Thursday, 25 June 2015


In the Caribbean the Solemnity of St. Peter   and St. Paul is celebrated as Fisherman’s Birthday. On this day the fishing towns and villages celebrate. Fishermen and their families, as well as fish vendours make a special effort to Mass on this Day.
I myself have enjoyed blessing boats, blessing the fishermen their families. I’ve stood in the prow of a boat anchored in the shallows and blessed the seas asking the Lord will calm the storms. I’ve even pleaded the cause of  fish that they not be wastefully gathered into nets.
 To taste the Caribbean is to enter into the joy of the fishing community; to down good food and good drink and to join in the games. The fishing community deserves recognition. They put fresh delicious fish onto our tables. They support their own families and contribute to the economy.
 For this they deserve our gratitude, as well as our frequent prayers for their safety. Theirs, indeed, is a hazardous occupation. Too often have I anxiously joined families praying for loved ones ‘missing at sea!’
The Gospels make it very clear that Jesus felt much at home with the Galilee lake-side community. From this He recruited men who would follow Him and work with Him, as He embarked upon an enterprise that would eventually touch the remotest corners of the earth and would last until the end of time. They were to proclaim and promote the Good News of the Kingdom of God here on earth.
 Those who had netted fish for human consumption were  to be ‘fishers of men’ who would net others so that they might be fed on the Word of God and share in the life of God.  
Among those Jesus had chosen was one noted one,   Simon bar Jonah, who stood out as a natural leader; the self-appointed spokesman for his fellow-workers; the one to step forward to declare that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
 Jesus designated Simon was to be the foreman, the gang-leader, of the Church of which Jesus would be the Head.  This one to whom Jesus had given a new role and   a new identity, was  given by Jesus a new name, ‘Cephas’- which means ‘rock.’ The English equivalent is ‘Peter.’ 
After Jesus had ascended into heaven Simon Peter was recognized as the one Jesus had appointed to be His ‘Vicar’ or ‘Chief Representative,’ or ‘Chief Agent.’ But  never, never was Peter to be seen as the ‘Substitute’ or ‘Replacement’ for Jesus!
The present-day Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter, the Visible, in-the-flesh, Head of the Church, is known as the Pope. His name is ‘Francis.’ In the name of Jesus and assisted by the appropriate graces the Pope is to offer sound Teaching and Wise Leadership to the Church in its mission to the modern world.
As a matter of urgency Pope Francis has very recently seen that God is calling him to commission and challenge the whole world to protect and rescue the totality of its environment. This is being damaged, almost beyond repair, in part by human carelessness, irresponsibility and greed.
The Pope emphasizes over and over again that it is the impoverished, the vulnerable human that are the most significant victims of this wreckage of the global ecology.  Courageously he has written what is known as an Encyclical, or circular letter, to the community that is entire Human Family - urging that we come to our senses and act immediately to reverse the damage we are doing…before it is too late.    
The Church everywhere throughout the world celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.
In St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, the Church sees the heroic expression of its Mission to reach out  to the peoples of the world.
Jesus entrusted to St. Peter, His Vicar, the responsibilities of leadership within His Church.
 As members of the Church we owe more than affection for the Pope. We owe him loyalty at a very practical, down to earth level…by practising what he teaches…by defending him and his teaching when others are vilifying him as person together with the advice and warning he is offering us.   
Our world is God’s world…It is a world for all us to cherish…we must not squander its resources…we must not topple the delicate balance of its ecology.

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Friday, 19 June 2015


Why is it that whenever someone enters my room they offer to tidy it? Obviously they think it's in a mess. And they are right. Out of the goodness of their hearts they want to restore their order to my chaos. And that infuriates me. Why?

