Sunday, 27 December 2015


On Christmas Day we celebrated the birthday of Jesus. We welcomed the Son of God joining the family of man. On the following Sunday we reflect on His Family Life – that of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. 
They blended in so well with their neighbours that when Jesus started preaching they complained that He was only the son of a carpenter.  They thought Jesus was getting above himself. They wanted to cut Him down to size.
Isn’t it striking that 30 of the roughly 33 years the Son of God lived on earth were so very ordinary –a humdrum family life, very similar to ours?  And, yet, that was far from wasted time and opportunity. 
It was in the family that Jesus grew up and learnt, in a human way, to love and obey his heavenly Father and His human parents, and saw for how husband and wife lovingly related to one another. Theirs was the God-given vocation of being home-makers. And so it is for most of us for at least part of our lives. This is one of the most significant ways of our giving glory to God and in so doing becoming glorious ourselves.
And now, in our time, if Jesus is at the heart of our own family lives, what seems to be so mundane takes on an eternal value, in which we find God in the love we show him and each other. And that is where God find us.
In the family children are to begin to learn to behave like decent civilized human beings. They are learning to grow ever more like God, in whose image we have been made. And if adults do not continue to practice this until their dying day, the quality of their living together, the quality of their relationship with God, will crumble.
Pope Francis gives us a very good idea of what God is like and what we should become like. The ‘Face of God is Mercy.’ If we are to be at all godly we must become merciful. As simple as that! Sensitivity – being there with others, there for others, in their joys and sorrows. Never allowing a person to feel lonely, unloved.
This kind of love must begin in the a helping hand when there’s much to be done around the house; showing an interest in how husband or wife, dad or mother, son or daughter, has spent the day…congratulating and commiserating.  This calls for loving sensitivity and compassion. Maybe, taking care of each other.   
Responding to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the different members of the Holy Family formed the very rhythm of Holy Family’s life. The same must be true for ours.  In other words, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy should be at the heart of our family lives, as they were for Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The stories of many families today resemble that of the Holy Family…finding a home, shelter, even safety; putting food on the table, providing clothing, looking after the sick, comforting each other when there’s a death in the family; most certainly, working to provide for the needs of the family, with everyone being responsible in the use of whatever is available.
 Probably we adults don’t realize how much we can give spiritual support to another even in our families. Offering to pray for daddy or mummy when they’ve had a rough day, can in itself be a great comfort.  So, too making them a cup of tea. 
We must insist that children have a right to get their earliest religious instruction in the home. Here good example is far more effective than thousands of words. The young child, enthusiastic about going to church, may influence adults to give it a try! What about Jesus showing Joseph and Mary how important it was for  Him to be in the Temple – even though this earned Him a scolding for causing them so much distress?
However, it’s great to be idealistic, romantic, about family life. The reality is that it’s much about imperfect individuals imperfectly relating to one another and (please God) striving to make life together more loving, more pleasant. 
The willingness to apologize and forgive is the bedrock of a livable family life! Striving for peace in the home is a supreme Spiritual Work of Mercy!  If we’ve learned to appreciate this in the family there’s a fair chance we may carry it into school, the work-place-even and onto the playing field.
The Face of God is Mercy! The ‘Human Face of God’ is the ‘Sacrificial-Merciful Love’ of Jesus! In His public ministry Jesus gave of His All, and then, on the cross, He gave His very life.  Something of this total unselfishness should be in all our relating to others – especially within the family.
God intends that our families become Today’s Human Face Of Divine Mercy! First of all, to each other in the home, and then everyone else!
Never, never, nice to all and sundry ‘out there’ and nasty to those living under the same roof!
Peter and Isidore O.P.

Sunday, 20 December 2015


Mary, Joseph:
                                      Behold our Baby – Behold, your Saviour                                                                      

Pilate: Behold, the man! -  Behold, your king!

