Monday, September 15, 2014

Fifth Luminous Mystery: Institution of the Eucharist

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15).

The fifth and final Luminous Mystery recalls the institution of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life. This sacrament is a sign of God’s self-sacrificing love for us and His desire that we should be united with Him. As Pope Benedict writes, “In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God Himself – His expectant love for mankind, for His creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God” (cf. Rom 8:19).

Beautiful and comforting as God’s infinite love for us is, it can also be overwhelming. In the face of such love, if we reflect on our lives properly, then we may well feel distinctly unworthy. This is not a bad thing, the words of the Mass (“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you...”) acknowledge this, yet we are encouraged by the Church to make whatever reparations are necessary and go forward to receive our Lord, and grow in communion with Him and those around us.

The French writer, Francois Mauriac, expresses this beautifully:
There is a mysterious mingling of conflicting feelings in the man who is about to receive Holy Communion: fear and confidence, open-heartedness and remorse, shame and love. The small Host which the sinner approaches throws an impartial and terrible light on irretrievable deeds: on that which he has done, on that which he should not have refrained from doing. No man knows himself if he has not looked at his soul in the light of the Host lifted above the ciborium…

Salvador Dali's, Last Supper

Yet all the misdeeds that the communicant sees at a glance are no longer his; someone else has taken them over since the pardon of Christ has come down on his soul with the absolution of the priest. His misery, far from driving him into despair, helps him understand how much he has been loved…

What is almost always obtained through frequent Communion is a grace which surpasses all perceptible favours; an increased light and, better still, a new strength in God."

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration

‘“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain’ (2 Peter 1:17-18).

St Peter witnessed what had been foreseen by the Prophet Daniel ‘and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him’ (Dan. 7:13). In the Transfiguration Christ’s true identity was made manifest. His face shone like the sun and ‘his garments became as white as light’ (Matt 17:2). The Son of Man and Son of God stood atop the holy mountain wrapped in all the glory of Heaven and wreathed in the sacred cloud from which sprung forth the voice of the Father.

Faced with such an awesome, and apocalyptic, sight who then could blame St Peter for assuming that the end of Jesus’s mission had come? It was his desire to set up tents and stay wrapped up in this Divine encounter. His presumption can be contrasted with the attitude of those disciples left at the bottom of the mountain. Immediately after the Transfiguration Jesus encountered a paralytic whom his disciples could not heal. Why, asked the disciples, were the unable to heal the man? “Because of your little faith,” Jesus answered them. If they had but a little faith they could have moved mountains (Matt 17:20).

Archbishop Fulton Sheen observed that whereas Peter had a desire for great Faith he lacked the zeal of the other disciples to do good work and those same disciples didn’t grasp the Divine dimension of charitable work. So it can be with Christians today: some seek such a devotion to the spiritual life that they forget to love their neighbour. Others are so wrapped up in helping the poor they forget their need for God.

In the Mystery of the Transfiguration Christians can help avoid these two pitfalls. By joining the Apostles on the mountain they can meet Christ’s divinity and dwell at the heights of faith. However they must then join them on the way down to go forth and share the fruits of their encounter with the whole world. 
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Friday, September 12, 2014

3rd Luminous Mystery: The Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Conversion

'The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel' (Mk 1:15).

This Luminous Mystery can be understood very broadly as the whole public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, lasting three years, but for the sake of meditation during the Rosary we can focus on the very beginning. That is where we see the essence of the proclamation of the kingdom of God.

The beginning of Jesus's preaching mission is to call us to conversion. Our sins have led us away from God; and that is very foolish, not just wicked, because we cannot find happiness apart from God. Just as a sick person cannot be healed unless they admit their frailty and visit the doctor, so we cannot be forgiven without acknowledging our sins: 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners' (Mt 9:13). Through the interior liberty gained by our conversion, we are simultanesouly freed from all kinds of external oppressions; Christ came 'to preach good news to the poor', that is, to bring healing and peace to all who suffer (cf. Lk 4:18).

When he sends out the 70 disciples, Jesus makes it clear that they are on a mission of peace (Lk 10). They are to bring peace and healing to every house they enter. No wonder, then, that the disciples 'returned with joy'. Jesus warns them not to rejoice in the wonders and miracles they worked, but 'rejoice that your names are written in heaven'. Our true joy comes from our own conversion – we were sinners, but we have been healed. We must become more like Mary, whose pure heart enabled her to play her part in the coming of the kingdom on earth.

This task of proclamation, however, is not an easy one. In the sending of the Twelve (Mt 10), they go out 'as sheep in the midst of wolves', yet Jesus tells them to 'have no fear'. The proclamation of good news is its own reward. Dominicans are vowed especially to this preaching mission and, like all Christian witnesses, we must go out not trusting in our own gifts or righteousness, but knowing ourselves to be sinners redeemed, with the love of God in our hearts.

