Wednesday, 14 December 2011

What if God was one of us?

Driving home one evening recently, I happened to catch Joan Osborne’s ‘What If God was One of Us?’ on the radio. With Christmas shopping finally in full swing (belatedly, due to the recession), the refrain arrested my attention: what if God were one of us? What if God were a stranger on the bus? What if God were just a slob like one of us? What if God were a child in a manger?
Indeed, what if.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Looking twice

I took this photograph in the public square outside the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris over the summer with my disposable camera. The centre houses among other things a collection of contemporary art. Just outside, an apartment block overlooking the square houses ordinary Parisian's. Their building is transformed into a public expression of something hidden, waiting to be revealed. As I looked at this I began to see the urban environment around me with new eyes...

if you look at something twice,
it changes.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Eyes to see...

I stumbled across this video-clip after school hours. It is entitled 'Infinity'. For me it shows how everyday reality can become a fascinating encounter for those who have eyes to see. Isn't this what faith does to us?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Energized by teaching

After first studies Jesuits are asked to do some apostolic work. Since three weeks I am active in a school in Belgium teaching Latin and Religion. The thing that energizes me the most in my new job is the enthusiasm of the kids for what I have to bring, be it the Latin for "Hello, how are you?" or the question on how to live a good life and how to make a good choice, two of the central themes of the curriculum I need to teach. Teaching is not a one way street, I have discovered. Without my enthusiasm for what I give the pupils will soon lose interest. And without the enthusiasm of the pupils I find myself drained. We both energize each other. That for me is the sign that I am doing well. It is a sign of consolation, as Ignatius would call it, a sign that the good spirit is at work.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Transcending Mission

All of us have a mission. There is something each one of us is called to do with our lives. You might have already discovered it. You might have been given it, or some situation may have drawn it out from you. It might have remained hidden from you for years and years, and perhaps it is still a secret to you. But for each one of us, there is a mission, one thing each of us has been called to do with our lives.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

God of Freedom: The Grand Inquisitor's Fear of Christ's Message

The Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I felt sick. I was at the British Library when I finally reached the part of this novel known as the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor. I sped through the dialogue, taking up chapter 5: Pro and Contra. Engulfed in the doubt that is a common occurrence in my life, I felt deadened by a relentless assault of painful accusation against the Roman Catholic Church, and specifically against the Jesuits. Several cups of coffee and a good amount of prayer were needed to bring any feeling back, but let me describe the work that brought about such an existential crisis.

Monday, 5 September 2011

God of Smallness: The Little Way in Literature

by Georges Bernanos

I was only slightly surprised when one of my superiors said that they "didn't like" The Diary of a Country Priest, despite its status as a "Catholic classic". After all Jesuits are meant to do great things, aren't we? Jesuit saints go out and baptise the Indies, die in the most gloriously gruesome manners in the Americas, or bring back to the faith to heretic Europe. It is a spirituality of the Magis, "the more" that inspires people to do great things for God. So the diary of a simple parish priest in a French backwater is just less interesting than the lives of many of our brothers in Christ. And I suppose that is the whole point of The Diary.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

London Burning: An Ignatian Perspective on the UK Riots

We've all seen the images from the riots in England: burning cars, buses and shops; 'feral' youth rampaging across high streets, breaking into shops and stealing anything they can get their hands on; policemen and women struggling to catch offenders who are more mobile and tech-savvy than they are; a grandmother courageously railing against the nihilism of the rioters; an Asian student being mugged even as his muggers pretend to help him; a heartbroken father calling for peace between communities at risk of racial war. British society is engaged in its deepest examination of conscience in a while.

Catholic New Media Awards ... Voting is Now Open

The voting for the Catholic New Media Awards 2011 is now officially open.

Catching Fire has been nominated in five categories:
  • Best Blog by a Religious
  • Best Group Blog
  • Best Written Blog
  • Most Spiritual Blog
  • People's Choice Blog
Do go over to and vote (registration required).

