Thursday, 26 February 2015


The Way of the Cross – towards Calvary; The Stations of the Cross – Significant  Moments on the Journey; the  Via Dolorosa  - the Anguishing Journey
It was a harsh masculine world that clamoured for the death of Jesus, judged him to be guilty; and treated His body with barbarous cruelty. And yet Into this same awfulness were injected moments of  tenderness and compassion  flowing from the hearts of women. I describe them as ‘Women on the Way…Mary – His Mother, Veronica and the Daughters of Jerusalem.   Isaiah  prophesied  how  Jesus would appear to these women:
Is 53   He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
Surely you would agree  nothing surpasses the beauty a mother  lovingly gazing at  her precious  infant…flesh of flesh, her most intimate of companions for  nine months.  The joy of Mary must have been uniquely sublime, even divine when Jesus smiled at her...Her Son was the Son of God! I’m now thinking of  Mary, some thirty years later meeting  her Son   battered, bruised, bleeding, rejected, nailed to a cross. Their  eyes met……..I can’t finish sentence ….I’m weeping as I type this!
What of   St. Veronica?  The beauty about her is that there is no clear evidence that there ever was a woman in the crowd who was so distressed at seeing  Jesus smeared with blood, sweat, spittle and dust that she wiped His face and that its imprint remained on the piece of cloth.   The tradition relating to Veronica would have us believe that  her sensitive kindness  was the sort of thing that should have happened…no matter  who did it. How fitting it would have been that in the jostling crowd there was someone who  cared enough to wipe the face of Jesus. He who was engulfed with bullying hatred  experienced love…at a time when He most needed it. What was said of Veronica then says so much to us now about   the richness of seemingly insignificant acts of  kindness and consideration, acts that spring from the heart.
I can’t help feeling it’s shocking, terrible, if  we ever allow ourselves to be so occupied  getting important things done that it doesn’t occur to us to allow time for tokens of love – the kind word, the hug, the brief   prayer.                                                                                                                                            The ‘Veronicas of this world’ – be they men or women or even little children  are obscure, unsung heroes . Did we but know  it, we are surrounded by people starved of love.  Indeed, a time may come when   we  ourselves yearn there be someone who shows us a little kindness.

And lastly  there are those  ‘Fringe Followers’ of Jesus within the noisy crowd  accompanying  Him towards Calvary.  These are the weeping ‘Daughters of Jerusalem,’   who, like Mary, were heart-broken at the very sight of Jesus. For a brief moment  Jesus was at the very centre of a ‘Love Circle of   Pain.’  With their love-filled tears the women consoled Jesus;  with His tender words Jesus consoled the women  in their  present distress and grieved over  the tribulation that the future held for them.
These Mary, Veronica, and these  ‘Women on the Way’  are now teaching me the immeasurable importance of our being  SIMPLY THERE WITH PEOPLE, THERE FOR PEOPLE at times when all we have to offer them is our loving support.                                                                                                                                                                                       
Peter Clarke, OP

Thursday, 12 February 2015


Sheer Paradise! For this exotic creature reclining on her inflatable mattress floating in the smooth waters of the Caribbean. Was it her delicious rum punch, together the gently rocking waves, that had lulled her to sleep? What an alarming awakening for her to find herself surrounded by water with no land on the horizon! Never had it occurred to her that the gentle breeze and hidden current might carry her far from shore. Happily, a passing schooner was the answer to her frightened prayers.
At this point well might you ask what spirituality, what preaching-point, could this priest conjure up from this maiden in distress? There she was, having drifted out of her comfort-zone close to shore into uncertainties of the waves and the winds of the open seas. In a kind of a way I myself am feeling ‘all at sea,’ but I must hasten to add that I’m far better placed than she was. In my present insecurity I’m grasping, holding onto, what is solid and inspires me with confidence- even hope. I have my anchorage amidst the tossing and turning waves of life. 
These past few years have been most baffling and confusing to me, even threatening. The world to which I’d become accustomed has been developing, progressing, along a trajectory that could no way have been easily foreseen, planned and accepted. I’m not thinking of all those spectacular advances in technology. For me many of these are cause for rejoicing.
I’m apprehensive as I’ve witnessed rock-solid traditional values being eroded into shifting sands. Long past is the age of the certainties with which I was brought up! Then my parents and teachers had no doubts about what was good behaviour and what was bad. Society had set the tone. No-one who deviated from its customs and conventions could presume the right to live according to what is cutely described as an ‘Alternative lifestyle.’ 
What used to be accepted as ‘Absolutely Correct’ standards of behaviour is being replaced by a lifestyle of recent invention (dare I call it a monster? ) that is idolized as being ‘Politically Correct.’ This is a creature that is able to re-invent itself according to times and circumstances…with the many being expected to conform to the opinionated few.
As something of a loner I have to insist that that there are non-negotiable, God-given, standards for human conduct. And yet I’m no hard-crusted, legalist, who plucks out of well-worn manuals of moral theology slick solutions for real-life, flesh and blood, crises of conscience. Pope Francis has surely brought home to us that there is such a thing as Christ-like pastoral sensitivity and compassion. 
A wholesome sign of the times is that as never before people are insisting upon their need for emotional fulfillment in personal relationships. And yet I’m bewildered, I feel threatened, by the raucous clamour for rights to this or that. I’m appalled at the determined smothering of any mention of duties and responsibilities. In all this confusion Pilate might query, ‘What is truth?’ He’d get the jeering reply that it exists no more. I hear the unsung chorus ‘I do my own thing-my way. You, and you, and you can all do your own thing, your way. I won’t get in your way. You keep out of my way!’ 
Before us is a cocktail of mixed messages! Pity the parent, pity the school teacher, attempting to prepare youngsters for life in this world of confusion galore! Pity the maturing youngster striving to weave a way between being told one thing by one adult and hearing the very opposite from someone else. We live in a muddle of opinions – all voiced with the force of convictions.
Would not today’s adolescent and maturing adult, easily identify with the hapless girl adrift on heaving high seas – perilously floundering with nothing secure to grasp? 
I put it to you that survival through all this can be found within a symbol of hope and security taken from the early days of Christianity: THE ANCHOR! With its crossbar it reminds us of the cross on which Jesus saved mankind. The inspiration for this symbolism must have been taken from the Letter to the Hebrews (6:18-19): "Hold fast to the hope set before us which we have as ANCHOR FOR THE SOUL." 
Christ is my Way, my Truth, my Life, my Anchor. He speaks through His Church. While the girl on the drifting mattress was downcast, I, in the Church, am upbeat! 

Peter Clarke OP