Friday, 13 November 2015



The big day has passed. The Dominican 800th Birthday Anniversary Year has been launched. My twin brother,  Isidore Clarke, O.P.  has already published his sermon for  the Celebration Mass of  his Community  in Leicester, England.  It fell to me preach on the same theme in Barbados. 

                  I’m publishing  my sermon to illustrate how identical twins can approach the same topic from completely different directions. I would  be  interested  to  read   sermons  for this day from my Brothers of the  global  Dominican Family.
We in Barbados celebrated this occasion at the Saturday Evening Parish Mass of the Church dedicated to St. Dominic. In the Gospel of the day we heard of the widow who put two small coins into the treasury.
How in the name of God can a poor widow, putting her few coins into the  collection 2,000 years  ago, have anything to say to us tonight as we celebrate the anniversary of an event  that took place 800 years ago?
That was the year when the  Order of Preachers, founded by Dominic Guzman, was officially confirmed by Pope Honorius 111.
 “How, in the name of God…?”  I’d asked – maybe you thought outrageously!  Jesus, the Son of God gives us the perfect answer, “She, this poor widow from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.
She was an exaggerated enthusiast  for God. I want to show that Dominic Guzman was such a person. He would expect the members of  the Order  of Preachers which he founded to strive  for nothing less.  This should be the message they that applies to you and me!
On one occasion Dominic sold his books, annotated with his own hand, to relieve the starving poor. Would I sell my Laptop for such a worthy cause?  I fear not, unless I knew of someone who would buy me a new one! Would you sell your Laptop or iPod, to  help the poor? I wonder!
 My intention is not to give a history   lecture  but to suggest to  you everything I have to say about  these celebrations has the flavour of  the sacrificial love of the widow, of St. Dominic, in their following of Jesus,
“The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”(1Jn.3.16).
The refrain, “all to Jesus I surrender,”   says it all.

 Now, here I am, dressed up for this occasion, wearing my white tunic together with a splendid black cloak and hood.  I am clothed exactly as was Dominic Guzman 800 years ago. He was the Spanish priest who founded the Order of Preachers – which now bears his name, “The Dominicans.”
I would want you to know   that   throughout the world very  many Dominicans wear the same religious habit as did Dominic and his companions. This very day they are  beginning a year of celebration of the 800th  year Anniversary of the Confirmation of the Order of Preachers by Pope Honorius 111, on 22 December 1216.
 We in Barbados have reason to join in the celebration!  For over 50 years members of the English Province of the Dominican Order have been part of the history of the Catholic Church in Barbados…in the Cathedral Parish, in the Parish of Our Lady Queen of the Universe, Black Rock, and in the Parish of St. Dominic, Maxwell. 
Indeed, it is a matter of pride that one of us, Theodore Taylor, was the driving force behind the building of this very church.  Another, Malachy  Clune, was responsible for completing the church of Our Lady Queen of the Universe, Black Rock, for overseeing the building of the Cultural Centre, as well as a substantial part of the present presbytery. Frs. Charles and Ronald are Barbados’ gift to the Order. We would welcome more such vocations!
In recent years Dominican Sisters from Trinidad   have made, and are making, a valuable contribution to the Church in Barbados.  For a few years there was a flourishing group of Lay Dominicans in the Diocese. It would great if it were possible to re-invent this during the Jubilee Year.
Surely, this is proof positive that while these our Dominican habits  eventually wear  out – I’ve had many a replacement during my 60 years in the Order  -  the Dominican Order as such  certainly has not worn out! Nor does it show the signs of being terminally ill – it’s still attracting new members!
I return to Dominic Guzman, our Founder. To my mind his   genius, his charisma, was to read accurately the ‘signs of his times,’ shrewdly to discern what needed to be done, and then with determination set about doing it. There’s something of a spirit of adventure, of daring, in being a Dominican!
And so it was that when travelling through the South of France the ‘sign of the time’ was that the whole region was being polluted with a false presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Dominic, this man of action, a true opportunist, spent the whole of the night in fervent conversation with an inn-keeper. By morning had converted him to the true faith. Is this telling us modern-day Dominicans to explore the possibilities of the much neglected all-night rum-shop  evangelization?
In about the year 1207 Dominic  found himself  in a similar discourse with a group of women in the small village of Prouille, in the south of France. They, like the inn-keeper, had been taken in by this false teaching.  Dominic not only converted them; he also made available to them a house that had been given to him and his fellow-preachers. They willingly accepted the opportunity of becoming a community of contemplative nuns…founded by Dominic.
They, therefore, had the honour of being the Original Dominican Community.  Prouille is, then,  the birth-place the Dominic Family of consecrated men and women sharing the same vision,  sharing the same Mission – that of Dominic Guzman – of  following Jesus, the herald of God’s truth.
At this stage, several years before the actual confirmation of the Order, Dominic saw the need of a group of preachers leading a balanced life – on the one hand  having a place they could call home, praying together as a community, a family;  making time actually to be brotherly by breaking bread together at table, relaxing together in the Common Room.
 Equally important was it that they had a place for prayer together and for the  serious study that preaching and lecturing require. If one side of the balance is BEING BROTHERLY, the other side of the balance is BEING OUT-GOING – the Word of God must be taken out to the whole world.  With good reason in the early days a Dominican Community was  known as a ‘Sacred Preaching.’
In the fundamental Constitution of the Order of Preachers it is stated that We have as our special function a  prophetic task,  which is to proclaim everywhere by word and example the Gospel of Jesus Christ, taking into account people’s situations, the times and locations.’
For Dominic this meant  strategic planning for out-doing those who were being so successful in their preaching falsehood. They were compellingly effective because they adopted a very simple, penitential  life-style. By contrast, those who led the  Church’s  counter- offensive set out to create an impressive image of grandeur and authority. It was a failure!
 Dominic’s alternative for himself and for his followers was that they should travel on foot, and beg for their daily bread. This simplicity would speak volumes about their sincerity.  

