Sunday, 23 October 2016


My brother Peter got me thinking. When commenting on the Rosary he suggested we should view Salvation History through the eyes of Mary.  So I wondered whether her life followed the pattern of St. Paul’s introduction to the famous hymn in his Letter to the Philippians. 

This begins, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philip. 2.5).  That must have been especially true of His mother, Mary.   She must have been especially in tune with Him.

This hymn begins with the Son of God becoming a human servant, obedient to His heavenly Father’s will; this is paralleled by Mary’s ‘Fiat’ to God.  She played a vital part in God’s plan for our salvation. With that ‘YES’ she agreed to become the Handmaid of the Lord. 

His obedience was “even unto death on the cross.”   Mary made the same journey to Calvary and then stood by her crucified Son. She even offered His life for our salvationAs He became the Suffering Servant of the Lord she became the Suffering Handmaid of the Lord.

 St. Paul’s hymn continues, “For which cause He has been given a name, which is above every other name –Lord of heaven and earth,” (cf. Philip. 2. 11).    Mary has been assumed into Heaven and given a name, which is above every other name – Queen of Heaven and Earth.  

Through this pattern of ascent the 2nd Adam and the 2nd Eve reverse the pattern of descent through the disobedience of the 1st Adam and Eve.

But  it’s not enough for us simply to have the ‘mind of Christ.’  In his 1st letter St. John tells us our lives must follow the same pattern as Christ’s, “whoever claims to remain in Him must act as He acted,” ( I Jn. 2.6).    We must not only hear His word, but do it.   In John that word ‘remain’ is loaded.   It implies a permanence and stability, and, therefore, commitment.   Also to ‘remain in’ implies a relationship as intimate as that between the Father and   His Son. 

We have been called to enter into that relationship.   Sharing their life means a harmony of will, having the mind of Christ and, therefore, acting as He acted.  That was true for Jesus in His obedience to His Father’s will; that was true for His mother; that must be true for us, His followers.

Like the young Samuel’s, our response must be, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,’ ( 1 Sam 3. 9).  That was echoed by Mary’s, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to your word, (Lk. 1. 38).       As for Jesus, we only have to think of His, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine,” (Lk. 22.42).

The  docility to God’s will, which underlies all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, demands a strength of character,  an open generosity in self-giving –the opposite to self-centred grabbing.    It’s a call to service, not dominance. 

Having the mind of Christ means, in the words of St. Paul, ‘….since you have been raised with Christ, strive for theHYPERLINK "/greek/3588.htm" HYPERLINK "/greek/3588.htm"things above, where Christ is seated at the right haHYPERLINK "/greek/1188.htm"nHYPERLINK "/greek/1188.htm"d of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.… (Col. 3. 1-2).  This text implies an ascent in our perspective, in our values, in our decisions, in our actions.  Since these run contrary to our fallen nature, they will involve the cross of self-sacrifice, self-denial, unselfishness. Or put positively, we have been called to share Christ’s generous self-giving, His serving.

St. Paul sums all this up beautifully.   God has uttered an eternal ‘Yes’ to our creation, an eternal ‘Yes’ to our salvation. Through Jesus we welcome God’s plan for us with a heart-felt ‘Yes.’ And so St. Paul writes, For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him, our “Amen” is spoken to the glory of God,” (2 Cor. 1. 20).  

A final thought: while as a child Jesus walked in the footsteps of Mary, His mother. Then, later on, Mary, as did His disciples, walked in His footsteps as she followed Him in His joys, His sorrows and His glory.

Isidore Clarke, O.P.

