Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Pope Francis has written a document entitled, ‘The Face of Mercy.’ in which he has proclaimed a JUBILEE YEAR OF MERCY - commencing on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, this year, and ending on the Feast of Christ the King, next year.
In the Bible God describes Himself as being full of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, swift to forgive, (cf. Pss. 86.15; 145. 8). The Pope is amply justified in seeing the Face of God as being "The Face of Mercy!"

BUT, what have I, you, indeed, the whole human family – including new-born babes, done to need God’s mercy? Original sin - that tragic choice made by the first couple, Adam and Eve. God had created them in a beautiful, intimate relationship with Himself. This bonding was meant to be the heritage of their descendants until the end of time.

God had given them the freedom to decide whether to live under His Lordship or to ‘go it alone.’ In deciding to break away they deprived all generations of the heritage of this intimacy. Sadly we follow the pattern of their waywardness.

Only God, offended by sin, is able to repair the damaged relationship caused by the Original Sin and all other sins. Since God did not want to lose His beloved, but sinful, children His merciful love had to come to their rescue. He sent His Son to become one of us – the human embodiment of divine mercy, the ambassador and minister of divine mercy.

How He accomplished this is truly staggering…by the most generous expression of merciful love – laying down His very life for us, His friends. And now Jesus continues this saving, rescue operation through his Church. No-one has described this more eloquently than St. Paul in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians:
"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself; not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God," (2 Cor. 5. 17-20).

And the mission of the Church? To be ‘ambassadors of reconciliation,’ proclaiming the wonder of God’s loving mercy; urging others to seek the forgiveness we have received; the joy of becoming a new creation as God’s children, freed from the crushing burden of guilt. But it’s not enough for us simply to talk about God’s mercy. We must share it by showing it. With Christ we must be Peacemakers. Only then will we be true sons and daughters of God. In other words, we must be ‘ministers of reconciliation.’ Jesus’ whole mission is summed up in the word, ‘peacemaker.’ The whole mission of the Church is to be Christ’s ‘ministers and ambassadors of reconciliation.’

What is all this saying to you and me? Put past injuries behind us: stop holding in our hearts the long-past offences of others –even forgiving them seventy times seven, (Mtt.18. 21). Just as urgent and much more difficult is it for us to find the courage humbly to seek their forgiveness.
How hard it is for us to admit that we all stand in need of the merciful forgiveness of God! How hard it is for us to keep our resolve that with His help we will keep striving to mend our ways!

With the excitement of S. Paul Pope Francis describes the wonderful world in which we live -the Face of Jesus is the Face of Mercy! "There is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new…. not counting their trespasses against them."
The ancient Prophecy of Jeremiah resounds with the splendour of God’s Face of Mercy, "I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you," (Jer. 31. 3).
But it is not in a spirit of self-righteousness that we accept God’s call to be His agents. Did not St. Paul write, "We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us?" -through you and me.

This coming Year of Mercy is a special time for us to seek forgiveness from God and from each other. It’s a time for us to show mercy. With God’s grace it is a time for all of us to be bridge- builders –repairing damaged relationships. If mercy is the face of God, mercy must be the face of His children, made in His own image and likeness.

Isidore O.P.

Friday, 13 November 2015



The big day has passed. The Dominican 800th Birthday Anniversary Year has been launched. My twin brother,  Isidore Clarke, O.P.  has already published his sermon for  the Celebration Mass of  his Community  in Leicester, England.  It fell to me preach on the same theme in Barbados. 

