Wednesday, 19 July 2017

LOST IN A FOG!


In the midst of nowhere! Nothing to see, to touch, to cling to! In the depth of a fog. Something beautiful, so peaceful; and yet it’s eerie, scary – not knowing where to go because you’re  world’s  nothing but fog. This is no place to stay in forever. I know all about  the urgent  need to escape  such insecurity.

 For me it’s been lonely misery driving – a car along the mountain road in Grenada. No moon-light, only torrential rain, and dense clouds settling on the high-way;  visibility  next to nothing; headlights to be dipped -full beam would have been blindingly reflected into the eyes of the driver. Happy the local drivers who knew by heart every bend and bump of the road. They could be relaxed and confident. Poor me, so tense and timid!. 

What a relief to leave the heights and emerge from the fog and be able look a distance ahead. At last I’ve emerged - relieved, safe and sound. I’ve duly thanked God for giving me a competent Guardian Angel, as well as St. Christopher, to calm my nerves  and bring me safely through this ordeal.   No-one could be blamed, no-one need feel ashamed of their natural anxiety at not being in control, not being certain of what to do next, what would happen next.

Very, very different have been those times, several of them,  when  a dense fog has clouded my brain -causing me bewilderment, confusion, embarrassment…paralyzing  fear.  These have been times of total helplessness. I compare them to the sensation of falling over a cliff with no possibility of being saved! Only in my most disturbing dreams could I imagine what this would   be like.

 You, my readers, would be surprised where and when this has happened to me…in church when I’ve been preaching to a large congregation. .
Without any warning, when my sermon has seemed to be progressing smoothly, my mind has gone totally blank. I don’t know what I’ve just said. I don’t know what I’m about to say. I’ve felt as though I’ve been gutted of my preaching identity.

On one such occasion I asked the altar server what I had just been doing. His reply, “I think you were preaching,” was not very helpful. Nor was his, “don’t know” to my question, “What about?”

I’ve no reason to doubt that what has happened won’t happen again. I don’t support the view that if I and others pray enough God won’t let this be repeated. As I see it, God wants me to be shaken in my self-confidence; He wants me  to find myself suddenly totally insecure, bewildered as someone lost in a dense fog.  God wants me to realize there’s nothing to prevent me from at any time losing my bearings.

 No wonder that before preaching I tell God it’s His sermon. No wonder I fervently beg Him to see me through. No wonder when possible I ask friends entering the church to pray for the preacher.

 I conclude by returning to my moment of great distress. All I could do was confide with the congregation that my mind was rather foggy and that my sermon had ‘escaped from me.’ 

I desperately needed to reassure and stabilize myself and the congregation. What better than recite the Creed together?
Here was something we could all do calmly and confidently.

This being done I then felt on safe ground in requesting that the collection be taken.
 I leave you to speculate on why God has seen it  good for me that He should deflate me now and again.

But as I bow before His greater wisdom, I can and do pray, “Please God, not again!”
 I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson!

Peter Clarke, O.P.



Saturday, 15 July 2017

WATCH DE BIRDIE.


We priests sure do get some weird requests for prayers!   Keep a straight face? Difficult but necessary!   People come to us desperate! No laughing for them! Difficult for us to stifle our amusement!  They need help; help we must give!  
Recently I told you about the poor chap who came  asking for my prayers. He had a good Grenadian accent -before being thrown into the local river.  Surprise! Surprise! He surfaced with a posh accent.  His mates ridiculed him; he felt an outsider.  He came seeking my prayers that he be cured of his posh accent!
Then there was the old man who came to my brother, Peter, desperate in his need for prayers.   He’d been sitting under a tree, ‘chilling out’ with a cool beer in the noon day heat, doing harm to neither man nor beast. 
But to his horror his peace was shattered when he heard a loud screech.  There in the branches above him  was  a bird of prey, known in Grenada as a ‘chicken hawk.’ In reality -small; to him, at that moment–enormous, threatening! A predator with a mean, hungry, malicious look in its eye.   Terrified, he feared the chicken hawk would swoop down, seize him, carry him off and devour him.  So, he hastened to Peter and asked him to pray for his deliverance and protection.           
So, what are we to make of these amusing and bizarre requests for prayers. I think the best approach is for us to try to put ourselves into the shoes of our Heavenly Father, the most perfect of parents.  Always He listens loving and patiently. Though our fears may be very real for us, the threat may be fanciful. But God never ridicules and humiliates anyone who comes with a genuine anxiety. Reassurance and peace of mind would answer the prayers of the man scared by the chicken hawk.   God frequently tells us, His children, ‘do not be afraid.’ That would be a parent’s approach in soothing a child, scared by a nightmare.
But sometimes people ask us to pray for something which is wrong -a safe abortion, or the eviction of neighbours of a different racial background.   Then our approach must be to pray together that they will come to see, accept and follow God’s will. Not only must we assure them of God’s support, but of ours, even when we disagree.  If, together, we can pray, “Thy will be done,” we are already getting there. 
Isidore O.P.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

