Monday, 31 October 2016


On 1st November –the Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints when we honour those who have lived with outstanding holiness, have died and have been acclaimed by the Church to be now in Heaven. We are also meant to honour that multitude of saintly, unsung, heroes who have never received public recognition.
We have missed the whole point of the Feast if fail to face up to the fact God is calling each of us to be among the ‘saints-in-the-making.’ God is calling us to lead lives that are pleasing to Him. This Feast Day should inspire us to reach for the Heavens!
On 2nd November, the Feast of All Souls, and then through the whole month of November, we pray for the dead.
In so doing we ought to muse, ‘I could die any time. Am I, at this moment, totally ready to enter Heaven? Have I ever been?” Most of us would be satisfied with saying of ourselves, ‘Not yet ready for Heaven; certainly not fit for Hell. Please God, I never will be!’
We Catholics believe that between Earth and Heaven there’s ‘middle ground’ called Purgatory. Here God in His merciful love gives that ‘finishing touch’ that would render those there completely suitable to live in His presence.
While this is most consoling it may leave us desolate with grief at the passing of a loved one. At this point St. Paul gently advises us, “Make sure that you do not grieve for them, as others do who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4.13).
Contrast “When you’re dead you’re done, full stop!” with the promise Jesus made to His disciples, “In my Father’s house there are many places to live in; otherwise I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you to myself, so that you may be with me where I am. (Jn.14.1).
Our tears might dampen our Faith In God but they won’t drown it. Our Faith tells us, ‘There’s no need to dry your tears! When the Son of God became man He took upon Himself the fullness of our humanity - with its raw, heart-rending sensitivity. While Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus the Jews remarked, “See how much He loved him,” (Jn.11.36).
The Feast of All Saints is telling us, ‘Now is the time for us to be working on leading lives that are pleasing to God. We should do nothing that would disqualify us from entering His presence. Moreover, Jesus has always had an immense love for His Church. ‘He sacrificed Himself for her to make her holy…so that when He took the Church to Himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless,” (Eph. 5). We too are embraced in this cleansing love.
What Jesus didn’t complete in our lifetime He will accomplish by delaying us in Purgatory. There He will straighten out our misshapen selves with our unwholesome habits and deal with our tepid repentance which never amounted to a total rejection of sin and a radical turning towards God.
The real punishment for our sins that is Purgatory is the pain in for a while being deprived of the Glorious Vision of Almighty God in Heaven. We will have brought this delay upon ourselves.

The spirituality of All Souls is that we who remain to mourn are consoled that our love-filled prayers will serve to shorten the stay of those still confined to Purgatory. For their part, they, with love and gratitude, will bless us for remembering them.
What a thought! God wants us to share in this final stage of their Salvation History!. What a privilege for us to do so!
Peter Clarke, O.P

Sunday, 23 October 2016


My brother Peter got me thinking. When commenting on the Rosary he suggested we should view Salvation History through the eyes of Mary.  So I wondered whether her life followed the pattern of St. Paul’s introduction to the famous hymn in his Letter to the Philippians. 

This begins, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philip. 2.5).  That must have been especially true of His mother, Mary.   She must have been especially in tune with Him.

This hymn begins with the Son of God becoming a human servant, obedient to His heavenly Father’s will; this is paralleled by Mary’s ‘Fiat’ to God.  She played a vital part in God’s plan for our salvation. With that ‘YES’ she agreed to become the Handmaid of the Lord. 

His obedience was “even unto death on the cross.”   Mary made the same journey to Calvary and then stood by her crucified Son. She even offered His life for our salvationAs He became the Suffering Servant of the Lord she became the Suffering Handmaid of the Lord.

 St. Paul’s hymn continues, “For which cause He has been given a name, which is above every other name –Lord of heaven and earth,” (cf. Philip. 2. 11).    Mary has been assumed into Heaven and given a name, which is above every other name – Queen of Heaven and Earth.  

Through this pattern of ascent the 2nd Adam and the 2nd Eve reverse the pattern of descent through the disobedience of the 1st Adam and Eve.

But  it’s not enough for us simply to have the ‘mind of Christ.’  In his 1st letter St. John tells us our lives must follow the same pattern as Christ’s, “whoever claims to remain in Him must act as He acted,” ( I Jn. 2.6).    We must not only hear His word, but do it.   In John that word ‘remain’ is loaded.   It implies a permanence and stability, and, therefore, commitment.   Also to ‘remain in’ implies a relationship as intimate as that between the Father and   His Son. 

