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.


1 comment:

  1. This is very stirring stuff!
    I guess everyone, whether king or pauper,good or bad,deserves to have their bodies and bones respected because they come originally from the hand of God.
    To become whole in mind, body and soul, even better than before but still to be essentially ourselves,our own person and in the prescence of God and all His people. What a marvellous vision!!