                  I’m publishing  my sermon to illustrate how identical twins can approach the same topic from completely different directions. I would  be  interested  to  read   sermons  for this day from my Brothers of the  global  Dominican Family.
We in Barbados celebrated this occasion at the Saturday Evening Parish Mass of the Church dedicated to St. Dominic. In the Gospel of the day we heard of the widow who put two small coins into the treasury.
How in the name of God can a poor widow, putting her few coins into the  collection 2,000 years  ago, have anything to say to us tonight as we celebrate the anniversary of an event  that took place 800 years ago?
That was the year when the  Order of Preachers, founded by Dominic Guzman, was officially confirmed by Pope Honorius 111.
 “How, in the name of God…?”  I’d asked – maybe you thought outrageously!  Jesus, the Son of God gives us the perfect answer, “She, this poor widow from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.
She was an exaggerated enthusiast  for God. I want to show that Dominic Guzman was such a person. He would expect the members of  the Order  of Preachers which he founded to strive  for nothing less.  This should be the message they  preach...one that applies to you and me!
On one occasion Dominic sold his books, annotated with his own hand, to relieve the starving poor. Would I sell my Laptop for such a worthy cause?  I fear not, unless I knew of someone who would buy me a new one! Would you sell your Laptop or iPod, to  help the poor? I wonder!
 My intention is not to give a history   lecture  but to suggest to  you everything I have to say about  these celebrations has the flavour of  the sacrificial love of the widow, of St. Dominic, in their following of Jesus,
“The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”(1Jn.3.16).
The refrain, “all to Jesus I surrender,”   says it all.

 Now, here I am, dressed up for this occasion, wearing my white tunic together with a splendid black cloak and hood.  I am clothed exactly as was Dominic Guzman 800 years ago. He was the Spanish priest who founded the Order of Preachers – which now bears his name, “The Dominicans.”
I would want you to know   that   throughout the world very  many Dominicans wear the same religious habit as did Dominic and his companions. This very day they are  beginning a year of celebration of the 800th  year Anniversary of the Confirmation of the Order of Preachers by Pope Honorius 111, on 22 December 1216.
 We in Barbados have reason to join in the celebration!  For over 50 years members of the English Province of the Dominican Order have been part of the history of the Catholic Church in Barbados…in the Cathedral Parish, in the Parish of Our Lady Queen of the Universe, Black Rock, and in the Parish of St. Dominic, Maxwell. 
Indeed, it is a matter of pride that one of us, Theodore Taylor, was the driving force behind the building of this very church.  Another, Malachy  Clune, was responsible for completing the church of Our Lady Queen of the Universe, Black Rock, for overseeing the building of the Cultural Centre, as well as a substantial part of the present presbytery. Frs. Charles and Ronald are Barbados’ gift to the Order. We would welcome more such vocations!
In recent years Dominican Sisters from Trinidad   have made, and are making, a valuable contribution to the Church in Barbados.  For a few years there was a flourishing group of Lay Dominicans in the Diocese. It would great if it were possible to re-invent this during the Jubilee Year.
Surely, this is proof positive that while these our Dominican habits  eventually wear  out – I’ve had many a replacement during my 60 years in the Order  -  the Dominican Order as such  certainly has not worn out! Nor does it show the signs of being terminally ill – it’s still attracting new members!
I return to Dominic Guzman, our Founder. To my mind his   genius, his charisma, was to read accurately the ‘signs of his times,’ shrewdly to discern what needed to be done, and then with determination set about doing it. There’s something of a spirit of adventure, of daring, in being a Dominican!
And so it was that when travelling through the South of France the ‘sign of the time’ was that the whole region was being polluted with a false presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Dominic, this man of action, a true opportunist, spent the whole of the night in fervent conversation with an inn-keeper. By morning had converted him to the true faith. Is this telling us modern-day Dominicans to explore the possibilities of the much neglected all-night rum-shop  evangelization?
In about the year 1207 Dominic  found himself  in a similar discourse with a group of women in the small village of Prouille, in the south of France. They, like the inn-keeper, had been taken in by this false teaching.  Dominic not only converted them; he also made available to them a house that had been given to him and his fellow-preachers. They willingly accepted the opportunity of becoming a community of contemplative nuns…founded by Dominic.
They, therefore, had the honour of being the Original Dominican Community.  Prouille is, then,  the birth-place the Dominic Family of consecrated men and women sharing the same vision,  sharing the same Mission – that of Dominic Guzman – of  following Jesus, the herald of God’s truth.
At this stage, several years before the actual confirmation of the Order, Dominic saw the need of a group of preachers leading a balanced life – on the one hand  having a place they could call home, praying together as a community, a family;  making time actually to be brotherly by breaking bread together at table, relaxing together in the Common Room.
 Equally important was it that they had a place for prayer together and for the  serious study that preaching and lecturing require. If one side of the balance is BEING BROTHERLY, the other side of the balance is BEING OUT-GOING – the Word of God must be taken out to the whole world.  With good reason in the early days a Dominican Community was  known as a ‘Sacred Preaching.’
In the fundamental Constitution of the Order of Preachers it is stated that We have as our special function a  prophetic task,  which is to proclaim everywhere by word and example the Gospel of Jesus Christ, taking into account people’s situations, the times and locations.’
For Dominic this meant  strategic planning for out-doing those who were being so successful in their preaching falsehood. They were compellingly effective because they adopted a very simple, penitential  life-style. By contrast, those who led the  Church’s  counter- offensive set out to create an impressive image of grandeur and authority. It was a failure!
 Dominic’s alternative for himself and for his followers was that they should travel on foot, and beg for their daily bread. This simplicity would speak volumes about their sincerity.  