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Fool for Christ

"I desire more to be thought worthless and a fool for Christ, who first was taken as such, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in this world.” (Spiritual Exercises 167)

How can I express best what Ignatius of Loyola (+ 31/07/1556) means to me? He is a teacher to me because everything of what I know of how to live a Christian life I learned from him. He is a friend to me because his words and example have given me courage in difficult times. He is like a father to me because he has held my hand when I was looking for God. How can this young Basque nobleman whose dreams of knighthood and courtly love were shattered by a cannonball mean so much not only to me, but to countless Christians all over the world? It is, so I claim, because he was a fool, a fool for Christ, and a fool puts us before a simple choice: "Do I join him or do I reject him?"

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Jesuit Students in Tanzania

A group of sixth-form students from the north London Jesuit comprehensive, St. Ignatius College, Enfield, are out in Tanzania helping their partner-school in Dodoma. Read all about their adventures and those of their staff leaders, including Fr. Tim Byron SJ (a member of my community), here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Catholic Blog Awards Nominations Open has opened nominations for the best Catholic blogs and new media around the web in 2011. If you're a fan of Catching Fire and have enjoyed our musings, do support the blog by nominating us (registration required, unfortunately!).

Monday, 18 July 2011

Life-lessons from Tom Pellereau: Five Things to Learn from The Apprentice 2011 Winner

Last night's finale of The Apprentice (UK) threw up the 'blaahdiest' of all surprises: Tom Pellereau, quirky inventor, serial loser (he had a record 8 losses out of 11 tasks coming into the finals) and all-round nice-guy, walked away with a £250,000 investment and 50-50 partnership with business mogul Lord Alan Sugar. (If you missed the episode, you can catch-up on BBC iPlayer here.) On a reality show renowned for its back-stabbing and bitchiness, what can we learn from this feel-good victory?

Friday, 15 July 2011

You're Fired, Yeah?

Last night's episode of The Apprentice saw the firing of Natasha 'Yeah' Scribbins (she ends every sentence with 'yeah?'). On paper, Natasha was one of the more impressive candidates this year. She was raised by a single mother on a council estate in Taunton. She worked hard through school, resisted the temptation to drop out, worked part-time for lunch money and was the first in her family to go to university. Like last year's winner, Stella English, who also struggled to corporate success from an impoverished background, Natasha's victory this year would've made an inspirational success story.

Monday, 11 July 2011

South-American Experience Part III

This post is the last of three parts and consists of a reflection I wrote just after a three month stay in the interior of Guyana, South-America.

The most life-giving and energizing experience of my time in South-America was the participation in the daily life of the village. From a simple lifestyle consisting in drawing water from a well, eating at candle light and showering with a bucket to establishing friendships and taking part in the joys and difficulties of the people. One day I even participated at the digging of a well!

Looking back at my time in South-America I think I learned what it means in practice to follow Jesus in the concrete service to his people. Moreover, the experience of working as a Jesuit and the companionship that I shared with my fellow Jesuit made me desire more than ever to be part of the Society of Jesus. I hope that many more young people will discover this desire in their hearts.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

South-American Experience Part II

This post is the second of three parts and consists of a reflection I wrote just after a three month stay in the interior of Guyana, South-America.

A great chunk of my work in the village consisted in being available to the local primary school. At times I supplied a teacher who was absent, other days a teacher needed some work done on the computer and every so often I just hung around chatting with the staff and children. The last weeks I was busy with computer classes. Most children had never worked on a computer before. Together we learned how to work a mouse and how to edit a basic text. Vital skills, as most of these kids will end up in Brazilian cities looking for work.

With the parish we organized a four-day Gospel Seminar for people interested in serving the church community. Approximately fifty persons attended, among which there were many young adults. By means of the life of St. Ignatius, the participants were made familiar with various prayer methods that use the bible. A couple of times a day everyone spent some time in personal prayer. Then we returned to small sharing groups where special attention was given to how the Gospel challenges our way of life and above all the way of life of the community. Problems were noticed: drinking, abuse, strife among church leaders; and some concrete suggestions were made to start moving towards a solution. One direct fruit of the seminar was a reconciliation meeting for the church leaders of the village in the subsequent week.

To be continued...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

South-American Experience Part I

This post is the first of three parts and consists of a reflection I wrote just after a three month stay in the interior of Guyana, South-America.