The Christian paradox is that we live in this world with our hearts burning for the next. The world is fallen, redeemed, and awaiting its re-creation. The kingdom of God is already and not yet; now is the time for mission.


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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2nd Luminous Mystery: The Wedding at Cana

The wedding feast at Cana is one of those mysteries of the Rosary which shows a side of the Apostles and Jesus that Dominicans can identify with; that is, being at a banquet drinking copious amounts of wine in celebration of a certain feast or solemnity. Enjoying food and drink in temperance, in a fashion that is appreciative of the beauty of creation, is part of what it is to be a Christian, as well as not just going along with gluttonous appetites. Nor however is the tone of this wedding feast cold and anxious, for all the wine ends up being consumed. When the wine runs out at this feast in Cana, it is Mary the mother of Jesus who more or less asks him to turn the water into wine. In this first public miracle of Jesus, he turns the water that the rigid Jewish ablutions rituals required into the best wine for those at the feast to drink. Jesus does this at a time of joy, a moment of public declaration of love between a man and woman, and of their intention to be part of the fabric of society having children of their own, committing themselves to each other for life. The symbolism of turning this boring ablutions water, stored in banal stone water jars, into the best sort of wine to fuel the banquet, is quite profound. Jesus requests the religious and anthropocentric water jars are turned over to be used for something much better, all in the context of temperance of our appetites. This marks the start of Jesus's ministry, and in an atmosphere of joy and happiness, this contrasts to the more puritanical interpretation of religious self-denial, such as seen in the movie 'Babette's Feast'.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The First Luminous Mystery: Our Lord's Baptism

Baptism is the basis of our entire Christian life; it is the gateway the Lord opens into the life of the triune God of grace. We know baptism as the Sacrament of Faith that has been established by God as the normative means through which we are freed from original sin, re-born by Water and the Holy Spirit as daughters and sons of the Most High. But all this leaves us with a puzzle when it comes to understanding Jesus’s own baptism: what need had Christ, the spotless and perfectly sinless Son of God, for baptismal grace? What need had Jesus, who enjoyed the vision of God throughout his life, for the sacrament of faith? What need had the second person of the Trinity for initiation into the life of the Trinity? Are we to conclude that Jesus’s baptism was just an empty gesture, a redundant sign of deep significance and profound aesthetic value, but which nonetheless changed nothing?

Christ’s baptism is, clearly, of a different type to our own: Christ’s baptism by John inaugurates Christian baptism as an efficacious means of grace; our own baptisms are dependent, derived, actions that baptise us into Christ’s own baptismal life. It is by being baptised, submitting himself to baptism at the hands of a man, that Jesus creates and establishes Baptism as the Sacrament of Faith in Himself. Yet Baptism is no individualistic event that cleanses our souls as if God intervened surgically by dissecting us away from others. Rather, baptism engrafts us into the Christian community, making us members of Christ’s own body. Christ’s own baptism manifests his status as the head of the community of the baptized.

Indeed, Christ’s baptism is a moment of revelation—the dove, representing the Holy Spirit, descends onto the waters and the voice of the Father reveals Christ’s identity as Son (all of which resonates with the creative imagery of Genesis, in which the Spirit of God hovers over the waters and the world is created by a spoken word of God). At this moment, Christ’s true identity—revealed to his mother Mary at the annunciation—is made manifest on the public stage. It is in our own baptisms that we too discover our deepest identity as those claimed for Christ, and—over the course of a lifetime—it is in the outworking of our graced baptismal vocation that we discover who God created us to be and the tasks that he has bestowed upon us. The waters of Baptism are the short, sharp, shock that wake us up to our most essential identity: "Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him" (Benedict XVI).

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Rosary: The Luminous Mysteries

"The Transfiguration", Raphael

The Luminous Mysteries (or Mysteries of Light) were introduced as “a proposed addition to the traditional pattern" by Pope John Paul II, in October 2002, at the start of the Year of the Rosary. These mysteries focus on the public ministry of Jesus Christ, and were added in the words of St. John Paul “for the Rosary to become more fully a 'compendium of the Gospel'”; in contemplating revelatory moments in Christ’s public ministry, the Christological depth of the Rosary is brought out more fully.

In St. John Paul’s words: Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth [the Joyful Mysteries] to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way 'mysteries of light'. Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the 'light of the world' (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Indeed, one idea when praying these mysteries is to ask for the intercession of St. John Paul whose devotion to the Rosary, was clear. We pray the Luminous Mysteries especially on Thursdays, but of course one can pray mysteries of the Rosary at any time, and in any place - and that is part of their beauty! May the Luminous Mysteries enlighten our path as we go about our daily business praising, blessing, and preaching the Word of God.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Coronation of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and the Glory of all the Saints

