Thursday, 25 October 2012


Have I gone mad?   Or is it the rest of the world that’s gone crazy?   That disturbing question was forced upon me when I was doing some typing on my computer.  Inexplicably a pair of scissors, scissors -instead of the intended letter -appeared when I struck a key.   That was followed by a pair of spectacles –yes spectacles.   What had I done to deserve this?!  Something similar happened on another occasion when my computer produced Greek letters.  Why? Why? Bemused, I exclaimed, “It’s all Greek to me!”  -a phrase we English use when we don’t understand something, but which would be completely intelligible to the inhabitants of that country.
As with the scissors and spectacles I asked myself, “What had I done to provoke my computer to react in such a bizarre and unpredictable manner?  More importantly, how could I remedy a text which had become absolutely meaningless, totally useless?”  As I pressed different keys no solution appeared. Gradually panic set in, then hysteria.  I seemed to be trapped in a world of gobble-di-gook.   How could I escape?  Would I ever again be able to compose something coherent?
Was I or my computer having a Babel moment?  Remember the Biblical story of people, in their pride, building a tower tall enough to reach up to heaven, to God’s realm?  What folly to think anyone could reach God by his own efforts!  To cut them down to size the Lord knocked over their tower and reduced them to a state of confusion. That was the popular explanation for the present diversity of languages, with the lack of understanding that causes. 
My computer and I were certainly sending each other incomprehensible messages! As I typed what seemed to be reasonable my computer responded by babbling nonsense.  I hold those Babylonian builders responsible for driving a harmless old Dominican out of his wits!
 How does God want me to react to this confusion, to this madness–to my orderly world getting out of control?  How did I react?  Certainly my confusion revealed how little I knew about the inner workings of a computer.  Surprisingly, my problem was solved when I abandoned what seemed to me to be reasonable solutions. Only when I tried what seemed to me to be totally illogical did my computer begin to perform correctly!
Perhaps that’s what God wanted my crazy, wayward computer to teach me.  Sometimes the best, or even the only, solution is not the most obvious and rational. Frequently God’s wisdom defies human logic.   The way He behaves doesn’t seem to make sense. We are baffled; we are confused when things go wrong in our lives, when our lives descend into chaos.  We panic when we feel overwhelmed and can find no answer.   Desperately we cry, “Lord, save me. I’m sinking.”
So how did He reply to our longing for Him to rescue us from the destructive powers of sin and death? To us God’s solution seems absolute madness. Not one of us would have thought the answer would lie in the Son of God Himself becoming man, living amongst us,  dying on the cross and rising from the dead. God’s ways are certainly not our ways!   Realizing this, St. Paul exclaimed with wonder, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!  34 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?”  ( Rom. 11.33-36).   When speaking of the crucifixion Paul even had the temerity to exclaim, “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength,”   (1 Cor. 1. 25).
By accidentally stumbling on a solution to my wayward computer God wanted to remind me of the limits of my understanding, even of computers, still less of the mysteries of life and death, pain and suffering.  Humbly I must admit that I am bewildered and confused.  Humbly I must trust in God’s infinite wisdom, which defies human logic. 
And from the builders of the tower of Babel I must realize that it’s folly to try to reach God by my own efforts. Only He can raise me up to share His divine life and happiness.  My computer has taught me to recognize my limitations.  Now with Paul I can rejoice in my weakness and lack of understanding.  With him I can say, “Over to You,” as I rely on God’s wisdom and strength, not my own.  This kind of humility is not humiliating if it draws me close to God!
Isidore O.P.

Our next posting will be on 9th Nov. 

Friday, 12 October 2012


I was in absolute heaven!  There was I in the cool of the evening, relaxing on the verandah, from a height gazing out over the Atlantic Ocean- silver-plated by the brilliance of the tropical full moon. On a table by my easy chair was a glass of iced lime-juice and a bowl of mangoes.   What more could I desire?
Quite simply, a challenge!  I felt bored, restless, frustrated. I needed something that really absorbed me and defied me to get the better of it. I needed to confront and to prevail  over it.     Gazing around, wondering if anything could put some zest into my life  I found a worthy target - an owl perched on a branch that draped the parish church.
This was no blinking owl, no winking owl! This owl was motionless, totally absorbed in itself.    At peace with itself and with the world around it. as though nothing could disturb its serenity,  its composure..   For some reason I was annoyed with this rigid, frigid, bird          that had not the slightest interest in me.      With indifference it dismissed me as a person of no its parish priest!      As far as it was concerned I was meaningless,  non-existent.
Well might you ask, ‘Why did I care? Why should the owl have any need of me?       And, more seriously, ‘ Why should I feel a need for this the owl to pay me the slightest attention?’ Because at last I had found the challenge I needed.     I would force this bird to acknowledge my existence. I would impose my will upon it.      I would out-face it. I would out-stare it! I would compel it to notice me!
With all my powers of concentration I stared at this owl eye-ball to eye-ball, so to speak.     I expected to make it so uncomfortable through my steady staring   that it would shift and shuffle, or better still, turn away from me.   It must have known that I had come there, into its territory, into its hunting-ground.     Fool that I was, it hadn’t occurred to me that it might have pounced on this hostile intruder!
By now you might be thinking I’d embarked upon a crazy escapade.     Kindly take note. When travelling in a bus or when at the cinema     I’ve amused myself  by staring hard at the back of the neck of the person in front of me  -a complete  stranger.  On rare occasions I’ve been successful.      Eventually, my target has looked round, bewildered, unsettled  and smiled  at me sheepishly…and mumbled some kind of  greeting. 
What more could he do? He couldn’t accuse me of anything.       There have been times when I’ve been able to disconcert the odd cat or dog – by staring at it.
As for influencing owls…I’m a failure.    An ‘Owling’ failure!  And for me this is an ‘owling shame.  That unyielding owl convinced me it had its own life to live and so had I.     it was not my business to want to control its life.    And now I think of it, it’s quite out of order for me to try to control the life of another single person… not even when I mean well.

As a priest I’m not meant to try to live anyone’s life for him…  to be a director or controller of anyone….ever.   
This is one of the hardest things for a conscientious priest to accept…and one of the most humbling.     The same is surely true for caring devoted parents.    They long for their children to lead godly lives, but there comes a time,  as they approach young adulthood, when they, priest and parent,   can do no more than lead by example, offer advice, try to persuade and love and pray,  love and pray!  And never give up loving and praying for anyone.
This may sound like a counsel of despair. Far from it!        Right from the very beginning God gave human beings their own free wills.       In so doing God has always allowed them to make their own choices, even ungodly ones.
BUT– and it’s a mighty big ‘but’ – God will never, never, abandon any one of us  –no matter how  wicked the choices we may make.       He will never cease to offer us the graces that would persuade us to turn towards Him.     His will to save will remain unwavering.
                          This I know, God really cares about me, takes care of me,                    
       but somehow,    I don’t think God is particularly interested
         about whether or not owls care one hoot for me!’
Peter O.P.
On 26th Oct. Isidore will reflect on Meeting God  in "My Babel Moment."