Wednesday, 16 August 2017

RISING EARLY IN THE MORNING


  Today I’m going to reflect on why the early morning is the best time of the day for me.  Hopefully this will say something to you.
Some people can leap out of bed at the last moment and spring into action.   Not me! That’s too violent.  I need to surface gradually, early in the morning.   That, for me is the most peaceful time of the day, before the hectic bustle of life begins.
That was especially true when I was working in the W. Indies. After being woken at sunrise by a cacophonous chorus of donkeys I would get out of bed and make myself a mug of coffee, sit down and prepare myself to say Mass.  Early in the morning is the coolest, the freshest time of the day, in a tropical climate.
The same was true when I returned to England and worked at a large conference centre in the countryside.  I would rise early and make myself a mug of coffee and wander across the fields.   On one occasion some scouts were camping on our land.   They were still tucked up in their sleeping bags.   It was so peaceful to see their silent tents.  Soon, I knew, the lads would be up, busily lighting the camp fire, cooking and eating breakfast.   Soon they would be rushing around in their busy noisy activities.   But not yet.  For now peace, stillness and quiet.  For me it was a wonderful start to a busy day.
As I walked along the banks of the canal  the rising sun burnt off the mist and I saw a moored barge. Again no-one was yet up.   Not even the family dog.  There was a wonderful mystical, misty stillness and quiet.  Everyone was still asleep.   Although I value and need company, this time of quiet, this peaceful solitude before the hurly-burley of the day was precious.    Not just precious, but necessary…for me, at least!
Some people argue that we Dominicans should be in the towns and cities, among the people.  Certainly I agree with that.  But we who were working in a countryside conference centre found that people in the cities needed to come to us for a break.   They needed physical, emotional and spiritual space.   They needed to be still and quite and have time to sit and watch the rabbits and hear the birds.   They needed to stop and listen to God. They even needed get away from their busy, noisy lives to hear and be nourished by the conferences we provided! They couldn’t do any of that while hurtling along a busy road, with the radio blasting away! 
In our busy, noisy world there’s an increasing need for periods of stillness and quietness, to give us quality time for God, each other and for ourselves. Could be, that we’d be less irritable when we arrived at our work-places if we came from a contented rather than quarrelsome home.  We need to make time to relax and unwind emotionally and spiritually.   That’s why holiday’s are so important.  Hopefully, they will not  be just recreational but also re-creational.  Let’s admit it, we might be doing others  a favour if we cleared off and took a holiday. It’s more than likely we’d be less ‘on edge’  (please  God!)  when we returned.
I’m sure family life and our relationship with God would be greatly improved if we made special time when we all switched off our mobiles and computers, were still and listened to God and to each other.   That’s why God urges us, through the psalmist,
Be still, and know that I am God!”  (Ps. 46.10).
P.S.                 Have you ever met a person who can’t cope with total silence  -no loud music, no  mobiles. Is that person you?

Isidore O.P.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Bodily into Eternity – The Assumption of Mary.


In 1950 Pope Pius XII declared as a dogma to be believed by Catholics as a matter of Faith that 'Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven'.

Many of us reacted, 'What's new? For years we've been reciting the Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary, "The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven."' For centuries this has been accepted as part of the believing and devotional life of the Catholic Church.   Why, then, under-score what was already taken for granted?

One reason, among many others, could be that the dogmatic definition of Mary's Assumption into Heaven emphatically affirmed the feminine bodiliness of her humanity. The Preface of the Solemnity proclaims how fitting it was that God 'would not allow decay to touch her body, for she had given birth to His Son, the Lord of all life, in the glory of the Incarnation.' What was uniquely glorious during her life on earth is now uniquely glorious in her life in eternity. 

Mary was essentially, vitally, involved in the redemption of mankind through her child, Jesus, whom she had carried in her womb, brought to birth, and suckled - the Son of God Himself.
Jesus gave great glory to his heavenly Father in and through the humanity that He had received from His mother. In His so doing Jesus was Himself supremely glorious in the fullness of  His humanity - body, together with soul.

 Indeed, it was through His mother, Mary, that the Son of God was a full member of the human family. Mary gave great glory to God in her mothering of the Saviour, and in her being there at the foot of the cross giving loving, motherly support to her dying Son.   In so doing Mary was herself supremely, uniquely glorious in the fullness of her humanity.

