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.
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 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.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

ST. JOSEPH THE WORKER




Sometimes it’s better late than never.    The celebration of Joseph the Worker, 1st May, has come and gone, and yet I feel compelled to share with you one of the most beautiful events of the early days of my priesthood.

 I was a young   priest   ordained   just two years previously.  Once I had completed   my studies at Blackfriars Priory, Oxford, I, together with my twin brother, Isidore, was provided with tickets to sail to join our Dominican brethren in the small Caribbean island of Grenada. While our heads had been stuffed with  theology  we had been given no pastoral training.

Before long, out of necessity I was required to act as a supply-priest in the  country parish of Tivoli. The incumbent, having decided to have all his teeth extracted, was no use for preaching or anything else!  

1st  May was a public holiday in honour of  Labour  Day –  with the various Trade Unions proudly marching with their  banners and bright T-shirts.  Together they rallied at the Recreational Ground, there to be treated to fiery speeches, boisterous singing, light entertainment and good food.  

1st May was also the celebration of the recently created Feast of Joseph the Worker. In Oxford we made nothing of that feast. In Tivoli it was something else.  Parishioners,  young and old, were  encouraged to turn out for morning Mass  bringing with them  the tools with which they did their daily work. I carried the Holy Water Bucket for the blessing  of  a fine array of  items  together with their owners, the work itself for which they would be used  and, indeed, those who would benefit from their work.

Would that I had had a video camera to catch the grand march   around  the parish church pasture to the sound of drums, the striking of tin cans and  of bottles! One and all danced, pranced and sang hymns.

 Picture to yourselves these holy revelers in their bright clothes – carrying their rolling-pins and frying- pans,  felling-axes and cutlasses, saws, spades and forks, large paint- brushes and masons’ trowels; children with their crayons, their pens and exercise books.      
There was a woman with a small sewing- machine, another with crochet needle   and  a fine piece of  unfinished  work. Never will I forget the  woman with a tray of nuts, sweets, and biscuits finely balanced on her head as her body swayed to the beat of the drums! How can I omit the man with his donkey-cart loaded with fruit and  vegetables?  Add to this refreshments to meet every taste. Need I say more?

 This was a wonderful Induction Course for me about what it should mean for me  to be their priest. I had a glimpse into how they lived, their occupations, their skills,  how they supported themselves and their families.  I saw  this  community, any community, holding together by depending on each other’s skills, their willing availability to each other and and their trust-worthiness.

Surely St. Joseph would easily have fitted into such a village community - not only as a good  artisan but also a good man, a good neighbour, responsible provider for his own home and family. I picture Joseph respecting other people, their trades and occupations.  Surely he would have earned their respect. I also fancy seeing there  Mary and Jesus having a jolly good time!

This Feast of Joseph the Worker causes me to reflect how a most significant role of the Church is to affirm people in their ordinary workaday lives. In these they are to find their sanctity and salvation.

God is glorified by us and we ourselves are glorious in His sight when we  use the  skills and  opportunities He has given us in the interests of other people, and of course of ourselves. We are then a blessing and a boon rather than a burden to our families, our community, even to our nation.

Peter Clarke, O.P.
 
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