When viewing the mysteries of the Rosary through the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary it is not difficult to discern why some of them are called glorious. When Our Lady witnessed the Resurrected Christ she saw her son returning triumphant from a great battle. At his ascension she marvelled at his elevation above all things, from where he sent forth the Spirit as guarantor and guide of his newly-won kingdom. But in these Glorious Mysteries were do not solely encounter Our Lady as a spectator but equally as a participant. For at Pentecost the apostles were gathered around her and through her assumption into Heaven she entered the Divine Bliss where she was crowned queen to reign with her Divine Son for all eternity. Yet, in the Fifth Glorious Mystery it is not only Our Lady who is shown as a recipient of Heavenly glory: attending her coronation as the Queen of Heaven sit all the saints; God’s justified called up to reign with him for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)

This destiny is for all God’s faithful. The Fifth Glorious mystery contains then the promise of our future glory. However, as we humbly look forward to these heights which God has destined us we remember that the great victory which gives birth to this destiny is Christ’s saving Passion and Death upon the Cross. As St. Paul says, ‘if we are to share Christ’s glory we must also share his sufferings’ (Romans 8:17) In our present day trials we can turn to this final glorious mystery and find waiting for us the gift of hope. As we witness Our Lady’s coronation let us ask that the fruit of our contemplation might be the perseverance to walk the narrow path of Calvary to the mansions of Heaven.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is alive with her Son in heaven. Alleluia!

She has been raised through him, with him, in him, into the glory of God's eternal dwelling-place. Christ had said, 'If I go and prepare a place for you, I shall come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also' (Jn 14:3). Mary is privileged to be the first to follow her Son, body and soul, into heaven. She participates already in his bodily resurrection. Where Jesus is the 'first-fruits', Mary is chief among 'those who belong to Christ' (see 1 Cor. 15:23), showing what we too may achieve if we follow him faithfully.

In her earthly life, the Virgin Mary was Christ's closest follower, from the moment of her fiat when she gave her life fully into God's hands all the way to the foot of the Cross. Now that he is raised to new life, she shares in that glorious beatitude. Assumed body and soul into heaven, Mary's privilege anticipates our own bodily glory in the general resurrection.

It is indeed a privilege, not something Mary grasped for herself or earned by her own unaided efforts. Mary's honour flows from the grace of Jesus. As God singled out Mary for the unique privilege of bearing his Only-Begotten Son, so Mary's Assumption can be seen as another unique privilege of grace.

Let it remind us that 'in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose' (Rom. 8:28). 


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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Dominican Way - Arundel to Canterbury

From 7 to 17th August, a group of more than 20 young pilgrims walked from Arundel to Canterbury, a distance of about 130 miles. This was The Dominican Way, the national event for the Dominican Youth Movement this summer, bringing together young Catholic adults from all over the country and even from overseas. In fact, we calculated that between us some 12 nationalities were represented!

The pilgrimage was inspired by the Routes Dominicaines run by the French brethren, but was adapted to the English context. Canterbury is in many ways the heart of English Christianity and was frequented by thousands of pilgrims a year following the shocking martyrdom of St Thomas Becket in the cathedral on 29th December 1170. At the the other end, Arundel is the the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, the premier Catholic noble family in the land, and has an inspiring recusant history - the skyline is dominated by their castle as well as the magnificent cathedral dedicated to Our Lady and St Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel and martyr during the penal times. In between, we visited many religious communities, shrines and other places of great historical and religious interest.

But this pilgrimage was not just about discovering the glories of a historic Christendom. It was a living adventure, through which we young Catholics entered more deeply into our spiritual heritage and received blessings and inspiration for our mission as Christians in the 21st century. Along the way we encountered countless strangers and friends who shared our passion for the Faith, or simply offered us their kindness and hospitality. In particular, we were very grateful for the warm welcome we received at the places we stopped for the night, including cathedrals, religious communities, Catholic and Anglican parishes - and some individual parishioners even welcomed us into their own homes.

The pilgrimage aimed to realise the four pillars of Dominican life - community, prayer, study, preaching - while on the road. So, besides the obvious benefit (and challenge!) of walking some 20 miles a day, we were making friends and learning to live together; learning about the places we were visiting; being schooled in the lives of the saints; praying the Divine Office using our Dominican melodies; sharing short thoughts from our experiences; and preaching in diverse ways to people we met along the way - in the countryside, in churches, and even in pubs!

After successfully navigating several perils of the English countryside - including hornets, black sheep, and Brother Jordan singing - we arrived safe and sound in Canterbury. The joy of reaching our destination quickly outshone the memories of the difficult terrain we had traversed. This short pilgrimage gave us perhaps a foretaste of that greater destination we hope to reach at the end of our pilgrim lives on earth. But meanwhile, we look forward to the next DYM pilgrimage!

