Monday, 22 August 2011


Outdoor manual labour -for us Dominican students, what a welcome break from studying philosophy! Some of us would clear ground for us to plant trees; others would work in the kitchen garden and grow vegetables for our large community; while others would keep the grounds around our priory tidy. It was good to get out of the lecture hall and into the fresh air. It was good to get physically tired after philosophy had put our brains into a spin.

For most of the year we worked in separate groups with different jobs. But there were some key tasks which required all of us students to pull together as a team. We all hated those foggy afternoons when we had to pick ice-cold potatoes out of the frozen ground -the inefficient spinner only partly dug them out of the ground. We had to finish the job with our bare, numb fingers. A miserable, wretched task!

But we really did enjoy harvesting and haymaking in the warm, sunny weather. In those days farming was not nearly as mechanised as it is today. We had to become experts with the pitchfork. It's quite an art making a haystack, one which won't topple over. We had to be careful not to pierce each other with the fork as we pitched hay up to someone working on top of the rick. Not always were we successful! I can still remember a fork piercing my trouser leg!

And I vividly recall one occasion when we were building a haystack. There was I on top of the rick, carefully wielding my pitchfork to distribute the hay passed up to me. Suddenly I felt a tickling, an irritation, in the small of my back. What could it be? To satisfy my curiosity and to remove the irritant I pulled off my shirt and shook it.

Low and behold, a mouse jumped out and dived deep into the safety of the hay. What a nerve! It must have run up the inside of my trouser- leg and continued up into my shirt. What moved it to go there, I can only guess. Perhaps it was trying to escape from the galumphing boots of a Dominican friar, who had invaded its territory. Or perhaps it thought I would provide it with a comfortable safe, home. If so, it would bring its family. If the mouse got a shock, so did I. We students certainly had a good laugh afterwards.

Surprisingly, this long-forgotten incident unexpectedly surfaced from the depths of my sub-conscious some fifty years later. What provoked that I don't know. Perhaps the Good Lord, in His mysterious wisdom, had a deep purpose in reminding me of this adventurous mouse. Could the mouse, which had sought refuge in my shirt, tell me something special about meeting God? Certainly the encounter between the mouse and me was unique and took both of us by surprise.

Perhaps therein lies the message God wanted me to learn. It's quite simple and yet very profound. Through the wee mouse God was telling me that He approaches and speaks to us in many unexpected and different ways. Some of them momentous, others mundane, while others are amusing. I must be prepared to meet Him in whatever way or guise He approaches me -even through the curiosity of an adventurous mouse.

That's the central idea, underlying every posting on this blog. I don't need to seek a further meaning for this incident. That's enough. Perhaps I need constantly to be reminded to keep into sharp focus what Peter and I are trying to do in our blog. That includes not reading into any event a meaning which it can't really support. But my encounter with the mouse did teach me another important lesson -to tuck my trousers into my socks when haymaking! I didn't want mouse and mates to choose me as their landlord as they took up residence in my shirt!

And with the young Samuel I say, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening," (1 Sam. 3. 9). And please help me to understand what you are saying -even through an over-curious mouse!

Isidore O.P.

In a fortnight Fr. Peter will see how we can meet God through Our Patrons.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


I wanted to stay awake. I'd been looking forward to this occasion, this very moment. But I was so tired. Over and over again I found myself slipping from drowsiness into unconsciousness. I swung like a pendulum from 'open eye' to 'shut eye' and back again, in my fight to stay awake, my head, it actually hurt. The effort had worn me out. I felt rotten.
And I was afraid. I did not want to disgrace myself. Many's the time someone has roused me from my slumbers with a poke in the ribs and the whispered admonition that I was snoring loudly with the rasping sound of a tractor or of an old-time VW Beetle. I did so want to remain awake on this occasion most of all.
I wanted, I needed to remain alert. I couldn't afford to lose out. Eventually my resistance caved in. Time came when my contentment in slumber-land was shattered by a sharp poke in the ribs and the urgent whisper, 'Peter! You're snoring!' My instinct was, 'So what! Who cares? Leave me alone!' By the mercy of God lethargy silenced my tongue. Drowsily I looked around. I was surrounded by thousands of people gathered around an altar in a vast open space. And then I heard a voice I recognized, preaching...It was Pope John Paul II celebrating the open- air Mass in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.
I've been a priest for very many years. Often people many have confessed to me that they have fallen asleep when saying their prayers. They haven't been able to complete the prayer quota they've assigned themselves. They've felt so awful about this. And now, what about me? What size of a sin was it for me to fall asleep when the Vicar of Christ was preaching?
I excuse myself by recalling Gethsemane and how Jesus begged His inner circle -the elite trio, Peter, James and John -to accompany Him as He sought the consolation of prayer to His heavenly Father. They couldn't keep vigil with Him - even for just one hour. More than once Jesus aroused them and urged them to keep on praying. Much as they loved Him, they just couldn't make it.
Come to think of it, poor, tired Jesus couldn't match the expectations of His friends as they wrestled with the turbulent storm on the Lake of Galilee, "But He was in the stern, His head on a cushion, asleep. They woke Him and said to Him, 'Master, do you not care? We are lost!'" (Mk. 4. 38-39). What impertinence to suggest that Jesus had ceased to care because exhaustion had knocked Him out!
All this convinced me that we do not offend God when sleep snuffs out our prayers. Falling asleep is the most natural thing in the world. As far as I know every animal simply must get some sleep. It must relax so as to regain its vitality. And so must we.
In the Bible we find that on a number of occasions God spoke to people when they were asleep, when He could catch and hold their attention because they were not caught up in activities and anxieties, or even absorbing enthusiasms. And what a pleasing idea this is: There is no better way of falling asleep than when you're actually praying to God, with your mind, heart and love resting in Him. That surely deserves sweet dreams!
I know at least one person who will be relieved by this approach and will not think I'm fooling only myself!
Peter O.P.
In a fortnight Fr. Isidore will reflect on Meeting God through 'A Tickler.'

