Thursday, 23 August 2012


Some forty years ago an angry young lady attacked me with the words, “You hate women!” She’d just learnt that I belonged to a Religious Order –the Dominicans. To her my vows meant that I rejected all women.  She felt personally insulted.  Not that she had any designs on me –a complete stranger.  But my way of life was alien and offensive to her.  It seemed unnatural.  In her eyes I was a fool for throwing away my life. She certainly was not alone in what she thought about us members of Religious Orders.

This incident made me realize how awful it must be for many of you, when even your family and friends think you’re out of your mind, mad  -just because you’re following your deepest convictions and they can’t go along with you. It’s not because your ‘pushing religion’ on anyone. Simply, you’re different and that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Out of the goodness of their hearts they want to ‘liberate’ you from your religious hang-ups.  Then you would be able to enjoy the same freedom as them –with no clergyman telling you what you should  do, and, especially, should not do.

They urge you to break free and start living.  With their every jibe and criticism those who should be supporting you threaten to undermine your commitment to following Christ. They have a drip, drip, drip effect which can gradually erode your confidence.  If that’s the way you’re treated you will feel isolated and lonely. In dark moments you wonder, “Perhaps they are right.  Perhaps you are the crazy one.”

These reflections have been brought home to me by friends telling me what an uphill battle it was, trying practise their faith. They had so much discouragement; so little support. People were so negative about their Christian way of life.

But I’m fortunate. Unlike many committed lay Christians, I do have the support of belonging to a community, with all its members sharing the same ideals. That, of course, is one of the many reasons why I joined the Dominicans.  And it does strengthen our resolve when like-minded people come together to pray –say, for Sunday Mass or a pilgrimage.  Then we realize many sane people are prepared to be God’s fools –and do so publically. We’re not alone!

In fact Mark’s Gospel (3. 20-21) tells us Jesus’ relatives thought He was mad.  We Christians are in good –no, the best company! The incident happened when such a large crowd had gathered around Christ’s home that His relatives couldn’t get in to have a meal.   That was too much for them!  Thinking He was crazy, they decided to take Him in hand –to teach Him some common sense!  Jesus, they thought, lacked the practical wisdom and sense they possessed.  They must put Him right –before He harmed Himself and other people.

From a worldly point of view they were right.  After all, Jesus had given up the carpenter’s business, which He would have inherited from Joseph.  He had embarked on the life of a wandering preacher, with no visible means of support.  He’d persuaded fishermen to abandon the security of their jobs and follow Him, a starry-eyed stranger  -God alone knew where he would take them!  

As for the company He kept, Jesus was most unwise. He dined with tax collectors and sinners. Really, He should have known better!  People would talk; they were talking. They would identify Him with the kind of company He kept.

Worse still, Jesus was antagonising the religious authorities by His teaching. He had a cavalier approach to the observance of the Sabbath.  He was making dangerous enemies. They would eventually plot against Him and kill Him. 

Peter foresaw that danger.  So he thought it prudent to give Jesus a friendly warning not to go to Jerusalem. Peter, too, thought Jesus was irresponsible; He was taking unnecessary, foolish risks. But far from welcoming Peter’s friendly advice Jesus rebuked him with the harshest words in the Gospels, Get behind me Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of man.”  Why? Peter’s misguided concern for Christ’s safety transformed him from being the most loyal of his followers to his becoming the ‘enemy within’ –Peter was no longer a support. Now he’d become an enemy; now he threatened Christ’s resolve to save the world through His death on the cross.

God’s ways of thinking and acting are certainly very difference from ours!       In his 1st Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul tells us there’s a divine wisdom, defying human common sense, which transcends our way of thinking. To us God’s way of thinking and acting seems crazy, if not mad.  And that’s what Christ’s relatives thought when they tried to bring Him to His senses.   That’s what Peter thought when he tried to prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem and the cross.     
And we Christians must expect people to think we are mad in following Jesus, when He challenges, secular values, secular ways of thinking and acting. Then we should remember Paul’s reassuring words, ‘For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength,’  [1 Cor. 1:25].
My way of meeting God must mean my embracing the craziness of divine love.  I must be prepared to be mocked as God’s fool, rather than being praised for being worldly-wise! 
Isidore O.P. 
On 7th September Isidore will reflect on Meeting God by 'Tuning In.'

