Tablet Newsletter

Tablet | January 2011

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Looking at my New Year schedule I reflected on how St Benedict doesn’t approve of his monks going outside the monastery. He even restricts them from eating on a trip without special permission. Nevertheless, he knows it happens, just as he knew monks would drink wine.

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Tablet | December 2010

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There is something, I suppose, that we all seek even if we can’t recognise or acknowledge it. Call it empathy. Not the best word as it suggests we are looking for people to empathise with us, whereas it is more mutual, a spontaneous acceptance of equality and common destiny. A kind of falling in love without the desire to possess, or even having to get through the stage of idealised infatuation. I don’t know the exact word – the easy ‘simpatico’ maybe, or even the untranslatable ‘saudades’.

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Tablet - November 2010

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You’d never mistake it for a gentleman farmer’s showpiece or a dude ranch. Two parked trailers, tumble down barn, a farmyard methodically littered with pipes, crates, tools, sacks of things and piles of the rushes she uses for her weaving – a place of daily industry. It is home and workplace for a remarkably gifted basket weaver and her partner, eccentric if you met them in a city or suburb but manifesting rare sanity here, in a small island community. 

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Tablet - October 2010

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I always found it hard to shake off the feeling that canon lawyers were like traffic wardens or security guards. Necessary for the law, no doubt, but somewhat bent towards the letter rather than the spirit. A canon lawyer- theologian shook me out of this demonstrating how, in the right hands, canon law is a tool for freedom and innovation.

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Tablet - August 2010

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Sometimes it’s better not to know everything. As our small boat ploughed an impermanent furrow through the waves to Skellig an English pilgrim, uncertain what pilgrimage was, asked ‘what on earth made them come out here?’ She meant the Celtic monks, who between the sixth and thirteenth centuries, prayed on top of this seven hundred foot sea-battered rock island soaring up out of the sea thirteen miles off the coast of Kerry.

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Tablet - July 2010

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Montserrat

On my way home I was swept up in a great football liturgy. Thousands of Barcelona FS fans poured onto the streets of their beloved home city to celebrate their victory. Liturgy (leitourgia) originally meant the public celebration of a duty. But on the streets that night, as I fought my way through the crowd and eventually surrendered to its brute force duty did not seem the best word to describe it. 

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Tablet - June 2010

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Aisling (pronounced Ashlin) is an Irish name meaning beautiful dream or vision. That she was, for her parents Jack and Anne Sullivan, her four brothers and all who knew her. She was a blonde-haired sprite, perfect, filled with an infectious love of life and adventure and innocently certain of her irresistible charm. She loved pink. She loved to dance, to make candy floss, to meditate, to have her favourite stories re-read to her, to tumble with her four adoring brothers.

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Tablet - May 2010

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Just before I rose to leave, idly like a two year old, I reached to pick up an attractive ornament on the shelf beside me. It was one of those shiny polished stone balls that are not even much use as paperweights because they roll around so easily. I held it for a moment and admired the beauty of the stone and then, making to replace it, it slipped. I tried to catch it with my other hand but dropped it as it hit my little finger. After a short pang of pain I noticed that my finger was in an interesting new shape.

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Tablet - March 2010

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“We need prayers - and more soldiers!” Most of us will never know a situation of social infrastructure collapse that will make us cry out like this on Facebook, our last remaining means of communication with the outside world. A world that has suddenly become terrifyingly exterior to the tragedy that has suddenly closed in and isolated us.

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Tablet - February 2010

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It was a breakfast talk on the global economy on a wintry morning in London. The weather forecast was bad. But a warm and elegant room in a centre for foreign affairs in St James Square London welcomed an elite group of people who try to see further into the future. Apart from me the audience was made up of those with insights through journalism, economics, finance or business into where the world was going. 

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