Wednesday, 30 September 2015


Hardly a moment passed when my mother wasn’t taking care of me, with an anxious, unspoken, concern that I should come to no harm. She was past ninety years of age and I was in my sixties when she still fussed that I had got my shirt buttons out of alignment or that a strategic zip was not fulfilling its purpose.

For me she was never an interfering nuisance. I meant so much to her that she could never surrender that sensitive concern that came so naturally to her once she was aware that I had taken up residence in her womb!

 As for Mother Mary.... No-one will ever comprehend what   it meant for Mary to be mother of Jesus, her infant, her child, her adolescent  boy, and maturing adult.  Mary’s Son was God – Son of the Most High –truly, fully, human, truly, fully, divine.

With her own eyes, with her own ears, with the whole of her being Mary, was aware of the fragility of her Son  from the time He was crying to be nursed at her breast  to the time when He thirsted for a drink as He hung on a cross.

In the early days of His public ministry  Mary must have felt  nothing but pride at the crowds gathering  to hear the inspiring  preaching of her own boy;  satisfied at seeing  His love-filled kindness  towards everyone  He met; and amazed, even startled, at  His wondrous  power to heal those with incurable  ailments.

How great must have been her sadness as she came to hear of murmuring of dissatisfaction with  her Son. Some, including prominent religious leaders – Scribes, Pharisees, even High Priests, were jealous of the acclaim He was receiving and angry at His exposing  their shallow insincerity. 

It would seem that once Jesus embarked upon His public ministry  Mary  had  to steel herself, compose  herself,  to ‘journey with Him.’  She had to adapt her thinking, her feelings, to His. This, as we shall now see, must have required of her outstanding spiritual courage.

What a turnabout  for  her, a woman of  loyalty to her people, to have to  approve of the way  Jesus  deliberately  mixed  with those who were despised for their collaboration  with  the oppressive Roman forces who occupied their land – the  tax-collectors  who twisted money out of their impoverished pockets!

Yet more difficult must it have been  for her to have to accept the reputation  Jesus was earning for  Himself  by  allowing  loose-living  people to flock around  Him.

Mary  had to go along with  the explanation Jesus Himself  gave, “ It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I came to call not the upright, but sinners,'( Mk.2.17). If He was to affirm their human dignity and  convince them  they were meant for a better way of life, He had to meet them where they were.

Time  came when religious and civil authorities were scheming against  Jesus, even to kill Him. To them He was  a political rabble-rouser  who  had to be stifled. Restless  crowds were too eager  to hear His teaching, as He claimed for Himself the authority to tell them how they ought to live, how they ought to be treated with respect.

In the Gospels Jesus warned His disciples three times that He would be arrested, ill-treated and put to death.   He must have talked this over with His mother. How should she have reacted?  Not as did Peter who vehemently  exploded, 'Heaven preserve you, Lord, , 'this must not happen to you,' (Mtt.16.22)!

At this point I am reminded of the admonition St. Paul gave to the Philippians, Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus,:” (2.6)  In her own  way Mary had to share in the Gethsemane anguish of her Son who prayed , “'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it,' (Mtt.26.39).

This October, the Month of the Rosary, I invite you to take to heart  the words of  Pope Saint  John Paul II.

" To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ….With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love.”

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Friday, 18 September 2015


It was 24th Sept. 1950. My twin brother, Peter, and I, together with 18 others had just been clothed in the Dominican habit. Each of us took his turn to lie prostrate between the choir stalls of those who would soon welcome us as their Dominican brothers. To each of us our Superior solemnly announced, "In the world you were known as "X;" now you will be known as "Y." This re-naming indicated that we been called to a new dimension of that Christian vocation, which we share with all the baptised.

We’d been called to follow Jesus in a Dominican way, as members of the religious family of the ‘Order of Friars Preachers.’ Our special vocation is to follow Christ, the wandering preacher of the Good News of Salvation. We would share with others the fruits of our prayerful and studious contemplation. In union with Jesus, the Teacher, we, as preachers, are moved by a profound love for our Heavenly Father which overflows into a love for all people – made in the ‘image and likeness of God,’ cherished as children of God.

For St. Dominic it was vital that the Order of Preachers should be community based -a brotherhood living together, praying together, supporting each other’s ministry, drawing upon one another’s wisdom and experience…having our meals together, relaxing together. We preachers can be sent to wherever the Church needs us.

Ever since Peter was ordained in 1958 he has spread the Gospel in the West Indies. For me, ordained on the same day, my Dominican life has taken a very different course. I’ve spent a short time working in Grenada, many years in a conference centre in England, then in parishes in Hinckley and Leicester.

We Dominicans understand ‘handing on the fruits of our contemplation’ in a very wide sense. One of the glories of our Order is that it has gives us the opportunity to use our personal talents in sharing the Word of God. For generations members have preached sermons, given lectures and conferences, written books and articles. We now welcome modern communication technology as providing new ways of sharing the Good News.

