Towards the conclusion of his landmark book After Virtue, the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre observes that the death rattle of the Roman Empire began when men and women of good will “turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium” which had become socially decadent and culturally diseased.
“What they set themselves to achieve instead – often not recognising fully what they were doing – was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness.”
More than half a million Christians have left Syria, fleeing to neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, and a similar number are believed to be displaced in Syria itself. In Iraq 120,000 Christians fled their homes between June and August 2014. Although this is a much lower figure than the number who fled in Syria, most estimates suggest there are only around a quarter of a million Christians left in Iraq, making the impact of the recent displacement there so much greater.
I live in a “post-1930 Lambeth Conference house”: a large, detached house optimised for the idealised family of the birth-control era: Mum, Dad and two children (preferably a boy and a girl). It’s a lovely house with glorious gardens, but its two single and two double bedrooms are ill-suited to our household of seven (plus menagerie), so with some sadness we are selling.
Searching for a new home has put the tension between the priorities of the housing market and the needs of a large family into stark relief. Just as many attractions consider a “family ticket” to mean two adults and two children, so houses have been built to accommodate the perceived norm of their time.
Pope Francis is calling for the Church “to embark upon a new chapter of evangelisation”. Father Hermann Geissler of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith believes that Cardinal John Henry Newman’s four sermons on the apostolic zeal of St Paul can help all Catholics rediscover their missionary vocation.
Nobody can truly be an apostle unless he has first been seized by the grace of God and thereby undergone a profound conversion. In an Anglican sermon, “St Paul’s Conversion viewed in reference to his Office”, Newman argues Saul’s conversion constitutes the beginning of St Paul’s ministry.
At the beginning and in the early part of Our Lord’s life, we find Our Lady at significant moments. When she found Him in the Temple she saw the demonstration of divine wisdom made flesh as the learned men were astounded at his words. At the Presentation, when He was formally given the name of Jesus, Our Lady presented, in accord with the law, the sacrifice of the poor person. She who had no need of purification associated herself with her Son, who came not to abolish the law but to fulfil it. She knew even better than Simeon that here indeed was the light to enlighten all the nations, and she shared in his joy at being granted the grace of seeing Him with his own eyes before his death.