Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Lord's Prayer: Thy Kingdom come

In this part of the Our Father we echo that well known invocation Marana tha - Come, Lord Jesus. This is because when we pray for the coming of the Kingdom, we also pray for the coming of its Sovereign, Jesus. 
Fra' Angelico, Christ's Glorified in the Court of Heaven

In another sense, according to St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine, the “kingdom” is eternal life. We look forward to obtaining and sharing in eternal happiness. As Our Lord later says in the Gospel of Matthew, “Come, O blessed of my father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” [Mt 25:24]. In saying the words, “thy kingdom come”, therefore, we are making a statement of faith of the world to come.

Further, St. Thomas Aquinas notes, we can think of these words as asking for the Lord to reign over us: “for when we serve justice, then God reigns, but when we serve sin, the devil does: let no sin reign in your body, (Rom 6:12); they have not rejected you but me, from reigning over them (1 Sam 8:7).” So, on this understanding, we are asking the Lord make us his agents, to reign in our heart in order that we act with charity and in accordance with the God’s law;  in order that we may do justice rather than evil.

Of course, these three ways of reading the words are closely connected. If we synthesise what we have said already, we could say that we invoke God’s blessings for the present, serve justice through the practice of charity and avoidance of evil, all that we do all of this in the hope of gaining a place in heaven.

As far as summaries of the Christian life go, that’s not bad in three words! Then again, one shouldn’t be surprised - they are Jesus’s words after all! 

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Godzdogz Team 2014-15

The Godzdogz Team, 2014-15

We are pleased that the Dominican community at Blackfriars has grown to 27 this year. The Godzdogz Team (i.e. the student brothers) is larger thanks to new vocations in the English Province. Earlier this month, Brothers Joseph Bailham OP and Christopher Pierce OP began their studies in the Blackfriars Studium, having made Simple Profession in Cambridge.

We also welcomed Br Richard Steenvoorde OP, who recently made Simple Profession in Zwolle for the Province of the Netherlands, having completed his novitiate in Cambridge. Br Jean-Baptiste Régis OP joined us from the Province of France, having made his Solemn Profession in Lille last month, and will study in Oxford for the next two years. From Poland, Br Mateusz Grzelczak OP has come for a year to continue his studies.

We also have more priests in the community. Fr Irenaeus Vincent OP has moved from London to continue his Doctoral studies. There are three priests from the Province of St Joseph (USA), two of whom are on sabbatical: Fr Albert Paretsky OP, Biblical scholar, and Fr Thomas Joseph White OP, director of the Thomistic Institute at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington. Fr Gregory Schnakenberg OP has begun a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford.

Deo gratias.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Dominican Priories: Oxford (Blackfriars Hall)

The plaque on the outside of Blackfriars highlighting its existence as a Priory, a Studium, and a Hall of the University

In a previous post, Br Oliver explained how Blackfriars in Oxford exists as a Priory, as well as a home to the Studium. Blackfriars is also home to Blackfriars Hall, which is a Permanent Private Hall (PPH) of the University of Oxford. Like the more familiar colleges of Oxford, such as Christ Church and New College, Blackfriars Hall can admit students for degrees from the University. PPHs are generally much smaller than colleges both in physical size and number of personnel, and tend to have a more religious character.

Blackfriars Hall was established in 1994 on 1st January. We Dominicans were involved in the life of the University long before this date (though admittedly with a substantial hiatus in between; but that was not our fault!). After our first priory in Oxford was established in 1221, Dominicans very quickly took up high-ranking positions within the University's theology faculty. 

The Aula at Blackfriars, which is where most lectures take place

The Hall offers an intimate and friendly academic setting for mature undergraduate and postgraduate students, who have the unique opportunity to be taught, particularly in the case of theology and philosophy students, by the brethren, and to study alongside the student friars, as well as the other religious and non-religious students in formation as part of the Studium. 

Before being accepted by the Dominicans, I was a postgraduate student in the Hall reading for my Master's in theology. It was a period in which I was privileged to have had the opportunity to get to know the brethren better and to see a little closer the life they lived, which without question contributed to my wanting to be a Dominican friar. The Hall serves as a special bridge between the religious world of the friars and the secular environment of a modern university, thus existing as a very unique and important form of outreach for us as friars in the English context.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Lord's Prayer: Hallowed be thy name

A Dominican friend from Panama suggested to me that the English translation of the Our Father is the worst of all of the modern languages. I have always disagreed with him, until pondering the use of ‘hallowed be thy name’ in the Lord’s prayer. How often do we ever hear the word ‘hallowed’ used in any other context than the Our Father? Hallowed is a strange word sounding a bit like like ‘halloween’ but not really having much other use than here in the Our Father. I would translate the Latin text ‘sanctificetur nomen tuum’ into English as ‘sacred is your name’ or perhaps ‘your name is most holy and sacred’. When we pray to God, perhaps no language can express the magnitude of sacredness and holiness of God.

