Sunday, 27 December 2009


A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words.
You have the picture, drawn by my brother, Isidore. But what about the words?

You might think that here am I being attacked by a wildcat. And that would be far from the truth. Between me and this cat there was a beautiful relationship. I was the provider of food; this cat the provider of so much companionship and consolation for me personally.

Don't be deceived by the name, "Tiger" describing my cat's appearance, not its disposition. A truly beautiful cat. And, for the most part, so affectionate and appreciative. A cat to be proud of.

And then, for no discernible reason, the surprise assault -physically painful, emotionally devastating ...a falling out of love with a vengeance. What had I done to deserve this? What had I left undone? In this you see the howling agony of me betrayed, rejected by my trusted friend, my beloved cat.

The cartoon does nothing to boost my self-image, even though it may be a true representation of myself at that traumatic moment in my life. The picture also captures the soul of Tiger, then and there, ferocious, ugly, hostile...not the Tiger I loved and thought I knew.

In my bewilderment I am forced to ask, "What was Tiger saying to me, a benign and caring friend?" In allowing this to happen, what was God, my loving Father, saying to me? Surely not the cynicism of, "Put no trust in princes!" Nor in cats! Could it be that I must be brought to realise that I am not so lovable to people as I would like to imagine -nor to cats.

Until I find satisfactory answers to these questions I am unable to decide how I am to Reach God....mywaygodsway. There is so much I don't understand...perhaps I'm not meant to understand. Could it be that I am meant to learn constancy in friendship, even when.....
And having learned, I must teach this to Tiger.

Peter O.P.

We have marked this, our 50th posting,
with a combined effort.
Isidore has drawn the cartoon and Peter has written his comment.

Next week Isidore will meet God in a Miner Digging Deep

Thursday, 24 December 2009


It's awe-inspiring to gaze into the sky on a dark, clear night!
It's so vast. We can see myriads of stars, far too many to count, millions of miles away. Astronomers tell us there are very many more, even further away, which we can't see with the naked eye. The light from some stars has travelled such a great distance that the stars ceased to exist long before their light reaches us. The sheer vastness of the heavens fills me with a sense of wonder.

In recent yeas flight into space has given us a completely different perspective. Now cameras in space can relay pictures of the earth on which we live. From space the earth now appears like a small disk.

Seeing these photos of the earth has helped me get myself and the rest of humanity into perspective. Certainly we're so tiny that none of us could be seen from space. And there are millions of us, each with his or her own thoughts and desires, fears and longings. In comparison with the immensity of the universe we people seem so puny and unimportant -mere specs of dusts.

But then I remember Psalm 8.
"When I look at the heavens the work of your hands, the moon and the stars that you have established; what is man that you are mindful of him, mortal man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little lower than God, and crowned him with honour and glory,"
(Ps. 8. 3-5).

This psalm has led me first to be filled with wonder at the power and glory of the creator of heaven and earth. The heavens do, indeed, proclaim the glory of God!
Then I'm amazed that God should not only notice us, but that he should care about us. He doesn't see us as a shapeless, anonymous mass, like the millions of grains of sand on the seashore. To God we are individuals. He knows and loves each one of us as someone special and unique. That's even true if you are an 'identical' twin! Jesus tells us that our heavenly Father knows every hair on each of our heads, every sparrow that falls, and that we are worth more than many sparrows.

But what really shakes my complacency is that although we people must, from a distance, appear like an anonymous swarm of ants the Son of God himself has joined the human race. He has lived among us, shared our human way of life, with all its limitations. The unapproachable Almighty God of majesty could be seen, heard and touched. He could be embraced with love or nailed to a cross out of hatred. Almighty God could not have paid us people a greater compliment than by becoming one of us. Now he is forever a member of the human race, forever committed to us. Never has he written any of us off as worthless, beyond hope. He has shared our human life, so that we could share his divine life. The craziness of uncalculating love is the only reason why God has gone to such lengths.

As I gaze at the stars I realize that the heavens proclaim the glory and majesty of God. That cuts me down to size. Seeing the pictures of the earth, taken from space, has made me realize how insignificant we are in the scale of the whole of creation.
And yet, and yet God is mindful of us, loves each one of us and raises us up to share his own divine life. He has given us a dignity we do not deserve. That blows my mind and leaves me speechless with wonder and gratitude.

Star gazing has led me to the babe at Bethlehem, just as it did the Magi. There we meet Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, lying, helplessly in a manger. With the shepherds and Magi come let us adore him!