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


It's only a bee; it won't hurt you! With those reassuring words my delightful young niece invited me to stroke a bumble bee. Little did she realize that the furry, friendly-looking creature had a sting in its tail -at least some of them do. I still don't know how to distinguish them from the harmless ones. So I hastily declined her friendly invitation and persuaded her that it was not such a good idea to stroke bees, however harmless and cuddly they may seem to be.
Much later I learnt a similar lesson the painful way. That was when I was picking Victoria plums -which I knew would be delicious. Unfortunately I wasn't the only one to fancy them. Eagerly I picked a ripe, succulent plum. Unfortunately a wasp had got there before me and was tucking into 'my' plum. As I grasped the plum and the wasp I felt a sharp, burning pain. I'd been stung! Not surprisingly, I let out a loud scream.
After making a hasty, undignified retreat I dressed my wound. Then, undaunted, I returned to picking plums for my community. I wasn't going to be intimidated by a wasp, which was much smaller than me. But now I was much more cautious and wore a pair of protective rubber gloves. Before grasping each plum I inspected it carefully to ensure that a wasp had not got there before me. If I saw one I heeded the defensive warning of its black and yellow stripes: "If you touch me I will sting you! Keep your distance." That I certainly did.
As a result I was able to harvest the ripe plums the wasps didn't want, without my being stung -even though they buzzed round my head and occasionally walked over my face. Yes, there were many more than one of them. But by keeping a respectful distance, and allowing each other to enjoy the plums, both the wasps and I were satisfied, without our needing to harm each other.
This led me to reflect on the wonder of God's creation. Each creature has its own beauty. My little niece was so right to delight in the beauty of the furry bumble bee -but so wrong in thinking it would welcome being stroked. And the wasp also has its own special beauty. Like the bee, it has been endowed with a powerful sting with which to defend itself. I can't blame the wasp for protecting itself by stinging me.
I think it's safe to say most beasts don't waste their energy or expend their weaponry unnecessarily. If they're aggressive it's either to feed or protect themselves and their young. Usually they give a warning hiss, growl or rattle. Some are more fascinating. They may posture and bang their chests, display bright colours or puff themselves up to increase their size. They all expect us to get the message and back off!
I marvel at the way each beast has a special role and place in the balance of nature. As one kind preys on another that prevents one species becoming too dominant. Only man seems to disregard this delicate balance of nature. We over-fish the seas. We destroy the habitat of the insects we need to pollinate the plants that feed us. We are so short sighted!
But at last we are beginning to wake up! We are learning to respect our environment. Certainly that starts with self-interest. But then, hopefully we move beyond thinking only of preserving what is useful to us. We expand our horizons to marvel at the wonderful world which we inhabit with so many other creatures. And that word, "creature" reminds me that this is not only our world, but God's. He has given us the privilege and responsibility of caring for it and developing it.
As I wonder at the world in which I live I realize that each creature gives glory to God, simply by being its magnificent self. That goes for the smallest as much as the largest. And that includes the wasp that stung me! But we people are special in being the only ones on earth able to appreciate the wonder of God's creation. We can put into words and sing the praise which each creature gives to its maker.
So I meet God by marvelling at the whole of creation and at each creature. I meet Him by respecting the environment in which He has placed me and them. This should enable all of us, His creatures, to flourish. Out of respect we give each other the space each of us need. That, among other things, means I don't stroke bees or grasp wasps!
Isidore O.P.
In a fortnight Fr. Peter will reflect on Meeting God 'By Having the Will But Not The Way.'

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I'd purchased a pillow at a bargain price. Not that I needed one, but I wanted to support some church fund-raiser. In the interests of charity I will not name the 'Cause' I was assisting. Blessed are they who know when to keep their mouths shut! Concerning this pillow I have much to say.
Never, in my many years, have I ever placed my weary head on a harder pillow. Never has my neck been stiffer than after my giving my bargain pillow a one-night's-try. Perhaps it was designed to be a 'penitential pillow' for sinners who deserved to wait many tortured hours for the day to break and for the sun to rise. Isn't heaven reputed to be a place for eternal rest? I would strongly recommend the management there to trade with a firm that offers a 'soft option' in head rests.
Taking all this into account what am I to think about a fellow who chose a stone for a pillow? This must have been the hardest pillow on earth. Either he must have been in sore straits in this god-forsaken place or, perhaps, he was a person of little imagination. Even I could have taught him a thing or two about improvisation. In my camping days I've used tufts of grass, towels and rolled up clothes as stand-ins for pillows. Come to think of it, I've even aspired to the greater sophistication of creating a support for my neck by placing my shoes toe to toe and then covering the ensemble with a towel. Recipe for a good night's sleep!
Anyway, this hard pillow did not prevent our friend from having a dream that many of us dreamers would envy. Read all about him in Genesis 28. He, Jacob by name, dreamed of a ladder, 'planted on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and God's angels were going up and down on it.'
Surely a most pleasing dream when we think of the nightmares that haunt some of us from time to time. And what about this?
'And there was Yahweh, standing beside him and saying, 'I, Yahweh, am the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The ground on which you are lying I shall give to you and your descendants.'
No wonder Jacob on awakening exclaimed,
'Truly, Yahweh is in this place and I did not know!' He was afraid and said, "How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than the abode of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'
And I had described this as a god-forsaken place, barren and unfriendly. Never again will I be so rash, so dismissive of any corner of this, my world. No! It's God's creation; His world . He is everywhere. There's no such place where God is not. This awareness must be the foundational truth of my spirituality. I means that wherever I am, there is matter how dire may be the place in which I find myself; no matter how sinful may be the situation in which I have chosen to put myself. God is there, loving me, even if I have stopped loving Him- which God forbid!
He is there, accessible to me, whenever I want to get in touch with Him. He is there inspiring me, guiding me, shielding me, rescuing me - whether I am aware of this or not. God is to be found even, perhaps especially, in and through a hard rock.
I, personally, am delighted that with my name being Peter, which means 'rock,' I am to think of myself supporting others with the comfort I myself have received from the Lord who 'is my rock,my fortress, and deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,' (Ps.18.2)

Monday, 27 June 2011


The soothing peacefulness of an English autumn; the beautiful Christ Church Meadows of Oxford. There was I with my camera and my beloved, but now abandoned, pipe. I strolled along without a care in the world. I had no thought of returning with anything memorable to report.

All the same I'm a somewhat adventurous photographer -eager for the unusual, something that would be a conversation-piece, something worth bragging about. The tame squirrels in the Meadows seemed to be promising. They would take food from our hands and would even jump upon us. If I could catch such a shot it wouldn't be a bad start. But I wanted to do better than that!

So I found an acorn and stuffed it into the bowl of my pipe, which I then placed on the ground in front of me. Having baited my pipe I waited eagerly with my camera. But not for long. A squirrel darted from behind me, grabbed my pipe and leaped up the nearest oak tree. Seated on a branch it then removed the acorn. It even had the courtesy to throw my pipe back to me!

What a unique set of hilarious pictures that would have made! But no. The squirrel had ambushed me. It had taken me off my guard. It had moved so quickly that the whole episode was over in a matter of seconds. And I was so transfixed with laughter that I took no pictures. ..a wonderful opportunity missed! Obviously if I'd had more sophisticated camera equipment and had been in better control of my emotions I would have got my pictures.

But then, if I'd had the situation under control I would have missed the wonder of the unexpected. By no stretch of the imagination could I have dreamt up what the squirrel would do. My thoughts were earth-bound and went no further than hoping that I would get a picture of the squirrel remaining on the ground while it held my pipe and removed the acorn. That would have delighted me. It never occurred to me that the little I had to offer would prompt the squirrel to dash onto the scene, leap upwards with my pipe into the tree, and then, after it had taken its snack, return my pipe. This squirrel had transformed an obvious non-event into an amazing incident.

My squirrel has given new meaning to the adage, "While man proposes, God disposes!"