Here are some photos to give you a glimpse of what we did. You can find more through the Facebook page for The Dominican Way.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Saint Hyacinth

St. Hyacinth
About the same time that Dominican brothers came to England founding their first priory in Oxford they also came to Poland. The first priory was established in Cracow by St. Hyacinth, who was the first Polish Dominican and whose feast day is celebrated on 17 August. Hyacinth was born about 1183 in Kamień Śląski near Opole (southern part of Poland) in a noble family. He studied in Paris and Bologna and after his return to Poland he became a priest and a canon of the cathedral of Wawel in Cracow. In 1220 he accompanied Iwo Odrowąż, who was bishop of Cracow, to Rome where they met St. Dominic. There in 1221 he received the religious habit from St. Dominic himself. After a short stay at Santa Sabina he came back to Poland. On his way Hyacinth established a Dominican priory in Friesach in Carinthia. In 1223 he settled at the Holy Trinity church in Cracow where he founded the first Dominican priory in Poland that since that time has been existing without interruption.

The statue of St. Hyacinth on Bernini's colonnade in Rome
St. Hyacinth was a tireless apostle and a great missionary. He established Dominican priories in many Polish dioceses as well as he went to Prussia, Ruthenia and Lithuania spreading the faith. Because of his zeal and evangelizing work a lot of people were converted and  many churches and priories were built. He came back to Cracow in 1243 and he died there on 15 August 1257. He was beatified by Pope Clement VII in 1527 and he was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1594. His tomb is in the Dominican church in Cracow.

The tomb of St. Hyacinth
There are many legends associated with St. Hyacinth. One of them explains why he is very often depicted with a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament and with a stone statue of Our Lady. This legend says that during a Tatars attack on Kiev Hyacinth wanted to prevent a sacrilegious attack, so he went to the chapel to take and save the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle. But at the same time he heard the voice of Mary asking him why he takes her Son, but he leaves her. Hyacinth was worried, because the statue was very heavy, it was made of alabaster, but Mary promised him to make it very light and so it was, so Hyacinth could carry it. For this reason he is usually shown holding a monstrance and a statue of Our Lady.

There is also an interesting fact that St. Hyacinth is the only Polish saint whose statue can be found among statues of other saints on Bernini's colonnade surrounding St. Peter's Square in Rome.

Ave, florum flos, Hyacinthe,
omni flore purior.
Ave, gemma pretiosa,
cunctis gemmis clarior.
Ave, protector omnium
ad te confugientium.
Ave, caelestis incola:
succurre prece sedula.
O Hyacinthe sanctissime,
o Confessor dulcissime.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

It is easy to think of the Descent of the Holy Spirit as something that hap-pened to the disciples, but we have not fully understood the signif-icance of the event recorded unless Acts, unless when we read "you shall receive power . . .", we read it aware that that "you" is as applicable today to you and me as it was to the disciples present at the time. Similarly, with the power we receive from the Holy Spirit, we must also take on the responsibility of bearing witness to Christ to the ends of the earth.

As we reflect on this beautiful mystery, we would do well to imagine ourselves there with Mary, who is intimately connected with Holy Spirit. She conceived her son by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is often poured out in her presence. Thus it was fitting that Mary should be present at the birthday of the Church, for as she is the Mother of Jesus, so she is also the Mother of the Church. We are told how Mary would ponder things in her heart, and we would do well to follow her example in pondering on what the Holy Spirit brings to us. Now would be a good time to reflect on the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation. For if we do not know what gifts we have been given, we are unlikely to utilise them fully, and we might neglect to play our part in aiding the renewal of the face of the earth. So then let us pray for Mary's intercession that we might better appreciate and cooperate with the workings of the Spirit within us and then be witnesses to Christ to the ends of the earth.

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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Second Glorious Mystery: The Ascension

Even after enduring death, and overcoming it in the Resurrection, Christ does not do away with his humanity. Christ’s humanity is not like a garment that is discarded once it has been worn. The real and enduring reality of Jesus’s humanity remain the point of connection between man and God, just as it was in his earthly ministry so it remains today: the Sacred Humanity is the organ through which redemptive grace flows to us (especially in the Sacraments). Christ, then, continues to relate to us in and through his humanity, even though we do not see it (except sacramentally). Thus the Ascension is not a moment of sadness—the definitive disappearance of the Messiah from the world that He has redeemed—but the glory of a bodily ‘withdrawal’ that is enacted precisely—and only—so that the Lord can be present to us in a new and more intimate fashion. The coming of the Holy Spirit (the Third Glorious Mystery) casts this in stark relief. 

In the context of the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, however, the link between Christ’s Ascension and Mary’s Assumption is particularly evident. Christ’s Ascension, and the bodily Communion with God that the Incarnation makes possible, does not merely return the world to a pre-incarnation, or even pre-fallen, state. Rather the Ascension is a creative act, one that inaugurates something new: a new for humanity to ascend, through the gift of participating in Christ’s own life, to bodily communion with God. This is communicated pre-eminently to Mary, attested in her Bodily Assumption (the Fourth Glorious Mystery).

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Sunday, August 03, 2014

First Glorious Mystery: The Resurrection

The First Glorious Mystery – the Resurrection – is the master-key to all the others, the fulfilment of God's plan. Out of the despair and grief we follow and experience in the Sorrowful Mysteries, we find hope in life after death with Christ.

