Friday, 16 July 2010


I'd enjoyed reading the book -a brilliant, imaginative and convincing fantasy. Seeing it on a small screen was a revelation to me of the creative skills of the experts in computer technology. It was also a big let-down. How can one be impressed by imagery, no matter how exciting or romantic, when men and women appear no larger than toy soldiers and elephants are as small as the pet gerbil!

Everything changed when I was taken to see the same drama on a large cinema screen. Loud speakers were distributed throughout the auditorium so that all of us seemed to be encased in a capsule of sound.

There was I with my brothers engrossed in watching the film, "Jurassic Park." We had just been given an episode that was as serene as the Garden of Eden (NB -before the Fall !).It was so relaxing and reassuring to be drawn into a world that seemed to be totally at peace with itself. Small wonder I had drifted off into a cozy, dreamy doze.

And then enormous, fearsome dinosaur filled the whole screen, silent..poised, menacing. Unexpectedly, a huge roar reverberated throughout the cinema. The thrusting monster leaped me, seated in one of the front rows, nearest the screen. Without a thought I rose from my seat and in terror yelled, "Oh, God!" at the top of my voice. Never before and never since have I felt such an urgent need for God to come to my rescue.

Of course, the spell of this day-time nightmare was immediately broken when everyone in the cinema began to laugh at impressionable me. For my part, I was shaken, emotionally exhausted. It had been so real. But then there were my brothers to bring me round to laugh at myself.

Only much later was I able to reflect on what had for me been a shattering experience. I was much sobered by the thought that I, and I suppose all other fellow human beings, do not have control of our emotional reactions. We cannot turn them off and on as easily as we can the images on our TV screens. Images can be so over-powering that at the time we are unable to distinguish between the fictional and the factual. We simply enter and identify with what is being presented to us.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have wept when viewing DVDs of 'Les Miserables' and 'La Boheme.' Who has been left cold and unmoved when watching on-screen drama which is violent or sensual? Let no-one tell us it's only a film and these actions are being acted out. And that they're not reality.

True enough! Up to a point! Beyond that point we are liable to be influenced in our thinking, our attitudes and possibly our behaviour by what passes for reality shows and virtual reality. They can be for us an occasion of which, without thinking or consenting, we identify with screened hatred, jealousy, spite and vengeance or with lustful cravings. There will be those who will be inclined to act out in real life what they've seen acted in the world of fiction, without realizing that the seeds of these dispositions were sown during a time of recreation.

At the very least God has taught me to reflect on my outburst in the cinema and to question seriously the effect the mass media of communication has on the innocence of my imagination, my desires and fears, and ultimately on my conduct. Mywaygodsways through a dinosaur, as it were.
In truth, 'Only a Film' -what a film !
Peter O.P.

Next week Isidore will reflect on, "Ears but cannot hear."

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Peter and Isidore


Messing about in boats -the English love it! Not that we have a monopoly in this pass-time.

A number of years ago a friend invited me to join him and three others on a week's holiday on a fifty foot long barge. There's something special about that kind of holiday. The speed limit is 4mph. Anything faster and the barge's wash would damage the canal banks. After a few days my whole approach to life slowed down. On my return to terra firma I found the speed of traffic became intimidating; crossing a road scary. I resented the headlong rush following upon the leisurely pace of canal life.

And the whole canal environment, rooted in the industrial revolution, was fascinating. As we chugged along I marveled at the engineering feat in constructing the canals in order to move non-perishable goods around the country. Long tunnels or cuttings had to be hewn through rocky hillsides, or flights of locks constructed to go over rather than through them. There's the contrast between the quiet countryside, with its special canal wildlife, and then the approach to an industrial town by the 'tradesman's entrance,' with warehouses on the banks. These reminded me that the canals were originally constructed for industry, rather than for holiday- makers like me.

So far so good...but then I wonder. Was I made for crazy situations? Or were they made for me? Any way let me tell you about a bit of canal craziness.
Among us five there was this experienced ocean sailing yachtsman. He'd been so conditioned by the open seas that when we arrived at the marina to pick up our barge he asked for a compass. He didn't realize that the direction of our journey would be determined by that of the canal, not be a compass. And he couldn't adjust from the mindset of the open seas to that of inland waterways. So, although there were drinking-water taps every few miles along the banks of the canal, he was in constant fear of our running out of water. As a result he insisted on us filling up every pot and pan whenever we came to a tap.

This nautical expert was keen to impress us landlubbers with his seamanship. So, when he came to moor the barge he leaped from the prow with the rope in his hand. Unfortunately its length spanned only half the distance to the bank. Out he shot.. only to be jerked to a sudden halt. Still holding the rope in his hand he plummeted beneath the canal waters.

That was but the start of his misfortunes. After changing into some dry clothes he put his wet ones on the barge roof to dry. Up sprang a gust of wind, whisking his shorts overboard. Having retrieved them he sat disconsolately in the bows, nursing a strong drink. Whereupon a fly settled on his nose. As he brushed the irritant away he swept his spectacles off his nose and into the canal. Sad to say, after spending some time treading the muddy bottom he never found them. "Wet, deflated and miserable" about describes this nautical impresario.

I must confess that we were all amused that someone who had been so eager to impress us had come such a cropper. In his case pride had certainly come before a fall!