Dominic realized this was not a competition of eloquence and style. What was at stake was a battle for the mind. At issue was: What is the Gospel Truth? Who possesses it? Where is it to be found?

Dominic recognized  that  those who would be effective proclaimers of the truth – preaching through sermons, lectures, conversations, or their writings –            must first be diligent, hard-working students. There’s no short cut.                    They must first undergo the rigours of the Halls of Learning – the Universities of Europe. 
There some of them would have to acquire the competence to  occupy  the University Chairs of Teaching and Research. In this environment   Dominicans would have the opportunity to enter into dialogue with the young intelligentsia, first to learn what was in and on their minds, and then to influence their thinking.  It was here they would encounter the future makers and breakers of society.  
Dominicans, at least most of them, have, therefore, always been at home in the world of academia. And yet, Dominic never lost sight of the absolute           necessity for  the preacher to meet  people where they are.                              Dominic himself personally loved to be A PREACHER ON THE MOVE, an ‘Itinerant Preacher’ travelling from place to place, proclaiming the Word of God in the Market Square, everywhere, or anywhere!
Throughout the centuries for the most part it has been possible to meet the Dominican  ideal of living in communities large enough to allow some brethren to be away, travelling to preaching and teaching destinations…                    originally on foot, latterly by horse, nowadays by car, train or plane.                    In such times there have been enough of the brethren remaining at home        to sustain Dominican-style Community Life.
However, from the beginning Dominicans have been pioneers, exploring new frontiers of thought and proclaiming the Gospel in certain environments which do not always afford  that homely  sense of fulfillment, that sense of belonging, to be found in living in a Community.
               PREACHING  PASTORAL  NECESSITY has often and still does,                    require of Dominicans that they live and work on their own in parishes, universities etc.  I myself have experienced this and have accepted this …because God, through the Dominican Order, wanted this is of me…the People of God needed this of me. Wanted, needed, what?  That  I and others like me, follow in the footsteps of St. Dominic, the opportunist, who shared the fruits of                                his prayerful and studious contemplation...                                   shared with anyone, anywhere, anyhow.
 I can attest there is a rich fulfillment in such a Dominican life…where the people among whom I have lived, to whom I have ministered, have become my very precious family.
This time of celebrating 800 years since the Confirmation of the Order of Preachers, its roving mission of preaching the  Gospel throughout the world,  is more than an occasion for nostalgia and celebration  for all members of the global Dominican Family; more than a time for  consolidation and improvement  of the good work that is already being done. 
During this year of celebration all of us followers of St. Dominic need to rekindle something of his spirit of the pioneer, who is alert to the signs of the times. As opportunists we must  go beyond  asking, ‘What more can we, must we do?’  We must now ask ourselves:
·        What  new, what different,targets, must we have for our preaching?
·        How must we do the same things differently? 
·        Like Dominic, we in our day must respond to meet the needs of   a restless world of ever-changing  ideologies and shifting priorities.
·        How can we be part of the global conversation today?  What   should  be our Dominican contribution to this?
·        How should we Dominicans harness modern Information Technology to enable us to take part in this conversation? 
These are exciting, challenging, disturbing times. St Dominic would want us to plunge ourselves into the thick of it all.  As long as we Dominicans are eager                            and restless, the Order deserves to continue.                                                                                               
 Should it ever become weary and bored its shelf-life would have expired!!!!!!!!  
 Peter Clarke, O.P.


  1. I do love reading your articles. It is leading me to really love St Dominic and to pray for all Dominican seminarians.

  2. I love the immediacy of this reflection-you're still running a race which you started many years before.
    The world needs both types of evangelisation-the personal, face to face impassioned argument in an all-night café plus the wider reach of the internet sermon. This mirrors your comment of being both brotherly and being outgoing.
    Good luck, Peter, with your continuing journey!