In this case God was exposing me to a new, exciting, unforeseen, unplanned experience. Could it be that He might be suggesting that we take a lesson from my squirrel and leap off, upwards, in unforeseen directions? The squirrel certainly had not expected to find an acorn in my pipe, still less to carry it up an oak tree. And when I set out with my camera that wasn't what I had planned. But as the squirrel seized my acorn-filled pipe it has provided my friends and me with many a laugh, even over sixty years after the event. That has enriched our lives in a way I had not expected.

And I have found that to be true of the more serious twists and turns in my life. My mother would not have been born if her mother had not broken of her engagement to a non-cricket-loving fiance and married someone who did enjoy the game. And our parents had debated whether we lads would be safer risking the blitz of World War II or running the gauntlet of "U" boats if we were sent to relatives in S. Africa. If we had gone there Peter and I would probably not have met and joined the Dominicans. And if illness had not forced me to leave the W. Indies I would not have had my crazy encounter with the squirrel. Nor would I have worked in a conference centre where I was able to hear famous lecturers explaining what the Vatican Council was all about. That has proved an enduring asset when giving retreats, conferences and sermons.

These unforeseen twists and turns in my life have taken me where I had not expected to go. If I'd remained wedded to my own plans I would have ended up disappointed and frustrated. Instead, the unanticipated has opened up new horizons for me. And If I'm sensitive I will realize God has always been with me, leading me into the unknown. That's exciting, and, at times, frightening. But in that unknown I will enter the wondrous mystery of God Himself.

I like to think that just as the squirrel got an unexpected bonus in finding an acorn in my pipe, so it has provided me with a humorous incident, which has thrown new light on the mysterious workings of divine providence. I can't make up my mind which of us was the craziest -the squirrel or me. I'm sure you have already decided!

Isidore O.P.

In a fortnight Peter will reflect on Meeting God by 'Getting Real'

Thursday, 16 June 2011


It was getting to 'Wind-down' time in the evening. I was quietly relaxing before going to bed. My cell-phone rang. Surprise! Surprise! A sprightly young voice burst forth upon me like a tidal wave with, "Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! You've won fifteen millions dollars in the National Lottery. Congratulations! Congratulations! Do you want it in cash or to be paid into your bank account?"

I had to halt this girl's avalanche of words. "Cool it! Cool it! Slow down!" I interjected. She was getting my poor head confused with her rapid-fire enthusiasm. "Tell me your name," I asked. "Penny!" she replied. "For heaven's sake!" I thought. "A girl call, 'Penny' was telling me I had won millions, no, billions, of pennies in the National Lottery."

I then calmly suggested, "Penny, tell me slowly what's all this is about -my winning a fortune in the National Lottery. And then give me a phone number so that I can reach you tomorrow." When I'd written all this down, I bid her, "Good night," and then composed myself for going to bed.

What a night I had! I threw caution to the wind! I let my imagination run wild. Not for me the sour caution of only believing in my good fortune once I'd seen the mountain of cash with my own eyes or when I was certain it had been safely lodged in my bank account. I pictured myself making it possible to pay off substantial debts on church buildings, or establishing bursaries for needy students, or assisting worthwhile charities.

With all this money flowing in my direction I expected at least to be allowed to make a celebratory cruise around the world. I put it this way because for over fifty years I have been a Dominican living under the vow of poverty. I'd been required to will to the Dominican Order any cash that came my way -earned, gifted, inherited or won by gambling. When I took my vows and when the Order accepted them neither side anticipated we'd be dealing with more than peanuts. I was not expected to be a financial asset to anybody.

I had mused on whether I would become bloated with pride at having become the Great Benefactor of the Order, the one who had plucked fifteen million dollars out of the air by winning the National Lottery. Would I be just the same person; would life go on just as usual?

Come the morning, I was brought back to the real world. No evidence could be found of my having made such a win in any lottery. The cheerful herald of my good fortune could not be traced through the cell phone. If her intention had been to rip me off through my bank account she must have rightly concluded I was not worth the trouble.

To tell the truth, the pickings and plucking in my life have come through hard others and by me. By the mercy of God and the industry and generosity of others I've never known extreme need. For that matter, I've never been in a position to fritter away a mountain of riches. After deep consideration I believe I shall be most contented and fulfilled if I am able to make my own this prayer in the Book of Proverbs,

"Two things I beg of you, do not grudge me them before I die: keep falsehood and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches, grant me only my share of food, for fear that, surrounded by plenty, I should fall away and say, 'Yahweh -who is Yahweh? or else, in destitution, take to stealing and profane the name of my God," (Prov. 30. 7).

Quite honestly, I don't think God wants me to win fifteen million dollars. I've never had much luck with raffles and bingos - nor with lotteries. It's not God's way of blessing me, nor my way for serving Him. But I'll tell you, God has given me His very self. What more than that could I want? And if I owned the whole world and did not have God in my life I'd be as poor as a church mouse. Come to think of it, never in my life have I bought a lottery ticket!

Peter Clarke O.P.

In a fortnight Isidore will reflect on meeting God in being "Taken by Surprise"

Monday, 30 May 2011


Ever since we were energetic teenagers my brother , Peter, and I have relished the idea of breaking free of the city and getting into the countryside. First we would have to choose an interesting place to visit. Then began the fun of planning our cycle route. For us travelling was as important as arriving. So out would come the map that would provide us with the crucial information we needed to make our journey. How we enjoyed wrestling with the decisions necessary in planning these outings!

There was the memorable occasion when we decided to cycle from Oxford to the south coast of England-about 100 miles. We'd almost reached the end of our journey when the weather turned foul, with driving rain and gusty winds. It was getting dark, and we valiant knights of the road, mounted on our bikes, were soaking wet, tired and miserable! And then, out of the mist and rain there loomed the warning sign, 'DANGER! ROAD CLOSED. DIVERSION.'

What were we to do? Sheer bravado, and eager determination left us in no doubt. We must reach the end of our journey as soon as possible. Grab the prospect of changing into dry clothes, and relaxing with a hot drink. We were eager to arrive as soon as possible. Go for the shortest route on our map. Wise in our fool-hardy conceit, we were not going to be deterred by a danger sign. Those, we thought, were for the faint-heart.

All too soon our arrogant folly caught up with us. Giant waves crashed over the coast-road we'd decided to take. What should we do now? Rashly we decided to press on, rather than turn back. After all, we were already soaking wet. A further drenching would make no difference. We didn't want to double back and prolong our miserable journey. Gradually the salty waves, crashing over our heads, caused our bikes to seize up. Every ball-baring became encrusted with salt. Peddling became harder and harder. At long last, utterly exhausted, we eventually reached our destination.

In a strange way this saga of many years ago is now telling me something about the purpose of God's Law -also its limitations. Far from being a strait-jacket that restricts movement, this Law is Divine Wisdom -a road map by which God shows His beloved people how to journey through life, responding to His love for them. Here He has chartered those quagmires which would destroy His people's love for Him. The Psalmist puts his love for God's Law beautifully,

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,"

(Ps. 119. 105).

No wonder Jesus said He'd not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it. After all, it was God's Law, and Jesus never ceased to be God; it was given to the Jews, and He never ceased to be a Jew. No wonder He did not want to tear up the 'map of life' He Himself had given His people!

