Friday, 30 October 2009


In the film, "The Sound of Music" Julie Andrews was seen striding down the mountain slope trilling merrily about the hills being alive with the sound of music. I know someone who saw the film over thirty times. Do you think such 'honey-sweet' music would cause young and old as much pleasure these days as it did over forty years ago?

Only a few days ago I had been searching for something, a word, an incident, anything that would get me started in writing a blog for this column. Well, there was I in a minibus in the beautiful tropical island of Grenada, waiting for it to fill up so that we could get moving. My curious eye cast this way and that . Was my prayer being answered? There on the windscreen of of the bus was written,


Now I'm not one to take offence at this slogan as being insulting to us elderly. I ponder, 'Is this a defining truth that is meant for Peter, the blogger, here in the very environment where sound is often at its most strident?' Here some youngsters, but not all of them, might ask the driver to turn up the volume, and one of my age, but not all, might beg that it be turned down. Since this situation occurs so frequently I can't help wondering if there's some correspondence between the generation gap and the breaking of the sound barrier.

The good Lord has provided a comfort zone of volume and pitch for each of the creatures to which he has given the faculty of hearing. A herd of elephants is charmed at the melody of trumpeting to each other. A swarm of bats finds joy in their choir of shrill twittering. By nature we of the human family come somewhere between these extremes. Nowadays, modern technology allows us to amplify sound almost ad infinitum or at the turn of a knob to eliminate it completely.

It's been suggested that those who continuously bombard their ears with exceedingly loud music may eventually become 'hearing impaired.' If so, such partial deafness will have been self-inflicted. I've also read that on-going loud music jangles the nerves, causing people to be irritable. it wouldn't surprise me if it's true.

What an ironic contrast that while ageing people tend to become 'hard of hearing' and have to resort to hearing aids, young people may be on course to 'deafening' themselves. As for me, at the Sunday liturgy of all places, I'm deprived of serene piety by amplified guitars, key-boards and percussion instruments. Little does the choir, ecstatic in its music making, realise the orchestra is preventing their every prayerful sound, their every inspiring word, from being heard!

Still, I'm able to cope, though with suffering and most certainly not in silence.

I would like to give some 'sound' advice to those youths to whom it may apply -that they should be more considerate to elderly people like me, in public places and especially under the family roof, where those of different generations make up their homes and seek their peace together. And I'm truly concerned about what the young are doing to themselves by subjecting their ears to greater sound than they were ever meant to tolerate...possibly doing far more harm to themselves than they would ever have imagined.

In my concern for them I hope that even now they experience the beauty of we learn from the prophet Elijah, in the passage in which I find so much solace:-

"Then the Lord went by.
There came a mighty wind, so strong that it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord.
But the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind came an earthquake.
But the Lord was not in the earthquake.

After the earthquake came a fire.
But the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire
came the sound of a gentle breeze.
And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Then a voice came to him..."
(1 Kings 19)

Surely that's: god'swaymyway!

Peter O.P.

Next week Isidore will meet God in a Pot of Jam

Friday, 23 October 2009


"The way I tell the difference between you and your brother is that one of you knows how to end his sermons...!"

With those remarks a young lady tried to make conversation with Peter, soon after we'd arrived in Grenada. But then she stopped and beat a hasty retreat as she realised she was digging a hole for herself by implying that that the other of us didn't know how to conclude his sermons. To this day, over fifty years later, neither of us knows to whom she was referring. Each of us is convinced it was his brother!

That's just one of many examples of the confusion we identical twins can cause. Then there was the occasion when I returned to Grenada after an absence of twenty five years. As we stood in the market place someone came up to us, took a hard look at me, and exclaimed, "What the hell is that!" "THAT" turned out to be me. I was also known as, "Peter again" and even, "Peter squared." Today, "Rounded" would be more accurate.

Then there was the time when Peter was examined twice for acceptance into the Dominican noviciate, and I nearly missed being interviewed. If we hadn't pointed out the mistake what would have happened if in one interview Peter had been accepted and the other rejected? And what would have happened to me? We're still wondering.

Sometimes we can use the confusion we twins create to our advantage. Such was the case when, as Dominican students, we played for the priory cricket team. Peter, who was right handed, would bowl off-breaks from one end, while I, who was left handed, would bowl leg-breaks from the other end. The poor batsmen were not only confused by the different directions in which the ball moved, but also by the similarity of the bowlers.

But there can be disadvantages in identical twins being confused. If, as happened for a short while in Grenada, we were working in the same parish I wouldn't recognise some of his friends, and he would sometimes fail to greet some of mine. Naturally they were hurt by our ignoring them.

And there's the constant danger of twins being lumped together and of each of us having to struggle to assert his individuality. Although we have so much in common, especially our Dominican vocation, we do sometimes disagree -hopefully constructively. That means we are able to work together on joint projects, such as this blog, and bounce ideas off each other. We've found the speed of emails enables us to offer instant suggestions and criticisms. We can, and have been, pretty ruthless with each other!

Being separated by the Atlantic for nearly fifty years has enabled each of us to develop his own separate identity. That has been good for us, even though we do miss each other, and it's great when every few years we are able to see each other for a short while. For us it's not true to say that twins are inseparable.

Being a twin, who is sometimes confused with his brother, made me grateful that God is able to tell us apart. Jesus has told us that he knows each of his sheep by name. Not one of them loses its identity or individuality in the vastness of the human flock. Hopefully, in different ways, each of us responds to his master's voice and follows him. So, in a special way, we identical twins reflect unity in diversity. We rejoice in what we have in common, as well as what distinguishes us.

