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.