"MY YOKE IS EASY..."


Today I’m going to reflect on the Gospel for 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Matthew 11. 25-30.    This begins with Jesus exclaiming, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.”
What has God hidden from the wise and revealed to little ones? Here Jesus wasn’t just speaking about young boys and girls, but all the poor, the under-privileged, the marginalised and the destitute. And what has God done for them?  
Quite simply, some Jewish religious leaders claimed that to enter Good’s Kingdom people needed a very detailed knowledge not only of the 613 Laws given to Moses, but also the multitude of additional minute precisions made to them.  What is more, they were expected to observe every one of them.  Only religious legal experts could possibly do that.   The majority of people would be dismissed as ignorant sinners and excluded.  
But Jesus tells us that the so-called experts have got it wrong.   He has come to remove the crushing, impossible, burden of so many petty rules and regulations.   To each of us he says, ‘Come to me all you who labour and over-burdened, and I will give you rest.”   Jesus offers those, who would be dismissed as ignorant and unimportant, freedom from trying to carry such an impossible burden; now they -we -can rest in the Lord, in a happiness which had seemed impossibly.
But Jesus goes on to say, ‘My yoke is easy, my burden light.’   That removes any complacency we may feel.   We can’t yet sit back and relax.   Following Christ is demanding and at times difficult.   But the demands are not meticulous observance of petty man-made regulations, but something far more serious.   That is the command to love God above all else, and our neighbour as ourselves.   The command to love covers everything that really matters.  It touches every corner of our lives.   Laws are only good in so far as they protect and foster real love.
And what about the yoke Christ mentions in this Gospel?    Well, as you probably know, a yoke is a piece of wood, shaped to rest comfortably on the shoulders. Loads are attached to each end and are easy to carry because their weight is spread.  The point is that we must carry our crosses and follow Christ on the difficult journey of love, if we are to find the eternal rest which He promises.  But Jesus here tells us that with His help we can carry the weight of our crosses.  He can transform carrying our burdens into labours of love.  We couldn’t begin to do that without Him.  But, with His assistance we can do what would be humanly impossible.
There’s a tradition that, as the son of Joseph the carpenter, Jesus would have known how to make a well fitting, comfortable yoke, custom-designed to fit each one of us.  In other words, He gives us the special help we need to carry our own particular crosses.
There’s a beautiful story which shows that this can transform drudgery into a labour of love. Someone, seeing a lad carrying his young brother on his back, sympathetically remarked, “That’s a heavy load you’re carrying.”   To which the lad replied, “That’s not a load; that’s my little brother!”   That came from the heart and was, indeed, a labour of love!

So, while the so-called wise thought they could reach heaven through their detailed knowledge of rules and their own efforts in observing them,  Christ has a completely difference approach.   The law of love is the only way to heaven.  The wonderful thing is that with God’s help that is possible for all of us.  That’s what’s been revealed to us little ones!
Isidore O.P.


