Tuesday, 23 February 2010


The bridal party had just arrived at the church. So I spent the time chatting to a group of small children, beautiful in their wedding attire. Such youngsters are delightful in the way they pass remarks and ask questions without inhibitions. In this they reveal the world they inhabit -one of false impressions and weird misunderstandings.

As I was leaving home for the wedding I had brushed my hand against a rough wall. While the flow of blood had been staunched, my hand looked something of a mess. As all the youngsters expressed their concern one of them surprised me by asking,
"Do priests have blood?"

I mused whether they thought that I, as a priest, was some kind of alien from outer space -such as the beings they see in the sci-fi films on television -non-humans with all sorts of gadgetry sprouting from their heads? Even bloodless.

I was reminded of the time my mother came to stay to stay with me in Barbados, long ago in the 1960s. Curious children came to the presbytery to find out what a priest's mother looked like. It never occurred to them that a priest should have a family background. For them the priest came from beyond and stepped out of a plane, just like an alien descending from a space-craft. These days West Indian children see priests coming from their own families. Now, no problem for them to see priests as ordinary folk, just like them!

And I had breezily assumed that everyone, including children, accepted me as a normal human being! I could understand that my priesthood set me apart from other people and that my sacramental ministry gave me powers not enjoyed by others. But for me it was bizarre that some would assume that I did not belong to the human race.

Of course I'm reading into these episodes more than was ever intended. But this does lead me to reflect on the much bigger issue that people have always had great difficulty in identifying Jesus as being truly, fully God and truly, fully human. No problem in recognising His humanity in the light of His Nazareth family background of Joseph and Mary, His eating meals, wearily sleeping in a fishing boat and finally dying on the cross.

But what to make of his deeds of power -healing the sick, raising the dead, calming storms, feeding multitudes with just a few loaves and fishes? There were those who believed that Jesus must have worked these wonders under the influence of Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Such critics could not accept that Jesus might be an exceptionally godly person, even God Himself.

My musing have taken me a long way from the child who wondered if priests have blood, and from those who had to find out if priests had a strange kind of mother. This has forced me to examine how people understand my priesthood. I ask myself what the promotion of local vocations to the priesthood means to young people.

My Way, GOD'S WAY lay through an inquisitive child who wondered if priests have blood, and those who speculated whether he had a strange mother. More importantly, I realise more clearly now how much is being asked of us when we confess that Jesus, Mary's child, is Lord and God.

Peter O.P.
Next week Fr. Isidore will reflect on Meeting God through Confession

Monday, 15 February 2010


A badger is a beautiful animal, rather like a tiny black and white bear. It's very shy and spends most of the day underground in a set in which several families may live. But in the evening the badger comes above ground to eat.

A friend and I were very keen to see a badger, and fortunately we lived near some woodland in which there were several sets. So, we decided to go badger watching. And realizing how shy they were we were very careful. While the badger has very poor sight it has very sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. So, in the evening we approached the set from down wind and moved very quietly. On arrival we sat opposite the set and sat very still, not making a sound. We watched. We waited; we became stiff and cold. And after spending several hours of keeping all the accepted rules for badger-watching, we didn't see a single one!

But on another occasion, when it was bright daylight, my friend and I were walking through the woods. We chatted noisily. Twigs snapped under our feet. We broke all the rules for sighting badgers. Wrong time of the day; wrong environment. And we were too noisy. But then, suddenly, a badger broke out from the undergrowth, right under our eyes. Clearly no one had told the badger the human rules about badger watching. It was under no constraint to follow them.

This got me thinking about what badger watching had to tell me about meeting God. Certainly there are useful guidelines, which dispose us to become more aware of His presence. It helps if we make time to be still and quiet. Remember how one of the psalms says, "Be still and know that I am God." Jesus encourages us to seek the solitude of our rooms when we pray. He himself chose to pray in the peace and quiet of the mountain top, of the wilderness, of Gethsemane. If Jesus and His disciples needed this time and space to relax, unwind and pray, so do we.

Although these guidelines are important in helping us to become sensitive to God's presence, He Himself is not bound to follow them. Like the badger, darting out of the undergrowth in broad daylight, God can and does reveal Himself in most unexpected ways -and at the most unexpected times. He frequently takes us by surprise.

Jesus tells us that we meet Him in the needy, who are appealing to us for help, as well as in the love and care that people show us. The risen Lord is with us as we journey through life. This was part of the message of His appearing to His disciples on the road to Emmaus. He speaks to us in the Scripture. We meet Him in each of the sacraments. He is with us in the market-place and in our homes: He is with us when we are at work and when we relax. If only we had the sensitivity to recognize and welcome Him!

Badger watching has taught me that while guidelines are useful, neither the badger nor God is confined to our rules. It's not for us to determine how they should reveal themselves to us. The Badger has taught me to be open to God's surprises...Surely a new approach to reaching God...by badger watching

Isidore O.P.
Next week Fr. Peter will reflect on A Child's Bewilderment

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


I've been called upon to bless motorbikes and rocking horses, homes and kennels; competitors in swimming races, application letters for employment, family meals...also amusement arcades and swimming pools. You name it, I've blessed it.

Imagine my excitement when asked to bless the newly constructed pier that would receive cruise ships visiting Grenada. The idea was that I should be carried aloft in a 'cherry-picker.' From on high my amplified voice would come, as it were, from the clouds. And then I would sprinkle water on the docks and the people below.

What a challenge to compose a blessing that fitted the occasion; and what a temptation for me to get above myself, as I fantasized about myself being pictured on the front page of the local newspapers with such headlines as, "Cherry-picker priest pours down blessings from the clouds." I would have been proud to have shown this to my beloved mother and to have waved this in front of my studious brethren, applying themselves diligently to the latest liturgical instructions from Rome.

But for reasons best known to himself our Almighty Father did not allow any of this to happen. The government minister responsible for building the likes of piers and docks had a change of schedule that required the event to be deferred. By that time I had winged my way over to England for my vacation. The substitute for this high-flying priest was the much-revered bishop. Out of deference to his years and to his office he was invited to pronounce his blessing at ground level. I have absolutely no doubt that his prayers were just as effective as mine would have been from above and beyond.

As I reminisce about blessings that have caught my imagination I recall the custom on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Whatever had been given for Christmas was brought to the church to be blessed, as well as the one who received the gift. In a country parish proud youngsters have not only come with the traditional toys, games and dolls, but also with puppies, piglets, newly-born lambs, kittens and recently hatched chicks...I almost forgot to mention the goats.

And then there were the blessings on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. All were invited to bring to the church whatever they used when they were doing their work. Some came along with their pens and exercise books, others with frying pans and saucepans, yet others with scissors. crochet needles or sewing machines. There were those with their lap-tops, machetes, fishing hooks, taxis or buses.

No things were excluded; no persons were excluded. In such a setting how could we omit refreshments, laughter and sacred song? Quite honestly I love this kind of 'popular religiosity' just as much as the solemn celebration of the liturgy. It touches lives and brings people together in the Lord.

I found such practices in Grenada when I arrived here over 50 years ago. Deep in my heart I see this is mywaygodsway for me to enter into a wonderful relationship with God, the giver of all good things...and to relate to God's people in the islands that have long been my home and life.

Peter O.P.

Next week we will combine to meet God through a Crab in the Choir