Dominic realized this was not a competition of eloquence and style. What was at stake was a battle for the mind. At issue was: What is the Gospel Truth? Who possesses it? Where is it to be found?

Dominic recognized  that  those who would be effective proclaimers of the truth – preaching through sermons, lectures, conversations, or their writings –            must first be diligent, hard-working students. There’s no short cut.                    They must first undergo the rigours of the Halls of Learning – the Universities of Europe. 
There some of them would have to acquire the competence to  occupy  the University Chairs of Teaching and Research. In this environment   Dominicans would have the opportunity to enter into dialogue with the young intelligentsia, first to learn what was in and on their minds, and then to influence their thinking.  It was here they would encounter the future makers and breakers of society.  
Dominicans, at least most of them, have, therefore, always been at home in the world of academia. And yet, Dominic never lost sight of the absolute           necessity for  the preacher to meet  people where they are.                              Dominic himself personally loved to be A PREACHER ON THE MOVE, an ‘Itinerant Preacher’ travelling from place to place, proclaiming the Word of God in the Market Square, everywhere, or anywhere!
Throughout the centuries for the most part it has been possible to meet the Dominican  ideal of living in communities large enough to allow some brethren to be away, travelling to preaching and teaching destinations…                    originally on foot, latterly by horse, nowadays by car, train or plane.                    In such times there have been enough of the brethren remaining at home        to sustain Dominican-style Community Life.
However, from the beginning Dominicans have been pioneers, exploring new frontiers of thought and proclaiming the Gospel in certain environments which do not always afford  that homely  sense of fulfillment, that sense of belonging, to be found in living in a Community.
               PREACHING  PASTORAL  NECESSITY has often and still does,                    require of Dominicans that they live and work on their own in parishes, universities etc.  I myself have experienced this and have accepted this …because God, through the Dominican Order, wanted this is of me…the People of God needed this of me. Wanted, needed, what?  That  I and others like me, follow in the footsteps of St. Dominic, the opportunist, who shared the fruits of                                his prayerful and studious contemplation...                                   shared with anyone, anywhere, anyhow.
 I can attest there is a rich fulfillment in such a Dominican life…where the people among whom I have lived, to whom I have ministered, have become my very precious family.
This time of celebrating 800 years since the Confirmation of the Order of Preachers, its roving mission of preaching the  Gospel throughout the world,  is more than an occasion for nostalgia and celebration  for all members of the global Dominican Family; more than a time for  consolidation and improvement  of the good work that is already being done. 
During this year of celebration all of us followers of St. Dominic need to rekindle something of his spirit of the pioneer, who is alert to the signs of the times. As opportunists we must  go beyond  asking, ‘What more can we, must we do?’  We must now ask ourselves:
·        What  new, what different,targets, must we have for our preaching?
·        How must we do the same things differently? 
·        Like Dominic, we in our day must respond to meet the needs of   a restless world of ever-changing  ideologies and shifting priorities.
·        How can we be part of the global conversation today?  What   should  be our Dominican contribution to this?
·        How should we Dominicans harness modern Information Technology to enable us to take part in this conversation? 
These are exciting, challenging, disturbing times. St Dominic would want us to plunge ourselves into the thick of it all.  As long as we Dominicans are eager                            and restless, the Order deserves to continue.                                                                                               
 Should it ever become weary and bored its shelf-life would have expired!!!!!!!!  
 Peter Clarke, O.P.