Instead, He came to provide a clearer map that would reveal what had never been suspected, and much that had been overlooked or misunderstood...a map of life with more inviting possibilities and more protective warnings. God's Law guides us through this life and leads us safely to eternal life and happiness. So the prophet Jeremiah advises us,

Thus says the Lord, 'Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.' But they said, 'We will not walk in it,'"

(Jer. 6. 16).

You'd think Jeremiah had Peter and me in mind when he wrote those words -our headstrong perversity in ignoring a well intentioned warning road-sign. Much more crass to spurn God's road-map for life, as though we knew better!

But maps, directions and even laws do have their limitations. They can tell us how to get from one place to another, and what dangers we should avoid. But that information alone will never give us the energy to start moving and keep get on our bikes or to follow God's map of life and to persevere on our journey towards Him until our dying breath. We need God to do more than tell us where we should or should not go. We need Him to give us the will-power and energy to make the journey.

But then Jesus exclaims, "I am the way, and the truth and the life," (Jn. 14. 6). Not only does He show us the way to the Father, but He also gives us the energy to journey towards Him. Baptism sets us on our way and gives us a divine vitality, a dynamism to travel towards God.

So, I first meet God in studying and loving the map of life He has given us. Then I draw upon His energizing grace to journey towards Him. Out of love He has mapped out for me the way to eternal happiness with Him. I can trust Him not to lead me astray!

Isidore O.P.

In a fortnight Peter will meet God through 'Impossible Dreams.'

Monday, 16 May 2011


Far be it from me to admit that I was never a naughty child. God knows that I was, and so did my parents, who are now happily resting in the bosom of Abraham. God also knows that I was an adventurous and mischievous rascal. And so was my twin brother, Isidore. I leave it to him to tell his own tale.

And now we come to that day when we toddlers were going to visit one of those mega stores that promised so much excitement. From the moment of passing through the palatial entrance it was evident that there would be much to excite my curiosity and delight -so much to see, wonders to be discovered, corridors between counters and display stands to be explored. Mother, a caring soul, was lightly holding my twin brother and me by the hand. With a primitive instinct that escapees don't break out in a dramatic fashion, I slipped away from mother without her noticing. Gradually I drifted away from her as I peered this way and that, examining everything.

And then I espied the wonderland of toys -of teddy bears and rocking horses, building bricks and tricycles. With a mindless compulsion I was drawn on and on and on, from one toy to another -totally captivated.

But then I realized I was surrounded by strangers in an unfamiliar environment. I felt lonely, desolate. I panicked. I screamed for Mummy. I was afraid! But a kindly soul took me by the hand and calmed me down with soothing words. Holding me by the hand she took me into a small box-like room with no windows. A sliding door closed with a resounding clanking, clattering din.

Never before in my short life had I been so cut off from the world and everyone I knew and loved. And then there was the strange feeling in my gut that I was being taken up and up and up, and having nothing before my eyes to tell me it was so. Eventually this 'tin box' came to an abrupt halt.

The door gently slid open and we stepped out of the lift (elevator). In no time I heard a voice speaking into a mike my name and a description of me -a sweet little boy, with golden curls and wearing an orange shirt, bright red shorts and answering to the name of 'Peter.' "Would my mother kindly collect me from the 'LOST PROPERTY ROOM' -on the top floor of t this enormous building?!

In my infant ignorance I had wondered if she would be able to find me. No need to describe the reunion when mother reclaimed her 'lost property.' What a magic moment for both of us -she relieved that I had come to no harm; I ecstatic that mother had cherished me so much that she had sought me out until she could reclaim me and embrace me. She might so easily have blamed me.

And now, many years later, I realize that at this very tender age I had experienced the anguish of the lost sheep in the parable, and then the relief, the joy of being sought and being found by the shepherd -and not by a hungry wolf. In the parable the lost/found sheep was given a VIP welcome, a ride on the shepherd's shoulders.

Long after the event, I now reflect on the folly, the pain I had brought upon myself and upon my mother, all through my going after forbidden freedoms. And then I think of the beauty of discovering I was still cherished, wanted and welcomed by forgiving love after I had thought it smart to cut loose and 'do my own thing!'

A footnote. Excitedly I told my twin brother, Isidore, how this long forgotten episode had unexpectedly come to my mind and how I had promptly decided I could get a blog out of it. Immediately he chipped in that he had been the 'lost property' and had already used this episode in a sermon....Ah well! Mywaygodsway.

Peter O.P

In a fortnight Isidore will reflect on how maps help him to meet God

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


Poor Martha and Thomas! They've both had a bad press. Martha is stuck with the label of being over-active and fussy, of getting her priorities wrong. She's compared unfavourably with her contemplative sister, Mary. And Thomas will forever be known as the 'Doubter.' Though there's a certain truth in both these labels, they only describe one facet of each of their characters. These labels give an unbalanced and unjust impression. Far from helping us to understand each other labels can close our minds to the many facets of our characters. People are far too complicated and mysterious to be identified by a single label and then pigeon-holed. We need to strip off the labels, if we are to gain a balanced understanding.

That's very true with the label stuck on Martha. As she welcomed Jesus into her home, she prepared some refreshments, while her sister, Mary, kept Him company. That would happen when a guest visits any family or Dominican community. In different ways both sisters showed their love for Jesus. And He had no complaint about that arrangement.

It's usually forgotten that Martha wanted to join Jesus and her sister as soon as possible. That's why she complained to Jesus and asked Him to tell Mary to give her a hand with preparing the refreshments. But Jesus had a different approach -Martha should go to less trouble with the refreshments. That would free her to join them. After all, He'd come to enjoy the sisters' company, rather than to receive lavish refreshments. That's why Jesus didn't tell Mary to leave Him alone and help her sister.

Certainly there's a gentle rebuke here for Martha, who needed to get the balance right between doing things for those we love and making time to relax in their company. But that doesn't justify us sticking an indelible label on Martha for being hyper-active, in contrast with her contemplative sister.

That becomes very clear in another incident in which the two sisters feature -the raising of Lazarus. While Mary stayed at home weeping over the death of her brother, practical Martha went out to meet Jesus. With a robust faith she reproached Him for not staying to cure Lazarus. She then expressed her conviction that even after he'd been dead for several days Jesus could still restore him to life. Jesus was then able to draw out her faith in the resurrection so that she could accept Him as actually being, 'the resurrection and the life.'

Here we now see Martha as the contemplative, whose lively faith is deepened by questioning Jesus. And, like a good missionary, Martha leads her sister to Jesus. That is the prelude to His raising Lazarus from the dead. What a different Martha from the one who had been disparagingly labelled as 'hyper-active!'

Now for 'Doubting' Thomas. He was not the only one unwilling to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. No one did! But Thomas expressed their scepticism more forcefully than anyone else. Before he was prepared to believe he wanted not only to see the risen Lord, but even to poke the wounds of His crucifixion.

But Thomas' doubts were but the beginning of a journey from the deepest scepticism to the greatest act of faith in all the Gospels. Once Thomas realized that Jesus had, indeed, risen from the dead, he exclaimed, 'My Lord and my God!' In all fairness he should be called, 'Believing,' not 'Doubting' Thomas! But, sadly, we do tend to think the worst of people, and dismiss them with a negative label.

