Saturday, 24 June 2017


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.

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