There’s nothing quite like over-joyed parents proudly showing off  their newly born child to all and sundry. They themselves feel very, very special. Mary and Joseph must have experienced all this and something more!  Their   parenting was at a completely different level!
What the Angel Gabriel had to say to Mary and Joseph had never, ever been said before and would never, ever be repeated.  What he had to say to Mary about her becoming a mother was absolutely unique.  As was the explanation  the Angel gave to Joseph about how his cherished wife was with child. The Holy Spirit was uniquely, necessarily involved in this. Thank   God!
 Both of them would have been astounded   about  what the Angel had to say about the exceptional identity  of their babe!
He would have an infinitely   more than an a   private, domestic significance. Gabriel told Joseph, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins," (Matt.1.21).
Matthew then comments, ‘All  this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him "Emmanuel, "which means, "God is with us." "
With such an identity, with such a God-given destiny, this babe was meant to  have a global impact on the whole history of  mankind
Mary and Joseph must have sensed that their  being the parents of Jesus was an amazing  gift  from God, a privilege, a responsibility,  entrusted  to them by God. Their reality was that
‘When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,  ( Mary) born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption,´(Gal. 3.16).
And, ‘For God so much loved the world that he gave  His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life,’ (John 3.16.) 
Through   Mary and Joseph  God gave Emmanuel, Jesus, Saviour,  to the world – to you, to me, to absolutely everyone!  
Surely this was the supreme Spiritual Work Of Mercy – on God’s part and on the part of Mary and Joseph. This is their profound, intimate, sharing in the loving  mercy of Almighty God Himself. Something magnificent! Something utterly  unique!
Pope John Paul 11 gave us  two  beautiful messages – one concerning Mary  under the title of the ‘Mother of the Redeemer,’ and the other concerning Joseph, under the title of   ‘Guardian of the Redeemer.’
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, with its strong emphasis on the Corporal and Spiritual Works  of  Mercy, I see, through  our  illustration,  Mary and Joseph  offering us  God’s infinite, merciful love  made flesh in their Son, Jesus.
God  called  Mary  and Joseph  to do this.  And they  would  want us to share in their happiness  by  continuing  their  merciful,  good work, which  is God’s merciful, good  work,  of  sharing Jesus with others.

Isidore and I offer you this message as our Christmas present  to you, our readers, who have given us so much support and encouragement  in  our efforts to share the Good News in our own rather eccentric  way.  In the New Year we will share our thoughts on Indulgences and on other themes.

May God richly bless you during this Christmas  Season,
Isidore  and Peter Clarke, O.P.

Thursday, 17 December 2015


Pope Francis Announces That An Indulgence Is Granted To The Faithful On The Occasion Of The Extraordinary Jubilee Of Mercy
Greetings, Brothers and Sisters,                                                                         Those of you who read the ‘Isidorepeterclarke’  Facebook will be aware that Isidore OP and Peter OP have embarked on a project  concerning the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. This will be available as a Media and Pastoral Resource. At this stage we see the need for  information before devotion and practice. Already we have published “Working the Works.” Now we offer you texts which indicate the Pope’s view that INDULGENCES ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE JUBILEE YEAR OF MERCY. In our next presentation we shall try to describe to you what is an indulgence.                          Peter Clarke, OP

“My thought first of all goes to all the faithful who, whether in individual Dioceses or as pilgrims to Rome, will experience the grace of the Jubilee. I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed. To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. Likewise, I dispose that the Indulgence may be obtained in the Shrines in which the Door of Mercy is open and in the churches which traditionally are identified as Jubilee Churches. It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.”
Letter to Archbishop RinoFisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization

“22. A Jubilee also entails the granting of indulgences. This practice will acquire an even more important meaning in the Holy Year of Mercy. God’s forgiveness knows no bounds. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all human sin. Reconciliation with God is made possible through the paschal mystery and the mediation of the Church. Thus God is always ready to forgive, and he never tires of forgiving in ways that are continually new and surprising. Nevertheless, all of us know well the experience of sin. We know that we are called to perfection (cf. Mt 5:48), yet we feel the heavy burden of sin. Though we feel the transforming power of grace, we also feel the effects of sin typical of our fallen state. Despite being forgiven, the conflicting consequences of our sins remain. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives our sins, which he truly blots out; and yet sin leaves a negative effect on the way we think and act. But the mercy of God is stronger even than this. It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather than to fall back into sin.
“The Church lives within the communion of the saints. In the Eucharist, this communion, which is a gift from God, becomes a spiritual union binding us to the saints and blessed ones whose number is beyond counting (cf. Rev 7:4). Their holiness comes to the aid of our weakness in a way that enables the Church, with her maternal prayers and her way of life, to fortify the weakness of some with the strength of others. Hence, to live the indulgence of the Holy Year means to approach the Father’s mercy with the certainty that his forgiveness extends to the entire life of the believer. To gain an indulgence is to experience the holiness of the Church, who bestows upon all the fruits of Christ’s redemption, so that God’s love and forgiveness may extend everywhere. Let us live this Jubilee intensely, begging the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in his merciful “indulgence.” Pope Francis – ‘The Face of Mercy.’”
Peter Clarke, O.P.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015


‘WORKING THE WORKS’ may seem to you a very ugly and clumsy title for any discourse or piece of writing! So let me explain: ‘THE WORKS’ are the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The ‘WORKING’ is the attitude, the approach, even the spirituality, of the person who sets about being merciful to those who in some way or another are in distress. 

 For my own sake and for yours I see the need to be clear about what we are getting into and how we should set about it.
On the 8th December 2015 Pope Francis launched a Jubilee Year of Mercy a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Commitment to what are known as the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy would be central to this.
"It is my burning desire,’ he wrote,” that, during this jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.”
 I wouldn’t blame anyone for asking what I am talking about. There was a time, a good number of years ago, when every Catholic child, including my brother and I, had to memorize the so-called   ‘Penny Catechism.’  That included:

The Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry, Give drink to the thirsty,  Clothe the naked, Shelter the homeless. Visit the sick, Visit the imprisoned,  Bury the dead.