The unjust way Martha and Thomas have been treated should warn us against sticking labels on anyone -especially when the labels mark them out as failures in our eyes. No single label can do justice to anyone. We're all too complicated and mysterious for that.

If that's true for us people, it's especially true when we think and talk about God. He's far too mysterious to be labelled and pigeon-holed. Idolatry lies in attempting to restrict God to the limits of our human understanding. Only when we are prepared to accept that He is a mystery, who defies labelling and pigeon-holing, can we begin to understand Him. That's what stripping the labels from Martha and Thomas -and from each other -has taught me.

Isidore O.P.

In a fortnight Fr. Peter will reflect on Lost Property

Friday, 15 April 2011


After a long struggle we boy scouts gained a high ridge. On each side we looked down upon a valley, a lake and upon people, who seemed to us to be as small as grasshoppers, (cf. Num. 13.13). What a sense of freedom -for once not to be gazing at massive city buildings, not to be trapped in a car creeping its way along jam-packed roads. The joy of breathing unpolluted air! Below were sheep grazing; above, circling birds of prey. For me, a townie, this was sheer heaven.

And now, in a small Caribbean island, whenever I see a chicken hawk on high, detached from this world's troubles, supported and floating on the currents of air, having a bird's eye view on life, I ponder on how significant to us are such panoramic views. What are they saying to us?

I have been greatly moved by the reported impressions of astronauts gazing from 'way out' upon earth, upon our world, our beautiful, so serene, so remote. What is truth? Where is it to be found? Is it for us terrestrials, from the peak of Mount Everest? Or from the top floor of a 'high rise building?' And, in Biblical terms, on Mt. Sinai? Or on Mt. Tabor? Or is truth, the 'real world,' to be found at ground-level in the crowded homes with paint flaking off the walls, and on the crowded terraces of a football ground?

Quite honestly, I can't answer any of these questions. To me they offer false alternatives. There is no answer to Pilate's question to Jesus, "What is truth?" Apart from what Jesus claimed for Himself on another occasion,

"I am the Way, the Truth, the Life."

The resolution of this circling around, looking for answers, comes from Jesus Himself when He told Pilate,

"I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice," ( Jn. 18. 3).

But I still ask myself, "What is this truth?" and, "Where is this truth that Jesus claimed to be -the truth to which He came to bear witness?" Is it in the stable outside Bethlehem? On the shore of the Lake of Galilee? On Calvary -nailed to a cross? In the appearances to His friends after His resurrection? Or, ultimately, in glory at the Right Hand of His Father?

In fact, the truth that is Jesus is located in every moment, every phrase and every episode of at an overarching mystery,

"The Word became flesh, He lived among us, and we saw His glory, the glory that He has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth,"

(Jn. 1. 14).

Indeed, there were two starkly contrasting 'high moments' when Jesus demonstrated the truth about Himself.

The first 'high moment' was the prelude to His ministry,

"Taking Him to a very high mountain, the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. And he said to Him, 'I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.' Then Jesus replied, 'Away with you, Satan!' For Scripture says, The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, Him alone must you serve,'" (Matt. 4. 8).

Here Jesus was being true to Himself through being submissive to the will of His Father, rather than to that of the tempter.

The other 'high moment' came at the conclusion and climax of His life,

"Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself," (Jn. 12.31).

Here Jesus was being true to Himself in that He attracted people to Himself by the sacrificial love embodied in His crucified body, rather than by offering us wealth and power.

These questions will always be important to me -more so, the answers -but especially during that slice of the Liturgical Year which is Lent, leading through to Paschal-tide.

Reality is seen both from aloft with a bird's-eye view -Jesus looking down from the cross, and, from a worm's perspective in the dust of the earth -our looking up to Him on the cross.

And mywaygodsway of recognizing and appreciating my heavenly Father is to be in and through His Son, Jesus -crucified, risen, glorious, in every word that he uttered, and in every happening of His Life in His High moments, and in His Low moments.

Peter O.P.

In a fortnight's time Isidore will reflect on how removing labels can help us to meet God.

Monday, 4 April 2011


It was a glorious spring afternoon. The sun was shining, the daffodils were flowering; the trees were beginning to burst into fresh leaves. Nature was waking up after a bleak, death-like winter. Responding to nature's joyful re-birth I sallied forth with my digital camera along a beautiful avenue, which runs past our priory. I delighted in the interesting patterns of shadows formed by the bright sunlight, as well as the fresh colours of the spring flowers. There were also people strolling along the avenue or sitting on benches. Here, I thought, was great scope for a variety of interesting pictures.

When I down-loaded my pictures into my computer I was pleased with the results. And I thought Peter, in the W. Indies, would welcome sights of an English spring. But then to my surprise, to my horror, I saw a dead rat in the foreground of my picture of forsythia. Can't you see it's all too familiar grey body and thin long tail? How did it get there? How could I have missed that despised rodent, hunted down as a pest? A pest that gets everywhere, even into my picture of a beautiful flower. Is there no limit to its intrusions? Would it ruin my picture, or could I crop it out? I needed to take a closer look. So I decided to zoom in on the rat.

As I examined the grey-brown detail of my picture (R) it looked less and less like the despised rat. Suddenly it dawned on me. It's not a rat. It's a dead leaf! I must confess the stalk does look like a rat's tail, but the veins on the leaf are the give-away. When I told Peter about my confusion he burst into fits of laughter. "There must be a blog there," he said excitedly. "I don't know where it will take you, but do it!"

Now there's a challenge. How could my confusing a dead leaf with a dead rat help me meet God. I ask you, "What would you do?" As I pondered a passage in Mark's Gospel came to mind.

Some people asked Jesus to cure a blind man. When He touched the man's eyes they were only gradually cured. At first he said,

'I can see people, but they look trees walking.' Then Jesus laid His hands on His eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly," (Mk. 8. 24-25).

At first the man was confused; he'd misinterpreted what he saw. He knew trees shouldn't be walking. But gradually Jesus brought his eyes into focus and he could correctly distinguish men from trees.

For Mark's Gospel this episode was crucial. From this point onwards Jesus tried to explain to His disciples that the Christ must suffer and die, but would rise from the grave. That was not what they expected or wanted of the promised Messiah, whom Peter had just correctly identified! Peter wanted to protect Jesus from such a fate. Peter wanted Jesus to be a triumphant leader. Suffering and death played no part in Peter's expectations for Jesus and His followers. Triumph and glory in Christ's kingdom -that's what Peter wanted for all of them. Despite His repeated efforts Jesus could not remove this false impression of His Messianic mission. Although He succeeded in eventually getting the blind man's eyes into correct focus, He sadly failed with His closest followers.

What about me? Am I as confused about Jesus' identity as I was when I mistook a dead leaf for a dead rat? Am I prepared to put aside my first impressions, my prejudices -to listen, to look and to learn? Am I willing to allow Jesus to touch the eyes of my mind; to touch and change my life? Am I prepared to disregard my own pre-conceptions and accept Jesus on His own terms?