In a letter to Proba by St Augustine, he ponders the purpose of praying. If the Lord knows what we need before we ask for it, then what is the point of approaching God who is all-knowing (omniscient) and omnipotent? If God knows what we want, what we need and can provide then do we really need to ask in the first place? This uber-sacredness of God, His hallowed name, is highlighted by St Augustine, who teaches that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (as he cannot fail to know this), but instead wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told, Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers. The deeper our faith, stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the greater our capacity will be to receive that gift.

Just as sacredness or ‘hallowed-ness’ is difficult to imagine or perceive, it requires effort to remember just who and what God is. God is the highest of all that is sacred and holy, and the way for us to obtain a life of happiness in eternity. St Augustine reminds us that we are limited, but we can grow in our capacity to receive the gift of a life of happiness, through prayer. Yes, our understanding of the sacred is limited, but what we can do is try our best to have the sacred be exactly that. Sacred liturgy, music and artwork in our churches help direct us to the Almighty. The hallowed nature of Catholic churches needs to be maintained and promoted as being something that is not disposable, everyday or open to unthinking reform. This is partly why I despise some of the tacky and banal Church architecture of the mid to late 20th century. Such buildings do not represent hallowed ground or the sacred, they just look like some concrete community centre. Catholicism means turning our lives to God rather than selling out to worldly pursuits. We are taught to build up virtues that will serve us for life, rather than believing money will give us permanent happiness. To paraphrase Frank Underwood in the US series House of Cards, “Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after ten years.” Hallowed is the old stone building that stands for centuries.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Father: Who Art in Heaven

How close is Our Father to us? It is a common experience in prayer, and in the spiritual life generally, to feel a great distance between God and us. This 'hole' in our spiritual life can be perplexing and painful, and sometimes it can lead us towards a despair, a fear that our God is not a God who loves us.

We cannot avoid this despair by denying that there is, in a sense, a distance between God and us. Indeed recognition of this reality is present in the prayer Our Lord taught us. Jesus reminds us that our Father is in Heaven whereas we are here on earth, a place where God's will is often rejected by those upon it.

How then can we make sense of this distance between God and us? Firstly we can continue to pray the Our Father! As we move through the prayer we remember that it is fitting that we should find the distance between God and us perplexing: we are not made for this world - we look forward to the kingdom. However, we can also look to the one who taught us the prayer.
As St. John wrote in his gospel 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not die but have everlasting life.' It is God who bridges the gap between Heaven and earth, he is the one who came down from heaven to raise us up.

Thus, when we feel our painful separation from God we can meditate confidently over these words:

Our Father who art in Heaven, who came down to us to bring us back to you.
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dominican Priories: London

The Priory of Our Holy Father St. Dominic in Haverstock Hill, London, is the base of a vibrant and diverse preaching apostolate of the dozen or so Friars assigned there.
Attached to the priory is the Parish Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Dominic, serving the local communities of Gospel Oak, Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm and Belsize Park. The parish includes some of the most economically deprived areas in the country. The Church building is one of the largest in London. It runs 200 ft long, 80 ft wide and 100 ft high, and, as such, stands as a significant landmark for the surrounding area. 

Interior of St. Dominic's Church, looking down the nave
In 1862, the Dominicans purchased three acres of land in obedience to Cardinal Wiseman’s request that religious orders establish missionary foundations in London to serve the growing number of Irish migrants. The foundation stone of the church was laid the following August according to Gothic designs by Gilbert Blout. He died during construction in 1876 and the mantle was passed to a new architect, Charles Buckler. Buckler, a convert to the Catholic faith, had the advantage of having no fewer than three brothers who joined the Order and oversaw the remaining construction whilst making some significant alterations to the original plan. His revisions drew inspiration from Dominican churches in the Low Countries. After twenty years in the making, the vast church was consecrated in 1883 by which time his brother, Fr. Albert Buckler OP, was Prior. One of a number of impressive features of the Church is the side chapels around the perimeter, dedicated to the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary and paid for by local benefactors. Charles Buckler, the architect, paid for the Chapel of the Annunciation out of his own pocket - a token that demonstrates the fondness he clearly had for his great work.