First of all, after they've finished re-organising me I’m never able to find anything. They regard oddments valuable to me as useless AND DARE TO THROW THEM OUT!!! They make me feel threatened. I fear I’m being taken over in my own personal territory. I’m being weighed in the balance and found wanting. That's the problem I have with these perfectionists.
They’re so infuriating! They’re so judgmental. For them everything has to be 'just right.' They are meticulous, scrupulous over the minutest detail. They are intolerant. I never, never were they invited them to put up with my untidiness. They are obsessed with precision and order…as though this made them virtuous... While I'm still vesting to say Mass someone tugs at my chasuble, having already given up on my being willing and able to straighten it myself. I want to scream, “Stop fussing!”
By now you will realise I am not a perfectionist -if that means being obsessed with precision and detail. Such people can be very critical of us others, who fall short of their standards. Not only do perfectionists annoy me, but they can make their own lives a misery. Tormented with scruples, they're anxious about getting every detail right.
They espy sin everywhere. They are scared their repentance may not be adequate, their confession sufficiently precise. As they leave the sacrament of reconciliation they agonise over whether they have made an incomplete, bad confession. Instead of rejoicing at being forgiven, they fear they've added to their guilt. Their scruples prevent them from finding peace through being pardoned. Aiming at such precise 'perfectionism' defeats the whole purpose of this sacrament.
Such meticulous perfectionism can be paralysing. Peter and I certainly are not expert book-binders. We have neither the skill nor the equipment. But we have learnt to repair books and add a few years to their lives. They are strong but not elegant. If we allowed our deficiencies to prevent us from doing what we could, and refused to start for fear we could not produce a masterpiece, many of the large liturgical prayer books in our two priories would have fallen to pieces by now. It would have been a mistake for us to allow the need for perfection to prevent us from doing the best we could.
It's even true that misguided attempts at perfection can spoil what we've already achieved. That's very much the case of watercolour painting. With this medium there's a great danger of over-correcting a painting. The colours become muddy and the picture loses its fresh spontaneity. The would-be author never publishes anything when he pushes his desire for perfection to the extreme. He’s never satisfied with what he has written. Fear of failing to produce a flawless masterpiece prevents him from publishing anything.
The secret is to know when to stop trying to improve what we've done. Surprisingly, that’s very necessary for athletes when training. Certainly each of them is striving for perfection. But to achieve that they will have to limit their training, otherwise they will crack up before they reach the starting blocks.
The secret is to get the balance right in a way that reacting against the precision of perfectionism does not result in slovenly mediocrity.
Jesus was not a perfectionist! That is, in the sense of teaching that meticulous observance of the Jewish Law and traditions could make people pleasing to God. Still less did He advocate mediocrity. In fact Jesus is far more demanding than any of the legal perfectionists. He tells us to, “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5. 48). You can't have any higher standard of perfection than God Himself!
But here the context is all-important for understanding what Jesus meant. In the Sermon on the Mount He'd just told us that we must forgive our enemies and do good to those who harm us. We must be like the Father who pours His gifts on good and not so good people alike.
In other words the perfection Jesus preaches is not that of the scrupulous perfectionist. These people have got their priorities wrong. In their meticulous preoccupation with getting material details just right they can lack the divine love and mercy which is the true measure of perfection.
That is the only way I can meet God. And I suppose His kind of perfection means I must forgive the obsessive perfectionists who get on my nerves!

Isidore Clarke, O.P.

Sunday, 14 June 2015


“What would I give for a cool beer or a cool anything! It’s so hot these days!” Such were my thoughts some years ago as I sweated through the heat in the beautiful  tropical island of Grenada, in the West Indies. I was toiling to compose an article for  a column I wrote for  the monthly magazine ‘CATHOLIC FOCUS’ of the Diocese of St. George-in-Grenada.

The aim of this column was to create a spirituality of reaching God through the ordinary and extraordinary experiences that make up my day-to-day life, as well as the lives of other people.

I was challenging myself to produce something printable out of  thoughts  centered  on my hot discomfort and the beatitude of drinking cool beer.   What was God saying to me through this mêlée, swirling around within my head? Could I reach God through a COOL BEER?

Or possibly through a COOL BEAR? This bizarre possibility occurred to my thanks to  my brother, Fr. Isidore  who emailed me  a picture of  a polar bear relaxing on its back with all four feet in the air. He was taunting me with the caption, ‘Keep cool, brother!’ 

 He was hinting that I spent my time in ecstatic relaxation like the much blessed bear lying on the Arctic ice, looking cool, cool, cool? ‘No such luck,’ said I!   I testily retaliated by observing that since he prided himself on being crafty with a computer  he could so easily have inserted a bottle of beer between the two paws. What a perfect image this would have been of a well-appointed Heaven – cool beer in a cool bed!  My brother couldn’t resist rising to such a challenge –as the picture proves!

The sad thing was that, little though the bear knew it, global warming was causing its Arctic Ice-bed to melt beneath it at an alarming rate. Its natural habitat was dissolving even while it took a cool sleep.