If I'm to meet Jesus, especially during Lent, I must accept Him as the Suffering, but triumphant, Servant of the Lord. If I'm to meet Him I must travel with Him on the Way of the Cross which is the only path for me to follow, which alone can lead to my sharing in the glory of His resurrection.

Life is truly amazing! It's crazy and wonderful how God can find ways to touch our imaginations and hearts! A seemingly straight-forward picture causes me great confusion and then amusement. More than that, I can find in it the key elements of the mystery of salvation -the mystery of death followed by new life. The dead leaf represents the crucified Christ. If I could be so easily confused over a dead leaf, I'm reminded that Jesus was so completely misunderstood that the saviour of the world was despised and rejected. But then my picture is dominated by the birth of new life, represented by the flowering forsythia -a lovely image of the risen Lord. I am to meet the mystery of the crucified and risen Christ, crazily represented by a dead leaf and a flowering plant.

Isidore O.P.

In fortnight Peter will reflect on meeting God

Monday, 21 March 2011


Tantalizing! Frustrating! Exasperating! My efforts to thread a strand of wool through the eye of a needle. Many a kindly, pitying person would volunteer, "Why bother? Why waste your time? Let me do it for you."

Why can't people understand my major concern is not that I need a threaded needle. It means so much to me that I, with my poor vision, should prove to myself that I am still able to thread a needle. It may take time. Who cares? I don't! Believe me, the accomplishment, if ever, makes it worthwhile.

I'm rather like the infant who insists on being allowed to climb into a chair rather than have some well-meaning adult lift him up there. So far I haven't reverted to screaming if I don't get my own way! Truth is, it takes all my will-power not to do so! I quietly submit with inwardly fuming gratitude. Poor me! I've been denied my moment of triumph! The ecstasy of threading that needle -all by myself.

My ambitions are modest. They have to do with what was once possible and might still be. They include the striving to extend my capabilities. Others go further than this. At the 2012 Olympics they will seek to break records. But no one will aim to run a one-minute mile! That would be fantastic, unreal -as futile as chasing after a streak of lightning!

And yet it seems Jesus was being wantonly absurd when He compared the prospects of a rich man entering the Kingdom of Heaven to those of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. In other words, by using such an example He made it clear there was no way such a person could work his way through the Pearly Gates. Jesus was forcing His disciples, and now you and me, to ask what must be done to guarantee entry. Or is heaven the 'pie in the sky' that will never be eaten? The tantalizing, impossible dream?

Who's to blame the disciples for being astonished when they heard this and asked, "Who can be saved, then?" And that's the point! Jesus is enabling us to make a quantum leap into the supernatural ...way beyond the normal capacities that flow from within our human nature.
"Jesus gazed at them, 'By human resources,' He told them, 'this is impossible; for God everything is possible,'"
(Matt. 19. 25-6).

Jesus calls us, empowers us to live heroic lives with Christ-like compassion, which generously forgives those who have wronged us. He enables ordinary people like you and me to be willing to endure appalling torture, even suffering martyrdom, rather than deny and betray our commitment to Him.

'Gift, Favour, Privilege, Grace.' All these words describe the wonder of wonders that God should long for us to be willing to receive Him into our lives, and for us to allow ourselves to be drawn into His life, as His beloved children. All this is prompted by love that is merciful, "It is proof of God's own love for us that Christ died for us while we were still sinners," (Rom. 5. 8).

This isn't about our achievements, or our deserts. It's about God's choosing to enter into a sublime relationship with us that not one of us could ever have dreamed of, aspired to or attained, no matter how hard we worked for it.

This is godswaymyway, and I am at my greatest if I allow it to happen.
Peter O.P.

In a fortnight Isidore will reflect on "False Impressions."

Monday, 7 March 2011


"Someone give me a hand, please!" We've all made that appeal when we couldn't manage by ourselves. Perhaps we were a bit shaky on our feet and needed a supporting hand. That's true for me. Although I can still say Mass I now need other steadier people to distribute Holy Communion for me. Their helping hand is not only of practical assistance, enabling me to continue celebrating Mass; it also creates a bond between us. That's true whenever we ask for help or respond to someone else's appeal for assistance.

Perhaps, it comes as a surprise that, Jesus should cry out, "Someone give me a hand, please!" Surely He can't need any help from us! After all, He is Almighty God and can do all that He wants to do, without our assistance. And yet, throughout the ages He cries, "Someone give me a hand, please!"

Now that He's ascended to heaven He needs other people to continue His work, here on earth. Otherwise it won't get done. Almighty God has made himself dependent upon us, His creatures. He needs people to continue to express the love, care and compassion He showed while here on earth. It is to the glory of God that He makes so many of His creatures His fellow-workers. Together with Him we share in developing and perfecting His creation.

"And that's precisely what you do," I told a doctor friend. "As a doctor you continue and share in the work of Christ, the Good Physician. In the past, while here on earth, He performed miracles to cure people; now He uses your professional skills. Now He works through your healing hands. What is more, as you restore people's health you foreshadow the Coming of the Kingdom, when we will all be renewed in Christ. Then we will enjoy the fullness of life in our risen Lord." My doctor friend was glorious in being a co-healer with the Good Physician.

This insight came as an exciting revelation to my doctor friend. Building on his enthusiastic response, I explained that Christ, the healer, identified with the doctor, or nurse, in their caring for the sick. And as they continued the work of the Good Physician they could identify with Him. Not only priests should be called, "Other Christs," but so, too, all those through whom He continues to work. In you the sick meet Christ, the compassionate healer.

The same is true with all of us as we show love and concern for people in any kind of need -the lonely, who welcome company, the depressed who yearn for reassurance, the imprisoned who have made themselves into social rejects. As we come to them they meet the compassionate Christ, working in and through us. For each of us "Other Christs" I paraphrase the words of Pope St. Leo the Great, "Oh, Christian, realize -and remember -your dignity!"

As I turned these thoughts over in my mind I recalled St. Matthew's Gospel, ch. 25. There Jesus identifies, not with the giver, but the receiver -with those in any kind of need, "Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me." They, too, are "Other Christs." This time it is Christ who is appealing to us for help. Through them He begs us, "Give me a hand, please!"

As we come to their assistance we meet Christ, who has identified with them. That should change our whole attitude to those whom we may find repulsive. Like the crucified Christ, they, too, may be despised and rejected. And it is remarkable how often carers say that they receive so much from responding to the needs of others. In giving we do, indeed, receive.

As I pulled these disparate reflections together I realized that there's a wonderful dialogue between Christ identifying with the giver and Christ identifying with the receiver -the doctor or carer on the one hand; the patient on the other. Christ identifies with each. Each meets Christ in the other. To each of them Leo the Great would say, "Oh, Christian, remember your own dignity; Oh, Christian, remember each other's dignity!"
Isidore O.P.

In a fortnight Fr. Peter will reflect on: "Tomorow will bring...?"

