Saturday, 21 December 2013



Isidore, my twin brother, and I joined the Dominicans in 1950. How clueless we were about what we were getting into! Coming straight from Grammar School we were prepared for everything and prepared for nothing. Our attitude was that we would ‘give it a go’ and see where it led us.
First surprise - for reasons known only to God and to our Novice Master - we had to dip our two feet into a basin of water and then make wet foot-prints on the polished floor. These were closely examined to see if any of the candidates to the Order were flat-footed! Could it have been that in those days God’s flat-footed children would have obviously been disqualified from becoming good preachers?!  Anyway, after more than sixty years we’re still preaching. Twin Isidore reminds me of the famous musings of the prophet Isaiah,” How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation,” Isaiah 52:7.

A feat beyond compare for both of us to be accepted into THE ORDER BECAUSE OF OUR BEAUTIFUL FEET…!”  And now I ask myself WHO NOSE what is the criterion for the other great Religious Orders in accepting new candidates? Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
With a return to sanity the Novice Master had us candidates get our eyes tested. With honest realism the optician advised Isidore and me that our eye-sight was so poor that we’d best forget pursuing a bookish career and consider working on the land!  The powers-that–be ignored this advice; and so did we twins.  Through a mixture of foolish stubbornness and being well-focused in our determination we have persisted in preaching to this day.  For me personally there was a price to pay -  headaches, blackouts and even nose-bleeds as I glued my student eyes to the printed page.
For me everything depends on being well-focused.  Our focus was becoming and remaining Dominicans was of supreme importance to us…something we couldn’t to do without…something that demanded hard work and persistence....and still does! We had set our hearts on a life-determining, life-shaping, goal. I put it down  to an urge and a surge to become and remain Dominicans.

My Christmas thought is that the shepherds and the Magi had this urge and surge. They put aside all else and made their way to the stable outside Bethlehem. They had to discover for themselves ‘What child is this?’ that a choir of angels or a moving star had provoked them to seek pay him honour.

As for that nasty man, Herod, he had a devilishly sharp focus.  Word soon reached him that these Magi were going through Jerusalem asking the whereabouts of the ‘infant king of the Jews.’ Such a child would have been an obvious threat to the royal family of King Herod. The possibility of this coming to anything had to be snuffed out, IMMEDIATELY!  Herod’s focus of having this ‘rival’ tracked down was as sharp as the tip of a sword.  The outcome …the Massacre of the Holy Innocents!

What does ‘bringing this season into sharp focus’ say to you and to me? Surely our being very clear what is the ‘must-have’ about Christmas that has the greatest importance for us; then having the stubborn determination not  to let  anything prevent us from enjoying it.
Look  at this time of the year! So much agitated activity.  The very air seems to be crackling with intensity and bustling excitement. Mostly everywhere is decorated with ‘all things bright and beautiful.’ Pounding music all but bursts our eardrums!  Many would think it stupid to ask, ‘Why all the ‘tra-la-la?’ Their instant reply would be, ‘Who needs a pretext, an excuse, for having a good time?’

Others would chime in, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’  And the reply would surely be, ‘That may be your reason, but it’s not mine, nor that of most other people!’   From within this  mêlée  of swirling messages and enthusiasms  I sense an urgent need to pluck out of this confused mixture of moods and messages the golden nugget of radiant, dazzling truth…such as “In a nutshell Christmas is …; the nitty-gritty of Christmas is…; or “Stripped down to the bare bones Christmas is all about  shepherds and Magi – their  sharp focus, my sharp focus, discovering the Child in the manger...Jesus, the Son of Mary, Jesus the Son of  God.”

We Christians have seen these past few as a build-up to Christmas – the celebration of the Son of God being born into our world – the human family.

In this lies godswaymyway for me, you, and many more, to have a deeply spiritual and enjoyable Christmas. God has brought me to see the pressing need for us to get Christmas into clear, sharp focus.  Without this sharp Christmas focus, how on earth are we going to fulfill our Christian duty and privilege of   ‘telling it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born?
Peter Clarke O.P.
Peter and Isidore wish all our readers and their families  every blessing  for Christmas and the New Year

Thursday, 12 December 2013


An evening to remember!  I was left to myself, with no-one making any demands on me. So I switched on my radio as I relaxed in my comfortable armchair. What a delight to stumble upon John Rutter’s ‘Requiem!’   Until then this had been unknown to me.