Saturday, 1 July 2017

"WASH ME MOUT', FADDA' "


We priests sure do get some weird requests for prayers!   Keep a straight face? Difficult but necessary!   They are desperate! No laughing for them -though it may be for us! They need help; help we must give!
So there was, I, a recently ordained priest - still ‘wet behind the ears;’ I’d just left England and had arrived in Grenada in the W. Indies. For me this was a new culture, totally different from the one I’d left.  I expected it to be full of surprises.
But nothing prepared me for the unusual prayer request from the man from River Road, a suburb of the capital, St. George’s.    Having nothing better to do, his mates had thrown him into the nearby river.   Not much harm in that.   In the hot tropical sun he would soon dry out and may even have welcomed the cool water.   So, why take the trouble to seek my prayers?
His was an unheard-of problem. When he was pitched into the river he had a good Grenadian accent…and was proud of it! With this he mixed well with his mates, his rum-shop drinking partners!   Was he vexed, was he amused,  when he climbed out of the river? Neither! He was startled, horrified! As soon he had hurled a few colourful abuses at his mates he realized had a posh, ‘plum-in mouth’ English accent -the kind which wealthy parents pay a fortune for their youngsters to acquire.
Pity the man from River Road! This sign of exalted social status made him feel an alien among his friends, an object of ridicule. The river had washed away his identity!     Desperately he begged, ‘Wash me mout,’ Fadda.’
Quite honestly, I did not know what to make of the poor man’s predicament.   Realising I was completely out of my depth, I placed the poor man in the Lord’s hands as we prayed together.  What is certain is that the man wanted Jesus to remove the posh accent barrier which isolated him. Strange to say, reaching out to the despised and rejected, removing the barriers and making them welcome, sums up Christ’s work of salvation, and the mission of the Church.  If the rest is history, I have no idea whether or not my prayer was  answered. We’ll leave it there.’
I’ve another crazy tale to share with you, about a chicken hawk, but I’ll save that for another time!
Isidore O.P.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

"WHAT THE...IS THAT!?"

That was an old man’s reaction upon seeing Peter and me standing together in the fishing-town square   in Grenada.  The ‘That’ in question happened to be me.  Admittedly his judgement and vision were most certainly clouded by the local homemade rum. I can testify to the power of this most favoured firewater!  Poor fellow! Never in his most sober moments had he seen identical twins -especially Dominicans.   Coping with Peter, whom he already knew, was more than enough. But I was too much.
In fact Peter and I have always been the source of much confusion and speculation.   Maybe the Good Lord, in His inscrutable wisdom, thought He should spare the West Indians further distress by putting the Atlantic between us.
But not before a get-to-know-you party in Grenada, soon after our arrival in 1958.   One young lady gushed up to Peter and triumphantly exclaimed that she had discovered the infallible way to tell us twins apart.   “One of you,” she declared, “knows how to finish his sermons!”   But then, to her horror, she realised that that implied that the other twin did not know how to apply the brakes to his run-away sermons!   She immediately realised she was heading for a pit of her own digging! wisely she pleaded the need to make a speedy tactical withdrawal.   To this day, 58 years later, each of us is convinced that the other didn’t know to how finish his sermon.  We’ll never know.
We identical twins have always been a problem for the undiscerning.   I’ve been called, “Peter again,” and “Peter squared!” -not very flattering.   After illness forced me to leave the W. Indies Peter was asked whether he was the priest who was dead –Isidore  redivivus! That doesn’t say much for his appearance over fifty years ago.   It’s also been suggested I should be called, “re-peter/repeater!”
What to think about such confusion of identity?  Do identical twins fear that remaining together will prevent each of them from developing as a unique individual?  My personal experience is that I recognise the danger and that separation has enabled each of us to develop in a direction very different from the other.  And we have had the constant irritation of people confusing us and thinking that our thoughts are always the same.  They’re not!
But both of us would admit that separation is painful, especially since the frailty of old age prevents us from crossing the Atlantic to be together again.    But thanks to Skype we can now see each other and talk together -the next best thing to being together.  What is more, we can recognise God’s wisdom in keeping us apart.  When we plan Facebook meditations we can bring to our discussion very different experiences of pastoral life.  That, we hope, will enrich our postings.
There’s another advantage is being apart.  When together twins tend to prefer each other’s company to anybody else’s.  I believe research has discovered that some toddler twins develop their own private language, which no one else can understand.  Turning in towards each other can prevent them from reaching out to people of different backgrounds and interests.   That would impoverish our lives.    We all need the confidence to reach out to others and learn from them, without fearing that will cause us to lose our identity.
In his letter to the Galatians St. Paul reassures us, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” (3. 28).   While the important differences remain they should no longer be divisive.
And to the opening question, “what the….is that?!” I would reply, “your brother or sister in Christ.”  It takes a lot of faith to reach that  conclusion!
Isidore O.P.