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


The apple of her eye, the jewel in her crown...such was the celestial cat to my long-deceased aunt. It was 'Truffles' who always had the cream from the top of the milk bottle. Aunt had the skimming! Truffles would only eat first grade salmon; aunt had to be content with making the most of third grade. She relished this kind of sacrificial love for her adorable cat. Truffles deigned to accept this as being no more than fitting. Both sides of this engagement agreed that nothing but the best was good enough for this most superior of cats. And Truffles, like most self-respecting, well organized cats, spent most of its life sleeping.

Truffles possessed the smug virtue of one who had never had the need to steal the cream; the complacency of the wealthy who can survive without having to resort to the knavery of robbing a bank. But here I pause to reflect on the white-collared fat-cats who in recent times have engaged in massive financial swindles!

Truffles had the sense to know when enough was enough and the serenity (or laziness) not to go along with the adage that stolen fruit is always sweetest. In fact, Truffles was the embodiment of contentment. Having either been spayed or neutered this sleek, serene creature did not have to wrestle with temptations of the flesh, with all its longings and frustrations. In the case of Truffles, "what had never been enjoyed was never missed."

Feline beatitude, indeed! The attainment of heaven ---here on earth? You think so? I feel certain most high-spirited cats would disagree. For them bliss was to be found in pouncing on a mouse; entertainment in toying with its captive, enjoyment was to be found in a meal that had been earned. And what of the exquisite triumph in winning in the conflict of the mating game. What to compare with the ecstasy of screeching cats clawing and wrestling in the moonlight while the spouse-to-be relished the idea of being worth fighting for!

Truffles enjoyed the limited beatitude described in the Book of Revelation, "All tears would be wiped from the eyes; no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain," (cf. ch. 21). Comfortable and trouble-free...the life of Truffles. Is this all self-respecting cats are meant for? And, for that matter, is that all we self-respecting human beings aspire to, all we need forus to be satisfied and contented? Sadly, I find, there are those who would gladly settle for this -the tranquillity of inertia!

Most of us want to get more out of life and to put more into life. There's something splendid in acquiring skills and in using them creatively for the benefit of others; something so rewarding in building up and sustaining deep friendships; something noble in overcoming adversity. There's something inspiring in accepting God's call to live as befits His children, and, by His grace, not making too bad a job of it.

We human beings are at our best when we strive for that fulfilment and perfection that is beyond our grasp. Achieving an awareness of God is so wonderful, even though inevitably, so inadequate. This is how it is, "Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am known," (1 Cor. 13.12). This is the spice of Christian life. Here there is hope, striving, anticipation and expectation...dreams that come true as in, "I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, 'Look, here God lives among human beings. He will make His home amongst them; they will be His people, and He will be their God, God-with-them,'" (Rev. 21).

I reach God mywaygodsway, by weighing up 'Fat Cat, Truffles, of the Grade 1 Salmon' and finding it wanting -wanting in the appetite for the feline thrills it was made for, pitiful in being satisfied with far too little. I am reaching God by going for more than whatever perfection lies within the grasp of my natural capacity. I reach God by grasping for all that He has on offer..His very self. "We are already God's children, what we shall be in the future has not yet been revealed. We are well aware that when He appears we shall see Him as He really is," (1 Jn. 3.20).

Peter O.P.

"Give me a hand please!" In a fortnight Isidore will suggest how that appeal can help us to meet God.

Monday, 7 February 2011


I've a good friend who's doing scientific research. She's part of a team trying to find a cure for a particular form of cancer. Hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year she pours over a microscope. She and her colleagues study the way cancer cells react to various chemicals. Meticulously they record their findings. There are other such dedicated teams of scientists all round the world.

Hopefully, one day they will find a cure. But that may take years. My friend and her many colleagues recognize they may never see the success of their research. They may never gain any credit for all their dedicated hard work. And yet she and they press on, fortified by the hope, the conviction, that one day all their efforts will have proved worthwhile. They will have helped to save lives.

Such a researcher must be a very special kind of person. It means not expecting instant success and personal glory -though that would be marvellous if it came! Most likely my friend and her colleagues will have built on other people's efforts. Probable other people will come along later and build on their labours. For such dedicated people eventual success, rather than personal glory, is what really matters.

That means being prepared to take the long view, while realising the importance of concentrating on the here and now of focusing on particular cells. Such researchers must live in the present while living a life of hope and perseverance, despite set-backs and false trails. They must accept that they are part of a team in which rivalries and jealousies would undermine their work.

St. Paul puts this approach beautifully when he reproves the Corinthians for rival personality cults of particular preachers,
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants, or the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose...For we are God's servants, working together,"
(1 Cor. 3. 5-9).
My researcher has shown me the importance of not looking for instance results. I must not even expect to see any success for all my efforts. That, indeed, is the lot of the researcher and preacher. Instead, our hope must be on things unseen. We build on other people's labours, and others will come after us to develop our work and perhaps take credit for the eventual success. None of us is likely to achieve anything of lasting value if we are loners, seeking instant success and glory.

Such acclaim ultimately depends upon God and is due to God. He gives the scientist the personal skill and temperament to develop techniques to conduct fruitful research. He's with the preacher in preparing and delivering a sermon. He touches the minds and hearts of those who hear it. He gives both of us the patience to cope with setbacks and the lack of immediate success.

For all of us, in whatever we achieve, the ultimate glory must be given to God. With the Psalmist I exclaim, "Not to us, but unto your name belongs the glory," (Ps. 115). With Paul I must be convinced that, "we are God's servants, working together" -working together with each other as a team; all of us teaming up together with God. That kind of teamwork must be essential to my meeting God.

And with my scientist friend I must be prepared for God to work in His own good time and way. If we are not to give up in frustration and despair we must be convinced that what we are doing is in itself worthwhile, even though we may never see the results of our labours. Without laboratory researchers no wonder drugs would ever be discovered to cure the patient. And without the preacher the Good News would not be heard and believed.

My researcher friend has shown me the importance of being prepared to take the long view, without becoming discouraged, even when I never seem to achieve anything worthwhile. If I'm to meet God I must learn to place all that I am and do in His hands and leave the outcome to Him. That means leaving Him the freedom to act in His own way and in His own good time. According to St. Peter God's way of measuring time, is certainly very different from ours, "With the Lord one day is like a thousand, and a thousand years are like one day!" (2 Peter3. 8). My researcher friend has taught me the importance of waiting for things as yet unseen -the greatest being meeting God Himself in His eternal kingdom. He's worth working for; He's worth waiting for!
Isidore O.P.
In a fortnight's time Fr. Peter will reflect on meeting God through
'A Fat Cat, Feline Beatitude, A Heavenly Cat'

Monday, 24 January 2011


'Out of Jurassic Park' -a journey from the raw, the primitive, the simple into a very different kind of world -one which is more sophisticated, more efficient because it's more technological. And now I'm asking myself if this is progress. I've reached that cranky stage in my life when I'm pining for the good old days when I was easily satisfied with what I had. By modern standards that was not very much!