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


They could have saved a lot of time, money and energy. All they needed was some dry twigs and a box of matches.. At the Olympic Stadium in London it would have taken just a few moments to get the Olympic Torch burning.
Instead, what did we have? A long journey over thousands of miles, by land and air.  Countless people – young and old, strong and frail – ordinary folk and celebrities – took their turn in passing the Torch from one to another. This Torch was carried to and through every country that took part in the games. Why? Why? Why?
Because of the marvel and the magic of a symbolism that spoke to the heart of sentiments too deep for mere words; a symbolism that resonated with people of so many different languages and dialects.
The journey of our Torch started in Greece – the birthplace of the original Olympic Games, way back over two thousand years ago. In this way the athletes of our Games were being bonded with the athletes of antiquity. Wistfully I wondered if we could learn anything from that ancient custom of having an interlude of peace so that neighbouring states that  were always  fighting each other could be free to engage in peaceful athletic competition.
Amidst laughter and cheers millions of the road-side people and the TV viewers have followed our Torch travelling towards its Olympic destiny. Surely some would have caught a glimpse of the decency of the global family and felt the possibility, of a better, more loving, more peaceful world.  Indeed, this has been a relay of the living, flickering flame being passed on and on…joy, love, respect, admiration on the move, cheering the lives of so many.
With all these thoughts jostling in my mind I recall how Jesus loved to describe Himself and then ourselves, in imitation of Him, in these glowing terms,
‘I am the light of the world,’ (Jn.8.12). ,You are the light of the world,’(Mtt.5.14).’Your light must shine in people's sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven,’  (Mtt. 5.16)
In its Easter Vigil liturgy the Church captures this drama of passing on a living flame from one person to another. In the darkness of the night, the faithful are gathered in a circle around a fire that has been lighted at the door of the church. Their faces are aglow with excited anticipation. The fire is blessed; the Priest, holding a small candle  hand, takes a flame from the fire, and with this lights the large Paschal Candle. This massive candle represents Jesus the glorious, risen Lord…the Light of the World!
From that moment the ‘Christ-Candle’ becomes the source of light that, gradually,  banishes the darkness within the church. On three occasions ‘The Light of Christ,’ is boldly chanted as this candle is carried down the aisle. With full hearts the congregation replies, ‘Thanks be to God.’
In the church light from Paschal candle is passed from one person to another, till whole congregation has received and passed on the Light of Christ. Surely this can be described a enlightened, Holy Communion!
The Olympic Torch traveling from Greece to London reminds me of the Torch of Faith which has travelled the journey through time from the original Pentecost down to us. Just as the brightness of the Olympic Torch rippling throughout the world has brightened our lives, so now our Faith must so ripple that those around us catch something of its radiance.
It occurs to me that since charity begins at home, then sharing the Light of Faith must surely  originate within the family when the newly born infant is brought to the church to be baptized…to be bonded to Christ our Light and through Him to be bonded to His Church.

A few moments after the infant has been baptized parents and godparents are made aware that they have received an immense  privilege. They have brought with them a small candle. One of  them lights it from the flame of the Paschal Candle. They hear the  words, ‘Receive the Light of Christ,’ and the reply, ‘Thanks be to God.’

With the words that follow it is made clear to them that this privilege entails enormous responsibilities, ‘This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light.’

 The Olympic Torch as pointed me to the Torch which is the Paschal Candle and this to baptism candle. This is mywaygodsway of my coming to realize that beautiful ideals must travel, must radiate, must be shared and must be passed on.

Peter Clarke, OP
On 24th August Isidore will reflect on how 'God's Fools' meet God