Chapel of the Annunciation, St. Dominic's Church

Today, the parish is thriving. In addition to the provision of the sacraments, our ministry includes  pastoral work, and providing other opportunities for prayer and study. The parish also serves two primary schools, St. Dominic's and The Rosary School  The current Prior of the community, Fr. Timothy Calvert OP, also serves as Parish Priest - a task in which he is assisted by two of our former contributors, Fr. Gregory Pearson OP, and the newly ordained, Fr. Nicholas Crowe OP, amongst others. You may also recall that St. Dominic's hosted our Studentate Parish Mission, Pray 4, last year, which was a resounding success.

St. Dominic's Priory
Aside from Parish ministry, other brothers carry out their preaching mission in hospital chaplaincy at University College Hospital, and the nearby Royal Free Hospital; university chaplaincy at Imperial College (a position which our brother, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe OP, once held); school teaching and chaplaincy; and in studying towards postgraduate degrees. 

Our London priory has been the home of several notable Dominicans who have lived in our the Priory include Fr. Bede Jarrett OP, Fr. Vincent McNabb OP, Fr. [John Dominic] Alan Cheales OP, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, and St. Dominic's is also the home of the present Prior Provincial, Fr. John Farrell OP.

On a more personal note, St. Dominic’s is one of the places where I came to know the Order. My housemates and I would rise early and get the number 46 bus from Grays Inn Road up to Southampton Road for the 7.30am Mass. I was always amazed at the edifying homilies given before sunrise. Apparently Friars at St. Dominic's eat Weetabix for breakfast! It was often on the bus back saying the Rosary that I prayed about my vocation. I will be forever indebted to the Church and community of St. Dominic’s for assisting me in the discernment of my vocation.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Our Father"

It is an act of audacity to call God ‘Our Father’. Although God as creator is in a sense ‘Father’ of the whole world that proceeds forth from his creative word, we can claim no natural right to address Him in the intimate and familial way in which the fatherhood of the Pater Noster speaks. It rolls off the tongue as perhaps the first prayer we memorise as children, but we only dare to make it our own because we have first been authorised and commanded to do so by Jesus Christ, who is the personal revelation of the Father in our world. To address God with such filial boldness is an act of fidelity to Christ, who instructed the disciples to pray in this way in response to their recognition of dependence and insufficiency. The Lord whom they seek is already the one who causes their seeking, and it is in response to their petition (itself already a prayer)—“Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1)—that Jesus teaches them the Our Father as an invitation into his own prayer life, a route into that communion which alone fulfils their deepest desires, the Son’s own relationship to God the Father.

The ‘Fatherhood’ which the Our Father speaks of is, therefore, not a generic image of Fatherhood, but the specific Trinitarian relationship of the Father and the Son, into which we are granted participation by the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Aquinas speaks of the words ‘Our Father’ as a nutshell summary of the entire Christian faith, words which cannot be uttered authentically without faith in the Triune God and the incarnation of the Son. Yet if they are a summary of the authentic doctrine of the faith, they are also a summary of the essential attitude and emotional disposition of Christian prayer (which Aquinas sees as the “interpreter of desire”): by addressing God as Father, we place ourselves in joyful obedience, humbly recognising the wonder of our own being and resting in the simple assurance of being loved into existence and loved into new life in Christ.

To pray Our Father, then, is part of our baptismal vocation. It is something given to us in that moment when we receive faith and are re-born anew by engrafting into Christ. It is not only because the Son alone can address the Father as ‘my Father’ that it is given to us to pray in the plural to Our Father, but also because our re-birth into the Son’s relationship to the Father is also the moment of our entry into the Church as the community of faith. For Christians, to be most fully a person is almost the opposite of being an ‘individual’. Baptism radically de-individualises us by drawing us into the communion of the Church, and the Christian always prays as a member of the Church, even when they do so in private. To pray Our Father is a reminder that we cannot ‘go it alone’, that wherever we go our connection to Christ and his Church abides, for we have been made an irreplaceable part of something bigger than ourselves upon which we depend for our own innermost identity. It is, therefore, most fitting that we pray Our Father at each celebration of Holy Mass, as the people of God are gathered—with the angels and saints—around the Eucharistic Lord, in anticipation of the Kingdom to come.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Our Father: a new commentary on the Lord's Prayer

It is not always easy to find the right words to pray. This was the problem facing Jesus's own disciples, when they said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples' (Lk 11:1). St Paul also recognised the difficulty, saying that 'we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words' (Rom 8:26).