Isidore O.P.
Peter and Isidore wish all our readers
Every Blessing for the New Year

Next week Peter will be Lost for Words

Saturday, 19 December 2009


There is no choice. There is no other way. At this season of the year the only way I can reach God is through the birth of his Son, Jesus.

Whenever I have been writing for this blog a the back of mind has been the opening words of the Letter to the Hebrews,
"At many moments in the past and by various means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets,"
(Hebrews. 1. 1).

Over the past few years I have come to recognise many and varied prophetic moments when God has been speaking to me -many of them fanciful and bizarre. These have been moments of grace, full of insight. I have attempted to respond to what God has been saying to me.

The Letter to the Hebrews continues,
"In our time, the final days, He spoke to us in the person of His Son."

I have celebrated many a memorable Christmas when I have felt very close to God -those of my childhood, those in large communities during the years of my Dominican formation as a priest, those as pastor of several parishes. Each in its own way has quickened and inspired my spirit. I cherish them all. On a few occasions there has been a Christmas of sad bewilderment when I have mourned the death of a member of my family. Such a variety of ways in which God has been speaking to me at Christmas. It has been up to me to discern how He expects me to reach Him this year.

What, then stands out for me as something that I would want to share with you?
I think of the time I was making the rounds of the General Hospital during the Christmas season. The lights in the maternity ward were subdued. There, in a corner, sat a father and mother silently gazing at their newly-born son lying in a hospital crib. It was a spectacle of love, awe and thanksgiving. I approached with diffidence, not wanting to disturb the magic of the moment. Behold, this family tableau was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Here I saw the beauty of Bethlehem -Joseph and Mary speechless as they looked down upon
Jesus lying in the manger. How great must have been their love, wonder, thanksgiving. Jesus was literally an adorable child.

And then I made my presence known to the father and mother, dear friends of mine. My arms encircled them in a loving embrace. Words of congratulation mingled with joyful laughter. And then I gently kissed the brow of their baby boy. Even now as I write this posting I tremble with emotion.

My thoughts return to Bethlehem. How would I have responded if I had been there on that Holy Night? Just as I did in the maternity ward, with hugs and kisses, laughter and congratulations. And of course, I would kiss the brow of the baby Jesus.

What a wonderful way to reach God...My way -letting my impulses to love gush forth upon the Tableau of my friend's family -holy in its own right -and in so doing reach out to the Tableau of the Holy Family -there in my heart, though not physically present to me.

Peter O.P.

Peter and Isidore wish our readers
Every Blessing
Chrsitmas and the New Year

Next week Isidore will meet God through Star Gazing

Monday, 14 December 2009


When it comes to money matters the times are mad, the times are bad!

Mad, because seemingly solid financial institutions have collapsed like a row of dominoes; bad, because this has not happened by chance. This has happened through those who ought to have known better...those who have speculated recklessly with other people's money, their life-long savings, their security. Highly paid people at that! I call this white-collared wickedness on a grand scale.

You see, most of us ordinary folk, being short of cash, have to be careful how we spend the little we have. Without being too formal about it we find that we have to make some kind of budget to ensure that we don't go in for extravagant shopping sprees or excessive partying. It would be mad to do this if it left us with unpaid bills!

This brings me round to this friend of mine who presented me with more than peanuts, insisting that this was "mad money." It was not to be spent on something useful, like a pair of shoes or some clothing. I was to indulge myself on something utterly enjoyable -nice but not necessary.

"Here's some mad money. Spend it madly." Was she mad in making this suggestion? For once serious me was to be frivolous -not to be practical, not to be calculating. I was to act out of character. She was reminding me how important it is to relax and not feel guilty about it.

I mention this now, when we are well into the season of Advent. We Christians have moved into top gear as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus ...Christmas. Not everybody sees Christmas in this way.

From the middle of November it has seemed that the world has gone crazy. Money is being spent madly. Stores are festooned with decorations -streamers, balloons and much else. People are being encouraged to buy, buy, spend like mad. Christmas trees are covered with glass baubles and twinkling lights. Later on, our homes will be garnished with such trivia. All these cost precious money. No need to mention how much is spent on special food and drink.

Not surprisingly, some, including preachers, suggest that all this, along with the seemingly mindless tunes about red-nosed reindeer and jingling bells, are replacing the true meaning of Christmas...a massive distraction from what is surely the central message of Christmas.

As though with fist-shaking defiance at these worldly trends Christians have come up with such slogans as, "Jesus is the reason for the season," and "put Christ back into Christmas." To them it appears that what now remains is a brightly wrapped package without content. They fear that Christ is being lost in all this glitter. For them Christmas is no time for foolishness.