We, through our baptisms, are united with Jesus as members of his Body, which is the Church. With this in mind, St. Paul cajoles the Christians of Corinth living in a milieu that he considered to be sexually hyper-active,
'Do you not realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you and whom you received from God? You are not your own property, then; you have been bought at a price. So use your body for the glory of God,' (1 Cor. 6. 19).

 Your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit! …Use your body for the glory of God! This is exciting Good News that needs to be proclaimed in our day when men and women are regarded as sex objects, and even consider themselves no better than this - devoid of dignity as human persons. Is not human parenting also being debased with genetic engineering, in vitro fertilizations, and cloning which are paraded as clever and acceptable substitutes or replacements for the two-in-one-flesh coupling of spouses who are bonded together in love?  

Where is reverence for the human body in a world of terrorism and of weapons of mass destruction; a world that has the resources and skills to provide for the hungry but acquiesces to the starvation of millions; a world that deprives the frail and sickly of easily available life-saving medicines?

Contemplation of the Assumption of Mary should convince us that upon this canvas of contempt for the bodiliness of each human being we Christians must paint a message of beauty and of hope, one that inspires and one that cherishes, one that respects and safeguards, one that loves the human body here and now, and reaches out into eternity.

Peter Clarke, op

Saturday, 5 August 2017

CARNIVAL, CROP-OVER,CULTURE

                                                                       
Many of the islands of the Caribbean celebrate Carnival at some time in the year..  The Carnival festival that was a prelude to the penitential season of Lent was transported to the Caribbean by the European slave traders. They excluded the African slaves from the festival and had lavish masquerade balls. On emancipation the freed African slaves of the Caribbean transformed the European festival forever into a celebration of the end of slavery.
Barbadians had their Crop-over to mark the cutting of the last stick of sugar cane. In those days this opportunity for care-free enjoyment signified a kind of short-lived emancipation or liberation from enforced toil.

Nowadays Caribbean people make the most of these events as being a release from life’s dull routine. This unique expression of Caribbean culture has now become a spectacular tourist attraction.
 In many ways there is a shared history and culture of the several Caribbean territories. And yet there are variations of the same theme – thereby giving to each its own identity and culture. This will embrace the whole ‘lived-in’ environment of a people of a particular locality – shaped and handed down by a succession of generations, adapted to meet the needs, the tastes of the present moment; attuned to what   suited it, worked for it.
So much to do with culture concerns the family. Many alive today have seen a shift from the extended family to the nuclear family. As never before, the stable, ‘same-address,’ family has become the scattered, diaspora family.

The past fifty years or so have seen an exciting awareness and appreciation of Caribbean creativity in carvings, paintings, literature, theatre, steel pans, calypso, reggae, etc.. Carnival and  Crop-over bring out onto the streets a fantastic creativity of costumes and floats, the total involvement of  dancers, and  the loud beat of the music that carry spectators and participants into ‘one moment in time’ that is out of this world!.

 However, if it were ever true that there is such a thing as a ‘small island mentality’ this no longer holds. As never before, people of the Caribbean are Children of the Universe.    They’re trending towards a Global Culture that touches every aspect of life. I ask you, “To what extent is it still possible, desirable, to hang onto what we used to be and were proud to be?”
For many centuries Christianity has been a presence and a formative influence in the Caribbean and has become a component of its culture. Its role is and always has been to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. He insisted this be proclaimed to the whole of mankind. This single message for all would do well to respect the beautiful variety of local cultures.This global truth is that all mankind originates from God the Creator. He has made all people  His beloved sons or daughters, siblings of one another in the Global Family of God. 
The Son of God, our Saviour, sent into the world by His Heavenly Father, belongs to the whole world. As one human family through Jesus we are all together to share in the fullness of God’s own life.These thoughts should lead us to have a great and godly respect for ourselves and for one another. They should cause us to want God to love and respect the way we live within our own personal and cultural individuality! They should influence the way we conduct ourselves at Carnival, Crop-over and any other activity, in such a way that we glorify God and in so doing we ourselves are glorious in His eyes as we have a glorious time. Were we to take this approach we would ensure peace for ourselves. What a relief that we would be sparing ourselves the remorse, the shame and even the tragedy that is liable to result from undisciplined, uninhibited behaviour.
                         
 Enjoy life! Have fun! With God’s blessing!

Fr. Peter Clarke, OP


 
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