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray
in the Sermon on the Mount
It is a great blessing and a grace, then, that God has provided good words to use. Like a parent teaching a child to speak, to enlarge its vocabulary and say new things, God gives us new ways of sharing with him the deepest longings of our heart. The Scriptures are a useful place to find prayers and hymns which we can make our own, not least the Psalms, which form the backbone of the Church's public prayer in the Divine Office.

But the best prayer of all, because it comes straight from Jesus Christ in response to his disciples' request, is undoubtedly the Lord's Prayer, better known as the Our Father (cf. Mt 6:9-13; Lk 11:1-4. This is a prayer for all times and seasons, for all situations, and for all people. Above all, it draws us into the prayer of Christ himself, because we address (as he did) our prayers to our loving Father in heaven.

In this new series on Godzdogz, we hope to explore the rich spiritual and theological meanings of the Lord's Prayer. This is a prayer dear to countless generations of Christians before us, and it should be frequently on our lips. In commenting on the meaning of each phrase, our aim is to achieve a deeper understanding which will in turn deepen our prayer, through the Son, in the Spirit, to the Father.

Our Father, 
who art in heaven, 
hallowed be thy Name; 
thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread, 
and forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us; 
and lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil. 

For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dominican Priories: Edinburgh

St Albert's Priory as viewed from George Square
The Edinburgh Priory was first founded about 1230-1, in the reign of King Alexander II. The Priory was subsequently destroyed in 1559, during the reformation. The Priory was re-founded in 1931, when the English Province of the Order of Preachers acquired No 24 George Square in Edinburgh, thanks to the generosity of founding benefactors, Canon John Gray, Marc-André Sebastien Raffalovich, and Mrs Charlotte M Tytus (a trio of donors who each led fascinating lives, the former two Catholic converts and the latter also the purchaser of the site of the current Oxford Priory for the Order).

So, after an absence of almost 400 years, the Dominican friars were back, and at the invitation of Archbishop Andrew Thomas Joseph McDonald OSB, they established a Catholic Chaplaincy for the students and staff of Edinburgh University. From the beginning, the Georgian town house at 24 George Square was thought to be ideal for a new chaplaincy centre because it boasted what was reputedly "the largest drawing room in Edinburgh", and this first-floor room, with an apse-like bay window, served as the chapel of the priory and chaplaincy until 2012.

Despite such a large drawing room, from an early stage it was, understandably, the hope that a purpose-built chapel might be built at some point. However, these plans were a long time in the realisation. For many years the best was made of a less-than-ideal situation. Indeed, prior to the Second Vatican Council, the furnishings of the chapel would not have looked out of place in a minor basilica. However, in the last decade the current set-up was starting to become untenable. The chapel had just become too small for the number of Mass-goers, and furthermore there was no disabled access.

The Chapel in the drawing room

It was thus with great joy that after a significant fundraising campaign, on 15 August 2012, precisely 781 years after the first Dominican priory opened in Edinburgh, the new chapel of St Albert the Great was dedicated by the Archbishop. Whilst it was a long wait it has been worth it, and the Priory’s garden is now home to one of the finest modern chapels in the country; a fact recognised by numerous architectural awards, but more importantly the number of people who wander in from the meadows to sit in the chapel and pray during the day, as well as the appreciation of the regular congregations.

The new Chapel in the garden with Nativity Scene
From 1981 to 1999 Edinburgh was also home to the Novitiate of the English Province and most of the current office holders in the Province completed their novitiates there, before it moved to Cambridge. A full list of all the friars who have formed the community in Edinburgh is available here:

The Priory hosts four busy Masses on a Sunday in its role as the Parish of the University as well as two daily Masses during term term-time (one outside) and public celebration of Lauds and Vespers each day.

Preaching at the Student Mass

Running the university chaplaincies is the major apostolate of the house and it is currently thriving. As well as acting as a home from home for students, the Chaplaincy, most crucially, is a centre dedicated to forming people in the Faith for the world, today and tomorrow. The Student Mass on a Sunday evening is preceded by half an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the new Chapel (built as large as planning permission would allow) is standing room only with around 140 students in attendance. The liturgy is beautifully celebrated and this is a greatly assisted by the excellent student-run choir. After this Mass there is well-attended social event in the Student’s Common Room located on the ground floor of the Priory. The Common Room has a well-stocked library for the students as well as a kitchen, and is much appreciated place for socialising throughout the week. 

