Thursday, 23 June 2016

My brother, Fr. Isidore Clarke, O.P., and I have decided to do a series of mini meditations on the 7 Gifts of the  Holy Spirit. Later we shall Touch on the Fruits  of the Holy Spirit.       This project is entitled:

                       THE SPIRIT IS BLOWING!




I shall never forget that glorious day when  we  were  standing  on the deck of a schooner   sailing  between the islands  of Grenada and  Carriacou.  There, at the foot of the mast, we gazed up at the sails embracing the strong breeze that enabled   our boat to carve  its way through the waves towards our destination.

St John tells us that “the wind blows where it pleases,” and that “so it is with everyone that is born of the Spirit,” (Jn. 3.8).  It has been suggested that the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit may be compared to the sails of a boat  awaiting the breeze that would be its driving force.

In this scenario we can see ourselves as being like the crew of the schooner with the choice of hoisting the sails  so that  their boat might  be enthusiastically on the move  or of  leaving them furled on deck with their tethered  boat  rocking  gently in  port. The obvious parallel is you and I being content to be laid-back, lack-lustre Christians or  ones  eager to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Our  Heavenly  Father wants us to be activated by the Gifts of  the Holy Spirit which we received at our Baptism. It was then that  we became  Temples of the Holy Spirit – dynamic people who would lead lives that gave great  glory to God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “By the Sacrament of Confirmation the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength  of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed,” (1285).

The Catechism also tells us:

“The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations,” (1831).

More about these Gifts next week in Prologue 11

Peter Clarke O.P.

Sunday, 5 June 2016



My brother Peter and I have taken to computing late in our lives. In fact so late that a student was amazed that someone of my antiquity could teach himself this modern technology. He must have thought I belonged to the pre-industrial age and hadn't got beyond writing with a goose quill! But you would be amazed what we 'silver surfers' can do!
Peter and I are always delighted when one of us has learnt a new computer technique and can share it with each other. One of the most useful ones he taught me is entitled, 'Restoring System and Settings.' As you probably know, this is a form of crisis management, when, for some mysterious reason, the computer refuses to function properly. We've all experienced that, and it's both frustrating and infuriating. But Peter showed me a way of putting the clock back to a time when all the settings functioned properly.
Reflecting on the relief and joy that gave led me to musing on how wonderful it would be if we could put the clock back, and so undo the mistakes we've made in our lives. We've all said and done things we regret -hurtful words to someone we love, and wish we'd never spoken. We've made rash decisions, which we wish we could undo. Sadly, desperately, we fear that what's done is done. Wistfully, we may sing, "Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away..." Or we may echo the song in "Jesus Christ, Superstar," with the plea, "Can't we start again?"
Then I recalled the hope given me by the technique of restoring the settings when my computer refused to function properly. I wondered whether the settings could be restored when serious sin had caused our lives to descend into chaos. Or does that damage our relationship with God irrevocably?
Certainly it would be dishonest for us to pretend that we hadn't behaved badly, when we had. Not even God can make the past not to have happened. But he can "restore the settings" in our lives, by forgiving us when we have sinned. His mercy restores our innocence. When we've fallen he lifts us up, so that we can make a fresh start. He bridges the gulf between Him and us, caused by serious sin. That He does through the sacrament of reconciliation. Then we can function properly as true followers of Christ.
There's no pretence here. God doesn't deny that we've sinned, nor should we. Nor does He say sin doesn't matter. It does. It damages our relationship with God, often harms other people and brings out the worst in us. But God takes the initiative in extending the healing hand of peace. Without denying our sins he puts them behind Him and us. It's as though he said, "That's over and done with, let's make a fresh start together."
And the technique of restoring settings taught me what I must do if my relationship with God has gone wrong. Just as I must turn to the "Help" facility and follow the instructions, which will enable my computer to function correctly again, so, too, I must seek the help of God's loving mercy when my life has gone wrong. I have the wonderful reassurance that in his infinite power He can "restore the settings," however badly my life may have crashed.
Sadly, this doesn’t always happen when things go wrong in human relationships. To "restore the settings" all who are involved must want to bury the past and make a fresh start together. But however willing one of us may be to do that, he or she will be stymied in these efforts at reconciliation unless they're met half way.
But thank heavens God always wants us to be at peace with Him and is prepared to reach out to us, even though He's the innocent one who has been offended. He waits for us to grasp the hand of love and mercy. As we embrace, He "restores the settings" so that we can respond to each other with love.
So, to the question, "Can't we start again?" The answer is a definite "YES!" -through God's loving mercy restoring our settings when our lives have crashed through sin. This Year of Mercy has been specially dedicated to ‘restoring our settings."
I thank Peter for showing me how to deal with my recalcitrant computer. The technique for " restoring system and settings" has given me a fresh insight into the healing power of God's mercy.
Isidore Clarke O.P.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.…"
1Corinthians 12-4-5