Wednesday, 14 June 2017

CORPUS CHRISTI

A number of years ago I did a bit of exciting detective work.  In a stately home in the heart of England several stained glass windows show Dominicans,  holding a monstrance, containing the Blessed Sacrament. Among them there’s St. Thomas Aquinas, who is said to have composed the liturgy for today’s feast. Research has led me to conclude that the glass has probably come from our priory in Liege, Belgium, where that devotion originated. 

So, what’s this devotion all about, and why is it important?  Well, most of us come to Mass every Sunday, and many during the week.   Though that’s very good, there is the danger of our taking the Mass for granted.   So, today’s feast of Corpus Christi, or Body of Christ -should give us the chance to reflect on what may have become too routine. If familiarity doesn’t here breed contempt it can easily lead to complacency.  Hopefully, our celebration of Corpus Christi would renew and fire up our wonder and gratitude for the gift of the Mass.  

We believe that at every Mass Christ’s sacrifice of the cross is made present on the altar for the local community.   Our crucified and risen Lord continues to offer Himself to His Heavenly Father, as, on our behalf, He makes our peace with God.   And we are united with Christ in offering ourselves in loving service of God and each other.    The Mass should sum up and re-enforce our whole lives as generous givers, rather than selfish grabbers.

The feast of Corpus Christi reminds us that in the Eucharist Christ is present in a very special way, and gives Himself to us in the form of a meal.    We believe that the bread and wine are changed into Christ’s own Body and Blood.   This meal nourishes us so that we can grow as Christians.   We call this meal, ‘Holy Communion.’   Our personal communion with God and our fellow members within the Church is expressed and strengthened by our sharing the one Body and Blood of Christ.
We can understand the meaning of communion if we think of how we celebrate special occasions with a meal.  We enjoy good food and drink together, but more than that, we’re nourished by each other’s company and conversation. Such special meals draw us closer to each other. And that’s what should happen at Mass.   We’re nourished by the very best of food and drink –Christ’s own Body and Blood.   And we’re nourished by His company and conversation, as He speaks to us through the Scriptures, the Creed and hopefully the sermon.   The sacred Eucharistic Meal should draw us closer to Christ and each other.  

The Blessed Sacrament, consecrated at Mass, is reserved in the Tabernacle.   This is firstly so that Holy Communion can be taken to the sick who can’t get to Mass.   That means that Jesus can not only be brought to them to nourish them in a special way, but Jesus in the Sacrament itself keeps them in union with the community’s celebration of Mass.   The Blessed Sacrament is also reserved in the Tabernacle so that we can drop into church, to worship Jesus who is there present amongst us in the Eucharist.  As we pray before the Blessed Sacrament we have time to deepen our understanding and devotion for the Mass itself and to take part in future Masses with greater reverence.  In other words, Eucharistic devotion outside Mass is always linked to the Mass itself.   That’s very true of Benediction and Corpus Christi processions.

Corpus Christi is a wonderful, joyful feast.  It’s not surprising the Mass should be called the ‘Eucharist,’ which means, ‘Thanksgiving.’   Today, above all others, we should be filled with gratitude for the gift of the Mass! 