In this mystery we share the sense of joy that the women outside the tomb felt as the angel told them that He had risen. If we remain steadfast, we too can share in the glory of everlasting life. That promise sustains us in our earthly mission. We do well to dwell on it in praying the Rosary and more generally, letting it imbue us and inform our actions.

One good intention to remember in praying this mystery is the Holy Souls in purgatory, that they might share in the the glory of the Heavenly Kingdom.

– Br Samuel Burke OP

Rubens, The Resurrection of Christ (1612)


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Friars' Walk: Coast-to-Coast Pilgrimage update

Many of you will be following the Friars' Walk blog which is charting the progress of our four brothers walking Coast-to-Coast across England, including two members of the Godzdogz team.

You can now click the icon to the right of this page to reach that blog, or follow the link below:

Here's a quick illustrated digest of what they've achieved so far....

24/07/14 – Feast of the Cumbrian Martyrs


Our Four walking Friars, two from Cambridge and two from Oxford, met at Carlisle at 2.30pm to take the Cumbrian Coast Line to Corkickle, which takes in some spectacular views over the Irish Sea to the West and Lakeland foothills to the East.

A hearty welcome awaited us at St. Begh’s, Whitehaven... Fr. Joseph Parkinson OSB and Deacon Stephen Scott received us at the Presbytery before allocating us to parishioners who, showing famous Northern hospitality, took us into their homes. Thank you to Sue, Sandra & Ian, and Roy. Special thanks also to Deacon Stephen for all his efforts in putting these arrangements together.

We met again for Mass at 6pm at St. Begh’s where Fr. Richard Finn OP preached on the significance and meaning of parables. He referred to the parable-like Dominican charism and our mission both generally and on this walk. After Mass, parishioners showed great generosity of spirit, wishing us well on our trek, and generously contributed to our fundraising efforts.

DAY ONE: 25/07: Feast of St. James

St. Bees to Ennerdale

An auspicious day (St James is the patron saint of pilgrims) to start our Coast to Coast fundraising pilgrimage!

We pray for vocations, our fundraising efforts, and the intentions of our benefactors and friends. Today we also remember Iraqi Christians especially in our prayers.

DAY ONE: Arrived at Ennerdale Bridge

In the glorious Cumbrian sunshine, we reached today’s destination at Ennerdale Bridge! We were delighted to be joined by Mary Clarkson who was wonderful company!! We encourage others to join us if possible. Details here:

Please tell us via Twitter or Facebook if you would like us remember any intention in a decade of the rosary.

Our route today took us along the spectacular coastland from St. Bees to Whitehaven. ...

In the afternoon we scaled Dent Fell, looking out over a West Cumberland to the West and the daunting fells that awaited us to the East. The views were spectacular. A steep descent from Dent brought us finally to Ennerdale Bridge.

On arriving at Ennerdale, we were taken back to Cleator by our invaluable support crew consisting of John and Sue Collins from our Cambridge Priory and Br. Andrew Brookes OP

Vespers, a shower, Dinner and a drink rounded off a very successful first day. Thanks be to God!!

DAY TWO: 26/07: St. Joachim & St. Anne

Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite

We contined to pray for the intentions of our benefactors and friends. The intentions entrusted to us, each of which is remembered at a decade of the Rosary, are often very grave. It was a comfort to us that we could pray for people who are facing all manner of difficulties; we hope it will be a comfort for them. ...

Over the next 1/2 mile, we climbed 340m, as we took the steps up Loft Beck. We met Australians Sue and Elaine near the top. They were in their 70s, and doing the Coast to Coast walk for third time! They were in a spot of bother because the steps seem to disappear and Elaine couldn’t work out where to place her feet in a particularly demanding scramble up the mountain stream. When we reached the summit, after some help and encouragement, they reported that they were now quite convinced of the existance of Guardian Angels!!

DAY THREE: 27/07: 17th Sunday of the Year

Rosthwaite to Patterdale, via Grasmere

...This promised to be one of the most demanding days of walking before us, a walk of over 17 miles over some long and step climbs.

The first major ascent is Lining Crag, a glacier smoothed fell of some 1778 ft. Upon reaching the top, we were greeted by a wonderful belvedere, a sort of hidden valley within a valley.

We then descended into Far Easdale before continuing to the outskirts of Grasmere at Goody Bridge. After a hard morning’s walking, the team felt it entirely necessary (!) to avail ourselves of the opportunity for tea in one of Grasmere’s many tea shops.

After a welcome breather, we began the formidable climb up beside two fells known as the Lion and the Lamb. Then we came up the Tip of Great Tongue, before traversing to Grisedale Tarn, a lake at the top of the mountain with views of the Old Man of Conniston.

There followed a long and invigorating descent leading to the valley of Patterdale, named after St. Patrick. William Wordsworth’s poem Brothers Parting is carved in stone in the valley: the evocative poem describes the parting of Wordsworth and his brother, John. ...