Students prepare the midweek meal

One of the most impressive features of the Chaplaincy is the level of involvement beyond the Sunday obligation. On average there are around twenty students at Morning Prayer each day who then have their breakfast in the Common Room before heading off to lectures, the library, or back to bed. Lunchtime Mass is also well attended and a meat-free jacket potato lunch is held each Friday. As well as Mass and the Divine Office, there is also a student-cooked meal each Wednesday night and Bible study, or other catechesis, is a feature of many other nights of the week as well various other socials.

Some students and friars on Arthur's Seat

The students and the friars also have good links with the local convent of St Catherine. This convent run by the Mercy Sisters plays a key part in the provision of food for the homeless in Edinburgh, along with other services:

Other student activities include Cups of Compassion, another initiative with the homeless, as well as a recently founded Scout Group which is part of the Scouts of Europe – a Catholic movement. There is also a vibrant pro-life society open to members of all religions and none, but in which the Catholic students play an integral part:

Not only do the friars minister to the spiritual needs of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University, but they have also have also provided a Rector to the University of Edinburgh and Fellows of the Faculty of Divinity. In addition the friars are also on-call chaplains for the local hospital.

Choir practice

The Priory also plays host to the recently founded Albertus Institute, which aims to contribute to the contemporary discussion between religion, the sciences and other intellectual disciplines. The Institute encourages public debate in this area by sharing the Christian, and in particular the Catholic, view in an open and welcoming way and by listening to other points of view in the same spirit. The Institute provides a platform for this debate through public lectures, seminars and conferences. As the work of the Institute develops, its website will provide access to various resources such as lecture materials, podcasts, discussion points and more. The next conference which it is hosting is on Faith and Cosmology:

Like most of the other houses of the Province, the Priory also hosts the local Lay Dominican chapter:

Last, but not least the Priory is home to two cats, one of whom can lay claim to being Edinburgh’s most famous cat. Unlike the friars, and despite permanently wearing his black and white habit, he is not particularly evangelical and keeps his Dominican name and identity secret. However, appropriately enough for a Dominican cat, he is often to be found in the University Library philosophising, where he goes by the name of Library Cat. Perhaps to the chagrin of those who provide a home and food to him, his facebook page has more followers than any other member of the Priory:

All that philosophy can be thirsty work

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dominican Priories: Oxford

“At the University of Oxford where I am presently staying, Our Lord has given [us] the promise of a great catch…” These words of the year 1230, written by Jordan of Saxony—St. Dominic’s first successor as Master of the Order—could just have well been written by his 84th Successor, fr Timothy Radcliffe, a member of today’s Dominican community in Oxford. By the time of Jordan’s visit, the brethren had been settled in Oxford for nine years and were already looking to build a larger house to replace the one they’d established on 15th August 1221. ‘Friar Fever’ had swept the city, with many new recruits signing up. John of St Giles was so overcome by fervour that in the middle of a sermon he was preaching on poverty, he was clothed in the habit. His biographer notes that he eschewed much more lucrative work to lecture in the Blackfriars Studium (plus ça change).

It was St. Dominic himself who sent the brothers to England, and who gave explicit instructions that they should settle in Oxford first. On 6th August, the day of Dominic’s death, the brothers had presented themselves to the Primate at Canterbury; by August 10th they were passing through the seat of royal power at London. It was with some haste, however, that they made their way to their final destination of Oxford, already the country’s intellectual capital. It was here that the then highly innovative Dominican way of life was established at the heart of the nascent University, preaching the Gospel of Our Lord to the opinion formers of their time. In time, three of the friars would become Chancellors of the University, including John Bromyard OP, who holds the unique distinction of having been both Chancellor of Oxford and a more modern University situated the other side of Milton Keynes (excuse the anachronism). The brethren’s work was, of course, not limited to a narrow intellectual and liturgical apostolate: by 1250, Dominicans had established a reputation as defenders of the marginalised (particularly the Jews); by 1246 Oxford was designated by the Order as an international study house, a studium generale that attracted brethren from across Europe. We were welcoming international students to Oxford long before anyone else.