Isidore O.P.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

THE BLESSED TRINITY

Just before He ascended to Heaven the risen Lord commissioned His followers to continue His work.   “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."  (Matt. 28. 19-20). The Church was to make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Blessed Trinity -the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Though He would no longer be visibly present Jesus would always be with us.
So, what does being baptised in the name of the Blessed Trinity mean for us?   Well, our names denote who we are. I belong to the Clarke family.   Baptism in the name of the Blessed Trinity gives us our identity, as God’s children, who enjoy the very life of the Blessed Trinity.  Through the life-giving sacrament of baptism we are raised beyond our human, creaturely limitations to share the very life of the Blessed Trinity and are called to share its happiness.   The Trinity makes its home in us, and we in the Trinity.   Each of us – our very selves - becomes God’s temple, His sacred dwelling place.
As God’s children there’s a family resemblance between us and God.   We’ve been made in His image and likeness.   Our perfection and happiness lies in becoming ever more like God –in knowing and loving God as He really is, living lovingly as God lives.   That means becoming like the Trinitarian God, and knowing and loving God as Trinity.
So, what is the Trinity like?    The simple answer is –nothing on earth!   God is completely different from the physical world in which we live.  He transcends the whole of His creation.   In other words, God is mysterious.
But let’s not panic!   We’re used to living with mysteries in our daily lives.   We don’t fully understand ourselves, let alone anybody else. We’re constantly being taken by surprise.  But that doesn’t prevent us loving each other. In fact the mystery makes us much more interesting to know and love.   We can destroy love by too much analysis –by trying to define and categorise people.   So, we shouldn’t be put off by God being the greatest of all mysteries.  Instead, we should welcome, love and praise the mystery of the Trinity, which is God.  We want to be loved for ourselves, as we really are, and not as some fantasy of us -so does God. It’s exceedingly insulting to love a fantasy, rather than welcome the real person. If we try to force God to fit into our limited understanding of Him we will end up with fashioning our own god.  That would be idolatry.
God has revealed something of Himself by attributing to each member of the Blessed Trinity a different way of being involved in our salvation… the Father – Creator; the Son – Saviour; the Holy Spirit – Sanctifier!
In John’s Gospel we’re told that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son into the world to save us.  The Son expressed God’s love for us by becoming one of us and sacrificed His human life so that we could share His divine life.       No one could show us greater love than that!           And after ascending to heaven Jesus sent God’s Spirit into the world so that we could receive the divine happiness which He’d won for us on the cross.   Without the activity of each member of the Blessed Trinity our lives as Christians would be meaningless, impossible.
Obviously there’s much more that could be said about the Blessed Trinity.   But in the end, we have to admit that God can’t be pinned down by intellectual analysis and definitions -nor can we!              We will draw far closer to God by welcoming Him with love as He is in Himself –as the mysterious Blessed Trinity.   We will know, love and praise God much, much better in heaven. That will be our eternal happiness.
Isidore O.P.  

Friday, 2 June 2017

THE DIVINE NUTCRACKER!


Ever since Easter Sunday the Church in its Liturgy has been listening to the Apostles and St. Paul proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus…as it were, IN A NUTSHELL – the absolute essentials.
We’ve been made aware of vast crowds  becoming instant and fervent  believers.  Some had never heard of Jesus before.  Others had been among those who had called for His crucifixion.
What an impact this preaching had!
“Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'What are we to do, brothers?' 38 'You must repent,' Peter answered, 'and every one of you must be baptized in the name of  Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,”
(Acts 2.37sq.)
These were genuine conversions, not passing enthusiasms. These people deserve the credit of being hard-headed realists – nobody’s fool. Could we not describe them as being hard nuts to crack? Our hands won’t break open hard wooden nut-shells, nor will our teeth. A solid stone, a cutlass or a nut-cracker is needed for us to get at the tastiness inside.

I put it to you there’s encased inside our very selves  a goodness  which as t we’ve yet to discover or come to appreciate - the basic truth of our humanity that all of us are made in the image and likeness of God. He has inclined us, empowered us, to lead virtuous, just and loving lives. Surely we tend to undervalue ourselves and then under- perform in the quality of our living?

We all need a Spiritual Nutcracker to open us to our very selves!   Who else but the Holy Spirit could  reveal the truth about ourselves to ourselves – the delightful reality that we are beloved children of God? Who else could expose to us the  sinful murkiness of our lives? At Pentecost the Holy Spirit brought the crowd to being ‘cut to the heart’ and begging to know ‘what they must do.’
We go further  as we  now we see ourselves as being nutshells of a certain size, such as coconuts. Once opened they can be used as receptacles – for refreshing drinking water or,  if properly mounted, for  ice cream, even flowers.
Once the Holy Spirit – our Spiritual Nut-Cracker - has opened us up  He can fill us with priceless spiritual delicacies.     This He did to the many converts at Pentecost –the gift of Sanctifying Grace, of Faith, Hope and Charity.     But most of all the Holy Spirit can take up His residence within us –        not as an interloper, a squatter, but as a welcome guest.  St. Paul writes,
9 Do you not realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you and whom you received from God?” (1 Cor.2.19).
The grace of the Solemnity of Pentecost is that we be convinced that what God did in the past He can do today.      The Holy Spirit can crack open the modern hard head and hard heart.     He can fill the hardest people with His powerful presence; open them to a new way of being themselves – as believers in Jesus, as followers of Jesus.
Our conviction must be that the Holy Spirit can break through any resistance –not crushingly but creatively.      Because we believe in “THE DIVINE NUT-CRACKER” we do not give up on anybody  as being too hard-headed,  too hard-hearted, for even God to bring round to a life of decency…and more!
Before the world becomes more brutish it needs the Holy Spirit to tame it.    The more hard-headed people become  the more we should  invoke the Holy Spirit to have a crack at them!

