Tag Archive: christianity


Richard III_4Last year there was the remarkable story, here in the UK,  of the discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III under a car park in Leicester.   Killed in 1485, he was the last Plantagenet King and it brought an end to the grim War of the Roses (which George R R Martin claims Game of Thrones is based on).  Richards reputation is as unpleasant as most of the characters in the imaginary Westeros and beyond (did he really kill his nephews in the tower?) His bloody death would probably fit right in to one of GOT’s episodes ‘My Kingdom for a Horse….’ and all that, and the refusal of the Tudors to give him a Christian Burial shows the ruthlessness of the time.

RIII-tomb-banner1-1024x524Despite his bad reputation, which many say is exaggerated by Shakespeare, it was decided to give him a Christian burial in a place of honour in Leicester Cathedral.  With thousands lining the streets to honour his coffin (only in England!).  Then there was an interesting discussion whether or not as a Catholic King – The C of E (a Tudor development) hadn’t even been thought off – if he was to be laid to rest in a place of honour in Leicester Cathedral at least he should have a Catholic Funeral . Finally there was an ecumenically sensitive reburial presided over by Justin Welby with Cardinal Nichols in attendance which was broadcast live on Channel 4 (the Cardinal had said mass for his soul a few days before at All Souls Priory in Leicester).

_89550874_89550873So as 5000-1 Leicester City are crowned champions and make worldwide news, the same evening as another man from Leicester is crowned world Snooker Champion, is this a sign that the moral order of the universe has been restored? Is this the fruit of dignifying a King with the hallowed grounds of a Cathedral.  On the BBC this morning was a wonderful fairy tale ‘The Fox and the Ghost King’ written by the childrens author, Michael Morpurgo (War Horse).   Or could it be the Buddhist monk Phra Prommangkalachan who the Thai owners revere?  Leicester Fans are already flocking to his temple!

Although this is obviously tongue in cheek – One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is Burying the Dead.  In this year of Mercy we are asked to remember the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.  Usually burying the dead means helping those without the resources to have the dignity of a funeral – rather than just be tossed into a paupers grave. Following the example of some of the Jesuit High Schools in the US, I have asked our SVP group to negotiate with Manchester Council on offering a dignified funeral here at the Holy Name for those homeless who die on the streets of Manchester. We think of all those buried in unmarked graves in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.  We also pray for Burundi and the alarming noises being made by the president of the senate about ‘Spraying cockroaches with bullets ‘ and ‘Starting Work’ (echoes of Rwanda) . There are growing fears of a Tutsi genocide in Burundi, more unmarked graves, more mass burials.


Homily given at Holy Name Church,  Manchester   15th Sunday  – July 16th 2014

images (4)

Today’s Gospel presents a fascinating question for Jesus ‘ Why do you speak to them in Parables’ – This seems to be a question born of the disciples frustration  – you can almost imagine the disciples saying to him – Jesus stop speaking in riddles and just give it to us straight.  The irony is that when Jesus does speak straight particularly when he is predicting his suffering and his death they don’t understand……  Jesus speaks in parables because he is revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.  Understanding a mystery is not like understanding a mathematical equation of a scientific formula  – to understand the truths of the Kingdom of God is not just about logic or reason –  it is nothing to do with how well educated we are, how many degrees we’ve got, in fact intellectual pride can become an obstacle to understanding the mystery that Jesus is preaching –  Certainly Jesus talks about the importance of understanding, but this is the understanding of the heart.  Understanding the Kingdom of God is a process, a journey if you like, a journey of the heart. What the heart understands goes deeper than our intellect, they are truths that we grow into, that we live

Why do you speak in parables?  This to an extent is the same question that we may ask of God, particularly when we are in a dark place, experiencing pain and grief,  we may ask  ‘God where are you, why are you hiding, why don’t you reveal yourself?’  This is why faith is not an easy thing – faith is not a comfortable lifestyle choice – a true living faith stretches us, challenges us, faith calls us to trust and then trust again ……  Be very suspicious of anyone who claims too easily or too glibly to tell you who God is.  Perhaps that is why religious extremism and fundamentalism is so problematic – that desire for certainty, that desire to reduce the mystery of God to something smaller, that we can manipulate – the desire for clarity, can easily come at the expense of others – it is easy to be clear, to be certain when you know who the enemy are.  Ultimately it is a false faith that is built ultimately on hatred and anger – and it is dangerous – we just need to look at the international news to see that.

This easy faith – this certain faith – ultimately is far from the mystery of God, which is the mystery of Love. Today’s parable touches upon this – if we think of the seed as the heart of our faith, the infinitely creative love of God –    like all seeds  this needs nourishing.  Seeds often grow in darkness and silence as they reach for the light – we have to trust in this silence, in those moments of darkness, we have to trust that God’s grace is working – silently  in the rich soil of our hearts.  When we allow ourselves to become superficial, when we are too concerned about the spirit of the age, when we want to ‘fit in’ or we worry too much we are not giving a chance for this seed to grow.

If we look around us – in our day to day lives – the people we know. We work with, our friends, there is a great dissatisfaction with what consumerism offers us…. Sometimes even an exhaustion and a deadly cynicism as a result of this.  But along side this is a great thirst and a hunger for something authentic …. And there is nothing more fundamental then the universal creative love of God – it is the reason that we are all here in the first place.  So if we have the courage to allow that seed to grow in us, if we provide the right conditions for it – an openness of heart, an enquiring faith, times of silence, times of prayer then we will have the integrity to pass on that seed – to those who are searching for it.  Often they will come to us and ask – there is no need to force it, and then – God Willing – we will yield a harvest, maybe a hundredfold, maybe less…..

Let us make that our priority …..  invest in your faith ……  let the seed grow


freezerApologies to those who have been sending messages asking me what’s happened to the Blog.  Now that the University Semester has ended I think I have the time and energy to pull it out of the deep freeze….. This year happens to be a special anniversary for the Jesuits, it is 200 years since the universal restoration of the Society.  Somehow I found myself agreeing to design a website and a blog to commemorate this – at the request of the General Curia in Rome.  By Feb I realised that I didn’t have the time / energy to keep the two blogs running so I focused on the Restoration Blog.


Pombal expelling the Jesuit from Portugal

Cutting a long story short, in the 18th Century, the Jesuits found themselves inside a perfect storm – as the world moved out of the medieval world, with the authority of church and king being challenged, Tradition and faith were often portrayed as being opposed to reason, individual enquiry and the scientific method, The old order was being challenged – some monarchs tried to respond by creating a political system  ‘enlightened absolutism’ or ‘enlightened despots’ which seems to be a bit of an oxymoron. In religious terms, many thinkers, sick of the wars between Catholics and Protestantism that had torn Europe apart,  There was a backlash against the political influence of organised religion, and new ideas were suddenly debated including deism and atheism.

In this climate, the Jesuits were under serious pressure,  Their influence was seen as to great, their thriving missions were too successful and often a thorn in the side of Colonialists, and an emerging trading class who were making a lot of money. So starting with Portugal they were expelled from a succession of European Countries and their colonies.  This political expulsion was followed by a canonical suppression, as Pope Clement XIV universally suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773.  The Empress of Russia refused to promulgate the papal bull – so the Society of Jesus was left in limbo until their universal restoration in 1814, hence the anniversary this year.  If you want to read more, the blog is at www.sj2014.net