Thursday, 21 February 2013


He had a delightful, crazy streak, a gentle sense of humour.  So it came as no great surprise when our friend told Peter and me that his degree research meant he had to become a surrogate mother to a flock of ducklings!

This was to test a theory known as ‘animal imprinting.’  This claimed that certain animals -especially ducks and geese -were very impressionable. They would bond with the first thing that caught their eyes, after they broke out from their shells.  Hopefully that would be their mother.  But if not, they would form an inseparable attachment to the most unlikely of substitute mothers.  Ducklings could become the best of friends with a cat or large dog –a creature which normally would make a meal of them. They’ve been known to become deeply attached to an inanimate object, such as a cardboard box or a wellington boot. Incidentally, (I’ve here adapted a cartoon which I found on the internet. Many thanks to the unknown artist!)

So, our friend studiously monitored the duck eggs from the moment they were put in the incubator. His research demanded that he had to be the first thing they saw as they hatched.  He alone provided for their every need.  Would they bond with him?  To his delight, they waddled behind him, as he walked away.  Later, when he rode off on his bike, they took to the air and flew behind him in the traditional ‘V’ formation.  When he dismounted and lay on the grass they landed on top of his back!    They’d become inseparable!

Our friend had obviously made a lasting impression on the newly-hatched ducklings. If he provided them with a substitute mother, they gave him the evidence he needed for his university degree.  I wonder how he felt having such substitute children.

As I reflected on our friend’s crazy research I was reminded of the importance of first impressions –not just for ducklings, but for us people.

There are many, who from the start have been greatly blessed by being brought up in a loving family environment of devout, Christian parents.  Their faith has become imprinted upon them.  During their childhood they were introduced to God, and He has been with them throughout their lives. That’s how countless people first meet God. Thanks to His grace, they’ve stuck with Him, and He with them -despite their lapses.

Sadly, many more children do not grow up in a loving Christian atmosphere.  Many are born into a godless and sometimes unloving world.  With such an early imprint, we may well fear that they didn’t stand a chance of meeting God and of experiencing His love.  But God can overcome that disadvantage.  Unlike the ducklings, they do have free will and, with God’s help, can react against an unfavourable environment.   And God can and does reach out to them in so many different ways. Often that’s through us believers. The impression we make may give them the first insight into what it means to be a follower of Christ. Meeting us can become the first step to their meeting Him.  But do our lives inspire them to want to join us in following Christ?  Or do we put them off Jesus and His way of life, probably without our realizing it?  That’s an enormous responsibility.

I’m struck by the way Jesus created such a wonderful first impression on hard-headed fishermen, such as Peter and Andrew, the tempestuous Sons of Thunder  -James and John. Instinctively they left everything and followed Jesus, even to the point of giving their very lives for Him.  That first impression was ‘imprinting’ on the grand scale –far exceeding the bonding between our friend and the ducklings!

I’m sure that God wants us to meet Him by imprinting upon us an unshakeable trust in the wonder of His love and mercy, His total commitment to us.  He wants this first impression to remain with us throughout  the ups and downs of life.

Like our friend and the ducklings, you and I,  may be the first impression or imprint some people will have of what being a Christian is all about.  Will they be inspired to follow us to Jesus?
Isidore O.P.
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Wednesday, 6 February 2013


I do enjoy relaxing with a good detective story!  There’s the sense of mystery, trying to pick up the clues and work out who’s the culprit before that’s been revealed by the detective.  Since I’m  a Dominican I find stories set in  the Middle-Ages particularly fascinating. The historical background is usually so well researched; it gives me a feel for how people lived when the Dominican and Franciscan Orders were founded. was  also the period when they established large communities here in Leicester - the very place where I’m living.

So, imagine my joy and excitement when, last year, here in Leicester, I witnessed a real live piece of detection.  Archaeologists were working on a dig in a car park.  Their purpose was to find the body of the notorious King Richard III. He’d been killed at the Battle of Bosworth, a few miles from Leicester. Records showed that he’d been buried between the choir stalls of Leicester’s Medieval Franciscan Friary.

After locating the friary underneath this car-park the archaeologists dug some trenches.  To my delight they had an open day for the public to see how they were progressing.  These trenches revealed bits of the foundation walls of the friary and its church.  As I gazed down these trenches I allowed my imagination to run free, as I speculated about the Franciscans brethren who had lived there over five centuries ago.  Our Medieval Dominican priory was on the other side of the city. My brethren of yesteryear would have known this Franciscan community.

Fascinating though this background was, the  archaeologists were not so much interested in the friary. Their focus was on the mortal remains of the man who was supposed to have been buried there –no less a person than King Richard III, the last English monarch to have been killed on the battlefield.  His death provided a turning point in English history. Finding his remains would be a major discovery.

To everyone’s excitement, between the choir stalls of the friary, they found the bones of someone who had obviously been killed in battle.  Was he the missing king?

Now another set of experts stepped in; the bones were carbon dated; genealogists discovered a descendent of Richard’s sister. A sample of his DNA was used to see whether it matched that of the DNA of the bones found in the Franciscan friary.. If so, the argument would be clinched. The mortal remains of Richard III would have been discovered.

This was far more exciting than any fictional detective story! Eagerly, impatiently, we awaited the results of the scientific research.   Today, 4th February 2013, it’s been officially announced that the remains of King Richard III have, indeed, been found!

But what has this wonderful find to tell me about meeting God?  Well, the discovery of the bones in the car park reminded me of a passage in the prophecy of Ezekiel.  His exiled people were despondent. They feared that their nation had been destroyed and that God had abandoned them. In a vision the prophet saw a valley full of dry bones, representing God’s people.  Then the Lord said to Ezekiel, “ ‘Mortal man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord,(Ezek. 37. 11-14).

The vivid imagery of this prophecy gave hope that God would do the seemingly impossible. He would revive an apparently dead people. This prophecy was taken up in a popular Negro Spiritual about, “Dem bones, Dem dry bones,’ which would hear the word of the Lord; they would walk around.

And as I think of the dry bones of the deceased Richard III I’m confident that our crucified and risen Lord can breathe new life not only into Richard’s bones, but into the mortal remains of all who have died.

To the non-believe there would have been something very final about the discovery of Richard’s dry bones. Clearly, his life had been brutally snuffed out; he had no future. Nor would anyone else, once they’d died. But those very bones reminded me of Ezekiel’s prophecy and the Spiritual they inspired.  God can, and does, do the seemingly impossible. He can raise us bodily from the dead to share in the glorious life of His risen Son.

That archaeological dig has given me a new approach to my faith in the resurrection. After death, I trust the Lord will raise my dry bones. Then I hope to enjoy the fullness of life with the risen Lord.  Surely, that’s the very best way of meeting God!
Isidore O.P.
The next posting will be on  22nd February.