Surely this is a metaphor of what is happening to the world in which we live – the world that we are to hand down to succeeding generations. I can think of rivers in which I used to enjoy bathing. Not again! Now, on coming out of the water my skin would be itching because of all the insecticides, fertilizers and detergents that have found their way into the once clear, pure, water.

 You will have your own tales to tell. This is a crying shame. I really mean it. God the Creator must feel like weeping at what we are doing to the world He made for us and found to be so good. When God put man in the Garden of Eden it wasn’t that he should demolish it.

 He intended man to cherish it, develop it and protect it. There’s no denying man’s marvelous achievements through ever-evolving skills and technology. From Cave Man to High-Rise Man. But at what a price! How far has man fallen short of the expectations God had when He took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it, (Gen.2.15).

Remember how Jesus was able to find explanations and excuses for the men who were nailing Him to the Cross? “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing," (Lk.23.34). Well, there was a time when we had no awareness of environmental issues.

Now we know all too well what  is happening to our world and why. We know but we don’t care sufficiently to do anything about it. We can’t plead ignorance.

 My friend, the bear, is telling me from his cool repose that our Christianity, our humanity, should make us more responsible, more protective of our environment….for God’s sake, our  sake, and for bear’s sake. If I take this to heart then I can claim I know how  to Reach God…My Way… Through a COOL BEER. Sorry! I mean a COOL BEAR! 
                                             ~~~~~~~~~~~~                              (These thoughts were published in 2006 in the  monthly magazine ‘CATHOLIC FOCUS’ of the diocese of St. George’s-in-Grenada. And now in June 2015 the whole world awaits the publication of an Encyclical on the Environment.  In February this year Pope Francis stated, “If you are a Christian, protecting the environment is part of your identity, not an ideological option.’

 A journalist has written, ‘The subject in question is climate change, as the Holy Father gears up to release a  much-anticipated Papal encyclical – a letter to Catholics everywhere – that will consider care for creation, sustainable development and the impact that climate change is having on the world’s poorest people. 
The expectations for this document are huge.’)

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


Many years ago a friend told me she took her fiancé home to meet her family. Upon entering the house he was confronted by a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, hanging on the wall.

After one look at it, he turned tail and soon broke off their engagement! Maybe he couldn’t cope with the family’s obvious piety, or perhaps the picture itself put him off. Some pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are not to everyone’s taste. But this should not put them off their devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Whatever the artistic merits of pictures or statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they are attempting to express what is central to our Christian faith: that God has shown His love for us by becoming one of us.

Today’s feast celebrates God’s infinite love for us, expressed in a human way, familiar to us men and women. In Jesus the unapproachable God of majesty and glory could now be seen, touched and heard.

Jesus is the human embodiment of divine love. He could heal and forgive with a compassionate word or touch of the hand. People could embrace Him with love; others, seething with malice could nail Him to the cross!.

Near the beginning of John’s Gospel we are told that God so loved the world that He sent His Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it. God could not have paid the human race a greater compliment than by joining it. In so doing He has shared our human life, so that we might share His divine life.

But much more than this, in Jesus God poured out His life’s blood for us, even when we were hostile to Him through our sins. Through His death on the cross Jesus revealed the depth of God’s love for us. That was powerfully symbolised by the piercing of His heart. God could not have shown us greater love!

The Devotion to Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Litany to the Sacred Heart and the Consecration to the Sacred Heart expresses how much we love Jesus, whose precious blood flowed from His Sacred Heart – for our sake and for our salvation.

Christ’s love for us was the driving force behind all He did and suffered for us -- in Nazareth, on the Cross, in His teaching and healing, in His praying and working; and now, wonder of wonders, in His giving Himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was popularised by the 17th century French visionary, St. Margaret-Mary Alacocque. Using the heart as the traditional symbol of love, statues and pictures often show Christ pointing to His heart.

This reminds us that when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us He expressed His love for us in a human way, familiar to us. That’s what we celebrate in today’s feast.

Far from being an optional devotion, the Feast of the Sacred Heart is central to our Christian faith. The Feast of the Sacred Heart tells us, not only how God has reached out to us, but how we can approach Him. By becoming one of us Jesus reminds us that it is good to be human.

If God showed His love for us in a human way, we can express our love for Him by, growing, with God’s help, as mature men and women who are compassionate, merciful and self-giving towards others – even strangers, even enemies!