But how do I meet God in all this ? Well, in the 'Magnificat' we're told that He casts the mighty from their thrones and exalts the lowly. But I would do well not to become too smug about my friend's misadventures -lest in my pride, I, too, should be heading for a fall. St. Paul tells us about God choosing the foolish to confound the wise. So perhaps I need the painful lesson of making a fool of myself, and being brought low, If I'm to learn some wisdom and meet God. The foolish bit I can easily manage -but learning wisdom from my folly is another matter!

Isidore O.P.

Next week Fr Peter will Meet God in 'Only a Film'
We have installed a device to enable us to filter out the unsavoury abuse of what is meant to be a religious blog. This means there will be a slight delay between your making your comments and their being published. Please don't let this put you off. We want to know what you think and will certainly publish criticisms and disagreements. Peter and Isidore

Thursday, 15 July 2010


This was one of those glorious days that promised to be completely satisfying and gratifying. The sun was shining as I set out to take Holy Communion to the sick and the aged in their homes, rounding off the morning with a visit to the General Hospital where I would administer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to several patients.

I enjoy this ministry because I invariably witness the consolation this Sacrament brings. I am moved and inspired by their strong faith. Their appreciation makes me feel good about my priesthood. When possible I try not to make very many calls, so that I can have the leisure to exchange a few pleasantries with all the family.

Sometimes when I recite the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary that is the Visitation, I, carrying Jesus in the Eucharist to homes, identify with Mary, who carried Jesus in her womb to the home of her cousin Elizabeth. It is a privilege to be a Christ bearer to others.

Now I have a problem Reaching God ...My Way. It's like this.
Just as I was leaving the last house of my rounds a vicious little dog rushed out from beneath the house and bit my leg. Look at my trouble! Where was God in this! What was He saying to me? How did He expect me to reach Him in these circumstances? My first reaction was that a dog is not necessarily man's best friend -certainly not mine!

After receiving my anti-tetanus injection I reflected on how readily the sick and the frail relate their own disabilities to Jesus, who suffered, died and rose for them. Their triumph is that with Christ-like trust in their heavenly Father they can unite their own vulnerability with that of Jesus. He understands and shares their pain. They understand and share His. They draw consolation in their tribulations from this Sacrament of communion with Jesus in His own suffering, death and resurrection.

My thoughts then turned to the Ministers of the Eucharist. There have been times, and there are still situations, when it is hazardous to life itself for priests to celebrate Mass and to take the Sacraments to the sick.

From this perspective my dog bite was trivial -no big thing!. All the same, it has been salutary for me to recognise that men have so valued their ministry that they have been prepared to expose themselves to extreme occupational hazards. Who am I, then, to complain about a bite from an unfriendly dog? No room here for self-pity, nor for the presumption of identifying myself with these courageous witnesses to the Faith.

I Reach God ...My Way by accepting with tranquility that I was called to shed blood, no more than a couple of drops, in God's good cause.

Peter O.P.
Next week Isidore will meet God ...through messing about in boats.

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Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Less than two years a priest! Only a few months in the Caribbean island of Grenada and I'm required to stand in for a priest who was sick. At first I was somewhat daunted because of my complete lack of experience...the first time in my life to be completely the presbytery, having to fix the Coleman paraffin lamp and adjust the 'Cat's Whisker' crystal set radio.

I soon came to love every minute of walking the roads and hill-side tracks; en route meeting and greeting each and all, and receiving warm welcomes as I was invited into homes and offered drinks.

However, I had not yet got used to the tropical bright daylight swiftly rushing into evening darkness. As long as I was on the main road lighted candles and lamps guided me towards the presbytery.

This was approached by a steep avenue of trees. After a few paces nothing visible ahead of me, but total, solid darkness. At least I knew I was heading in the right direction. The hard even surface of the road was sufficient to keep me on course. When I strayed somewhat I met soft, tufty grass.

Progress was so far so good..until I collapsed onto a very solid lump of something, which surged and heaved itself upwards in one violent thrust that sent me hurtling backwards, surprised, shaken, bruised.

No need to speculate about what I'd encountered. It bellowed and brayed, pounding away from me in shocked indignation. Wouldn't you have done the same? The poor donkey had been violently awakened from its pleasant dreams. It knew not by what. It could not see me. It's limited experience of parish priests had never prepared it for this.

Come to think of it, nothing that I had been taught by my learned tutors at Blackfriars, Oxford, had prepared my priesthood for this. They might have cautioned me lest I got myself into trouble...but not, surely, the trouble of tripping over dormant donkeys!

An obvious lesson to be learned would be never to step out of the house without a flash-light, even the micro penlight version.

Only many years later, more than forty, when I'd got into this 'blog business' did it occur to me that there must be a spirituality to this episode in my priestly curriculum vitae. There must be something God wants me to share with you that might somehow be helpful to you. And surely He, stirring up these long dead memories, must, in these days, want me to learn something that would contribute to my own spiritual well-being.

Very much to the point are those words in Sacred Scripture about those who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death; also people being children of the light and children of darkness. And what about Psalm 119 (118),v.5, always a favourite with me?
'Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path.
I have sworn and made up my mind to obey your decrees.'

I think of the confusion, the pain and the shame I have brought to my own life, and, by direct consequence, into the lives of other people through my following my own lights, rather than allowing myself to be enlightened by God. This has been when I've stuck to my own opinions and preferences rather than do what I knew for certain was the will of God.

Mywaygodsway must be that I must always carry His light, never put out His light, never, never, never! For my own sake and that of others!

Peter O.P.
Next week Isidore will reflect on meeting God in a Place of My Own