Tell me, am I going nuts?          
My twin brother, Isidore, says, “YES!”

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

PENTECOST


The feast of Pentecost is marked by an outpouring of creative energy and movement.   Jerusalem was bustling with Jewish pilgrims.    It was buzzing with a variety of languages.   50 days after Passover Jews scattered round the eastern Mediterranean had come to celebrate what had originated as a harvest festival, but had developed into a feast thanking God for the gift of his Law on Mt. Sinai, 50 days after He’d delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. 

Meanwhile Christ’s small group of followers prayed together in the upper room.   Then 50 days after Jesus, the New Paschal Lamb, had sacrificed His very life to save us from slavery to sin,  the Holy Spirit, promised by Christ, suddenly burst into their midst   -as a rushing wind, a hidden source of energy, a powerful breath of life. Then the Spirit rested on their heads, in the form of tongues of fire.   These suggested the light of truth and eloquence, the burning zeal to share the Good News.  In the power of the Holy Spirit the apostles left the upper room; the Church was born! 

Courageously they preached the Good News.  In the power of the Holy Spirit the Law given on Mt. Sinai was fulfilled as the apostles proclaimed Christ’s Law of Love. The Gospel was understood and welcomed by people speaking a variety of languages.   The Holy Spirit had not only given eloquence to the preacher, but had also touched the minds and hearts of those who heard him.   The Church had embarked on its life-long mission to proclaim the Good News to the whole world.   Already, at Pentecost, God’s harvest was being gathered in.  

At Pentecost Christ’s followers became missionaries.  That means each of us. Through baptism and confirmation we have been given the privilege and responsibility of sharing the faith we have received.  Obviously we will do this in different ways, according to our abilities and the opportunities we have. But though we are so diverse the Holy Spirit unites us in the one body of Christ –the Church.

The Spirit who came in such a dramatic way at the 1st Pentecost is still with the Church.  And always will be –Christ has guaranteed that.  The Spirit still leads us into the truth of Christ. The Spirit still touches the minds and hears of people, in many unforeseen ways.  We need to remember that when God gives us a task He always gives us the help we need to do it.   We are not working alone against overwhelming odds.

Today we thank God for the gift of his Spirit.   We pray that the Spirit will enkindled within us the fire of love for God’s saving truth,  a burning zeal to share it with others.  We pray that the Spirit will help all who hear the Good News of salvation will welcome it with joy.    

Isidore O.P.          