Thursday, 6 October 2016


Who can blame Mary for TREASURING that moment of leave-taking of the simple shepherds and eminent  wise  men?  They had come to honour her newly-born Son, Jesus. She PONDERED all this in her heart   (Lk.2.19).
Some years later there was that traumatic time of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus, finding Jesus in discussion with the teachers in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Understandably they were mystified at the distress He had caused them.   We are told that “HIS MOTHER STORED UP all these things in her heart”. (Lk.2.51).  
Like many a mother Mary made life-long emotional journey with her beloved child – from the moment of His conception in the womb to His burial in the tomb. With tender, sometimes bewildering, love Mother and Son shaped each other’s lives.
The Gospel is the Good News about Jesus – the love-gift of God the Father to mankind. In fact Jesus Himself was, and is, the Good News – through whom  Divine Merciful Love was, and is, poured out upon the delinquent human family.
From a life of about thirty four years Jesus gave three of them to Pastoral   Caring and Forgiving – inter-laced with the spectacular calming of storms, raising the dead to life, expelling unclean spirits, and forgiving sins - something God alone can do. , ‘Mary would have been thrilled at the way her Son was acclaimed, terrified by the way opposition mounted against Him.
All this must have transformed her relationship with Almighty God to whom she had pledged herself, “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word,” (Lk. 1.38).
The Story of Jesus is no captivating fiction. It is the real-life Salvation History of Mankind with the Son of God becoming flesh  for our sake and for our salvation. In addition reading the Jesus Story in Sacred Scripture we should pray ourselves into the Story through meditating upon its events and teaching, allowing ourselves to be shaped/reshaped by it.
Over many centuries Catholics have found the  Rosary an immense help, if it is recited at a gentle pace that   allows us to absorb the  particular event  in the life of Jesus as we meditate on each of the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
In so doing we recruit Mary who actually experienced  the whole Jesus Story – with the immediacy that belongs uniquely to a mother. Now glorious in heaven she accompanies us in our own personal journey through the Jesus Story.
I now share with you a few of the profound insights of  Pope Saint John Paul 11 written in 2002 when he gave to the Church the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.
“With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of His love… Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer….To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.
POPE Francis has decreed this present year to be a Jubilee of  Mercy. He has described the Face of Almighty God as being the Face of Mercy and the Face of His Beloved Son, Jesus, as being the Human Face of Divine Mercy. He wrote, “No- one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh... …She treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus.
The more the world denies or ignores the significance of Jesus, as the human embodiment of Divine Merciful Love the more it needs to pray the Rosary as a celebration of Salvation Divinely Merciful           History –  bearing in mind that Jesus is the Redeem and Mary the      Mother of the Redeemer.                                                                                   This is why  the prayer, ‘Hail, holy Queen,’                                                    calls Mary, Mother of   Mercy’.

Peter  Clarke, OP

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


“I think to myself, ‘What a wonderful world!”  Not only Louis Armstrong marvelled, so also did God Himself.  “Then God looked over all he had made, and He saw that it was very good!” (Gen. 1.31).

What is more, He, our Creator, has appointed us  custodians of His handiwork.  What a privilege! What a responsibility! Just think of it! God trusts you; God trusts me – with His precious world! He has placed it in our hands!

To a great extent we’ve done a pretty good job.  We’ve learnt to  improve plants and animals so that they can better feed a growing population; scientists are continuely discovering ways of improving our quality of life and conquering diseases.  We have good reason to be proud of our achievements.

But these have come at a great cost.   Short-sighted selfishness has led us to pollute the very air we breathe and the water we drink. Our health and well-being depend  on them remaining wholesome.

As various species become extinct they can no longer give glory to their maker, simply by being themselves. Without them our lives are impoverished.  Through the selfish greed  and wastage of the wealthy world the people of the impoverished world starve.

Through our short-sightedness future generations will be deprived of their rightful heritage.  We are failing them; we are failing in our God-given stewardship to protect, develop and share the fruits of the earth, which the Giver of All Good Things’ has provided for the human family as a whole.

Pope Francis has responded to the world-wide concern for what he calls   ‘Our Common Home.’  In the encyclical ‘Laudati Si’ he both proclaims the wonder of God’s creation and deplores the way we are destroying it.  He also urges us to reverse its decline by taking steps to preserve it.

More recently, he declared 1st Sept. 2016 to be a special day of prayer for the Care of Creation, Our Common Home.’

To re-enforce this need Pope Francis proposed ‘Care of Our Common Home’ as a new Work of Mercy, in addition to the traditional fourteen.  He argues that if we look at the works of mercy as a whole, we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces.  Obviously “human life itself and everything it embraces” must include care for our common home.

He develops this theme. As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a “grateful contemplation of God’s world” (Laudato Si, 214) which “allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us” (ibid., 85). As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” and “makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world” (ibid.,  230-31).

Only if we take Care of Our Common Home seriously will we and future generations be able to say, ‘We think to ourselves, ‘What a wonderful world!’ Hopefully we will join the celestial chorus of   “… every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might
for ever and ever!’
 (Rev. 5. 13).

Isidore Clarke, O.P.