Writing in 1662, Anthony Wood tells us that “there was not so much as one stone to give testimony to the world that so famous a place as the college of the Dominicans of Oxon was there once standing”. There remains nothing of our first priory, and no monument or plaque records where it stood; the remnants of the second are not worth writing home about, although the names of some roads hint towards its presence. But the pains and divisions of this sad interruption to our Dominican life in Oxford need not be dwelt upon here, save to pray that we learn the lessons of the past. The inscription above the gate to the third and current Blackfriars reads, “[h]aving returned after a long exile, the Friars Preachers, established this second new convent on 15th August 1921, the same date that the former was founded in the year of Our Lord 1221”. This return was made possible by the vision of then provincial Fr Bede Jarrett OP and the generosity of an American widow, Mrs Charlotte Jefferson Tytus. The innocuous gate on St Giles conceals a unique three-fold institution—Dominican Priory, Oxford University Hall, Studium Generale—and a community of prayer and study, dedicated to preaching at the heart of the University and in service of the townsfolk. As well as study, brothers are engaged in apostolates across the University and town; the twenty-seven current members of the Blackfriars of today are conscious of the past, grateful for the way of life that has been bequeathed to us by our elder brothers, and yet convinced that the faithful proclamation of the Gospel is as essential in the University of the future as it is throughout the world of today. “Not so much as one stone”?!

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dominican Priories: Durham

St Cuthbert's Catholic Church, Old Elvet, Durham

We begin our series on Dominican Priories with the newest and smallest house in the English Province: St Cuthbert's in Durham. Erected on 28 September 2012, with fr. Benjamin Earl OP as Vicar, this is a Filial House of the Newcastle Priory, meaning that the two houses form one single Dominican community. The brethren meet regularly in order to foster these bonds, even when their pastoral work keeps them busy in different places and apostolates.

Durham Cathedral seen from Old Elvet

St Cuthbert's, of course, is named after the great monk-saint whose shrine is found at the high altar of the magnificent Durham Cathedral. The relics of King St Oswald and Saint Bede the Venerable, the finest scholar of his generation and a Doctor of the Church, are also in the Cathedral. St Cuthbert's Catholic Church is located on Old Elvet, one of the more ancient parts of the city and a centre of Catholic activity even in the periods of state persecution, which led to several martyrdoms. By the 17th century, Jesuits were running a chapel in this area, and in the 19th century it was possible for the first Catholic church since the Reformation to be built here, replacing the two Elvet Chapels.

The Venerable Bede, in the Canon Brown window by Harry Clarke (1931)

Today, St Cuthbert's also houses the Durham University Catholic Chaplaincy. It is well situated near the University buildings, especially the Students' Union. The pastoral opportunities and the intellectual climate (Durham University is home to the Centre for Catholic Studies) make this a natural environment for Dominicans, as chaplains, teachers or students in theology.

Members of Durham University CathSoc with the Chaplain

The house has space for up to four brothers, having a more domestic feel than our large priories elsewhere. But this is enough to sustain an active religious life, including the daily singing of the Divine Office. There is daily Mass and Office, as well as regular Adoration and Confession, and a packed Student Mass at 6.30pm on Sundays for which there is a growing student choir.

Mass with the Bishop

The Chaplaincy has space for study and socialising, to which students can have access. The CathSoc organises a varied programme of events throughout term, including CathSoc Night on Wednesdays, billed as "the best night in in Durham!" A high proportion of Catholic students participate in some way or other in the life of the Chaplaincy, and there is no doubt that they and the parish benefit from their symbiotic link. St Cuthbert's in Durham may be our newest house but it must be one of the most dynamic.

Pope Francis photobombs the CathSoc selfie
You can find more information on the relevant websites:
Parish websites:
University Chaplaincy:
Centre for Catholic Studies, Durham University:
Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle:

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 13, 2014

Academic Mass 2014

The start of the academic year was marked by a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit and Vespers celebrated by the Regent of Studies, Fr. Simon Gaine OP. We prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill us with wisdom and understanding; to sustain us in our desire for knowledge and love of God's truth, and of one another. The occasion was a wonderful opportunity to come together as a community of students and teachers in order to consecrate the work of the term ahead to God.

After Mass, Dinner was served in the refectory and the brethren were able to meet our new students, and catch up with older friends.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, October 11, 2014

DYM Study Day: Science vs Religion?

Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dominican Priories: a new series on Godzdogz

The Priory of the Holy Spirit, Oxford

Where will you be sent after you're ordained?

As Dominican brothers studying for the priesthood in Oxford, we often get asked this question. The ultimate answer is: 'Anywhere in the world!'