Sunday, 8 November 2015


"O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I proclaim your wonders still.”
(Ps.71. 17)
For me the words of Psalm 71 sum up what we are celebrating today, on the feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers. For us Dominicans this is a very special day. We are beginning our celebration of the 800th Birthday of the Dominican Order. There will be further celebrations throughout the year.
It may –or may not –come as a surprise that the Dominican Order was conceived in a pub! There, St. Dominic got into a long conversation with the inn-keeper. As a result, he realised that the poor inn-keeper, like so many others, was being led astray by people, who believed that the physical world was evil. Instinctively Dominic saw that the Church needed well-informed preachers who could refute that heresy by proclaiming the wonder of God’s creation. What is more, Dominic had the imagination and courage to think up a new approach to tackling the problem of wide-spread ignorance of the faith.
  St. Dominic realised that the Church needed a band of community based well-educated wandering preachers. Their sermons and all their teaching should draw strength and inspiration from a shared life of praying together, from eating together, bouncing ideas off each other, giving each other moral support. From such a solid base they would venture forth to share the Good News of salvation through the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Dominic also founded a convent of women, converted from that heresy. They formed a power-house of prayer; this would support the friars’ preaching mission. Later lay men and women would embrace St. Dominic’s insights, and would give an important witness to them in their secular lives. Together we form the Dominican Family. We welcome you, our congregation, as members of our extended Dominican Family.
 We members of the Order of Preachers feel especially called to follow Jesus, the poor wandering preacher. Our way of life gives us the mobility to be sent wherever the Church needs us. In our preaching we stress the wonder of the Word of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Sharing our human vulnerability, He could be embraced with love, or nailed to the cross. As one of us He could die on the cross to save all of us from the power of evil. But as God-made-man He had the power to rise bodily from the grave –the power to raise us bodily from the grave, to share in His glorious resurrection.
  Born of a woman -Mary -Jesus has become forever a member of the family of man, forever committed to the human race. Reverence for the humanity of Jesus is the corner of our Dominican spirituality. Our love for Jesus instinctively flows into love for His mother, Mary. She has given us her Son as our saviour. She is the model of redeemed humanity; she is her Son’s perfect disciple. No wonder we Dominican s have such a devotion to Mary, mother of the Word-made-flesh, mother of the Church! Pope Francis called Mary the Mother of Evangelisation. Naturally we Dominicans rejoice in claiming her as the mother of the Order of Preachers.
 Like Jesus, we Dominicans have been called to proclaim repentance as a necessary condition, for anyone to enter the Kingdom of God. This, of course, is the theme of the third Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary. And it’s very appropriate that our celebration of the 800 anniversary of our foundation should coincide with the Church’s Year of Mercy. We have been called to be Preachers of Mercy, or in St. Paul’s words, “ministers and ambassadors of reconciliation.’

