Brian McClorry SJ
Lancaster Royal Infirmary was where I emerged into the world, just before the outbreak of the Second World War – events for which I was not responsible. My father’s family were standard north west English Catholics; my Canadian mother managed Anglicanism, Christian Science and agnosticism before becoming a Catholic. Early years were spent all over England and Wales, before settling down in Hampshire on the banks of the Solent. The sea has always mattered. I went to school and sweated over an obsessive conviction that I should join the Brothers who ran the grammar school I attended.
Undecided I read civil engineering at Leeds and did some minor research at the University of Waterloo in Canada. In the course of this I found God did not make ludicrous demands, but made new things possible – which indeed fitted who I was and was to become. After cutting short work on an engineering site in Labrador (which I now regret) I returned to the UK. A year at Osterley (a place for supposedly ‘late’ vocations with an aversion to Latin) preceded the Jesuit novitiate in Edinburgh. Having survived both, I went to Heythrop College (then in Oxfordshire and far from the sea) for philosophy but managed to escape back to Canada to do theology at Regis College, Toronto (no sea, but there was Lake Ontario). This was a delight and I enjoyed reading Newman under the tutelage of JM Cameron (a convert to Catholicism and an ex-Marxist who retained an affection for the measure of truth he felt Marx attained).
Since then I have been Socius to five Jesuit Masters of Novices (Michael Kyne, Ian Tomlinson, David Lonsdale, Gerry W Hughes and Patrick Purnell) and worked in several University Chaplaincies (London, Keele, Leeds and Cape Town – even a semester in Guelph, Ontario). The chaplaincies gave me a taste for ecumenism, somewhat widened by spending nearly a year in India doing the ‘tertianship’ – the last part of Jesuit formation – where Christianity although real was easily outnumbered by Hinduism, and so had a different socio-cultural ‘place’ than in the West. After this I spent some years in the ill-fated (not well thought out) Centre for Faith and Justice in London and Liverpool. The Centre didn’t work at all well, but Liverpool was fine and so was the human and cultural setting of faith and justice. After a sabbatical, which included an internship in spiritual direction in Ohio, most of my time has been in spirituality centres – in what became the Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Glasgow and latterly St Beuno’s.
For the last several years what has caught my attention (along with ecumenism and justice) is the almost casual agnosticism and atheism of our western culture. There is clearly a good deal which is positive here, which a culture of opposition and denial is ill-equipped to engage with. Nowadays I take refuge in poetry (a difficult, friendly and porous use of language) and give St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.