See here for some photos from the last couple of days.

DAY SIX: 30/07: OT.17.Wednesday

Kirkby Stephen to Keld

After a night of camping at Takoma Campsite, and a bacon muffin, we prayed Lauds with Maria, our host. Fellow campers awoke to the chanting of the Benedictus, which must have been something of a surprise!

... we met a British couple, Dave and Jacqui, and an American couple, John and Caroline. We spoke about our mission and the walk, speaking over the strong winds, which blew across the valley.

Both couples, like many other walkers we have met, were kind enough to make donations to our cause. Incidentally, anyone wishing to make donations can do so here, through Just Giving.

Our route continued across the boggy moorland, through the clouds. Once we emerged from the clouds, the views were impressive, if not somewhat bleak. As we came down from the higher ground, we stumbled across a wonderful farm at Ravenseat, which served that delightful English staple, “Cream Tea”. It would have been rude not to have availed oneself of the opportunity to sample such an idle pleasure.

We learnt that the remote farm was famous and had been the subject of television programmes and a book. During our short tea-time, we met some delightful friends including Denise Rowland a Catholic lady from Carlisle, with her friend Doris, and her granddaughter – also called Denise. One brother also made friends with Pippin, the farm hound.

When we arrived at the sleepy village of Keld, we discovered that our wonderful support team of John and Sue Collins had found Caroline (of the aforementioned American couple) injured by the roadside, and – playing the role of the Good Samaritan – conveyed her and her husband, John, to Keld by car.

Our support team then took us to St. Catherine’s Penrith where we spent the night.

DAY SEVEN: 31/07: Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Keld to Reeth

Today’s walk was a relatively easy stroll along the riverside through the Swaledale Valley from Keld to Reeth, covering just over 10 miles. Since we have not scheduled any rest days in our 12 day trek, a lighter day was a pleasant contrast to some of the more intense earlier legs through the Lakes. The landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, though similar, is altogether more gentle.

Just before we set off from the small village of Keld, a young chap approached us for a photograph. He said he had heard about some walking friars at the youth hostel where he was staying with a friend. His friend, however, had decided to take a rest day and not walk this particularly stretch. “Let’s have a photo so I can show my friend”, said the young chap, “he’ll be so jealous that he’s missed you!” Word is getting round, it seems!

...The gentle rolling hills, trickling streams, and dry stone walls made for a most pleasant walk. On the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, that great Saint, one was reminded of verses from the hand of the Jesuit poet, Gerald Manley Hopkins “Glory be to God for dappled things..”

DAY EIGHT: 01/08: Feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori

The day’s walk was much the same as yesterday in that we meandered through fields and countryside hamlets en route to Richmond. We stopped for Midday Office under the protection of a large tree as the rain came down around us.

Next, we continue to our overnight accommodation at Catterick Garrison.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Rosary: The Glorious Mysteries

The Glorious mysteries are one of the three traditional sets of events of the life of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Leo XIII said of the Glorious Mysteries that they reveal the mediation of the great Virgin, still more abundant in fruitfulness. She rejoices in heart over the glory of her Son triumphant over death, and follows Him with a mother's love in His Ascension to His eternal kingdom; but, though worthy of Heaven, she abides a while on earth, so that the infant Church may be directed and comforted by her "who penetrated, beyond all belief, into the deep secrets of Divine wisdom" (St. Bernard). The first three meditations are taken from scripture. The Resurrection of our Lord, His Ascension into heaven and the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are all meditations on scriptural events. The fourth meditation (the Assumption of Mary) and fifth meditation (Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven) are part of Catholic devotion, and contemplate beauty and hope in the human condition.


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Monday, July 28, 2014

Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion of Our Lord

That we Catholics so frequently see crucifixes in our homes and churches might, in a certain way, desensitize us to the horrors that it represents in a relatively sanitised form. The crucifix—which we proudly wear as a symbol of our faith and a sign of hope—is a remembrance of a gruesome and barbaric act of inhumanity, a depiction of the gravest historical injustice imaginable (simultaneously the cruel murder of a totally innocent man, perpetrated for personal expedience but enacted in the name of a fake justice, and the desecration of God’s only begotten).

Yet it is in this moment—the moment when Jesus looks most unlike God, most reducible to that which is rejected by humans—that the depths of divine love are revealed: in the veiling of his death, Christ’s true identity as God's own way of reaching out and loving humanity is revealed. God wills, in the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, to love us into new communion with Himself, thereby bestowing new meaning on human suffering itself. This man of sorrows was never without the joy of the beatific vision.

Through the eyes of faith, then, we see Christ’s own perfect self-offering as priest and victim, a true and proper sacrifice offered for our ransom and reconciliation, atoning for our sins and meriting all the graces that we receive and could ever receive. The eyes of faith allow us to see already, here at Calvary, the glorious conclusion of Christ’s work of redemption in the resurrection and ascension: this authentically human death in obedience to the Father merits the rewards of exaltation from God, firstly for Himself and (God-willing) for we who appropriate it in our own lives.