And yet....? I can't put out of my mind my friend's 'hard earned money' becoming my 'mad money.' She insisted that I make a statement to myself that life is more than calculating and penny-pinching. We must take into ourselves, and not keep bottled up within ourselves, that God loves us insanely. And, dare I say it, 'Madly?' He sent his Son to be born of a woman, Mary. He wanted him to become part of the oft-times murky fellowship that is the human family.

To be loved so much by the One who is greater than the whole of creation is cause for joy that demands to be celebrated. The birth of Jesus is at one and the same time the most momentous and most joyful event in the history of mankind. And what is more Jesus took upon himself the 'madness of the cross.' He died for us...he rose for us.

If I sound hysterical, I can't help it. Our serious, faith-approach to Christmas does not have to exclude a certain light-heartedness. Why shouldn't our enthusiasm that the Son of God became flesh and dwelt amongst us be wrapped up in cheerful sights and sounds, not forgetting delicious tastes and fervent embraces. That's the way we do things.

Great events call for something 'out of this world,' out of Ordinary Time with its ordinary ways. Such is my enthusiasm for what took place in Bethlehem.

I am grateful to my benefactor for convincing me of the value of 'mad money,' and much else that is mad in my life. I think I speak for Isidore when I say that if we weren't slightly mad we could never have written this kind of blog! (I.C. says, 'Amen' to this!)

Peter O.P.

Next week Peter will reflect on meeting God through A Family Tableau.

Monday, 7 December 2009


A number of years ago I was asked to preach at a Dominican sister's Golden Jubilee of Profession of her religious vows. Nothing extraordinary about that, though she was a dear friend whom I'd known for many years. I felt privileged that she should have asked me to preach on such a special occasion.

But there was a great problem. She was very deaf. That, of course, meant that she couldn't have heard a word I said. Although I was able to give her my text afterwards I feared her deafness would have meant that while others heard my sermon she would have been isolated in her silent world. So after the celebratory Mass I told her about my anxiety.

Her reply was beautifully reassuring. She said that when she noticed my repeatedly smiling at her she smiled back at me. That, she added, had made her happy. That was enough.

I realised that if I'd talked absolute gibberish while smiling at her that would have made he happy. That certainly doesn't mean that the contents of our sermons is unimportant. It most certainly is.

But my deaf friend's remark reminded me that there's much more to communication than appealing to the mind through the use of words. We can express our thoughts and feelings through the way we behave -by a smile or a scowl, shaking a clenched fist or offering an open hand. My friend had the sensitivity to notice my smile and to recognise it as an expression of loving friendship. That was all that mattered.

Our smiling at each other led me to reflect on the different ways we communicate with God and he with us. Sometimes we do need to use words, though not too many. At other times words become superfluous and can be so inadequate in expressing our deepest feelings and longings. We're lost for words. We simply can't express our wonder at the majesty of God and the glory of his creation. Or we may be moved so deeply that we can only laugh, cry or groan. These reactions can be far more eloquent than many words. It's wonderful that Paul should tell us that the Spirit not only knows what they mean, but even inspires these non-verbal prayers, which arise from the very depth of our being, (cf. Romans 8. 26).

And there's so much in worship that is expressed non-verbally. The design of the church building and the position of the seats in relation to the altar express and influence the relationship between the congregation, what is done at the altar and the God we've come together to worship. How we dress, our postures and the way we behave in church should all express our reverence. Sadly, often they don't.

The adornment of the church, with its statues, paintings and stained glass windows can be great preaching aids as well as assisting our personal devotions. These visual aids can appeal not only to our minds but also to our imaginations and hearts. My deaf friend has taught me the important of non-verbal language.

And just as we don't have to use words to communicate with God, so, too, he usually doesn't need words to express his love for us. The letter to the Hebrews begins by telling us that at different times God has spoken to us in diverse ways, (especially through the Scriptures). But now he has spoken to us through his Son. And what Jesus did by dying on the cross was far more eloquent of his love for us than even his sublime teaching.

My deaf friend, who recognised and understood my silent smile, has taught me to be more sensitive to the many non-verbal ways in which God expresses his love for me.

My way to God must include my being able to read the signs of his love, expressed in all that he's done for me, all he has given me. And for me to smile gratefully back at God is a real, deep and loving prayer.
Isidore O.P.

Next week Fr. Peter will reflect on meeting God in 'Mad Money'