept moor with hidden pits of tar, or the jungle swamp ambushed with quicksand.
What role has prayer played in driving down COVID-19 deaths?
What do you think? The graph shows a steady drop the day following Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi Eucharistic Blessing. Is it a coincidence? Is it the result of prayer? Surely the drop was also fostered by human activities such as staying at home, the shuttering of many businesses, and the cessation of certain activities. However, these mitigations were going on before the Pope’s blessing as well.
The pastoral costs of the lockdown will, I fear, be enormous. But our Lord can bring good out of any evil...
This morning, in an effort to shift my thoughts away from the epidemic and the lockdown, I thought I’d look back a few months, to remember what I was writing before this unhappy subject began to dominate our consciousness. I came across a column I’d written in February, “Want a Liturgical Renewal? Start with Repentance.” Immediately my mind flashed back to an excellent column that I had read just a few minutes earlier...
Till we have faces...
I miss the human face, don’t you? Isn’t it interesting how that is? Did you think you would ever miss the human face? Who would ever have guessed it? What is about the face that is so important? I suppose it’s the mouth and the cheeks and the chin. It really is difficult to communicate with other people who do not have a mouth or cheeks or a chin. What is it exactly? Obviously, it is difficult to communicate with someone who has no mouth or an obstructed mouth.
Working by hand helps us reconnect with our humanity...
We have lost something today, but we can get it back. Our very humanity calls for living and working in our bodies, with natural things, regularly. This means all of us. We have been separated from our own humanity, from our proper homeland, and we are suffering, even if we have never known anything else. I say we can ‘get it back’—not because we ourselves have necessarily had it before, but because it is our birthright. Our own ancestors had it; we need it; and we can still do it, even if differently, and by fits and starts.
Extraordinary evangelization in extraordinary times...
I’d heard about Father Alexander Sherbrooke long before we met in June 2011; Father Sherbrooke had been a mentor for young friends of mine who had worked at St. Patrick’s Church in London as pastoral assistants and catechists. When we finally got to know each other in person, I had that wonderful experience of knowing, almost instantly, that here was someone on whose friendship I could rely as spiritual ballast.
Meet the contemplative Carmelite nuns known in London as ‘the heavy artillery’...
There is a community of enclosed Carmelite nuns who are gaining a reputation in London. The community, the Carmelite Sisters in Tangiers, lives in Morocco, however, many miles from the British capital. So how have these contemplatives attracted a devoted and grateful group of supporters and friends in London, centered mainly in the capital’s business district known simply as: “The City”? In recent years, bankers, stockbrokers and City lawyers have started talking of these Carmelite nuns as “the heavy artillery.”
“Unorthodox” and the modern myth of origins...
Unorthodox, a mini-series that debuted on Netflix a few weeks ago, is the story of a young woman who escapes from her oppressive Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and finds freedom with a group of welcoming friends in Berlin. I offer this description with tongue pretty firmly in cheek, because, though it represents a fairly accurate summary of the narrative, it also hints at the oversimplification that makes this admittedly compelling and well-acted drama more than a little problematic.
Galileo, the Catholic Church, and the impact on science...
Four hundred years after the trial, the mere mention of the name “Galileo” is often considered a powerful one-word refutation against the Catholic Church. Why? Because, according to the popular telling of the “Galileo Affair,” it was Galileo who: 1) proved heliocentrism, despite a Church that officially declared heliocentrism to be a heresy; 2) was tortured and martyred by the Church, and; 3) discovered that Scripture—and by extension, the Catholic Church—was a fraud.
How St. Philip Neri discerned God’s will — no scrupulous anxiety, no paralysis...
In these days between the two great solemnities of the Ascension and Pentecost, the Church holds its breath in anticipation—an anticipation greater than any except Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil. What we look forward to is the great gift of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church as we know it. The sacraments, the priesthood, the apostolic succession of bishops, the papacy, the magisterial teaching authority, the preservation of sacred tradition — all this depends on the gift of the Holy Spirit.
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