We have been called to enter into that relationship.   Sharing their life means a harmony of will, having the mind of Christ and, therefore, acting as He acted.  That was true for Jesus in His obedience to His Father’s will; that was true for His mother; that must be true for us, His followers.

Like the young Samuel’s, our response must be, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,’ ( 1 Sam 3. 9).  That was echoed by Mary’s, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to your word, (Lk. 1. 38).       As for Jesus, we only have to think of His, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine,” (Lk. 22.42).

The  docility to God’s will, which underlies all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, demands a strength of character,  an open generosity in self-giving –the opposite to self-centred grabbing.    It’s a call to service, not dominance. 

Having the mind of Christ means, in the words of St. Paul, ‘….since you have been raised with Christ, strive for theHYPERLINK "/greek/3588.htm" HYPERLINK "/greek/3588.htm"things above, where Christ is seated at the right haHYPERLINK "/greek/1188.htm"nHYPERLINK "/greek/1188.htm"d of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.… (Col. 3. 1-2).  This text implies an ascent in our perspective, in our values, in our decisions, in our actions.  Since these run contrary to our fallen nature, they will involve the cross of self-sacrifice, self-denial, unselfishness. Or put positively, we have been called to share Christ’s generous self-giving, His serving.

St. Paul sums all this up beautifully.   God has uttered an eternal ‘Yes’ to our creation, an eternal ‘Yes’ to our salvation. Through Jesus we welcome God’s plan for us with a heart-felt ‘Yes.’ And so St. Paul writes, For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him, our “Amen” is spoken to the glory of God,” (2 Cor. 1. 20).  

A final thought: while as a child Jesus walked in the footsteps of Mary, His mother. Then, later on, Mary, as did His disciples, walked in His footsteps as she followed Him in His joys, His sorrows and His glory.

Isidore Clarke, O.P.

Thursday, 6 October 2016


Who can blame Mary for TREASURING that moment of leave-taking of the simple shepherds and eminent  wise  men?  They had come to honour her newly-born Son, Jesus. She PONDERED all this in her heart   (Lk.2.19).
Some years later there was that traumatic time of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus, finding Jesus in discussion with the teachers in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Understandably they were mystified at the distress He had caused them.   We are told that “HIS MOTHER STORED UP all these things in her heart”. (Lk.2.51).  
Like many a mother Mary made life-long emotional journey with her beloved child – from the moment of His conception in the womb to His burial in the tomb. With tender, sometimes bewildering, love Mother and Son shaped each other’s lives.
The Gospel is the Good News about Jesus – the love-gift of God the Father to mankind. In fact Jesus Himself was, and is, the Good News – through whom  Divine Merciful Love was, and is, poured out upon the delinquent human family.
From a life of about thirty four years Jesus gave three of them to Pastoral   Caring and Forgiving – inter-laced with the spectacular calming of storms, raising the dead to life, expelling unclean spirits, and forgiving sins - something God alone can do. , ‘Mary would have been thrilled at the way her Son was acclaimed, terrified by the way opposition mounted against Him.
All this must have transformed her relationship with Almighty God to whom she had pledged herself, “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word,” (Lk. 1.38).
The Story of Jesus is no captivating fiction. It is the real-life Salvation History of Mankind with the Son of God becoming flesh  for our sake and for our salvation. In addition reading the Jesus Story in Sacred Scripture we should pray ourselves into the Story through meditating upon its events and teaching, allowing ourselves to be shaped/reshaped by it.
Over many centuries Catholics have found the  Rosary an immense help, if it is recited at a gentle pace that   allows us to absorb the  particular event  in the life of Jesus as we meditate on each of the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
In so doing we recruit Mary who actually experienced  the whole Jesus Story – with the immediacy that belongs uniquely to a mother. Now glorious in heaven she accompanies us in our own personal journey through the Jesus Story.
I now share with you a few of the profound insights of  Pope Saint John Paul 11 written in 2002 when he gave to the Church the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.
“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… Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer….To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.
POPE Francis has decreed this present year to be a Jubilee of  Mercy. He has described the Face of Almighty God as being the Face of Mercy and the Face of His Beloved Son, Jesus, as being the Human Face of Divine Mercy. He wrote, “No- one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh... …She treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus.
The more the world denies or ignores the significance of Jesus, as the human embodiment of Divine Merciful Love the more it needs to pray the Rosary as a celebration of Salvation Divinely Merciful           History –  bearing in mind that Jesus is the Redeem and Mary the      Mother of the Redeemer.                                                                                   This is why  the prayer, ‘Hail, holy Queen,’                                                    calls Mary, Mother of   Mercy’.

Peter  Clarke, OP