As we celebrate the feast of Pentecost we think about the gift of the Holy Spirit, who empowered the apostles to preach the Gospel with wonderful eloquence and courage. At the same time He touched the minds and hearts of their listeners. Each could understand the Good News in his own language. Each received the gift of faith; they believed! This generous out-pouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirits got the infant Church off to a flying start. 

Moreover, the Holy Spirit blesses the Church with many other gifts, as St. Paul tells us,
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good," (1 Cor. 12. 4-7).

Some gifts, such as speaking in tongues, were more spectacular than others. No surprise this led to rivalries and jealousies! Paul had to reprove the Corinthians and remind them that the one Spirit was the source of their unity amidst their diversity. Whatever the gift, it was for the common good. No matter how spectacular the gift, the greatest of all had to be charity. Without love, the other gifts were worthless.
That insight was a great comfort to St. Terese of Liseaux. She felt so depressed at having no special talents with which she could serve God – until she read St. Paul emphasizing that love was the greatest of all gifts. Loving would be her vocation, as it is ours. It’s vital all of us should realize this!
But sadly, in our materialist world, success tends to be measured by our earning capacity and the status symbols it can buy. But that’s not the only measure.
What a wonderful gift to be warm-hearted, loving and caring! So, too, is being a peacemaker. In fact, one of the Beatitudes tells us that such people are called the children of God –precisely because they are sharing in the work of the Son of God Himself.
A few years ago a university degree was thought to be an essential mark of success and the passport to prosperity. Without a degree you were considered second-rate. That has proved an illusion. Some degrees are worthless. But now we’re shifting our focus to appreciating the value of technical skills and other accomplishments –such as making people laugh or cooking a tasty meal.
Rightly, we say that those with practical skills are gifted. The Bible says God had specially gifted those who constructed the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant,
"He has filled them with skill to perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer, in blue and in purple and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs,"
(Exod. 35. 35).
Being able to serve the community in any way should be welcomed as a gift from God. All travellers should be grateful to whoever was inspired to put wheels on a suitcase! It’s so important for us to appreciate whatever others have to offer and to give them encouragement.
It can be so destructive and demoralising to despise some and envy others. As a counter-blast to this negative approach Pope Francis wrote, "We rejoice at the good of others when we see their dignity and value their abilities and good works. This is impossible for those who must always be comparing and competing, even with their spouse, so that they secretly rejoice in their failures. (Amoris Laetitia, 109).
So let us rejoice in Gods gift of the Holy Spirit Himself, and the rich variety of gifts, which He has bestowed on different individuals for the good of the whole community.
P.S. The best way to show our gratitude for a gift or talent is for us to use and develop it -not hide and forget it.

Isidore Clarke, O.P.

Monday, 2 May 2016



 “God has ascended with a shout, The LORD, with the sound of a trumpet; Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises,” (Ps. 47. 5).

Two momentous leave-takings: the first  violent, traumatic – when Jesus breathed His last and surrendered His life into the loving hands of His Heavenly Father; the other, just forty days later, when He, while  talking to His disciples was taken up and eventually disappeared into a cloud…lost to their sight. This was a joyful separation – cause for praise and thanksgiving, one full of expectation and anticipation.

During this forty day period between the Resurrection and Ascension Jesus had never given His disciples the impression that He intended to settle down with them. Rather, He unpredictably appeared to them and disappeared from them…had meals with them, talked with them.

Above all, else these Resurrection Appearances were social calls, ‘getting to know me’ as the same Jesus, your friend, who had triumphed death; ‘getting to know me’ as the friend who brought you peace even after you’d let me down and betrayed me when I most needed your loyalty and support.