Wednesday, 7 September 2016


I must have my own space! I must have my own time! On Sunday morning with several Masses to celebrate and sermons to preach, the last thing I need is to be rushed, without having the leisure to loosen my limbs, tune into God and  get over the heavy drowsiness of a good night's sleep.
And so it happened that on one Sunday morning, countless years ago, both my usually reliable 'body clock' and my alarm clock failed to awaken me. Neither did the Holy Spirit or any of my Guardian Angels. Far be it from me to suggest that they were sleeping at their posts!
The time came when two worthy parishioners were pounding on my door and calling my name. Much was their relief to find that I was still half alive in a distant drowsy fashion. They told me I was already late and that there was no need to stampede myself into action.
In the twilight world of semi-consciousness I groped my way to the car. As I made my drowsy way down the aisle of the church I heard a small boy whisper, "Mummy, Father's still asleep!" True! True! True! With my head aching at the effort of trying to become devotional, and, harder still, to sound coherent, I would not be surprised if many in the congregation thought I was talking in my sleep as well as walking.
People like to boast that they've got their act together, at long last and after so much effort...not without moments of elation and heart-break. To reach the peak and remain on top of our responsibilities is an enviable achievement.
But suppose God saw it conducive to my personal formation that I should never feel totally secure, never utterly self-confident? What if throughout my life it were needful for me to be continually aware of my creaturely fragility? Then, surely if ever anything that I attempted were to"come off" just as I intended, instinctively I would say, "Thank you God, for bringing me through."
For me it simply is not true that practice makes perfect. Having been Fr. Reliable for so many years is no guarantee that I will wake up at a given time on any given Sunday. I've heard it said of some priests that they have preached so many sermons they could do it in their sleep!    Sounds like it, too!
Come to think of it, I remember a time when I was surging through my sermon when it seemed as though there were a power-cut in my brain. For a while my mind went blank. When I returned to the real world I wondered where I was and what I was doing. What to do but ask an altar server what was going on? Politely he told me he thought I was preaching. Obviously I had failed to make much of an impact on him.

What to do but to tell the congregation God had shut me down for a moment, and this I took to be an indication that He wanted me to shut up. Since no one protested I suggested we recite the Creed together. This certainly restored my wavering self-confidence.
My personal experience tells me that at the very time when I'm doing something important for God, He may  allow me to have a "power failure" and a "black out" in my preaching. He even allows my inner being to be in a state of flux. He's teaching me never to think in terms of my performance or my personal achievement. Mine is to be the instability of a jelly and the insecurity of walking on shifting sands.
I, and the People of God, are to be made to realize and accept what God has to offer: Preachers and Ministers who are no better and no worse than, "earthenware pots holding a priceless treasure, so that the immensity of the power is God's and not our own,"
(2 Cor. 4. 7).
It's somewhat unnerving not to know what God is liable to let happen to me once I set about doing something for Him! For the elite this may mean martyrdom. For the likes of me it may come down to a fuzzy head or loose bowels!

 Such is my spirituality of encountering and serving the Divine, mywaygodsway. This I must learn to live with, and, I fancy, so must you!
Peter  Clarke O.P.

Thursday, 1 September 2016


Has he gone mad? I wouldn't blame you if the title of this posting led you to question my sanity.

These musings came to me while I was reflecting on Christ's mission manifesto, in which He quoted the prophet Isaiah, (cf. 61. 1; Luke 4. 18-22). There He said that He had come to set prisoners free. But free from what; free for what? What striking image could I find to express the contrast between a godless captivity and the freedom Christ offers us? It was then that I remembered battery and free range hens -both of which I've seen. Perhaps they could provide a fresh approach to Christ's work of salvation.

Very, briefly -since you probably already know -free range hens can flap their wings and roam around the farmyard and fields, searching for nutritious grubs and insects. That's the natural life-style for them. But this form of poultry farming does have its disadvantages. It's more work to find and collect the eggs, and the hens are vulnerable to predators, such as foxes. This method is not intensive and efficient. In contrast, battery hens are cooped together in many small cages, in large sheds. The only light they see is artificial. Their whole existence is geared to the mass production of the cheap food which we all want. There's a vast difference between the poor quality of life of the caged battery hen and that of the free range-chick.

Of course Jesus didn't use this bizarre imagery. But he did contrast the slavery of sin, which restricts our development, and the freedom to be our true selves. He did promise to set us prisoners free and give us the fullness of life. That's what everyone wants. We all want the freedom of the free range chick to spread our wings and fly. We resent anyone who clips our wings and restricts our movement.

But where does true freedom lie? For some of us that consists in being masters of our own lives, with no one having the right to boss us around, telling us how we should behave. Taken to its extreme, this would mean that we would have no concern for the damage we did to ourselves or others -as long as we got our own way. Such would be the mentality of someone driving his car at literally break-neck speed. He may persuade himself that such freedom was necessary for his personal self-expression and fulfillment. No way is he willing to be inhibited by rules and regulations, which would prevent him from sharing in the enjoyment of seemingly free spirits. Could be, we may envy such people.