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I proclaim your wonders still.” The need to proclaim the wonder, the goodness of God’s creation –that was the God-given inspiration for the foundation of the Dominican Order. There is still that need, and always will be.
 In St. Dominic’s day denial of the goodness of the physical world had dire consequences. It struck at the very foundation of our Christian faith –that the Word of God became flesh and dwelt amongst us; through His physical death and bodily resurrection He saved us from the power of sin and death. If everything physical were evil the Church’s whole sacramental life, and especial marriage would be condemned. Take all that away, and there would be no hope for any of us. Such teaching is an insult to the creator of heaven and earth, the saviour of the world.
So, with the Psalmist we Dominicans have always preached “the heavens –and earth –proclaim the glory of God.” This world is God’s world. It’s so good to be human that the Son of God became one of us. He could not have paid us people a greater compliment! With wonder we echo the words of the Psalmist, “What is man that you –God –are mindful of him…”
 Respect for the goodness of the physical world still needs to be proclaimed. Now that message takes on new dimensions. Today, people are too easily exploited as sex objects, the lives of unborn children and of the elderly are threatened. Their dignity as persons, made in God’s image needs constantly to be stressed.
 In a recent Encyclical Pope Francis stressed our need to respect the very environment in which we live. This, God saw to be good. He has made us people its custodians. But we are destroying it; we are wasting its resources. Some of the glorious multitude of life-forms are endangered or driven to extinction. God’s creation is being violated. The resources which God has given to the whole human race are being grabbed by the greedy nations of the developed world, while countless people are driven to destitution and starvation. Such exploitation is an injustice crying out to heaven!
 There is a greater need than ever for us Dominicans to share our founder’s insight into the glory of God’s creation, and to refute those who despise and abuse it. To fulfil this task we must be life-long students, willing to learn from the world in which we live, from the people who inhabit it. Above all, we must listen to the Word of God speaking to us through the Scriptures and to each of us to us in our prayers, the Spirit guiding and protecting the Church in its teaching mission. May we never lose a child-like sense of wonder!
Before we Dominicans can presume to preach we must become good listeners and learners. That is expressed in our motto, “to contemplate and hand to others the fruits of our contemplation.” Our life can be summed up, first, by the simple act of breathing in God’s saving truth, which in many different ways, He has taught us from our youth. Only then can we breath out what we’ve learnt. Only then can we proclaim the wonder of His creative and saving work. Constantly we need to pray echo the Psalm, “with a spirit of fervour sustain me.” May we never lose our enthusiasm, our sense of wonder! We must never allow our taste for the things of God to become jaded.
The Holy Spirit has certainly sustained the Dominican Order during the past 800 years. Otherwise we would have given up. From the foundation of the Order of Preachers the Lord has taught us; we still proclaim His wonders.
 Please God, we will always listen as He teaches His wonders. Please God we will continue to proclaim His wonders! We pray that He will continue to support us in our preaching mission. As we celebrate the foundation of the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the Dominican Order, we thank God for calling us to serve Him in the Order of Preachers. Certainly in this jubilee year we look back with gratitude to a glorious past. That should inspire our Order to look forward to continue proclaiming the wonderful deeds of the Lord.
 But for that to be possible we do need young men and women to replace old codgers like me. May be some of you feel called to proclaim the wonders of the Lord.” You won’t regret saying “Yes” to God’s call. I haven’t, after 65 years wearing the Dominican habit!

 Isidore O.P.

Sunday, 1 November 2015


On the 1st November we celebrate All Saints Day. We honour and praised God for enabling so many people from every walk of life to share His eternal life and happiness. We honoured and drew inspiration from those men, women and children who had responded so generously to Christ’s call to follow Him. We realised that they included the countless number of good people, who have responded to God’s grace, but whom the Church has not officially recognised. All these holy people have completed their life-long journey to the kingdom of heaven.

On 2nd November we commemorate All Souls Day. Our thoughts and prayers turn to all those good people who have already died but have not yet completed their journey to heaven. Although their eternal salvation is assured they still need God’s love to purify them of every remaining trace of sin. Only then will they be fit to enter God’s presence and see him face to face. Although this purifying is painful it is full of the hope of sharing God’s eternal life and happiness. So, although this feast is about the dead, it is not morbid.

