Tradition of Biblical dramas point to devout and creative laity

Notebook I had the privilege some years ago of participating in an academic conference in Athens, the city where so many elements of Western civilisation flourished for the first time: democracy, the writing of history, philosophy, and, perhaps most thrillingly, theatre. In Athens, religious festivals were marked by great dramatic competitions, in which tragedies composed…

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Being at home means being with God

Notebook One of the most moving moments of my first four years of priesthood was celebrating the Vigil Mass of Christmas in a homeless shelter for women run by the Legion of Mary. When I was preaching the sermon, I casually mentioned that Jesus was born into homelessness. I thought it was a totally normal…

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How never to be lost in a desert of our own making

Notebook At the very end of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, a name appears, perhaps unfamiliar to many Catholics here in Ireland: Blessed Charles de Foucauld [pictured]. The Pope describes this desert-hermit as “the universal brother”, who had surrendered himself entirely to God in order to become “a brother to ever human being”. But…

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There is justice beyond written laws

All the current talk about judges and courts made me reflect this week on the role of law in Christian civilisation. The institutions of justice are not, of course, a Christian invention; it was the pagan Romans who were the pioneers in legal thought and practice. It was they, for example, who first enunciated the…

The Valladolid debate

Notebook Picture the scene: two men face each other in debate in a stunningly ornate hall. A jury of experts listens intently. They are in Valladolid, the year is 1550, and the debate concerns the moral and legal status of the newly conquered ‘savages’ in Spanish territories. The two men: Dominican friar, Bartolomé de las…