Thursday, 11 May 2017

PRIESTLY ORDINATION DIAMOND JUBILEE MASS










My twin brother, Isidore, and I were ordained priests the 11th May. 1957. He has already celebrated the jubilee at Holy Cross Priory, Leicester, England on the anniversary  day. I, Peter, celebrate it on 15th May in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Barbados. The whole of my priestly ministry has been in Barbados and Grenada. I shall speak to the congregation about
Priestly Feelings
Peter said, ‘Look we have left everything and followed you. What are we to have then? (Matt.19.27). This Peter, now speaking to you can tell you that he and his twin brother, Isidore, left everything in 1950 to follow Jesus as members of the Order of Preachers -Dominicans. In 1958 we left everything again when we set sail to join our Dominican brothers in their Caribbean ministry. Only in later years have I been brought to realize what a brave face our mother kept whenever I took leave of her for the Caribbean.  She most certainly shared in our vocations through the loving support and encouragement she gave us. She never let us see hear tears.
I have spoken about being separated from near ones and dear ones. I now take up Peter’s question, “What we are to have then?” My answer is simple. The same God who  GAVE ME TO YOU as a priest, gave YOU TO ME as my Caribbean family. After being with you for all these years you can judge for yourselves whether I am a happy, contented priest. You accepted me as your own, you have shown me love in so many ways, assisted and supported, me. You have ENDURED ME – note I was careful not to say ‘You have INJURED ME.’ That was never the case!
This Mass is important to me as giving me the opportunity to speak on God’s behalf and on my own behalf to say a big THANK YOU.  He needs no reminder from me that you deserve  very many heavy blessings.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Sixty years ago my twin brother, Isidore, and I were ordained priests.  I shall never forget the moment when I said the words of Consecration at my first Mass, the first of over 20,000 Masses. Through His Bishop Almighty God had empowered me to make the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ actively present on the altar of our home parish Church. That was followed by the joy of giving Jesus in Holy Communion to members of my own family.
It’s almost unbelievable that Jesus should have called me to share in His own priesthood and should use me to make it effective for  whatever  local community  in the world to which I might be sent. I was God’s priest, God’s man – never to be my own man.
 Very early in my stay in Grenada I was asked to stand in for the pastor of a country parish. Many a time, accompanied by a parishioner, in the tropical heat I, in my Dominican habit, would  spend  whole mornings   struggling up  steep slopes to carry  small wafers  to the  house-bound aged and infirm. I was forced to reflect, ‘Couldn’t I spent my time more usefully without all this exertion?’ Wouldn’t food packages carried by any  willing person be far more appreciated than my solitary  tiny wafers?
  I had to compel myself to make that Act of Faith that I was, indeed,  carrying to the spiritually hungry the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion and that it was my morning Holy Mass that made  this  possible! The Faith of those who welcomed all the effort I had  made  to bring them Jesus  confirmed my own Faith in the value of my priesthood.  
It  is awesome to me that people have found the  priesthood an absolute  necessity to them.  They come with an unfaltering  Faith-conviction that after they have confessed their sins and with  a priest pronouncing the words of absolution their sins will actually be forgiven by Almighty God Himself  through the ministry of someone such as me ...a priest!   Some have even wept with joy when I have told them to go in peace.  I have been so moved that my own eyes have been moist with tears of joy and thanksgiving. 
For a moment  I reflect on  those times when families and friends have been  gathered around the bed as I have administered the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick and given Holy Communion.  This has been a grace-filled moment when we prayed together, even singing a hymn or two. I have been overwhelmed when they have made me aware that this, my simple priestly ministry, is much needed and is deeply appreciated.
 And yet any priest would be a fool if he expected all his preaching to be effective, accepted and even appreciated. This was not the case even with the sermons of Jesus. Imagine how I felt when a man told me I had brought him to tears by my beautiful sermon on family life. The next day I was informed that on returning home he beat up his wife.  Good sermon or not? Who knows?  Certainly it did him no good -nor his wife!
Now, if ever anyone had the right to be treated as MR. NICE-GUY it was surely Jesus. He did not always find it so. Neither does any priest!  Don't look to me when it comes to begging for money or organizing fund-raising  events. At at a parish counsel   A pretty young 'dragoness' ‘sweet-eyed’ me as she  coyly remarked, ‘We shall put more in the collection when we get rid of the obstacle.’ God forgive me! I was tempted either to strangle her or drive over a cliff at full speed. She’s still alive and so am I! 
 I mention in passing the fact that people have very pointedly  walked out of church because they objected to my preaching on justice and human rights.  Much to my sadness, somewhat to my shame, my preaching had divided my parish. I tell you ‘Being a priest  aint  easy!’ I can't blame you if you retort,  ‘And priests aint easy either!
Yes, feelings are very much part of a priest’s life – as they were in the life of Jesus as when, “Filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, He said, 'I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,  for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children,” (Lk.10.21). On another occasion, “As he drew near and came in sight of the city of Jerusalem he shed tears over it  and said, 'If you too had only recognized on this day the way to peace!” (Lk.19.41).
As Isidore and I celebrate our Diamond  Jubilee of the Priesthood, we take this opportunity to thank those have who encouraged us, supported us, and befriended us.…our own family, our Dominican Family, our  friends, parishioners. They have been there for us when we have been feeling discouraged or  worn out in body and soul.                                                          My purpose this evening has been to convey my experience that in the Caribbean there is a deep appreciation of the blessings that flow uniquely from the priestly ministry. There is also the presumption that this will always be accessible. As my brother and I keep our Diamond Jubilee you must surely reflect that time and energy are running out on ancients such as ourselves. Throughout the world there are parishes without priests.
I urge you to persuade the young that it is a special grace to Love God so much, to love His human family so much, as to eagerly devote  your lives as priests, proclaiming and building God’s Kingdom here one earth! 
I want no-one to pity me for what I have given up through being a priest. I want you to envy me the joy, the sense of fulfillment, the love my priesthood has brought to me.   It is no credit to me that God has brought so many blessings to so many people.  Encourage your own flesh and blood to give  themselves to God and to His people, with the expectation of receiving  so much more from God and His people. Long for this, pray for this!
.And now,  with one voice, my voice,   Isidore and I  say to you, ‘Thank you!  God bless you!’          AMEN!
Peter Clarke, O.P.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