In times of sorrow, it can be difficult to sense God's presence: suffering seems meaningless and it is as if the ink of God's handwriting is invisible against the darkness of life's paper. Yet, as we endure the sorrows and mini-'crucifixions' that come in our own lives, may Mary's prayers helps us to unite our sorrows to Christ's death, so that we may experience a foretaste of the joy of our own resurrection, and come to see God's handwriting by the light shed from the empty tomb.
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book review: Green Philosophy by Roger Scruton

There have always been different perspectives on how we interact with animals and the environment. Saint Francis loved birds landing on his arm, with animals beside him as he contemplated brother sun and sister moon. On the other hand, according to Blessed Cecilia, Saint Dominic when preaching to nuns from behind a grille in their convent, plucked the feathers from a sparrow that had flown into the church, shouting that it was the devil that had came to interrupt his sermon!

Someone with an alternative perspective on the environment is Professor Roger Scruton, a fellow of Blackfriars Hall. In his book Green Philosophy, Prof. Scruton calls for a greater focus on how non-political grassroots and voluntary organisations can address both local and global scale environmental issues. His main premise is that a top-down, government-directed approach is never going to fully address global problems like climate change. Scruton has grave concerns that such an approach is counter-productive and only serves to take power away from individuals, bankrupt small businesses and favour those with an interest in gaining a competitive advantage with new legislation being introduced. Scruton is particularly critical of the European Union and the seemingly endless number of regulations aimed at protection of the environment. His philosophy is that such top-down directives become a burdensome array of counter-productive legislation at both a local and national level.

Scruton gives examples where various systems of top-down government have caused massive damage to the environment. The ‘tragedy of the commons’ happens when everyone has access to unowned or commonly owned resources (such as fish in a lake, the air we breathe). Such resources are easily depleted by our use of them, particularly if there is a situation where it is in the interest of individuals to take as much as they can before others deprive them of the chance. Natural resources or ecosystems become someone else’s problem. When there is no accountability for stewardship of a common resource, the result is usually environmental degradation.

The evidence is certainly there to prove his point on the issue of climate change. Global COconcentrations in the atmosphere are at the highest levels ever recorded and show no signs of stabilising. Deforestation continues across the world. Despite all the attempts at gaining a global agreement on climate change, the problem of increasing carbon emissions and decreasing capacity of the planet’s ability to cope is only getting worse. Scruton sees some climate change activists as being less interested in society adapting to climate change, and more interested in perpetuating a system of government which provides them with a cushy job role. Scruton also criticises the approach of many unaccountable non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in their blatant bypassing of the democratic system through lobbying Government or even donating to political parties.

Poundbury: the type of development which Scruton advocates

Overall, Scruton proposes that we should switch from a fast-paced, fossil-fuel intensive living, to a local way of life focused on organic agriculture, farmers’ markets, locally-sourced food, more local holidays and so on. Scruton suggests we abandon the impossible task of getting all nations to implement treaties on carbon trading and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, he proposes that we should invest in developing clean technology, and agreeing on treaties that can actually be globally implemented. He also suggests we radically reform (or indeed get rid of) the system of agricultural subsidies which generally favour corporations and resource-intensive monoculture farming. In other words, taxes should be funding the technological advancements and local-scale innovation that is needed to deal with climate change in the 21st century, rather than more bureaucracy on carbon emissions. Prof Scruton outlines a philosophical term ‘oikophilia’ or love of home, as the primary motivation for care of the earth. Scruton believes oikophilia can be promoted with a shift away from government-shaped solutions and instead sees non-political ‘grassroots’ organisations like the National Trust, Womens Institute, RSPB, and so on as the ones which should be protecting the environment.

Prof Scruton’s proposals are not a silver bullet to environmental concerns, nor does he claim to have one. Of course, not everyone is able to commit to supporting a grassroots organisation, or has the income to buy locally-grown food from independent stores. However, Scruton does put forward a theory that oikophilia is degraded by modern pursuits such as home entertainment, television, and other activities which instead of building up virtue in our lives, leave us empty. In traditional moralising language, vice and sin are what degrades oikophilia, with greed driving a consumerism that is ultimately unsustainable.

In our Dominican tradition, I should recognise the truth contained in Green Philosophy and applaud Scruton for the very useful criticisms of the government-led approach. However, Scruton’s deregulated and small government framework for ‘green conservatism’ seems to neglect the positive achievements on certain environmental issues through a ‘top-down’ approach. For instance, EU regulations on vehicle emission standards is reducing toxic air pollution from vehicles in European towns and cities. This was done by forcing car manufacturers to increase engine efficiency and improve pollution control. The EU is also requiring energy companies to use less polluting fuels and use more renewable sources of power. The top-down directive approach has revolutionised how we view waste as a resource in this country, with the EU setting waste targets and offering best practice on new waste treatment technology. Government grants are supposed to be available for businesses and organisations to access, in order to deal with the anomalies that occur in this top-down approach. 