In the early stages of Jesuit formation a wannabe Jesuit is sent to different places where he (no she's I'm afraid) can gain first-hand knowledge of the life that awaits him later in life. Last year, I was very lucky to be able to spend three months in a little Amerindian village in the South-American Savannah's close to the northern border of Brasil with an experienced Jesuit priest.

Prior to leaving England, I wondered how I would react to a country and a people so different from everything I knew. Ignatius puts great store on Jesuits who listen and are slow to speak in order to understand the meaning, leanings and desires of those who speak. This, I learned, is the basic attitude of a missionary today. Two aspects stand out from my three month stay with the tribe as belonging to the spiritual attitude proper to the Society of Jesus: service without holding back and the importance of companionship both for sharing on the daily work and for discerning the way forward.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Redemption of Benjamin Linus (Spiritual Themes on Television)

I cannot remember a more cunning, manipulative, Machiavellian villain on the small screen than LOST's Benjamin Linus. Portrayed brilliantly by Michael Emerson (for which he won an Emmy in 2009), Ben had no remorse whatsoever for his numerous crimes: kidnapping, blackmail, torture, murder, mass murder – which is what makes his eventual redemption the most spectacular character arc of the series.

SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers for all six seasons of LOST, including the series finale, in what follows – read on at your own peril.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Climate change? Not my responsibility?

Estimates by the International Energy Agency and published by The Guardian seem to shatter hopes for the people worldwide that global warming will stay below 2 degrees Celsius. That particular threshold, so says the chief economist of the IEA, is now just a "nice utopia". Such a rise might be nice for England which will see regular 40C summers, and the richer among us will be able to mitigate the effects. But what about the poorest? Will they suffer again because of what we do or fail to do?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Astonishing Hope

It is summer and the weather actually agrees these days with this wonderful fact. Yet while most people are planning their holidays and most students are recovering from exams, some 16 young Flemish and Dutch Jesuits are gathered in Drongen (Belgium) for three days of prayer and reflection: What is the future of the Church in Flanders and Belgium and what is the role of the Society of Jesus in that future? The atmosphere is very positive despite dwindling numbers both in the Church and in the Society of Jesus. A strong hope and sense of renewal is present in all of us. That is surprising, since looking at the statistics should be enough to give everyone a funeral feeling. But not so. A small group, a new beginning. Jesus started out with twelve and changed the world. This is Christian hope that flourishes and gives life even there where apparently the end is near. And this Hope is astonishing in the words of Charles Péguy:

Hope, says God, that is what astonishes me.

I, myself, find it astonishing
that my children see what happens and believe things will improve.

That is the most astonishing, the most marvelous gift.
And it astonishes me, myself, that my gift has such incredible strength
since it first flowed in creation as it always will.

Faith sees what is.
Hope sees what will be.
Love loves what is.

Hope loves what has not yet been
and what will be in the future and in eternity

(La Porche du Mystère de la deuxième vertu, Translated by Anne Primavesi and Colin Carr)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Ascension

Ascension of Christ by Salvadore Dali

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Exam break

Exam fever is over for most of us. Hopefully they went well for all of you who also sat exams. For my part, I can't tell you how great it is to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Watch this space!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

God of Truth: How "reason" might lead to unbelief

by John Updike

Dale, an evangelical graduate student at a New England university, attempts to prove God by using a computer programme, so sure is he that God would show himself in the patterns of the universe. He asks the theology professor Roger Lambert for some money to fund the research. Roger is appalled by the notion, but out of some kind of seeming interest he decides initially to fund the research. Meanwhile, Roger is reintroduced to his niece Verna, who is a friend of Dale, and Roger feels an attraction to the 19 year old black sheep of his family.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Sunday

Ask a catechist and she'll tell you that the most important day of the year for a Christian is not Christmas - it's Easter. In the words of St. Paul, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14).

The Resurrection by Pierro della Francesca

Christ Vanishes

Mary looks back on the Resurrection...

