Sunday, 29 October 2017


A young lad proudly approached us carrying an enormous cello, bigger than himself.  Who could blame me for groaning,   “That child gives me an inferiority complex!”  “Me, too! “He’s my youngest son!” sighed the woman standing next to me.   I’d put my foot in it once again!

The occasion was Spode Conference Annual Classical Music Week.   Keen gifted amateurs as well as a few well-known professionals had come together   for the sheer delight of  making music, some of it secular, some sacred -to accompany High Mass. 
 On one such occasion a lady had just finished playing a trumpet on the sanctuary.  Some mischievous person persuaded the altar-server to stand with his thurible belching out clouds of smoke in front of her! With streaming eyes the poor dear all but choked! And then there was the man so wedded to his violin that he brought it to breakfast with him.  Could be he slept with it?
One of the most delightful features of this week was the solo or group performances given by the singers and instrumentalists, including a world famous harpsichordist.   Fr. Conrad Pepler, Warden of the Conference Centre, would give us an annual performance on his violin.
As chaplain to the music group he would preach at the Masses.  In one such sermon he drew on the skill needed to tune his violin.  He told us that with too much tension the strings would snap; then the instrument could produce no sound.  But the same would be true if the strings were too slack.    The strings had to be tightened to the correct tension if they were to produce a melodious sound. As for playing in a group or orchestra, your instrument must be in tune with all the others.  Otherwise you will produce a dreadful row.
Fr. Conrad then applied the image of correctly tuning a violin to the whole of our lives.   Without the right amount of tension we won’t strive to achieve anything.   We need a challenge to get us moving!   We need to want something very much before we will make the effort to go after it.  Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God.  St. Paul urges us to, “Set your minds on things above,  not on earthly things,"(Col. 3.2). We must be convinced that with God’s help we can overcome our human limitations and the tension of being tempted to sin.  But if we are in tune with God our whole lives can become a hymn of praise to the glory of God. In that, even now, we’ll have a hint of what will be  our eternal happiness.
But if  we can’t find any challenge in life we won’t strive after anything and will achieve nothing. Imagine how very dull life would be if we had all our needs being satisfied  without having to make any effort.  We’d be  like the violin strings which are so slack they are incapable of producing a worthwhile sound.
Finally, St. Paul reassures us that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle, God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it”.  (1 Cor. 10. 13).    Confidently he declares, “I can do all  things through Christ, who  gives me strength,” (Philip. 4. 13).   He won’t let us snap under the tensions of life  - so long as we turn to Him for help.
So, let us pray that we are always in tune with God.  When we go off key, let us turn to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and ask God to remove the discord from our lives. Together, may our lives be a symphony of praise to the glory of God!
With the psalmist let us, “Give thanks to the Lord  with the lyre;  sing praise to Him with the harp of ten strings.   Sing to Him a new song; Play skilfully with a shout of joy.…” (Ps. 33. 2-3).  
Isidore O.P.

Saturday, 14 October 2017


A cat can look at a king  and a king can look at a cat!  Two priests can look at two Barbadian Green Monkeys and two Barbados Green Monkeys can look at two priests! Why not? Who’s to stop them?

 Fr. Clement and I were in the chapel chanting the Evening Prayer of the Church, with God very much on our minds and in our hearts. Taking turns to sing the verses of the psalms allowed me to raise my head and look around. Behold! Before my very eyes were two very special monkeys - Barbadian Greens – sitting cosily on a branch like two lovers! They were looking in our direction. Did they find beauty in our singing? Or did they  consider we were not worth a second thought?
 Should I repent of  admiring monkeys when I should have been caught up in praising God?  Did God deliberately send them at that time, to that place?   To catch my attention?  To set me thinking that perhaps we humans weren’t the only ones who pray!
I have every reason to believe these monkeys were praising God – precisely by being their God-designed selves. He Himself declared that everything He made was good. Their praising God when they steal my mangoes and bananas – even though I find it impossible to praise them. And what is more, these monkeys could never for a single moment cease pleasing God, praising God.

Inevitably our Barbadian Green Monkeys  would  find themselves in this splendid chorus urged on to praise of  God by the young men in the fiery furnace,
Bless the Lord, all the Lord's creation: praise and glorify him forever! 58 Bless the Lord, angels of the Lord, praise and glorify him forever! 59 Bless the Lord, heavens, praise and glorify him forever! 79 Bless the Lord, whales, and everything that moves in the waters, praise and glorify him forever! 80 Bless the Lord, every kind of bird, praise and glorify him forever! 81 Bless the Lord, all animals wild and tame, praise and glorify him forever!   (Daniel Ch. 3.58…).