All Soul’s Day is a family feast for the whole Church. We remember all who have gone before us, our brothers and sisters in Christ who have already died. Some of them we knew; most of them we didn’t. Today we don’t just reminisce about them, though it’s important for us to recall all they meant to us, and to thank God for all the grace he gave them throughout their lives. As we think about their deaths to day’s feast is a deep expression of our faith in the resurrection. We don’t just recall the past; we look to the future. We believe that death doesn’t write the final chapter of our life-stories. The best is yet to come after we die. Then we believe that our crucified and risen Lord will enable us to share in the glory of His resurrection. Then we will enjoy the fullness of life. We should look forward to that, long for that day.
When some one dear to us dies we usually have a sense of empty helplessness, a deep sense of loss. There are so many untidy loose ends, things we didn’t get round to saying or doing. Regrets about failing to express our love. We wish we’d healed the wounds of painful disagreements –that we’d apologised when we’d hurt someone; we wish we’d forgiven those who had harmed us. Today’s feast, as does every Requiem Mass, proclaims that’s it’s not too late to put things right. As we appeal to God’s mercy our prayers can help the dead on the final stage of their journey to the kingdom of heaven. This is a duty in love we owe, not only to those we knew and love, but also to all our deceased brothers and sisters throughout the world. We are united with the whole Church in supporting them in their need. It’s a great comfort to know that our prayers can be of practical assistance in helping the dead to reach eternal happiness with God in heaven.
Strange to say, I’ve found death enables my love for those who were close to me to develop and mature. While they were still alive, here on earth, my attention concentrated on their temporal well-being –their happiness, health, their families and employment. I delighted in their company, and enjoyed sharing a laugh and a drink with them. Their death brought an abrupt end to such interests and concerns. Now my love for them can no longer be focused on their temporal well-being. Now my love for them is concentrated on their eternal happiness with God in heaven. Instead of looking forward to occasionally spending time together I now long for the moment when we will be eternally united with God in the Communion of Saints. Then, together we will all enjoy the fullness of life as we share in the glory of the risen Lord. Then every tear will be wiped away. These reflections bring a peace and serenity as I grieve for those I still love and deeply miss.
And it’s very consoling to know that when we come to die the whole Church –millions of people –will be supporting us in our need. So, while All Souls Day may at first seem to be mournfully concerned with death, it is in fact full of hope in the fullness of life, in our sharing in the glory of Christ’s resurrection.
Isidore O.P.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


Some of the saints can be very intimidating! They are so heroic in their sanctity we fear we couldn’t possibly be like them. We fear we wouldn’t have the courage of the martyr, willing to sacrifice his or her life for their faith. We’re so conscious of our mediocrity as Christians, as well as our sinfulness, that we think all we can do is stand back and admire the saints.

And some of the accounts of their lives give the impression that they were not real men and women of flesh and blood, who share the same emotions and temptations as the rest of us, and who sometimes sin. Instead, we get the impression that they are plaster saints, with no hot blood coursing through their veins. Sadly, we think we couldn’t possibly be like them, that we could never be saints. Rightly, we wouldn’t want to be like such anaemic caricatures of holiness!

But we would be mistaken if we thought we were not called to be saints; that we couldn’t possibly become one!   In many ways the saints were people just like us. They came from every walk of life, social class and race. Some were adults, others were children. Some of them were laymen or women, married of single. Others were priests or members of religious Orders. Each one of us is called to follow Christ in the way appropriate to our particular walk of life.

If we think we are not good enough to become saints we would be right. By ourselves we can’t bridge the gulf between the creature and the Almighty Creator God, the sinner and the all-holy One. But if we cease to rely on our very limited efforts God can raise us to share in His own divine life and happiness. If we place our trust in God, not ourselves, we, too, can become saints.

It may come as a surprise to know that the saints suffered the same kind of temptations as we do. Like the rest of us, they sometimes failed. But when they did sin they repented, sought God’s forgiveness and, with his help, made a fresh start. It’s worse to stay down than it is to fall. But saints don’t sink into despair and give up.

But what is a saint? A saint is someone who never gives up on the life-long journey of following Christ into the Kingdom of God. That’s a journey of loving service of God and man. A saint is someone who has learnt to love in the same way as Christ loved. On this journey Christ offers all of us the same assistance as He gave to the saints. This He gives through the sacraments and through prayer. Through prayer our relationship with God is deepened and we draw closer to Him, and He to us. Through prayer we seek His help in overcoming the difficulties of life. If we do not draw close to God it could be that’s not what we really want. And if we don’t receive the help we need in following Christ, that could be due to our not seeking His assistance.