A Short Meditation for Easter

Saturday, 23 April 2011

God of Grace: How God Saved a Family

By Evelyn Waugh

In my second year of university, I picked out Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder from the Big Read of the BBC, a compilation of Britain's favourite novels. Brideshead Revisited was the "Catholic classic" in the list, and without further need of convincing, I bought it from Waterstone's 3 for 2 deal along with a A Suitable Boy and A Prayer for Owen Meany. I quickly got into the book as it starts with the kind of heady university experience that I was then undergoing. It moved into a family drama, the characters of which all seemed recognisable to me and my Catholic setting. The decadence of the overprivileged was also immediately familiar, if a little guilt inducing.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Beatitudes of the Passion

The Kingdom of God is at hand! Throughout Holy Week, I have been reflecting not just on the passion of Jesus, but also on the Kingdom he began. The culmination of the Gospel was to give that life of his for us. And what else was his life, than the Kingdom of God? I realize that his passion cannot be separated from his public ministry, they are one. I am struck in listening to readings this week how Jesus with the same earnestness with which he sought the Kingdom, also seeks his fulfillment on the cross. So as I read the passion I try to make sense of its strangeness by bringing to mind some of the things Jesus did, the healing and reconciliation of the blind, the lame, the dispossessed. I try to take on the mind of the Beatitudes and see the passion in that light.

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday or Holy Friday - the day Christians worldwide remember the crucifixion of Jesus.

Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvadore Dali

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Holy Thursday

It's Holy Thursday (aka Maundy Thursday), the first of the three most sacred days of the Christian calendar.

The Washing of the Feet
Palma Giovane 1591

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

a comma

[click on the image for original size]

During my visit to San Estaban in Salamanca last summer, I saw this beautiful light coming down through a window and landing softly on the floor just in front of me as I was walking up one of the stairs. It was as if inviting me to stop and pause for a moment, just to take a little break from the long day.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

How clouds can teach us what is important

On a day of the brightest sunshine I was looking up at the stark white clouds set against the blue sky, stretched out like silk. I wondered to myself, what is the most important thing in my life? Pausing for a while I waited, but I didn't receive an answer straight away. Nevertheless, the asking and waiting taught me something. Those pale clouds in the sky are formed when part of the earth, a ploughed field perhaps, is warmed by the sun. The air rises up into the sky carrying with it moisture that condenses into bundles of fluff at those cool high altitudes. Standing in the sunlight on that bright day, I felt my life too warmed by the sun and it raised my mind to what was important to me. My thoughts turned to dreams of the future. Not plans carefully worked out but deeper things some of which I could not even describe.

Monday, 11 April 2011

To make you feel my love

“When the rain
Is blowing in your face
And the whole world
Is on your case
I could offer you
A warm embrace
To make you feel my love”

Adele’s recent album 21 has broken the record for the number of weeks a female artist has remained at the top of the UK charts, and she is also having huge success in most other European countries, and in the US. 21 is currently the most downloaded album on itunes. I first came across Adele last year when I heard her sing Bob Dylan’s song “Make you feel my love” (from her first album 19), and immediately starred it on my Spotify library.   Her deep soul voice, accompanied by piano, seem to fit perfectly with this song, bringing out all its emotions. At the time I was struggling a bit with different things – and I got real comfort from listening to this song.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Finding the Still Point

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered.
T. S. Elliot, 'Burnt Norton'

Today I'm taking a well deserved day off from studies. It's been a hectic couple of weeks, rather more taxing than I thought they would have been. The last week of term is always burdensome, but in addition I took part in an activity which required my whole self to be invested. And so, looking back this morning on the last weeks, I feel tired and in need of rediscovering the lifeline with God, the still point of my soul.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

God of Renewal: The Pope's Conversion

by Morris West

General confusion exploded in the Catholic blogosphere at Pope Benedict's comments which might be summarised as "It is better for a male prostitute to use condoms". Some saw it as a kind of conversion towards a more humane way at looking at morality, while others felt it was a continuation of the moral reasoning always evident in Ratzinger. Some felt betrayed and disappointed by the man they proudly monikered "the Church's Rottweiler". Has our pope gone soft?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Where the hell is God?

