Melanie McDonagh

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September 20, 2018
Commonly, a book or a play about a historical character follows on from what historians have had to say about him. Think of the musical Hamilton, based on Ron Chernow’s biography of the Founding Father. In the case of Thomas Cromwell, the chief author of the English Reformation under Henry VIII, the reverse is true.
February 01, 2018
Last week, Pope Francis met Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to authorise the declaration of martyrdom for those “killed in hatred of the faith”. The martyrs are 19 men and women Religious, including a bishop and seven Trappist monks, who died in Algeria between 1994 and 1996.
December 21, 2017
Presumably the Dutch don’t suffer Father Christmas trauma in the way that British children do – viz, discovering that he doesn’t exist. For the Dutch, he is St Nicholas, and he is the real deal. They have special biscuits for the feast of St Nicholas – spicy ones, with almonds – and he comes in
November 23, 2017
The Pope rattled lots of cages the other day when he expressed support for Amazonian bishops who will be discussing married clergy at their synod next year. This magazine examined the development last week, suggesting that many conservative Catholics were supporters of the notion of a married clergy, not least because of the example set
August 10, 2017
My bank is closing in November. This would not, for most people, be an occasion for gloom, banks not being objects of affection in the way, say, libraries are, but it has depressed me more than I like to admit. The Allied Irish Bank in Berkeley Square has been one of the centres of gravity
June 01, 2017
The fuss we make about giving up sweets seems ridiculous when a billion Muslims aren’t even drinking water. Catholics once took abstinence seriously
June 01, 2017
Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer, started last weekend, days after the Manchester bombing, in which Salman Abedi killed 22 people in the name of Islam. It’s interesting to reflect that he blew himself up shortly before a time when he would be expected to be engaged in fasting and works of charity.
May 18, 2017
The death of the Moors murderer Ian Brady hasn’t brought out the best in us, has it? “Monster of the Moors is Dead” is the Daily Mail headline. “Burn in Hell, Brady”, the Mirror has it. “Monster Brady is Dead,” The Sun says. Faced with evil incarnate, we derive palpable satisfaction from a good online
April 13, 2017
Easter, being movable, is an annoying feast for a culture that likes to plan ahead. Just over a century ago it fell on March 22. Then again, it could be as late as April 25. This year, it’s quite late: April 16. This makes holidays and, more crucially, the commercial Easter – which is essentially
December 22, 2016
One of the downsides of starting Christmas so soon is that it finishes too soon. Obviously, if the season starts commercially just after Halloween, and the Christmas lights go on at the beginning of November, and the party season gets going in early December, you’re over the celebrations by St Stephen’s, or Boxing Day, with
December 22, 2016
The modern tendency is to start and end Christmas early. Let’s return to our roots and celebrate until Candlemas
December 02, 2016
You know, when Our Lord called money “that tainted thing” (Luke 16), I’m sure he was right, but not quite so sure that he took on board the inconvenience of having too little of it. At present, I am contemplating just what an insufficiency of funds means, and it’s awful. It costs €3,000 (£2,500) a
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