This includes using blogs and Facebook. Peter has edited a Catholic newspaper and we both broadcast. Fra. Angelico used his artistic skill to proclaim the Good News. Bl. James of Ulm preached through the medium of stained glass windows.

To an outsider religious life can appear very negative, especially in giving up our right to marry and have children. Some resent us for that, while others feel sorry for us. These sentiments contain more than a grain of truth, but far from the whole truth. Those of us with Dominican vocations feel called to express our love for God by offering Him something we personally value very highly, not something we despise.

That’s how much we love Him! We’re called to restrict our options, so that we can focus our attention on our preaching vocation. That shouldn’t surprise you. Everyone who marries chooses one special person and ‘forsakes all others.’ For them that decision is a profound expression of focussed love and commitment. The same is true for us when we become Dominicans.

As Peter and I celebrate the 65th anniversary of our receiving the Dominican habit we insist this is not an occasion for self-glorification, but for thanking God, who has chosen and called us to serve Him in the Dominican Order. Having called us He has supported us in the rough and smooth times. After 65 years we can both honestly say that in our old age we continue to find a Dominican life fulfilling and still relish the excitement of sharing the Good News. We would want no other life.

Today, above all others, we echo the Psalmist,
"Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness," (Ps. 115. 1-2).
And to you who have been reading this piece we would again echo the Psalmist, ‘Oh that today if you hear the voice of the Lord’ - calling you to the religious life or priesthood –‘harden not your heart…’ (Ps. 95. 7).    The Church needs you; people need you; God needs you! You will find true fulfilment if you say, "Yes" to God’s call.

Peter and Isidore Clarke O.P.

Friday, 4 September 2015


These days  there seems to be a feverish compulsion to build walls, fences, and barricades. ..For   what purpose? To prevent any kind of involvement with people in dire distress, any kind of responsibility   for them! This was the mentality of the Priest and the Levite who walked on the other side of the road to distance themselves from the wretched man who’d  been badly   mugged and robbed and left half dead.

For some people raising barriers and putting up fences with razor sharp cutting edges is the politically correct, socially correct, thing to do. To advocate such policies is the sure way to earn popularity and to secure votes. There’s a huge fear of refugees and migrants crossing national borders – not as invaders but as terrified people looking for safety.

They are destitute; they are hungry. They have no means of sheltering 
themselves from the burning rays of the sun, the misery of rain-soaked clothes.  They carry with them no food or medical supplies. They have been squeezed into boats that are not sea-worthy.  

If they are fortunate to reach dry land they find they are resented, unwelcome. In some places they are treated like criminals to be impounded behind barbed-wire fences.

 On the scales of justice there’s an obscene imbalance between those secure and comfortable peoples and nations and those who are on the threshold of desperation; an imbalance between those who are determined not to offer even a glimmer of hope and those howling infants in their mothers’ arms, the sickly, the frail, the   elderly, the young fathers and mothers who would lay down their very lives for the sake of the children.

They are utterly, totally dependent upon the good-will of others...others who are strangers. The only language that can speak is that of a shared humanity of caring and helping that responds to the voice of anguish, helplessness, and of hopelessness 

In this bleak world of so much indifference to human suffering there are the bright lights of  human decency and compassion. Immediately come to mind those heroic people who volunteered to go to the rescue of those who were afflicted with the highly infectious Ebola disease. 

And then there is the wonderful  

Regardless of nationality, race colour, religion, gender or age medically qualified people offer their   professional skills to the sick and  the wounded in areas and situations where medical care is  not  available. Frequently they are exposed to considerable risk because they are attending to people with highly infectious diseases or to the wounded on the battle field. 

Their concern is solely for  human beings in pain…no matter who the person is, no matter what the person’s allegiances – national, political, racial or religious... A total openness to suffering humanity 

                    In the same vein Pope Francis is now calling for a                                          CHURCH WITHOUT FRONTIERS – MOTHER TO ALL.                                          
                      This is the title of the Message he has written for                                                      World Day of Migrants and Refugees.                                        I quote the Pope,

Jesus is “the evangelizer par excellence and the Gospel in person” (Evangelii Gaudium, 209). His solicitude, particularly for the most vulnerable  and marginalized, invites all of us to care for the frailest and to recognize the suffering countenance of Jesus, especially in the victims of new forms of poverty and slavery.

The Church without frontiers, Mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable…, 

Jesus Christ is always waiting to be recognized in migrants and refugees, in displaced persons and in exiles, and through them he calls us to share our resources, and occasionally to give up something of our acquired riches.”

The following words of St. Paul should convince us that man-made barriers between people are offensive to Jesus, the Saviour of Mankind.

In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility,  by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end,” (Eph.2)