ORDINATION DIAMOND JUBILEE

PETER AND ISIDORE CLARKE O.P.
11th May 1957-11th May 1967
Sixty years ago I designed my ordination card, with this quotation from St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.”      (1  Cor. 4.1)
That’s what ordination to the priesthood meant to me then.   That’s what it still means to me, sixty years later.

On 11th May 1957 my twin brother, Peter, and I were ordained priests.  We became servants of Christ, entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed -entrusted with the Ministries of Word and Sacrament. As ministers of the Word we had been called to proclaim the Good News of Salvation.   As ministers of the sacraments Christ has empowered us to make His sacrifice on the cross present in every celebration of the Holy Mass.  We have been called to be ministers of His Mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I have seen and personally experienced the peace which the Sacrament of the Sick has brought to me and to other sick people.  Our calling is to love God and people and, with His help, bring them together.  For me as a priest it has been my joy and privilege to help people to meet Jesus.   

But that is a daunting task.   Instinctively we say, “Why me?  Lord I’m not worthy.”  But if God had to wait until we became perfect, before He entrusted the priestly ministry to anyone, He would never have any priests!  But  He has entrusted His work to us vessels of clay.  We have His reassurance that when He calls us to do something He always gives us the strength to carry out His will -provided we pray for  His help.  St. Paul even reassures us that God choses the foolish of this world to confound the wise. We crazy twin brothers adequately meet this particular requirement.   Whether or not we’ve confound any of the wise, God only knows!

Is being a priest a worthwhile, fulfilling life?  Without hesitation both of us, after sixty years, would definitely reply, “Yes, Yes, Yes!”   Certainly, there are difficulties and setbacks. But that is true of any worthwhile walk of life.  We’ve been ordained to share in Christ’s priesthood and to identify with Him in His sacrifice on the cross, made present at every Mass we offer. For Christ and for us, that means self-giving and sometimes painful self-sacrifice.

But what could be more worthwhile than being God’s ministers in helping people on the road to salvation. And this causes me great concern.   Peter and I, together with many other elderly priests, are getting near the end of our lives. If you are to continue to have Mass, Confession, and all the other mysteries of God, you are going to need more priests.  Today I take this opportunity to urge you to pray for vocations.   I urge young men to ask themselves whether God is calling them to serve Him and you in the priesthood.   Do not be afraid to say “Yes.”  God needs you; His people need you.
Finally, I want our Anniversary to be a day of thanksgiving.  First of all, to God in calling us to the priesthood, and then in supporting us throughout the ups and downs of our ministry.   Next, I want to thank all the people who have helped us over the years -our family and friends, our Dominican communities, and you, the extended members of our Dominican family.  Without your support we could not have coped.
I have posted one of my paintings on Facebook. This is based on the risen

Lord accompanying the disciples on the road to Emmaus and opening their minds and hearts to the Scriptures.   That is what He is doing for Peter and me, on our journey through life. Through the Scripture He has touched our minds and hearts and changed our lives. Though we’ve now been separated by the Atlantic for 58 years the Lord has always been with Twin Clarke Unlimited, drawing us close to Him, close to each other. Skype helps us to be especially aware of being united in the Lord. Now we can sing the breviary together, co-operate on sermons, broadcasts and Newspaper articles.    I thank God and our parents for blessing me with a Dominican twin. 
To Peter on our jubilee day, I say, “Thanks, ower Kid!” 

Before this becomes like an Oscar acceptance speech I better stop, with the words from Psalm 115. 1, which have guided our priesthood and inspired today’s celebration. 
“Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory!”
Isidore O.P.
 
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