Today we don’t celebrate the feast of any particular saint, but of all of them together. That gives us a sense of belonging to one big family –God’s family –which we call the Communion of Saints.

And we don’t just honour the hundreds officially recognised by the Church. There are many, many more good and holy people, who for the most part go unnoticed, except by God. You may well have met people who are generous in their love and compassion, people who are prepared to make great sacrifices for others. Some of them care for the sick, the homeless and hungry; others work for peace and justice. For others family life provides the context for them to grow in holiness. Others are heroic in the way they cope with suffering, and in a special way identify with the crucified Christ. But whatever our particular situation it is there that God will approach us and we will draw close to Him.

I am inspired by how many people are so prayerful. All around us there are saints in the making, if only we have the sensitivity to notice them. What is more, each of us is called to be a saint. That includes you and me.

Today’s feast of All Saints gives us the encouragement that we, too, can join their number.

Isidore O.P.

Monday, 19 October 2015


"A handbag!" Shrieked Lady Bracknell in the play, "The Importance of Being Ernest." Jack had just told her that, as a babe, he’d been adopted after being found in a handbag at Victoria Railway Station.

Her startled reaction only served to confirm my amazement at what women keep in their handbags. But then, I’m but a mere male; I can’t be expected to understand such feminine mysteries! Anyway, I shouldn’t feel superior. While my brethren would say my room looks like a junkyard, I would argue that to me it’s a treasure-trove. I prefer creative chaos to sterile rectitude!

So I should not have been surprised when a friend told me of her recent discovery. Avis –not her real name –had three budgerigars and a couple of cockatiels. Brilliant were the flashes of blue, green and yellow as her feathered friends flew around her room. Our phone chats were punctured by their squawks –especially loud when two or three of them perched on her head or shoulder. Clearly, Avis and her budgies were very close! They felt really at home with each other.

So much so that one day she noticed a bright yellow budgie flying into her fashionable and expensive handbag, lying open on a sideboard. What could be the attraction for her budgie? Curious Avis had to investigate. Who but she would have been so enchanted to discover her beautiful budgie had made a nest in her handbag? Yes, in her handbag! What is more, she –the budgie, not Avis -was incubating two eggs!!

What was Avis to do? The simple answer, "NOTHING!" Unthinkable for her to disturb the nesting bird. Impossible for her to use her stylish handbag until the eggs had hatched and the baby budgies had fledged.

In spite of this inconvenience Avis was overjoyed at the prospect of having a young family of budgies in her home –no matter that they would have left her quality handbag in a real mess.

That outrageous-to-all-church-cleaners passage in one of the Psalms immediately sprang to my mind. It runs, "Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God," (Psalm 84.3).
What a lovely idea –wild creatures making their homes in the House of the Lord??? Not just swallows, but ants and spiders. We have a saying about being as poor as a church mouse. The Lord welcomes all of them as His creatures. As for us clergy, we call in pest- control officers to remove these messy beasts! Could it be these favoured creatures of the Lord might see us clergy as pests to be removed?

But what’s so amazing is that the Lord, the All-Holy Lord, welcomes us sinners into His home. Instead of clearing us out, He invites us in, especially if our lives are in a mess. His mercy transforms us from being pests into becoming God’s beloved children. As far as He’s concerned we’re neither rejects, nor outcasts, even though the self-righteous may consider us unfit for their company. But not so Jesus; He seeks us out and makes us welcome as people who recognize our need for Him.

We, and so many others, have good reason to rejoice that He wants our company. Not only does He welcome us into His Church buildings, made of bricks and mortar. He even welcomes us into the intimacy of His very life, And so St. John’s letter tells us, "And we have known and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him," (1 John 4. 16).

Wonder of wonders, not only does God want us to be at home with Him, but He wants to be at home with us. That’s why He sent His Son into the world to become one of us. Now, through the Holy Spirit we become the very temple of God –His sacred abode. Eagerly St. Paul reminds the Corinthians. "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" (1 Cor. 6. 19).