When a man is clothed in the habit of St Dominic and becomes a Dominican friar, he immediately finds himself a member of a global Order, an international brotherhood. Indeed, as a member of the Dominican Family he also discovers he has many sisters and brothers in all its branches. As a friar preacher, his obedience is owed to the Master of the Order, presently fr Bruno Cadoré OP, who can assign him to any house or mission run by friars, anywhere in the world.

But the new Dominican also becomes a son of a particular Province. In our case, the student brothers at Godzdogz are generally sons of the English Province, but we also have among our number student brothers from other Provinces. A Province is composed of various communities, called priories and houses, and is an important level of governance for the strategic planning of our mission. The Prior Provincial is the 'ordinary' superior, who assigns brethren to a particular place according to both the needs of the mission and their particular capabilities.

The Master with the Godzdogz team last year

There is normally a process of discussion between each brother and the Provincial, to discern where that brother might be maximally useful. But, in the final analysis, religious obedience means we have to go where we are sent! And rightly so. We might think that we desperately want to be assigned to one place, only to find that a different assignment makes us flourish in ways we had not imagined. After experiencing this very situation, an older and wiser Dominican brother told me: 'God does not give us what we want; he gives us what we need!'

In practice, we are likely to be assigned within our own Province. That means, for the English Province today, there are several places where we might go: London, Cambridge, Leicester, Durham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the West Indies – not counting Oxford, where we might return on a future assignment.

In this new series, we would like to introduce you to these different priories and houses, offering a bit of historical context but focusing mainly on our present apostolates, with the challenges and opportunities they entail. At one level these are just our homes, where we happen to live; but the way we live together, and the things we do in and from these places, all contribute to our mission to preach the Gospel.

So, as our medieval brethren put it, the priory itself becomes a praedicatio, a preaching of the Gospel!

The Priory of St Albert the Great, Edinburgh

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Rosary: Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is an apposite day on which to conclude our series on the Rosary. The series has focused on the cycles and prayers of the Rosary in which we have seen the richness and depth of this devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as its ultimate Christological character.

This is a special feast for Dominicans because of the tradition that Our Lady gave the traditional Rosary to St. Dominic. St. Dominic was not the first to use beads as a means of prayer - for example, the practice of saying 150 Our Fathers or the “Paternoster” certainly predated the Rosary. However, the tradition was affirmed by Pope Leo XIII especially and on several occasions, to say nothing of the endorsement of other Popes, besides.

St Dominic de Guzman receiving the Rosary, Federico Barocci, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Given this background, the Dominicans have a special role in promoting this Marian devotion and do so in various ways. One way we promote the Rosary is by personal recitation. After all, it would be useless to promote a devotion that we did not ourselves practise. The Constitutions of the Friars Preachers state "The brothers should recite daily five decades of the rosary in common or in private… This form of prayer leads us to the contemplation of the mystery of salvation in which the Virgin Mary is intimately associated with the work of her Son." [LCO 67]. Of course, we are greatly assisted in this task by the fact that we wear the Rosary as part of our habit! [LCO 50]

Elsewhere in the Constitutions, the importance and value of our devotion to the rosary and its implications is underscored: "The Rosary as a way of contemplating the mysteries of Christ, is a school for developing evangelical life. As such, it is a form of preaching particularly appropriate to our Order, in which the truths of faith are proposed in the light of the blessed Virgin Mary’s participation in the mystery of Christ and the Church. Since the Rosary is a characteristically Dominican devotion, the brothers should fervently preach it, so that it may flourish, and they should promote its societies.” [LCO 129].

Further reading on the meaning and value of the Rosary, together with advice on the way to say it can be found in various Papal documents, including Adiutricem (Leo XIII) , Marialis Cultus (Paul VI), and Rosarium Virginis Mariae (St. John Paul II).

In writing this series, we hope that we have been true to our Dominican heritage and mission, and that some encouragement has been provided to our readers to dedicate themselves to this wonderful devotion.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God – that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Sermon for the Funeral of Fr Bede Bailey OP

Sermon for the Funeral of Fr Bede Bailey OP, 19th August 2014 

by Fr Richard Conrad OP

Readings: Isaiah 25:6-9 and John 6:51-58

With the death of Fr Bede Bailey at the age of 97, we have lost an important link to a key part of our English Dominican history, for Bede was the last surviving Dominican to know, personally, Fr Bede Jarrett, who, as Provincial, brought us back to Oxford and Edinburgh. I presume David Bailey, as he then was, met Fr Bede Jarrett through growing up near Hawkesyard. His mother became a Catholic early on; his father, courageously, did so some years after her, and was instructed by Thomas Gilby. David Bailey was schooled at Ampleforth, but he decided to join the Order of Preachers. That was at the time Fr Bede Jarrett was ill, too ill in fact for David to visit him in hospital. Bede Jarrett died in 1934; David entered the novitiate a year later, and was delighted to “inherit” the earlier Fr Bede’s religious name. This went well with his veneration for what might be called “continuity of line”.