Jesus simply had to firmly anchor down their belief that the Jesus they had known and loved for three years had indeed risen from the dead. It was immensely important to Him that Thomas should overcome His doubt and hesitation. Jesus patiently brought Thomas to the point where he would exclaim, 'My Lord and my God!' to which Jesus added, ‘You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. (Jn. 20.28).    

 With these extraordinary comings and goings for over a month Jesus must have convinced them He was deeply attached to them not only because He had a task, a Mission, for them – to proclaim Him to the whole world. They meant so much to Him, and now so do we, that He longs to extend our ‘togetherness’ with Him way out into eternity.

This permanent Heavenly Future would be nothing like what could ever be experienced here on earth. In fact, it would be what our Heavenly Father had intended when He created the first man and woman. Indeed, to save us for this was precisely the purpose of His Son being sent into this, our world, living for us, dying for us, 

             “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full,(Jn1.10). 

                        And, finally, He ascended to prepare a place for us.

“In my Father's house there are many places to live in; otherwise I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you to myself, so that you may be with me where I am. I shall not leave you orphans; I shall come to you.  In a short time the world will no longer see me; but you will see that I live and you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you,” (Jn.14).

Jesus, in the fullness of His humanity – body and soul Ascended into Heaven there to be gloriously present at the place of honour – the Right-Hand Side of His Heavenly Father.  This was a glorious triumph for the whole human family ...the family He had made His own. Jesus wishes to share this with us – you, me, all of us.

As we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven we simply must celebrate the glorious reality that our own mortal, frail, human bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. We are called to live such lives that in and through our human bodies we give great glory to God.  In so doing we  ourselves are to become glorious even now during our lives on earth.

Eventually, at the Last Judgment, our bodies will be reunited to our souls. Then, and there, we shall be once more fully alive in the fullness of our redeemed humanity, body united to soul.  This was a privilege Jesus secured this privilege for His Mother, Mary, by her being  Assumed  into Heaven.

The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven has to be about you and me, every member of the human family. If we embrace the call to lead godly life here and now Jesus will welcome us into a life with God for eternity. Surely this is worth aiming for, worth striving for! 

Peter Clarke, O.P.  

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


Chaos in choir as our brethren sang community prayers in Grenada ! To their alarm they saw a land crab scuttling between their feet. Fearing it would nip their toes they hastily lifted their legs from the ground. They were not sufficiently agile to leap onto their seats.
This incident got me thinking. How should we cope with interruptions and distractions when we are trying to pray ? Certainly the crab had to be put outside the chapel for the safety of the brethren’s toes. Is that how we should treat the distractions we all have when we pray ? 
What are distractions ? I suppose they are the interests of our daily lives which really hold our attention, but which intrude into our prayers. They may be trivial or momentous, joyful or sorrowful. To consider them as distractions means they have nothing to do with God and that we should only pray about godly, religious matters.
Everything else is a distraction, and, like the crab, should not be allowed into church, or, ejected as quickly as possible. This sounds fine until we realise that this approach excludes God from all activities except the short time we spend in prayer. God is shunted into a backwater, well clear of the mainstream of our daily lives. It suggests that our daily interests and concerns have nothing to do with God. He is confined to a brief god-slot of prayer, hermetically sealed from the outside world. That doesn’t seem right.
Let’s see if there’s a better way of coping with so called ‘distractions.’ These are what really grab our attention and hold our interest. God is interested in everything that concerns us. So, instead of driving away these distractions let’s bring them into our prayers. If we share everything with a trusted friend, why not God ?
This way our distractions will disappear, as they become part of our prayers. We can thank and ask him to bless all that is good in our daily lives. We can ask him to heal and forgive all that is bad. If we are suffering we can identify with the crucified Christ, who shared our pain and was able to draw good out of evil. We can and should pray about our temptations, honestly telling God about them and asking his help in coping with them. We can see that all our joys and longings will find their fulfilment in the kingdom of heaven. Praying about our ‘distractions’ will help us get our pre-occupations into perspective, God’s perspective. This way we bring our whole selves before God and get him involved in all that we are, all that we do.
This approach is very different from simply day dreaming about whatever interests us. That’s not prayer. To turn our distractions into prayer we must relate them to God. That can require a bit of ingenuity and imagination. But with practice we will get the knack. It’s worth giving it a try. You will find that everything can be related, one way or another, to God and is summed up in the Mass. 
Isidore Clarke O.P.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016



Peter and I have now concluded our reflections on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. To summarise, I will  see how we can express them in daily family life. In many ways they are equally applicable to Dominican community life.