And The Spiritual Works of Mercy: Admonish the sinner,  Instruct the ignorant, Counsel the doubtful, Comfort the sorrowful, Bear wrongs patiently, Forgive all injuries, Pray for the living and the dead.                           

My brother and I intend  to give you the Scriptural background to these named works of mercy when we offer a  meditation on each one of them. We want to make it clear that the two lists of Seven are indications of the ways we should be thinking. We should be open to naming  further  ones which have become prominent in recent times, e.g. in response to different  forms of discrimination and stigmatizing.

The Christian Spirituality inspiring these good deeds is the Imitation of Christ. The Acts of the Apostles tells us  ‘God had anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good,’ (Acts 10.38).

I find that from the writings of Pope Francis we can put together this marvelous ‘chain of thought:                                                                     
The Face of God is Face of Mercy; Human Face of Mercy is the  Face of Jesus           Today’s Face of Jesus is You and I as the Channels of Divine Mercy

    Here are a few pointers which should guide our approach to the Works of Mercy:
§  MERCIFUL LOVE   is the   WAY OF JESUS  as He reaches  out to those in any kind of distress.
§  In those to whom we show merciful love we are to see the person whom Jesus loves. We are even to see Jesus Himself – since He identifies with all those in distress of any kind.
§   In this  person- to-person contact there must be respect for the human dignity of the person who receives help and the one who gives help. 
§  This is far from a food voucher being posted to an unknown person who does not know who sent it.
§  As with merciful love we reach out to people in distress we must have the humility to recognize the limits to our own competence. We were never meant to fix every problem. We have to refer to those who are qualified. 
§    As far as it possible we must enable people to find answers to their own problems. It can be very oppressive if we give the impression that we are the ones who know what is best for them - what they ought to want.
§  Our spirituality must be expressed through a balanced humanity. We must studiously avoid a piety  that states that if you really had faith your toothache would go away.  Your faith should replace the need for you to take a pain-killer and for you to visit the dentist.
§  In other words OUR APPROACH TO BEING MERCIFUL MUST BE HOLISTIC – we are not to think of problem cases to be handled.
§  We are to think of people with their problems. Their sensibilities, their  feelings, emotions, and, most of all their, personal pride may all be part of their problems. All these must be taken into account and respected.
§  It is a wonderful  enrichment  for us to see people through the eyes of God and consciously to respond to them with something of  the merciful love of God.
§  We would do well  to recognize that Jesus works powerfully in and through people who have no belief  in God. 
The worst thing that could happen to the Church and its members would be to act as though it were an elite group of  ‘do-gooders!’

A last word – Jesus never treated anyone as though he or she were a nuisance to Him. Would to God the same could be true of me and, possibly, even of  you!


Thursday, 10 December 2015


Pope Benedict XV1’s Encyclical, "God is Love" pulled me up with a jolt. There he wrote, "The Church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments and exercising the ministry of charity. These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being." (‘Deus Caritas Est’ [25]).

In other words, the Ministry of Charity is as much a distinctive a mark of the Church as are the Ministries of the Word and of the Sacraments.

More recently, in proclaiming a Year of Mercy, Pope Francis urged us to re-discover the vital importance the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy in the life of the Church, and in that of each of us –its members.

Thus Pope Francis wrote, "It is my burning desire that, during this jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these Works of Mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as His disciples," (‘Vultus Dei’ [12] ).

St. Matthew’s Gospel Ch. 25 is the primary source for our understanding the Corporal Works of Mercy. There Jesus tells us that He identifies with those who are in any kind of need; in them He cries to us for help. As we respond to their needs we, the Church, identify with the compassionate Jesus and continue His caring ministry. So, in every such encounter there’s a dialogue between Jesus begging for mercy and Jesus in us, through us, responding to that appeal. At different times most of us can identify with Christ the giver and Christ the receiver of compassion. Each meets Christ in the other. To each of us baptized persons Pope Saint Leo the Great would say, "Oh, Christian, remember your own dignity; Oh, Christian, remember each other's dignity!"

As a small contribution to the forthcoming Year of Mercy we Dominican twin brothers, Peter and Isidore, will post our personal reflections on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. It would be cosy, but useless, if we simply talked and thought about them. We have been called to put these Works of Mercy into action. It easily happens that this responsibility is left to Church organisations. That’s especially true of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. But if mercy is the ‘Face of God,’ then this must be reflected in each one of us, whom He has made in His own image and likeness. Otherwise we won’t be His true sons and daughters.

We invite you not merely to read these meditations but to take them to heart and put them into practice. We dare to suggest Pope Francis would expect nothing less of you –and us!

Isidore Clarke O.P.