In us Almighty God has certainly chosen some unlikely places to make His abode –much weirder than a budgie making its nest in my friend’s handbag. As for us, the Psalmist sums up what should be our deepest longing, our most fervent prayer, "One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the day of my life," (Ps. 27. 4). He is our lasting abode; nowhere else will we find real happiness; nothing else matters!

A final question. Do we treat strangers –beggars, refugees, asylum seekers -as unwelcome pests? Or do we show them God’s hospitality–illustrated by Avis allowing her beloved, messy, budgie to make its home in her squeaky-clean handbag?

Isidore O.P.


Thursday, 15 October 2015


For months now,  the Synod on the Family has occupied centre stage in private conversations and in every form of Social Communication. Rightly so, because how  family and human sexuality are to be understood touches the lives of everyone.

 The Catholic Church has seen the necessity to hold a most important forum, known as a Synod, to discern and declare how Almighty God, the Creator, intends family life to be lived and human sexuality to be exercised.
In the world of today these are highly contentious issues, even within the Church itself.  

At times there have been, and still are, fierce and furious clashes between exotic optimism over expectation of changes in the Church’s teaching and abysmal despair  that the Church was losing its integrity  in a soft-hearted desire to respond with compassion to every  human problem.

In the heat and cloudiness of argument I fear the well-being of the family, of flesh and blood human beings, has become obscured.
In all discussions about human behaviour the basic issue has to be, “Where do people get there certainties from?” Note that often with a sense of certainty goes a sense of security!

 Christians take as their point of reference Jesus Christ, the Son of God made Man…the one who claimed to be, “The Way, and the Truth, and the Life,” (Jn.14.6). He described the height of blessedness to be to  “HEAR THE WORD OF GOD AND KEEP IT!” (Lk. 1.28). For the very early Christian Communities the watchword had to be   LET ANYONE WHO CAN HEAR, LISTEN TO WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO THE CHURCHES,"(Rev. 2.29).

In His final discourse to His closest friends Jesus assured them, “I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you to bear now.  However, when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking of his own accord, but will say only what he has been told; and he will reveal to you the things to come. 14 He will glorify me, since all he reveals to you will be taken from what is mine.(Jn. 16.12-14).
In the midst of all the heated discourse all of us, as Church, must be attentive to what the Holy Spirit is now saying to us and then be willing to put this into action. We must not be full of our opinions, simply because they come from us. I presume to say this applies to each and every member of the Synod. “COME HOLY SPIRIT; SPEAK LORD, I’M LISTENING” should be the dominant refrain throughout the Church…prayer for the docility to listen to God, to promote and live the life God is calling us to.
Now is the time when we should ask ourselves how much does it mean to me, to any of us, to  profess, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church?
 Closing time will come when  the proceedings of the Synod.  Resolutions will have been formulated and handed to the Pope.  The participants will have departed for their homes. Pope Francis will prayerfully ‘LISTEN TO WHAT THE SPIRIT HAS BEEN SAYING TO THE CHURCH’ OF  TODAY  THROUGH THE SYNOD.

 After prayerful deliberation the Pope will follow the post-Synod custom of writing an authoritative letter, known as an Encyclical.

 The conclusion of such a momentous exercise within Church should resound with the confidence of the of the early Church when it pronounced its decision after serious deliberation, “IT HAS BEEN DECIDED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BY OURSELVES ….,” (Acts 25.28).

I believe that we should see the working of the Holy Spirit in the election as Pope someone of immense pastoral experience and sensitivity. He would surely be able to address those very issues – family and human sexuality - that are of major concern to those whose ministry in the Church is essentially pastoral rather than administrative.

It is bound to be that those who think the Pope has been too liberal will be shocked. Others will be dismayed that he has been too rigid. 

My final words, to you and to myself, are taken from the prophecy of Haggai, "MY SPIRIT IS ABIDING IN YOUR MIDST; DO NOT FEAR!" ( Haggai. 2. 5). Be assured that neither the Pope nor the Synod will betray the teaching of the Church.

Peter Clarke, O.P