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.

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