Following Christ is all about learning to love God and each other in the same way as Jesus loves His Heavenly Father and each of us. Quite simply, the Feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us how much God loves each and everyone of us.

That is the corner-stone of our Christian faith, the foundation of all our hope.

Today’s feast is all about God’s love for us, expressed in a human way, through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, Christ. The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus takes us to the very heart of God’s plan for our salvation.

That is what we celebrate today.

Happy Feast!

Isidore Clarke O.P.

Monday, 1 June 2015


Corpus Christi processions! Great occasions for us to proclaim our faith to the world at large. As people see us processing through the streets they may well wonder what’s going on. Why are we demonstrating? And what is the priest carrying? Whatever it is, it’s the focus of our attention. Why is it so important to us Catholics? What answers would you give, if you were asked these questions?

Ask them of yourselves; searching for answers will help to deepen your faith. But don't be surprised if you are lost for words and explanations. We are using our feeble human minds to try to penetrate what the great Dominican theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, called the ‘great mystery’ –the ‘magnum mysterium.’ He is said to have composed the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi, including the Benediction hymns, ‘O Salutaris Hostia’ and ‘Tantum Ergo.’ Our picture shows him holding the monstrance, containing the Blessed Sacrament.

So, what is the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi all about, and why do we make such a fuss about it? Well, the title ‘Corpus Christ’ means, ‘Body of Christi.’ The feast is now call the ‘Body and Blood of Christ.’ Amazingly, crazily, we believe a piece of bread has been changed into the crucified and risen body of the creator of heaven and earth, the saviour of the world. If we stop and think, this is mind blowing! If, as we believe, this is true, its no wonder we show what we call the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ so much honour. Under the appearance of bread the creator of heaven and earth, the redeemer of the world is present in our midst, in the remotest corners of the world. This is staggering! It demands enormous faith. And that is what we proclaim to the world in every Corpus Christ –or Blessed Sacrament –procession.

Why do we believe this? How do we know this is true? Well, St Paul writing years before the Gospels were composed tells us,
‘For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes,” " (I Cor. 11.23-36).

In a few words St. Paul tells us that at the Last Supper Jesus celebrated what we now know as the first Mass. In this He changed the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood. In obedience to Christ’s command the Church continues to celebrate that sacred meal. As we do so we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes. Each Mass makes present for us Christ’s sacrifice of the cross. Under the form of bread and wine He nourishes us with His own crucified and risen Body and Blood -the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation. With this sustenance we can grow into the saving power of Christ’s death and resurrection. That is the wonder we celebrate at every Mass.

On the feast of Corpus Christi we stress the mystery of Jesus remaining with us under the form of bread. He is reserved in what we call the 'tabernacle' -named after the 'Tent of Meeting,' the focus of God's presence as He led His people across the desert to the Promised Land.

Why does our saviour remain with us in this special way?   Firstly, so that He can be taken to the sick and house-bound, who can’t get to Mass. Jesus comes to nourish them in a special way when they receive Him in Holy Communion. He supports them in their frailty and suffering as, in a unique way, they identify with Him in His Passion. When Jesus is taken to them from the sacrifice of the Mass He makes Himself the sacred bond between those able to go to Mass and those who can’t. This should give the lonely a sense of belonging to the worshipping community, and that community a sense of loving responsibility for those who are no longer able to come to church.
The Blessed Sacrament is also reserved in the tabernacle so that we can drop into the church, to worship Jesus, who is present amongst us in a very special way. As we pray before the Blessed Sacrament we have time to prolong and deepen our understanding and devotion for Masses we have already attended. This, in turn, should prepare us to take part in future Masses with greater reverence. In other words, Eucharistic devotion outside Mass should always be linked to the Mass itself. It’s not meant to be a devotion independent of the Mass. That’s very true of Benediction and Blessed Sacrament processions.
Corpus Christi is a wonderful, joyful feast. We celebrate Christ’s gift of Himself in the Mass, His becoming present in a very special way, when bread and wine are changed into His own Body and Blood. As He offers Himself to His heavenly Father and gives Himself to us in the form of a meal He strengthens our unity with God and with each other, as His people.

It’s not surprising the Mass should be called the ‘Eucharist,’ which means, ‘Thanksgiving.’ Today, above all others, we should be filled with gratitude for the gift of the Mass!

Isidore Clarke O.P.