Waste not: EU directives have revolutionised how we manage waste as a resource

As for green conservatism, placing an emphasis on tradition in architecture, and starting up permaculture projects are good things. However, I cannot see how small government and a volunteer based approach would work in some cases. It is hard to see the Womens Institute coming together to remedy the problem of contaminated land from the old gasworks in the nearby industrial estate. Or the National Trust appearing with volunteers to clean up Sellafield, with their membership passes in the pockets of their radiation suits. Although Scruton points out failures in certain top-down legislation on habitats and protected species, the general trend is that things have improved greatly over the last 40 years in terms of protection of the environment. European legislation and international treaties have delivered positive results on protection of endangered species. Accession countries such as Poland who are new members of the EU, are being forced to clean up their industries, deal with major pollution problems and protect sites of ecological importance. The collaborative international approach with some degree of top-down government directive has been successful in meeting environmental objectives.

As for the skeptics who do not believe climate change is something to be concerned about, Scruton helpfully recommends reading Global Warming: The Complete Briefing by Sir John Houghton, which is a balanced and comprehensive overview. He also cites Sustainable Energy without the Hot air by David JC MacKay as a good source of further information on energy related issues. I do agree with Prof. Scruton that non-political and accountable local associations, and indeed local churches will, at the end of the day, achieve more than any attempt at having a global carbon trading ‘market’ or the futile attempts at trying to get another Kyoto agreement on greenhouse gases. Going to Church to pray will likely have more of a positive overall impact than either of these.

Scruton makes an interesting point that we must recognise the difference between a religion directed towards salvation (which tends to ignore the environment), and a religion focused on the immediate presence of the sacred, as this is revealed in the here and now. The two may of course be combined, but are clearly different as motives. A care for sacred places is an obstacle to destruction of the environment, and Scruton’s argument is that care for sacred places is part of the domestication of religion. This means attaching the Christian faith to local saints, shrines, towns and civic ceremonies, even the law of a nation. This personalising of our connection to the environment is of course lost through rampant consumerism and the extremes of individualism. 

In the meantime, our sacristy in Blackfriars has an infestation of flies which will be duly sprayed with chemicals so we can get on with our preaching.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

Titian, Christ Carrying the Cross (c.1565)
When we pray the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery we bring to mind our Lord's anguish and pain as he carried the weight of our sins on the cross, knowing the greater sacrifice that awaited him on the summit of Calvary.

Recalling our Lord's act leaves us feeling humbled, contrite but encouraged by his overwhelming love for us, His children. Our cross is light to bear, by comparison with Christ's inestimable sacrifice. 

A good intention, therefore, when praying this mystery is to pray for those who are without hope, and feel overburdened. That they may take up their cross and follow Him, for it is only in carrying our cross with love, in faith, and for the hope of the life to come that we find happiness.

– Br Samuel Burke OP


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Could you sponsor the Friars to help train new priests?

Today, four Dominican Friars will take the first steps on a 190-mile trek across England. This is a final plea for sponsors – many men are currently joining our Order, and we urgently need to raise money to fill a gap we have in our funds for training them.

So far we have reached 76% of our sponsorship target - £15,196 out of £20,000. Could you help us get closer to our goal?


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Monday, July 21, 2014

Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns

Mantegna, 'Ecce homo' (1500)
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

These words of Jesus hanging on the Cross reveal a profound truth about the present scene of his crowning with thorns. What must have pained our Lord above all is the knowledge that his own people, these sons and daughters of God, were tormenting him to death without knowing his true identity or the depth of his love for them. The worst pains we suffer are inflicted by those we love.

All the Sorrowful Mysteries invite us to weep for Jesus, in his terrible sufferings, but also to weep with Jesus. As the unruly crowd calls for his blood and looks on at this scourged and bleeding man – Ecce homo! Behold the man! – our Lord is silently looking back at them and loving them. He is grieving not for his own pains, but for the sins of his beloved people who have turned against him.

So it is not just the sheer cruelty that makes me want to recoil from this scene. It is also the dramatic, even tragic, irony of it all. The Roman soldiers are mocking Christ and, specifically, his claim to kingship. They have wrapped him in a robe of royalty, put a pathetic stick of authority in his hand, and a twisted crown of thorns on his head. I wince at the thought of those thorns – superfluous, barbaric cruelty. And this cruelty exacerbates the fact that the mockery is totally unjustified: for Christ is just, Christ is innocent, and Christ is king. He is true man – 'a man of sufferings and acquainted with grief' – and also true God, the God who looks upon us with infinite love despite our sins.

It is good to pray this mystery for all those in authority, for those suffering persecution or torture, and for those who do not recognise Christ as king.


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