In the three weeks or so since a Magnitude 9 earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami that has claimed at least 12,000 lives, heart-rending images of suffering, depression and even some stoicism and heroism have been broadcast to our televisions, newspapers and computer screens. In the face of natural disasters, the religious believer has to confront her beliefs. Where is God in all this? How can a loving God permit such tragedy? In fact, the believer confronts the question far more often than our media. When a parent dies of cancer, when a child's life is cut tragically short, when a brother or sister dies or is seriously injured in a meaningless accident – the believer asks, “Where the hell is God?”


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

God of Dreams: Coelho's Guide to Discernment

by Paulo Coelho

17. I was in London, supposedly reading up for my International Baccalaureate Extended Essay on the symbolic nature of the gypsy in Victorian Literature while staying at my brother's East End flat. Without a book to read, hours passed boringly as I waited for my brother to get out of bed, so we could explore the wondrous streets of London. One evening at a dinner party in Kensington, I met up with my friends from high school who were touring Europe. When I told them of my predicament, one of them took out a little book which she said was amazing and that it was life-changing and that it was easy to read while gallivanting, being of simple language. That book was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Catching Fire is now on Twitter!

Follow us @firecatching or visit our feed here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Help! I'm being educated...

I recently watched the British film An Education. The main character, Jenny, is a promising A-level student in 1960s suburban London with aspirations for Oxford, whose life takes a U-turn when one day she meets a man twice her age. He opens up for her a world she had never even dreamed off: parties, expensive restaurants, concerts, new clothes... In comparison her old life seems extremely dull and senseless. In this context Jenny makes the following remark to her headmistress : "It's not enough to educate us any more, Mrs Walters. You've got to tell us why you're doing it" These words stuck with me. Why is education so important? As a Jesuit we are asked to study for quite some time and most of us have done studies before becoming a Jesuit. I believe the answer to the question is helpful not only to Jesuits, a rather rare breed of human being, but to all students, since the answer to the question might prevent us from doing it for the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tens of thousands die, why? Who is responsible?

12,000 missing in Otsuchi, Japan
It seems that the death toll of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan is going to exceed 10,000. According to news reports, 12,000 out of a population of 15,000 have disappeared in the town of Otsuchi. The threat of meltdown of nuclear power stations is posing a possibly greater threat. This is a shocking and deeply troubling situation for the people of Japan which has grabbed the attention of the world. The media is rightly highlighting the plight of the people. However, in other parts of the world, there are tens of thousands of deaths taking place daily which go largely unnoticed and unreported in the world’s media.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Religion in the Public Space: An Ash Wednesday Dilemma

Last Wednesday, Christians around the world (but primarily those in the Western traditions - Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian) started a period of about 40 days of prayer, fasting and charitable work known as Lent. The end of this period is, as is easily guessed, Easter - the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, it is the beginning - Ash Wednesday - that leaves me with an annual dilemma.

God of Colour: The Liberation of Love

by Alice Walker

I do not believe I ever pictured a face for God the Father. I did have a sense of the Father, and He did not have the closeness of a face-to-face encounter. He was more distant, without image, but with a kind of feeling. I suppose that feeling was dread. What He felt most like came from a scenario from my childhood. I remember when my dad used to come home for his afternoon siesta, we were asked not to play too noisily as this would wake up my father, and my mother warned that he would be very angry indeed. However, my father never came out, thumping down the stairs, shouting in berserk, even when we were noisy; he was much more fearsome in my imagination than in reality. God the Father was that person to me as well, a bearded snoring man, sleeping upstairs who could possibly swoop down on us in a whirling rage if we were ever too noisy or naughty.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Let Courage Reign

The Kings Speech won four Oscars at the end of February with an astonishing script. After all how do you write a script when one of the main actors stutters throughout the film? It is an inspiring story of one man's journey to unlock his inner potential. There are times of life for all of us when we need to learn something new, whether in our work, study or in our faith. We all want to change but sometimes all we encounter is our resistance. Prefering the same old patterns, life can become dry and listless. It takes a lot of trust and a patient teacher to coax out all that potential.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

God of Flourishing: How Tolstoy Wants You to Live Your Life

by Leo Tolstoy

My serious intellectual pretensions as a fourteen year old meant that, when browsing through a Manila bookshop and exhausted by my family's marathon shopping trip, Anna Karenina was an obvious choice. I knew of Tolstoy from his infamously long novel and historical study War and Peace, which was, I conceived, the ultimate must-read for any aspiring literary snob. And though there it sat on the retail shelf, its skyscrapering reputation and formidable size overwhelmed my teenage head. Next to it, however, sat a shorter, though still sizable, novel with a beguiling black-haired beauty on its cover. I believed this would be the novel that would get me acquainted to the particularly heavy flavour of Russian literature. When I parted the hallowed leaves of fresh paper, I soon realised that this was no appetiser. Almost from the first tasty bite of the novel's famous first sentence, I realised I was at a literary Circe's banquet, and I would never want to escape.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A loyal friend...

