Thursday, 24 January 2013


What a happy coincidence!  There I was quietly saying the Breviary –or Prayer of the Church –when I raised my head and looked through the window.  Low and behold what I saw was beautifully described by the passage I was reading, taken
from the Book of Ecclesiasticus.
And what did I see?  Snow falling. But the author, Ben Sirach, put it much better than that. He delighted in the wonderful artistry of God’s creative genius.   He –the Lord - sprinkles snow like birds alighting, it comes down like locusts settling. The eye marvels at the beauty of its whiteness, and the mind is amazed at its falling,” (Ecclesiasticus 43. 17-18). The snow was indeed beautiful and it was fascinating to watch the flakes dance and pirouette in the breeze.  But this same extract from Ecclesiasticus went on to describe what someone using the Prayer of the Church in Australia or the Judean Desert would have experienced, “He –the Lord -swallows up the mountains and scorches the desert, like a fire he consumes the vegetation.  But the mist heals everything in good time, after the heat falls the reviving dew,” (43. 21-22). In wonder the author concludes, “We could say much more and still fall short; to put it concisely, ‘He is all.’ Where shall we find sufficient power to glorify him, since he is the Great One, above all his works,” (43. 27-28).
This passage from the Book of Eccesiasticus powerfully showed me how the Sacred Scriptures reflect not only the different kinds of weather we may experience –always fascinating for an Englishman -but also the diversity of situations we may face, and the different ways we relate to God.  All this is especially true of the psalms, which form a large part of the Prayer of the Church.
I can identify with them in praising and thanking God; in asking for what I need; in seeking His forgiveness.  In pain and distress I cry to Him for assistance.  As I seek His assistance I draw upon the infinite power of God’s love and mercy.  When I’ve identified with the Psalms of Lamentation –what someone graphically describes as ‘howling before the Lord’ –they’ve given me hope amidst my distress and despair. That was a very real healing!  The lamentations in the Bible have taught me not to be afraid to be absolutely honest with God, not to be afraid to speak my mind, even when my thoughts are ugly about life, about certain people who 'stress me out,' and even about God Himself.  His love for me has the resilience of a loyal friend; God’s most certainly is not brittle or fickle!
After using the Prayer of the Church for over sixty years I’ve been struck that its very title. This suggests unselfishness. Certainly I try to make these prayers my own, but as Prayers of the Church they reach beyond me, beyond the Church itself to embrace the whole world. Though separated, we pray with each other and for each other. While my brother, Peter, is praying in the tropical heat, I’m saying the breviary in frozen winter.  Together we bring before the Lord the differing moods, needs and aspirations of members of the community.

Certainly there will be times when my feelings may be very different from that of the particular psalm I’m praying.  No matter. Someone in the community will be feeling the desperation or joy expressed by a particular psalm. For my brother or sister’s sake I put my own feelings aside and am content to bring theirs before God. It’s very good for me to be taken outside my own world! If the psalms express someone’s anger and vengeance they expose these unworthy sentiments to the healing balm of God’s love and compassion.  On such occasions the Prayer of the Church calls me to put aside my own personal needs and feelings and to pray those of other people.
My way of meeting God is through the Prayer of the Church, which expresses the life of God’s People and its relationship to the Lord. I’m reminded that I’m not ‘alone with God, journeying on my way,’ but a member of the Pilgrim Church, in which we support each other with our prayers. The Prayer of the Church reinforces our solidarity with God and with each other.
Even if you don’t use the Breviary you will certainly find that praying the psalms will help you to draw closer to God in the joys and sorrows of life. These prayers will take you outside yourself and lead you to bring others before God.  And that’s not surprising since God, who is the author of the Scriptures speaks to our minds and hearts, through the psalms, and we make these prayers our own as we listen to Him and speak to Him.

Isidore O.P 
The next post will be on 8th  February

Thursday, 10 January 2013



Tiger came to me as a utility cat- as a much needed rat-catcher for the old building in which I was housed. . .infested with vermin. This cat was eminently up to the task… a creature that bristled and hissed at every friendly approach...every attempt at intimacy.  If Tiger had no need for affection he looked for approval or at least recognition. Trophies from the hunt were always brought to my door.
Mine was the task of paying Tiger his wages, keeping him alive with a mid-day plate of food washed down by a saucer of milk.   At meal-time Tiger was too pre-occupied with eating to show aggression when I lightly stroked his back. Gradually there was a transition from hostility to tolerance and then to contented purring. What a break-through  when Tiger actually jumped onto my lap.

I should have known better than to imagine we had eventually become firm friends and that the future would always be sweet and smooth between us. For many years when preparing couples for marriage I have cautioned them that at times their relationship would have moments that were rough and sour. Often they looked at me in disbelief. What did I as a priest know about being in love? “More than somewhat,” would be a fair reply. A fool was I to expect more from Tiger than I did of human beings.
    The moment of disillusionment had to come, sooner or later. On a day like any other day when I was carrying Tiger’s lunch across the lawn I heard a demented shriek followed  immediately by sharp claws plunged into my rump!  Swiftly I spun round and lashed out with my foot – like a celebrity footballer aiming at goal. I missed.  No amount of pondering or taking counsel from my friends provided me an explanation for this treacherous outburst.  More disturbing to me was the fact that there were several repeat performances.
 Thenceforth ours was an uneasy relationship. However, sometime later I was seriously ill and had to take major surgery. After several days I returned home to my bed which was snugly in a corner of the room in the space between the wall and a tall bookcase.  Restless, unable to sleep, I heard a rustling and then a gentle thump. Raising my eyes I saw Tiger sharply silhouetted against the moon- light that flooded my room. Seldom have I felt more loved, more comforted, that when Tiger nestled beside sickly me who had been exhausted and wrung out by intense pain.
Tiger had needed me; I had needed Tiger. ..more than either of us had realized.
How much we meant to each other was brought home to me once again…after the devastation and desolation caused to our house by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.  There were three of us in residence at the time of the storm. After several days with no trace of Tiger we had concluded, ‘Missing in action.’
Meanwhile , we had to sort out our lives in the midst of all the rubble and confusion. We  were able to clear some space and to salvage all that was needed for the celebration of Mass. As I sat in the corridor waiting for the others to show up for Mass I was lost in thought, deep in prayer, with eyes closed...lost to the world. I became aware of Tiger gently, hesitantly, brushing against my bare shin.  Softly I called his name. ‘Tiger.’ Confidently he jumped into my lap.
Even as I write this my eyes are moist. I thank God for those exquisite moments of beauty and love that have come to my rescue when I have been torn apart with sadness, even despair.  God knows how to meet our needs, in ways we never expected. He has seen to it that people, even Tiger-cat,  have been  ‘there for me’ when I needed them most.
Have no illusions. The world is made up of imperfect people like you and me...of imperfect cats, like Tiger!   This being so, to my mind it is a great God who through His flawed creatures can bring me to that point where my whole being throbs with the words of St. Paul,   
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4
What a strange spirituality is here!  godswaymyway! I’m to find God calling me to be for others what Tiger has been for me!  A comfort ! A consolation!
Peter Clarke OP