In this year of Mercy Pope Francis has gone so far as to proclaim that Mercy is the very Face of God. We people, who have been made in God’s own image and likeness, must reflect His mercy in our own lives.

It is in the family that we first learn to do so. Through what are known as the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy we share in God’s compassion for those who are in physical, emotional and spiritual need and pain. No matter what our age or ability family life provides most of us with the most immediate opportunities for sharing God’s compassion through the Works of Mercy.

Even in the most loving of families we do sometimes hurt each other. We’re so close we sometimes tread on each other’s toes –hopefully accidentally. When under pressure, we sometimes explode. We say and do things, which hurt those closest to us. If so, God expects us to apologise for the pain we have caused, and forgive those who have harmed us. The balm of merciful healing is essential to family life, if it’s not only to survive but also to flourish. Without the resilience of mercy family life will be so brittle it will fall apart.
But in addition to being forgiving God expects us to be His voice in comforting, encouraging and teaching. Through our hands He heals the sick, clothes the naked and feeds the hungry. In our daily lives we’re called to be instruments of God’s Works of Mercy. Such activities cause us to reach out unselfishly to others in their need. We are called to be generous givers of ourselves, rather than selfish grabbers for ourselves!

The family has been called the ‘Domestic Church.’ The home provides wonderful opportunities for each member of the family to learn to show the practical love and compassion of the Works of Mercy. We can all give a helping hand when there’s so much to be done around the house. We can all show an interest in how husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister has spent the day…congratulating and commiserating. This calls for loving sensitivity and compassion… enjoying having time for each other, time to be with each other.

Sometimes we will have to care for a sick member of the family. There will be times when we will need to draw close and comfort each other –when there’s a death in the family. There will be other times when we can show our love for the family by doing some of the more unpleasant task in the home –cleaning up someone’s vomit or the cat’s mess. These are but a few examples of real, practical ways of expressing our love and care for each other.

Love for our nearest and dearest should come naturally. But God knows, and we know, that doesn’t always come easily! But when we do see them as our brothers and sisters in God’s family, when we do see Christ identifying with them in their need –then our natural human response shares in God’s own infinite love and compassion. What seems trivial and transitory assumes an eternal value. What a thought! We have become God’s channels and ministers of mercy!

One of the greatest needs is for us to make quality time for each other. Time to enjoy each other’s company, to listen to each other’s joys and sorrows. We should try not to allow anyone to feel neglected and lonely. And yet we can become so absorbed in electronic gadgetry –in computer games or TV programs, our mobiles, that we literally have no time for each other. Sadly, we can spend more time chatting to a friend on our mobiles than with members of our family living under the same roof! Such indifference can spell the death of family life!

Learning to be compassionate and considerate in the home should inspire us to respond to the needs of those in the ‘outside world’ -the work place, school, or playground, people suffering severe hardship in distant lands. Pope Francis sees a desperate need for us to overcome the modern evil of what he calls, ‘globalized indifference’ to the needs and feelings of others.

So, let us resolve to undermine this ‘globalized indifference’ by showing a greater compassionate care for each other. Let us start in the home and reach out to the world through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy! They are meant to provide a programme for action, not just a subject for pious reflection.
Let us pray

Heavenly Father, may our reflections on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy make us more sensitive to people’s needs and to their dignity as your children.
May we first learn to show your compassion in our homes and communities, and may that radiate out to the world beyond.
Help us to become a more caring and compassionate society, reacting against the culture of self-centred ‘globalized indifference.’
May we be your true sons and daughters, reflecting your Face of Mercy. Above all, may we be doers of your word, and not just hearers.
We ask this through your Son, Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
For the sake of His Sacred Passion have mercy on us and the whole world.