But the life-style of the libertine is far from liberating. Through sinful habits we construct our own cages, which restrict our development and growth as human beings and as the children of God. Bad habits and actions bring out the worst in us and often harm other people. We become enslaved to what the Letter to the Hebrews calls the, "Sin that clings," (12. 1). We resent someone like Jesus telling us that we are enslaved and need Him to set us free.

Jesus, in fact, tells us that only the truth can set us free, (John 8. 32). He strips away false notions about what freedom really means. He exposes the ways we deceive ourselves into thinking that when we chose to sin we are showing a mature independence. He opens our eyes and shows us that only He can offer us true liberty, real happiness, the fullness of life with His heavenly Father. He points out how destructive it is for us to choose to coop ourselves up in our sins, preferring the darkness of the cages we have fashioned for ourselves, to the freedom to spread our wings and fly upwards to the light of Christ.

Jesus Himself is the truth that sets us free. Not simply by giving us information, opening our eyes to what is right or wrong, true of false -though that is very important. He shows us that we can only find true liberty by following Him. The Truth, which is Christ Himself, is a divine source of power and energy. Not only does He show us the way to the Father, but He is the Way. He gives us the will and the strength to make the journey -to follow Him. If we believe in Him and trust Him He will break the shackles of sin and raise us beyond our human limitations to share God's own life.

Strangely, the prospect of freedom can be frightening. The person released from prison will no longer have the security of his cell and of a structured institutionalized life. Someone trying to come off drugs or alcohol dependence may fear losing these supports, even though they've ruined the quality of his life. So, too, we may wonder how we could cope if we were to decide to abandon a sinful life-style, which we must have found in some way attractive. We can become so used to the cage we've constructed for ourselves that we've become nervous about stepping outside and embracing the freedom Christ offers us.

The truth which sets us free, far from leading to anarchy, enables us to make the right decisions and act upon them. That's real freedom! The liberating truth -Christ Himself -transforms us miserable battery hens into free-range chicks, enjoying the glorious liberty of the children of God!
Isidore O.P.

Thursday, 25 August 2016


For a very short time people throughout the world were thinking Olympics, feeling Olympics, rejoicing  and crying over Olympics, cheering and cursing over Olympics. All the means of Social Communication were super-saturated with news and views about the Olympics.

 Most significantly it was the Olympics that dominated the Newscasts and the Headlines – taking pride-of-place and most of the space. Few must have been the preachers who did not mention the Olympics in their sermons and conjure up some weighty spiritual message out of a sporting event. 

There was something all embracing about Rio...such a huge variety of events, from horse-riding to rowing, waving swords to hurling javelins, jumping to running to diving, etc, etc. Then there were competitors and spectators representing such a variety of nations, cultures and creeds. 

People went 'Olympian' to please and to be pleased. We, the World,  wanted the very best – medals, record-breaking results, national pride and glory! In crowd reaction and from media commentary I detected an even-handed appreciation of excellence – even though this had been achieved by a rival to one's own national competitor. 

I could not fail to notice that those who had competed so strenuously against one another were for the most part generous in congratulating the winners and sensitive in consoling the losers and even injured. 

To tell the truth, I was greatly relieved. I had feared, not without reason, that some terrorist would seize the opportunity to inflict a horrific tragedy on this excited,good-willed crowd. I prayed, and I prayed, that our Heavenly Father would prevent this from happening. I am certain that people throughout the world would have done the same. 

Throughout the weeks and months before the Olympics athletics had been under a very dark cloud. Up till then it had been bad enough that some competitors had been exposed as enhancing their performance with forbidden substances – cheating! Inspiring heroes were reduced  into being fallen idols. Disillusioned youngsters needed to be persuaded that in the real world deceit is not to be the way to greatness.

As never before we have been made aware of the extent to which systematic cheating had infiltrated and taken over sporting activities - substance abuse, match-fixing, money switching...
 sometimes backed by frightening intimidation. 

I personally longed that these Olympics would be free of any such scandals that inevitably lead to bitterness, shame, anger and cynicism. I would like to think that in the recent Olympics idealism prevailed – the simple view that every kind of sport is meant to be enjoyable, good for one's health and character building. 

Am I being naive, simplistic, in suggesting that those who participated in these Olympics, the spectators and those who followed them yearned for more than breath-taking spectacles? They longed for integrity, innocence, a purity of heart...  genuineness. 

Might not this decency overflow into the nitty-gritty of every-day life...into our homes, neighbourhoods, work-places, in commercial-financial life, and politics? 

I pray we shall not be hearing of recent  super-stars having  been caught  out as not so artful- dodgers. 
May these our day-dreams not  turn into nightmares!

Peter Clarke,OP