Thursday, 11 May 2017


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.

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