I came across this precious piece of practical advice on friendship in the writings of Ben Sirach (Ecclus 6:5-16), a Jewish scribe from the 2nd century BC.

A kindly turn of speech attracts new friends, a courteous tongue invites many a friendly response.
Let your acquaintances be many, but for advisers choose one out of a thousand.
If you want to make a friend, take him on trial, and do not be in a hurry to trust him; for one kind of friend is so only when it suits him but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
Another kind of friend will fall out with you and to your dismay make your quarrel public, and a third kind of friend will share your table, but not stand by you in your day of trouble: when you are doing well he will be your second self, ordering your servants about; but, if disaster befalls you, he will recoil from you and keep out of your way.
Keep well clear of your enemies, and be wary of your friends.
A loyal friend is a powerful defence: whoever finds one has indeed found a treasure.
A loyal friend is something beyond price, there is no measuring his worth.
A loyal friend is the elixir of life, and those who fear the Lord will find one.

Monday, 28 February 2011

The Thriller in Bengaluru: Why We Love Sport

Sunday was an amazing day for English sport. First, underdogs Birmingham City beat favourites Arsenal FC (and deservedly so) in the final of the Carling Cup. Then, India and England tied a sensational game of cricket at Bengaluru (Bangalore) (a footballing equivalent would be drawing 4-4 against Brazil). Why do we love sports so much?

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Do Hobbits go to Heaven?

People look upon the same world but see different things, they live through the same events but experience them differently, they meet the same people but have different reactions to them. This is principally due to their differences in social background, education, race, religion, etc. All these factors provide a different hermeneutic framework for interpreting reality and come together to form a narrative of the world, a story of the universe which motivates and justifies our dealings with day-to-day situations. One hugely influential factor on both our personal and national narratives are the underpinning moral examples and stories of history or legend.
Immersed in beauty

View of Benbulbin from top of Gleniff Horse Shoe, Sligo
 One of my favourite ways of re-energising when feeling tired or stressed is to go hill-walking with a few friends. I love to get away from it all (8 million Londoners) and indulge my introverted self by escaping to the hills.  How come I find I come back with more energy than I went away with, even though I may have walked all day?

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Novel Conversations: A List of Religious and Spiritual Literature

I become light-headed remembering those exchanges, those conversations that make the rest of life seem like meaningless rubbish in comparison. I am recalling the ecstatic drunkenness of the slow and succulent embibing of another, those dialogues when heart speaks to heart that have been the most profound religious prayer I have shared. Our dear spiritual father Ignatius often encouraged the practice of spiritual conversation as ministry, acknowledging the intensity of faith that such an experience can inspire. I have always been more than happy to take on Ignatius's suggestions. But these intense meetings are not common, so what can we do to help us between them? My advice, read. If the brilliant American novelist Jonathan Franzen is right, some of the best and deepest conversations we can share are those we have with the narrators and characters of novels.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

breaking of a new day

As six of us open up this new blog, it reminds me of the very day I traveled more than 20 hours to come to London.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Reading Week: The Value of Stillness

Are we human,
or are we dancer?
My sign is vital;
my hands are cold.
And I'm on my knees
looking for the answer.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Forest for Sale

Government plans to sell off the nation's forests were met with a public outcry. The debate suggests something more is at stake than the demise of a rural idyll. For supporters of public ownership it meant the axing of a deeply cherished part of the countryside. For the government it represented £100m of extra funds for empty coffers. We live in rural and urban landscapes which are shaped by us and the choices we make. But they also shape our lives, so what is the true value of places where we find belonging? And what can this teach us about city life?