Time was when all that was needed for writing was pencils or steel nibs, bottles of ink, sheets of paper, and, lastly, blotting paper. Then came that break-through moment that was to impact every scribe and scribbler...the appearance of the Biro ball pen. At first this was taboo at school; now it's the normal tool for writing.

Those of us who still prefer the fountain pen are now frustrated because it seems nowhere sells blotting paper. So often my enquiries meet with, 'What is it?' 'Never heard of it!' How the world's moved on, and I've stayed still...still in Jurassic Park!

My introduction to a typewriter came when I had to 'fill in' for a sick priest. In his presbytery was a splendid, massive, solid object. Its proud owner boasted it was nearly thirty years old and still served him well. Mechanically there was nothing mysterious about it...simply a combination of levers and springs. I was comfortable with it. I could understand it. I could fix most of its ailments with the aid of rubber bands, bent paper clips and springs salvaged from broken toys. Finally, an occasional squirt of '3-in-1' oil. I felt in control.

Was it progress or weakness that I fell for the advantages of a word-processor? This, I persuaded myself, would greatly assist me, the dabbling journalist. With this, at the touch of a few keys, I could shift around paragraphs and re-arrange sentences. No longer would I have to erase or replace...over and over again. This level of progress was deeply satisfying for me. I looked for no more.

I long resisted all blandishments to 'go computer.' Was this out of fear of a new technology or a smug humility, that, unlike my twin, Isidore, I could manage without this expensive 'toy'?

Hurricane 'Ivan' changed all this. This mega-storm destroyed my home -the presbytery -my clothing, my books and my everything.

I could either return to the days of pen and paper, but, sadly, no blotting paper, or enter a world I had shunned -that of the computer. Forget about the word-processor. By that time it was pretty well obsolete. Circumstances dragged me into the laptop culture. I must concede I'm most grateful for what I can accomplish with it. Still, I'm not comfortable with it. I don't understand what is going on inside it. I can't repair it when it falters. I'm utterly dependent on it functioning all times. It's moody, capricious. It refuses to oblige. I'm furious and frustrated when texts suddenly and totally disappear from before my very eyes, without my doing a single thing to send them on their way.

Ever since I became computer-wise I've been driven to anguished prayer. Baffled, inadequate, I'm humbled that my dependence on my computer has made me increasingly and utterly dependent upon God, in a way I'd never foreseen. In His name I bless, absolve and pray for my computer.

Just to create an interlude of spiritual serenity I've considered banishing my computer, sending into exile, for the coming Lent. I feel this self-denial might purify my soul of attachment to such modern gadgetry! But Isidore, my twin -a wise old bird (which I am not) -and something of a computer nerd (also which I am not), urges me to forget such strange and quirky spirituality. He argues there would be something wrong with a spirituality which impeded my preaching work.

Indeed, I shudder at the very thought of ever having to return to pen, ink and paper. I quake at the prospect of being deprived of Google Search and so having to find appropriate reference books in libraries. I recoil from the task of scouring through them for the information I need. So much hacking and grafting has gone into the composition of this blog...It's the same for every blog that the two of us write for this series.

Dear Lord, don't let it be yourwaymyway that I should have to return to Jurassic Park!
I'm now so disenchanted with it!
Peter O.P.

In a fortnight Isidore will reflect on meeting God by 'Taking the Long View.'

Monday, 10 January 2011


I've never claimed to be much of a cook, especially in comparison with some of the superb chefs in my community. But I do have a go with some simple dishes for myself. With the shortage of vocations I couldn't risk cooking for my community and poisoning the lot of them! Nor would they be prepared to take that chance.

Occasionally I cook a simple omelette for myself. Though I was pleased enough, I didn't consider one of my efforts a work of genius. Once cooked, I started to ease it from the frying pan onto a plate. So far so good. But then I was completely thrown off balance. One of the Cordon Bleu chefs in our community happened to pass by and see my omelette. To my amazement he congratulated me! I wasn't used to such praise for my culinary excursions -especially from him.

Such unexpected acclaim from such a discerning cook caught me completely off guard. In my confusion I grabbed a bottle of washing up liquid and squirted it into the frying pan. Unfortunately I hadn't yet removed the omelette!

What to do? I certainly wasn't going to throw away such a highly praised and, therefore, prized dish. Anyway you have probably heard of my great reluctance to throw away anything. I will go to great lengths to salvage what others would throw away -even a soapy omelette. But not me! So I did the most obvious thing -stuck the omelette under the tap to remove the washing up liquid. Then I re-heated my 'dish of the day' and, surprisingly enjoyed a tasty meal True, it did have an unusual, distinctive flavour. But none the worse for that -nor was I. And I didn't foam at the mouth or blow bubbles!

Of course my community thought I was completely mad. Possibly they had a point. But I would argue that great discoveries have been made -even in the kitchen -by accidentally throwing together unlikely ingredients. That's my defense and I'm sticking to it -with the warning not to try combining washing up liquid with omelettes or any other food. Your digestive system may not be as tough as mine.

How on earth can I find a way of meeting God in the crazy way I reacted to unexpected praise? As I see it, my problem lies in the way I coped with praise. If I'd been sensible -which I wasn't -I would have expressed my gratitude for a bit of friendly encouragement. Hopefully that would lead me to be even more ambitious with my cooking. That could even have given me the confidence to offer to cook for the whole community. Whether or not they would have accepted is another matter. If I'd welcomed praise graciously I might have blossomed as a chef. There's no knowing what heights I might have attained!
My eldest brother has the best approach to commenting on my efforts -not in cooking, but in water colour painting. He's a highly gifted artist, while I'm very much an also-ran. When we went out painting he would look at my mediocre efforts -that's the truth, not false humility. He would then ask me if I wanted to know what he really thought. Hesitantly I would say, "Yeeers." First he would find something good to say about my picture. Then he would show me how it could be improved. Hopefully I've listened to his advice. Encouragement, then suggested improvements. That's what I needed. And that's what he gave me. The same is true when Peter and I work together on our blog postings.

Giving and receiving praise is difficult. Empty flattery is insincere and useless. That would never spur me on to improve. I need the teacher's classic report comment, "could do better" -and be shown how. But totally devastating criticism can be worse than useless. It can dampen down, if not extinguish, the flame of enthusiasm, the self confidence to try again.

The virtue of humility doesn't mean refusing to accept praise and denying that we've done something well -when we've produced a little gem of modest worth. It would have been a lie to have insisted that I had cooked a bad omelette. And to do so would have been ungracious to the person who had been kind enough to praise my efforts. That would have meant denying the truth and making a virtue out of lying. That can't be right! And it wouldn't have been conceited for me to have drawn quiet satisfaction from doing something well -like cooking a tasty omelette. That again is a matter of truth.

Perhaps the best and most honest way for me to handle praise is for me to thank God for making whatever I achieve possible -even cooking a decent omelette. So my way of meeting God is for me to recognize any success I may have, while echoing the words of the Psalmist,
"Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give glory," (Ps. 115. 1).
At the same time I must heed His instructions. With His help I certainly could do better.

Isidore O.P.

In a fortnight Peter's 'Meeting God' reflection will be entitled, 'Out of Jurassic Park'