Month: February 2016

Sacramental encounter

As a small child in the 1960s I attended a Dominican Catholic convent in Gweru and went to the Latin Mass each morning. I knew something tremendous and important was happening. It wasn’t about us, it was about God and the mystery of encountering God in the Real Presence.


Scene from Christmas Holiday, a 1944 Universal Pictures film starring Deanna Durbin. In this unusually long Solemn High Mass scene, we are treated to snippets from a real Midnight Mass celebrated at the former Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, the mother church cathedral parish of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles built in 1876. The cathedral has since been taken over by the city and is now used as event space.



Mystery of Conversion: Augustine

From Benedict XVI. On Wednesday, 27 February [2008], after greeting pilgrims in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father proceeded to the Paul VI Audience Hall where he concluded his Catechesis on St. Augustine.


Augustine converted to Christ who is truth and love, followed him throughout his life and became a model for every human being, for all of us in search of God. This is why I wanted to ideally conclude my Pilgrimage to Pavia by consigning to the Church and to the world, before the tomb of this great lover of God, my first Encyclical entitled Deus Caritas Est.

I owe much, in fact, especially in the first part, to Augustine’s thought. Even today, as in his time, humanity needs to know and above all to live this fundamental reality: God is love, and the encounter with him is the only response to the restlessness of the human heart; a heart inhabited by hope, still perhaps obscure and unconscious in many of our contemporaries but which already today opens us Christians to the future, so much so that St. Paul wrote that “in this hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24).

I wished to dedicate my second Encyclical to hope, Spe Salvi, and it is also largely indebted to Augustine and his encounter with God.

In a beautiful passage, St. Augustine defines prayer as the expression of desire and affirms that God responds by moving our hearts toward him. On our part we must purify our desires and our hopes to welcome the sweetness of God (cf. In I Ioannis 4, 6). Indeed, only this opening of ourselves to others saves us.

Let us pray, therefore, that we can follow the example of this great convert every day of our lives, and in every moment of our life encounter the Lord Jesus, the only One who saves us, purifies us and gives us true joy, true life.

Lent’s inescapable mystery

Thinking about Mexico and the papal visit,  the bloody history of Mexico, the martyrs and sinners. As well as this from Flannery O’Connor:

If the writer believes that our life is and will remain essentially mysterious, if he looks upon us as beings existing in a created order to whose laws we freely respond, then what he sees on the surface will be of interest to him only as he can go through it into an experience of mystery itself. His kind of fiction will always be pushing its own limits outward toward the limits of mystery….



Feast of the Chair of St Peter

The locus of authority in the Catholic Church is shifting from the First World to the Third World. That’s where the faithful are growing, that’s where Mass attendance is still high.

So we have a Pope who is from Latin America now, warm-hearted, voluble, impulsive. Someone who has the Argentinian  barrios closer to his heart than the old treasures of Europe or the jostling for power in the halls of the Vatican.

Sometime soon, we’ll have a Pope from Africa. Someone who will think of alternative marriage arrangements as a byproduct of Western decadence and unacceptable, but who is likely to feel more sympathetic towards polygamy and include his ancestors in the veneration of saints.


In much of sub-Saharan Africa, Catholicism is a new religion, not ancient in a local sense. It began with missionaries who came in the late 19th century, or the 1930s, or the ’50s. It is tied up with detested practices of colonialism and settler culture but also with material benefits, schooling, hospitals and indigenized Masses. It is different to the history of the Church in Latin America but there are shared trajectories and the same concern for the poor.


To understand Pope Francis is to understand where he comes from, the place that is the future of the Church. He is not Italian, Polish, European. His memories are not to do with WWII or the Cold War. He was a priest shaped by the secret war in Argentina, a war of Disappearance on a continent of nationalistic wars and revolutions. The work of liberation theologians like Oscar Romero inspired him in a way that Benedict XVI could not have imagined. The differences aren’t huge but they are there. His priorities are not First World, his personality and out-spokenness breaks with the restraint and  hedged diplomacies  of a European papacy.

The unchanging, ever-changing life of the Church. Checks and balances, yes, but also renewal, upheaval, the unexpectedness of  the Holy Spirit at work.


Theology of the risen body.





From Philippians 3: 20-4:1

For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

Herbert’s Love III

George Herbert’s poem Love III


Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
	Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
	From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
	If I lacked anything.

“A guest," I answered, “worthy to be here”:
	Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
	I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
	“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
	Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not," says Love, “who bore the blame?”
	“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down," says Love, “and taste my meat.”
	So I did sit and eat.