In my enthusiasm I rushed out -the next day -to buy the CD of the music.   I had to hear it again! I had to share my ‘discovery’ with my brother, Peter, in Grenada, in the W. Indies. He was likewise thrilled with the CD I sent him.   I was delighted that Peter shared my enthusiasm. His enthusiasm, his enjoyment certainly increased mine.

It’s said that a problem shared is a problem halved. Surely ‘a joy shared is a joy doubled.’ That must be equally true! That was certainly true, when I introduced my brother to this beautiful music.

Some years later, when our brother Chris died, the ‘Requiem’ by John Rutter would draw Peter and me especially close.   At the very hour I was celebrating our brother Chris’ Requiem in England Peter, in Grenada, had sought out the peace-filled seclusion of a rocky peninsular reaching out into the Atlantic.   There, sitting in his car, he recited the Breviary Office of the Dead with the CD of Rutter’s ‘Requiem’ comforting him in his solitary sorrow. He was separated by thousands of miles from the rest of the family. That beautiful piece of music, which we both loved, helped to bring us especially close in our shared grief for our deceased brother.  It was a real blessing that I should have accidentally stumbled across that music and then shared it with Peter.

This incident made me think of the excitement of discovering a brilliant young footballer, or, perhaps, singer. Eagerly we want to tell our friends about him or her.  We urge them to come and see for themselves.
That’s precisely what happened in an incident recorded near the beginning of St. John’s Gospel (1. 35-42).  When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he pointed Him out to a couple of his followers. “Behold the Lamb of God,” he exclaimed.  That aroused Andrew’s curiosity.  So he and his companion followed Jesus and asked Him where He lived. When Jesus invited them to ‘come and see’ they went and spent the day with Him.   Andrew then went back and eagerly told his brother, “We have found the Messiah.”  Gripped by Andrew’s enthusiasm Peter went with his brother to see Jesus for himself.   That shared discovery completely changed their lives.

This idea echoes the title and theme of Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation entitled, “The Joy of Evangelization.” Jesus is Good News, the very best of news.   Like Andrew, we should be so excited about Jesus and what He has done for us that we can’t help but want to share Him with our nearest and dearest and with all those we encounter in our daily lives!  Like the apostles, we should long for everyone to welcome what means so much to us – our personally discovering Jesus and becoming attached to Him. Like the women who first saw the risen Lord we should feel we must rush and share this Good News.  It’s too exciting, too important for us to keep to ourselves!

 But we all know that our wildest enthusiasms can become jaded;   familiarity can breed complacency.  Interesting, isn’t it, that Pope Francis criticizes those of the clergy who look as if they’ve just come from a funeral?  He even calls them –us- “sourpusses!”  Could it be that we’ve lost our sense of wonder and excitement at the Good News? If so, we won’t be all that eager to listen to it or share it.  Gradually our awareness of Jesus can become like dull background music or drab wall-paper to our lives!

If I’m to meet God I must ask Him to keep alive my love and enthusiasm for the Good News about Jesus Himself and the salvation He has achieved for us through His death and resurrection. What an awful thought that Jesus could be relegated to being no more than a footnote to our lives!  Only with enthusiasm that ‘fires me up’ will I be eager to spread the Gospel and enjoy doing so.

 Having been a member of the Order of Preachers for over sixty years I can vouch for the ‘Joy of Evangelizing’ –powerfully expressed in Pope Francis’ ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ –‘The Joy of Evangelizing.’ It’s a real tonic.  It refreshes our appetite to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” (Ps. 34. 8). I strongly recommend it –especially during Advent when we celebrate the Good News of the coming of Our God!   May this inspire us to enrich other people’s lives with what gives meaning to our lives –God’s greatest gift -Himself.

Isidore O.P.