All these  could indignantly reply, “You don’t need to tell us.   We’ve always been doing it. We can’t stop doing it. It just comes naturally to us.”  It’s mankind with its free will that needs to be told, “Stop messing up people. Stop messing up God’s world, our home, the home of all creation.”  There are those who need to hear, need to act upon, this now desperate pleading,
82 Bless the Lord, all the human race: praise and glorify him forever! 87 Bless the Lord, faithful, humble-hearted people, praise and glorify him forever!
And no wonder! Man alone   has the freedom to choose whether to protect and enhance God’s creation or to ravish and ruin it. There are the people who don’t consider themselves accountable to man or God as to how they treat this wonderful world which is  home of all creatures.  Even there some who are truly pious and outstanding for their  good works.    Yet they do not  recognize a morality that obliges them to take responsible care of  God’s Wonderful World…its environment, it ecology.

Pope Francis, together with many others, is sounding the alarm bells. This generation more than any other, through its self-centred consumerism, is callously destroying the very environment in which they and the entirety of mankind live (including their own darling children and grandchildren)! They are hastening the extinction of the very resources upon which life itself depends. And they are in a state of vigorous self-serving denial! None of this expresses praise to God!

Thank you Lord for bringing these two Barbadian Green Monkeys into my prayer-life. In their way, simply by being themselves,       they have caused me to realize that all the time, in every deed and situation, I must be true to my  God-given humanity  as a steward of creation and never  as its self-absorbed bossy-bully!

If I were able, I’d be tempted to   embrace these Barbadian Green Monkeys in  the Sign of Peace and Fellowship. Perhaps not!  One of them might bite my nose off!  Would you blame it?
Peter Clarke O.P.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


"How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven," Jacob exclaimed in what most of us would consider  the most unlikely of places -a stony wilderness (Gen. 28. 17).  I have found the patriarch’s words to be so true in what most people would dismiss as secular, as distinct from sacred, places such as church.  I discovered God’s awesome presence manifest in a hospital ward -in the medical staff who continued Christ’s ministry of healing, in the patients, including me, who readily identified with Christ in His weakness and suffering.  Above all, Jesus came to me in the Sacrament of the Sick and in the Blessed Sacrament.
The same has proved true over the past half century, during which I’ve been in and out of hospital.   Each time I’ve found God to be there; each time it’s been awesome.

Now, at eighty five, I’m too frail, for the moment, to leave my room.  Certainly, a constricted existence, but not a bleak one.   Thank God, every effort is being made to keep me in my Dominican community!   I’m living in a house of prayer.  Although I can’t be physically present with my brothers in church for community prayer, I can be there with them in spirit.  

This sense of belonging to a praying community is strengthened as I look out of my window.   There I see the roof top, the towers of our church and the eight bells which I’ve photographed.
They chime to summon my brothers to Mass and the Divine Office; they joyfully peel to proclaim the marital celebration of a couple’s loving commitment.  One of those bells solemnly, mournfully tolls to call the faithful to pray for the eternal salvation of one our recently deceased brothers or sisters.  These bells loudly proclaim to those within ear-shot our faith in God being in our midst (the meaning of, “Emmanuel.”)  They summon people to worship.   These bells provide an eloquent form of preaching.  In my room I can, in spirit, respond to their call to prayer.

That’s where for now I spend all my time. That’s where I must seek and find God.  As I raise my head above the view of the church and its bells I see a small old crucifix hanging on the wall -I received this cross at my First Communion, nearly eighty years ago!  If ever I needed a reminder of God’s loving compassion I find it there.   In my weakness I can identify with the crucified Christ, and He with me.   I can recall, in His dying moments, His entrusting His Church, including me, to His Beloved Mother.   That crucifix reminds me that my room is a sacred, awesome place.

So, does my community, as it practises the works of mercy in visiting the sick and comforting the afflicted -me.  Individually they come and keep me company and we have a good laugh.   Each one of them is the temple of the Holy Spirit -and so I am   surround by the sacred! Together they come to celebrate my receiving the Sacrament of the Sick and Our Lord Himself in the Blessed Eucharist.  They give me a sense of very much belonging to a  caring Dominican  house of prayer.  That means so much to me, since I have been a member of the Order of Preachers for nearly seventy years.   That is my life -the very air I breath.

But you don’t have to be a Dominican to realise that you can meet God whatever your walk of life, in whatever circumstance you find yourself.  If you are sensitive to His presence you will realise that the whole of creation proclaims the glory of God.  The secular becomes sacred.  I have come to realise that even when I’ve walked in the ‘valley of darkness’ the Good Shepherd has been with me, guiding me, protecting me. The same is true for you.  That really is awesome!!!
Isidore O.P.