Chris Dyczek OFM

Mercy is widely named as a remedy for conflict, but this is often viewed as a matter mostly for state interventions. The reconciling divine presence shaping the process must not be trivialised, writes Chris Dyczek. The author runs a distance learning programme at the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury.

Mockery has always been a widespread habit, needing cautious responses. When I was a child my mother was concerned that I should never even think of laughing at a person who was blind. Looking back, I believe that she wanted to teach me a crucial lesson, a caring appreciation of mercy. Vulnerability is a dimension of life which poets have often aimed to express, with varying degrees of sensitivity. This can also invite readers to set out on a path of spiritual discoveries about life’s fragility. In his poem, Blind Man, Michael Hamburger sketched the intangible factors for a person who needs experiences yet is not managing to achieve them:

Shapes he has fumbled to feel fall back
Into unbroken space when his hands forget them,
And still are present in his no man’s land.
Above the nightmare tamed by light’s extinction
The apple that hangs unplucked, grown fabulous.1

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May/June 2016

Kathy Bishop

This article locates the soul at the centre of faith and explores ways of engaging the soul using two spiritual formation programmes. It hopes to show ways in which the Church can foster a real lived encounter with God. Kathy Bishop is training at the London Centre for Spirituality and is becoming a Lay Dominican.

After Mass as I walk along the aisle to leave I see some who appear deeply affected by their experience at Mass; their whole being transformed as they remain in deep communion with God. Others will not be so affected; their worship appearing superficial. I wondered what was happening here, why the difference? Clearly a religious encounter is taking place amongst those deeply affected, but what specifically is happening? What can be learned?

Clearly, God’s revelation is relevant. The key understanding radiating from Dei Verbum, (#2) is God’s self-revelation (Flannery 2007:97) where God reveals himself so that people can enter into relationship with God in a personal way. This is God in dialogue with humanity; a genuine relational encounter and it is through God’s grace we are able to respond in faith.

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May/June 2016

Laura Manzo

This article presents an overview of the Old Testament Book of Sirach, and considers three weekday lectionary readings on wisdom. Laura Manzo is Assistant Professor of Scripture at St Mary’s Seminary, Houston, Texas.

An overview of the Book of Sirach
The Book of Sirach was originally written in Hebrew by Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sirach in the third century BCE. It was translated into Greek around 132 BCE, by the author’s grandson.1 Ben Sira’s quest for wisdom led him to devote his entire life to the study of the Law, the Prophets and Writings (51.13-22). As sapiential literature, it is known for its two-fold perspective of wisdom: experiential and existential.2 Experiential wisdom is knowledge acquired from ordinary life experience that is useful to understand the created world or to cope with life. Existential wisdom attempts to reconcile life’s uncertainties such as untimely death, natural disasters, and suffering with the existence of a loving and powerful God who is personally involved in human affairs. One outstanding feature of Ben Sira’s work is the integration of existential wisdom with experiential wisdom. In other words, he links everyday attitudes and behaviours that one ought to have toward neighbour and the world with God’s revelation in creation, salvation history and Torah.3

The Book of Sirach in the Church’s liturgy
The Church reads selections from the wisdom of Sirach during Advent, Christmas, and during many feasts and solemnities of the liturgical year. The great number of Ben Sira’s texts read in succession appear from Monday to Saturday on the seventh and eight week of Ordinary time in Year I.

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May/June 2016

Ashley Beck

Britain and Northern Ireland will vote on 23 June 2016 whether or not to remain a member of the European Union. How can we be guided by the moral teachings of the Church? Ashley Beck is Assistant Priest of Beckenham in the Archdiocese of Southwark and Programme Director of Pastoral Ministry at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

As I write this article it is not clear what sort of guidance the three Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland will offer to Catholics about how they should vote in the EU Referendum in June. This article does not forestall this advice (which may have appeared by the time you read this). I simply want to identify a small number of ways in which Catholic moral teaching can help us.

In 1996 the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a teaching document about Catholic Social Teaching entitled The Common Good. This was a major event: courses on it were organised in many places, copies sold out quickly and it was heavily criticized by the Press.

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May/June 2016

Bernadette Broderick

At the start of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis spoke of the need for mercy and forgiveness in the case of women who repent of abortions. This article describes a healing retreat programme for women in this situation. Bernadette Broderick writes as part of the Dympna Circle, a group of three women therapists who combine spiritual and therapeutic thinking.

Mercy: Compassion, pity, clemency, forgiveness, kindness, sympathy, humanity, understanding, generosity, leniency, benevolence, forbearance, grace. (Word Thesaurus)

Mercy: Compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm: An event to be grateful for, because it prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering: performed out of a desire to relieve suffering.
(Oxford Dictionary)

We are now well into the Holy Year of Mercy and I have found it valuable to re-visit and reflect again on Pope Francis opening the ‘Door of Mercy’. In that beautifully symbolic act, Francis declared that ‘anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.’2

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May/June 2016

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