Isidore Clarke O.P. 
Thank you for reading our reflections on the Works of Mercy.  Now that we've finished the series we would  welcome your reactions. 
May God bless you
Peter and Isidore Clarke O.P.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016




It’s very fitting that the last of the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy should be about Praying for the Living and the Dead. That makes explicit what has been essential to all the other Works of Mercy. Each of them should be inspired and empowered by prayer. Through our prayers we entrust the needy to God’s loving care. That immediately relates us and them to Christ, who identifies with the needy, and with those who comes to their aid. As we pray for others we become united to God’s compassion for them and draw upon His infinite power to assist them.
All of the Works of Mercy are concerned with helping other people, rather than being pre occupied with our personal needs. As we respond to other people’s needs we are taken out of the self-centred ‘me,’ or ‘selfie’ culture. That’s why we pray ‘Our Father,’ not ‘My Father.’ Prayer for others transforms humanitarian concern for the Family of Man to concern for God’s Family –our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Because both the living and the dead belong to the one Body of Christ -the Church -we believe death does not break the bond between those who are still alive here on earth and those who have died in Christ.
Our prayers, and especially the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection in the holy Mass, can help the dead to complete their journey to eternal happiness in heaven. They still need to be purified of the remaining effects of sins, which have already been forgiven. Only then will they be fit to enter the very presence of the All-Holy God. 

   Through this Spiritual Work of Mercy our prayers for their eternal salvation directly involves us and our deceased loved ones in God’s greatest expression of loving compassion. This is the climax of the Works of Mercy!

The importance of praying for the dead is expressed in the Sacred Scriptures. "For if he (Judas Maccabeus) were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought," (2 Macc. 12. 44-45).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church proclaims an exciting development in our understanding of the importance of praying for the dead. I’d been taught that the dead were simply passive beneficiaries of our prayers for them. But no. The Catechism teaches, (958), "Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, BUT ALSO OF MAKING THEIR INTERCESSION FOR US EFFECTIVE." In other words, our prayers for the dead enable them to pray for us. There’s a wonderful dialogue of us praying for each other. This idea is further developed, (1689), "It is by the Eucharist thus celebrated that the community of the faithful, especially the family of the deceased, learn to live in communion with the one who "has fallen asleep in the Lord," by communicating in the Body of Christ of which he is a living member and, then, BY PRAYING FOR HIM AND WITH HIM." The Church here teaches that we can not only pray for the dead, but also with them, and that they can pray for us. To share such comforting teaching with those who mourn would be a wonderful work of mercy, which the Church should proclaim.

I have found that praying for the dead is a great comfort for the living. Through prayer we can tie up the loose ends of regrets, which we all have when someone dear to us dies. We failed to apologise when we’ve hurt someone, or to express our love and gratitude for those we took for gratitude. But through prayer we can still put things right and express our continued love in a practical way. That removes the sense of helplessness and guilt, which often accompanies grief.

Perhaps, surprisingly, praying for our deceased loved ones transforms and enriches our love for them. While they were with us here on earth we tended to concentrate on their temporal needs –their corporal and emotional well-being, their jobs etc. But when they die our prayers focus solely on their eternal salvation. Through our prayers we help them to pass from being members of the Pilgrim Church to complete their life long journey to eternal rest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Placing the needs of both the living and dead into God’s loving care is the greatest expression of our loving concern for the needy and provides a fitting climax to our reflections on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.


Let us pray. 

Heavenly Father, throughout our series on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy you have helped us to looked beyond our own needs to those of other people. We rejoice that our concern for them embraces not only the living but also the dead. Through our prayers we can express our love for them in a practical way. That is a great assistance to them and comfort for us.
As we pray for them we unite our concern for them with your infinitely loving care and compassion. Confidently we place them in your hands, knowing that you will only give what will help them to receive eternal happiness with you.

Heavenly Father, we know that we need you to guide and strengthen us in expressing your compassion through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. We ask you to give us the sensitivity to recognise people’s different needs, to see their dignity as your children, when that may be hidden by their wretched appearance and uncouth behaviour. Above all, dear Father, do not allow us to become detached observers, but inspire us to work and pray for your needy children, our needy brothers and sisters in Christ.

We confidently ask you this through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who promised that you would grant us whatever we sought in His name. Amen.
For the sake of His Sacred Passion have mercy on us and the whole world.
Isidore Clarke O.P.
Although Peter and I have completed our series of comments on the 14 Works of Mercy we thought it could be helpful for me to show how we can put them into practice in our families, or indeed, in any community context.  That's what I will do next week.