But what is most important is that God welcomes us for what we are -identical twins, each of us being unique. I thank God I'm able to meet him in being myself, not Peter. And he must meet God in being himself, not a replica of me. That's the way God welcomes each of us. And God loves each of you as an individual, who is not confused with anyone else. You, too, must seek and find God in being yourselves, not a clone of anyone else -even the greatest of saints.

As you may have gathered from earlier postings Peter works in the West Indies, while I now work in England. Since we live thousands of miles apart there's a time difference of four hours. That means that although Peter was born three hours before me I reach each of my birthdays four hours before he does. For a little while I'm older than him. Sadly I haven't yet found a way of taking advantage of my short-term seniority.

This time difference also means that as I meet God in one way while I'm tucked up in bed, Peter meets him in another way while he's still up and about. You never know, one of us may develop this approach to meeting God. Watch this space!

Isidore O.P.

Next week Peter will meet God in the Sound of Music

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Pachyderms -rhinos, elephants
...splendid thick-skinned animals!

With their tough hides these massive creatures are shielded against the intense heat of the equatorial sun, hardened against the sharp-edged undergrowth through which they trample, resistant to the onslaught of many a foe ...magnificent in the way they are so well equipped to face the rough and tumble of life.

HOWEVER, not one of us would want to be known as emotional pachyderms -thick skinned, lumbering, insensitive, inhuman hulks, unruffled by the trauma of our own lives and those of other people.

Imagine, then, how thrilled I was when some time ago The Grenada Media Workers Association invited me to take part in a panel discussion, with the delicious subject being,

"Developing A thick Skin While Retaining Our Sensitivity."

Becoming thick-skinned, capable of dampening down the stress of personal anguish and the impact of the tragedies of others. And yet, in striving for this, remain sensitive-responsive to the heart-breaks, insecurities, fears, and even shame of others.

Media Practitioners have to cover some awful events. For their emotional survival they need something of the thick skin of the elephant if they are not to be traumatised. The same professional detachment is required of those working in the casualty ward of a hospital, or even of us priests who have to be there, supportive of those in distress. All of us must become sufficiently self-possessed so as not to swamp others with our shock and sorrow at what we see before us. Therefore, we must develop a thick skin. This surely applies to all of us at some time or other in our lives.

A closer look at the pachyderms reveals that their skins are porous. Through their skins they perspire -they get rid of the heat within their bodies. They are cooled, through and through, as they wallow in the refreshing water-holes. So they are by no means insensitive, closed to the outside world. And, you know, a pachyderm's thick skin protects its soft heart. It wouldn't function if it had a heart of hard stone.

In a sense, we are thin-skinned -emotionally -and thank God for that! We are porous and so are open to absorbing the pain of others...something like a sponge. Somehow or other we must find, acquire, develop a fine-tuned, well-balanced emotional life -at one and the same time being like leathery pachyderms, while retaining the tender sensitivity that flows from our humanity ...people familiar with tragedy but not hardened by it.

I think of Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, shedding tears over his beloved Jerusalem. We can only guess at the extent he was emotionally drained as he ministered to the sick, the bereaved, those who had lost confidence in themselves because of their personal shame. And in Gethsemane didn't he combine great human sensitivity, as he sweated blood at the very thought of his approaching agony, together with a pachyderm-tough will as he accepted the cup of suffering from his Father?

Jesus and his followers -a herd of sensitive pachyderms
...with a difference...meeting God...mywaygodsway.

Peter O.P.

Next week Isidore will meet God in Glorious Uncertainties

Friday, 2 October 2009


What moves first with four legs, then with two, then with three, then the rest is history?

So asked the questioning Sphinx. It's not by chance that I always have my dog-headed walking stick close by me -even when composing these blogs. I gaze at my beloved dog-head as I search for inspiration. Its vanity will only be satisfied when I have given it blog publicity. Bingo! The answer! Me and my stick! The answer to the Riddle of the Sphinx:

As babies we crawl on all fours.
As healthy adults we walk on two legs.
And when we become aged and frail we get around on two legs + a walking stick
Such are the stages in our lives.

Well, I've reached the stage of requiring a stick -hence the picture of the handle. As you can see, it's far from ordinary. In fact it's very splendid and I'm inordinately proud of it. It depicts a St. Bernard's dog, complete with brandy barrel, which unfortunately is empty. A friend, visiting the Pyrenees, brought me back this beautiful present.

I'm not the only one to admire my stick. In fact complete strangers in trains and restaurants look at it with wonder and start talking to me about it. From this introduction we sometimes get into conversation, especially on long train journeys. Young people offer their seats to this frail old man who needs a walking stick. I always accept, since it would be churlish to refuse such a thoughtful and caring gesture. If, out of pride, I were to reject their offer they might be reluctant to show someone else the same kindness. They might think, "Once bitten twice shy."

As I reflect on my dog-headed walking stick I thank God for moving my friend to give it to me. This not only enables me to get about safely, but also proves to be a wonderful ice-breaker. It sparks off a spontaneous friendly reaction in complete strangers. They obviously want to be friendly with me and welcome my warm response.

All this could be dismissed as being trivial and transient. I think that would be a mistake. In these passing encounters we meet God's children, and they meet us. That's mywaygodswaytheirway of establishing communication. More than this, we meet God in each other. And as we exchange pleasantries about my beautiful dog-headed walking stick both of us feel a warm glow, which enriches our day. We seem to want to reach out to each other, but are afraid of being intrusive and clumsy. My dog stick has provided a way forward.

Far from being humiliated by needing my walking stick to steady me, I rejoice that it has opened new and unexpected doors, not only for me but also for other people. Anything that breaks down the barriers, which isolate us, is a gift from God. That goes for my walking stick! Take another look at it. It deserves more than a passing glance.

Isidore OP.

Next week Pachyderms will help Peter to meet God.