Idol Speculation

St. John Damascene Priest and Doctor of the Church

I was brought up in an independent Bible church in the USA, so my first visit to a Catholic church was a big culture shock, and it confirmed everything I was told about Catholics. There were racks of candles guttering away in front of statues. There were images of Jesus on the cross, Jesus with his heart on the outside, Mary […]

Send My Roots Rain

Oak Tree

When teaching my personal development course called ‘Ordinary Hero’ I show the students a picture of an ancient tree and explain how our lives have three levels: the branches and leaves represent our everyday concerns — our daily worries, joys, tasks and choices. The trunk of the tree symbolizes our conscious beliefs and values. We can discuss our religious and […]

The Practical Practice of Almsgiving

Catholic Clergy

One of the dreariest tasks of a parish priest is to stand up and ask for money. One can almost hear the moans of the parishioners and hear them thinking, “Here we go again. Father’s always asking for money. That’s all he ever thinks about is money.” This complaint is more accurately aimed at the complainer. Father Frugal — like […]

Love God and Do as You Please

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sally’s baby was crying in church again. He didn’t howl during the hymns when it might have been excused as singing along. He screamed during the sermon and the prayers. He really screamed at that moment when the silence of eternity was meant to touch our lives with its tendrils of tenderness and power. Instead our ears and hearts were […]

Is Pope Francis a Reformer or Revolutionary

Pope Francis

From the first days of his papacy Francis has been hailed as a radical reformer. The mainstream journalists have enjoyed creating a new narrative: The shadowy Dan Brown-type Vatican (as we all know) is worm eaten with secret pedophiles, a cadre of homosexuals, mobsters running the Vatican Bank, an ancient, sinister international conspiracy and Cardinals who are shady, secretive and […]

Solemnity and Celebrations

"Adoration of the Lamb" by van Eyck

Some months ago I was down to take a wedding on a Saturday. The couple had been prepared by the deacon. The groom was from a nominally Catholic family, the girl was unbaptized. So the wedding party turned up for the rehearsal on the Friday and, as usual, people were in high spirits, but in this case there was some […]

Naked Evil and the Boston Bombings

When trying to make sense of the recent bombing in Boston or the tragedies of Sandy Hook and the Aurora massacres, we are faced with mindless violence – an absurd, howling kind of insane violence. It seems like the devil himself is stalking the streets – seeking whom he may devour. An exorcist told me one of the most disturbing […]

On the Question of Suffering

On Suffering

When my nephew Michael was getting ready for college he told me he was expected to write a paper in his first week entitled, “How do I know I exist?” After discussing the matter for some time he concluded that the best thing to do was to punch his professor in the nose. The resulting pain when the professor punched […]

Why Pope Benedict Matters to Me

His Holiness Benedict XVI

In all the drama of Thursday’s farewell to Pope Benedict XVI, and amidst all the high level comment, intellectual analysis and historical accounting of his legacy, here are the very personal reasons why Benedict mattered to me. He granted the dispensation from the vow of celibacy that opened the door for my ordination as a Catholic priest. He established the […]

Jigsaw Puzzle Spirituality

Solving a Jigsaw Puzzle

I remember as a young priest I was visiting an older woman we’ll call Veronica whose life was in chaos. She was grieving over a broken marriage. Her children were a disappointment. She had health problems and money worries. She had emotional and relational difficulties. In addition to this she talked too much. The poor soul went on and on […]