Priory Church of St Dominic, Newcastle, where Fr Bede was Prior in the 1950s

Bede studied at Hawkesyard and Oxford; he was pleased that his “ordination line” took him back to Archbishop Ullathorne and, through him, to the Vicars Apostolic – a precious part of English Catholic history.

Bede’s ordination was followed by a dizzying series of moves, eight in sixteen years. In each place he was assigned, he held several jobs at once. Often he was cantor, owing to his musical voice and, I guess, the feel for the chant he had picked up at Ampleforth. For some of the time he was in Edinburgh where, decades later, he taught the novices to sing, and used to encourage them to “soften their endings” – not always with success.

The job of guest-master was also often undertaken by Bede, going well with his sense of hospitality – and with his skill at being “conversible”. When I was in Edinburgh with him, I noticed that if he was away we didn’t always know what to talk about at supper, whereas when he was present there were no embarrassing silences.

Bede also had a pastoral streak: he was often assigned roles such as curate or air-force chaplain – and (in those early years and later) he was sometimes chaplain to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He had a real concern for the poor: when he was Prior in Newcastle he was proud that the men’s club in the parish had good, and cheap, beer; and he was assiduous in visiting the poor.

During a short time in Oxford around 1948, Bede worked with Conrad Pepler for Blackfriars Publications, and, because of Conrad’s Ditchling connections, I’m sure this helped develop Bede’s interest in Eric Gill and David Jones. But his interest in the work of these craftsmen would also have struck a family chord, for Bede’s father had been managing director of Royal Doulton.

At that same period, Leonard Boyle was a student in Oxford, and remembered later how easy it was to tease Bede, who was rather solemn, and very English.

When I was Prior in Cambridge in the early 90s, Bede visited and complained, “When I was young I had to kow-tow to the old, and now I am old I have to kow-tow to the young.” But he glossed over the middle period of his life, when he made something of a career of being Prior himself in various places! – though I am not sure to what extent people did kow-tow to him, given that he always seemed to have to take on himself several jobs he should have been able to delegate.

This phase of Bede’s ministry began in 1956, when he became Prior of Newcastle; he held that post for six years. After two years as parish priest in Woodchester, he was Prior in Oxford for three years. Then after three years as university chaplain in Leicester he was Prior there for three years. He spent two years as chaplain to the Dominican nuns in Carisbrooke, then returned to Newcastle as curate and after two years was elected Prior there again.

It was in 1965, when he was Prior of Oxford, that Bede became Archivist of the Province. He was given two shoe-boxes of materials, and set himself to build up the archives. He was not trained as an archivist – he used to boast that he only had two letters after his name, O.P., and none of these pretentious doctorates – but several publications emerged from his time as Archivist, notably the entry on Gerald Vann in the great Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, and of course the letters and other papers of Bede Jarrett that he selected for publication in “Dominican Sources in English”. Bede had a profound interest in our heritage, and a passion for its preservation. His time as Archivist began traumatically: we had closed our novitiate house at Woodchester, and a certain brother sold off a great deal of the library, including some rare books that were very valuable for our history. Bede tried, without much success, to recover some of them, and years later was still trying to make good some of the gaps. He went to Rome once or twice around 1990 to obtain replacements for some items, and was received kindly, but was much distressed at the state of the library in our mother-house at Santa Sabina: “The library,” he wrote, “is in a most disgraceful state, and is used more by the [book]worms than by the brethren.”

After his final three years as Prior in Newcastle, Bede returned to Carisbrooke. I visited the nuns there a couple of times, and put up some extra shelves for the archives. There were two friars living there: Bede – and the brother who had dispersed the Woodchester library! I was amazed at how kind and solicitous Bede was to the older brother, despite what had happened. He could be critical, he could recognise mistakes and injustices; with a deft turn of phrase he could sum up people’s foibles (he sometimes referred to the Provincial Council as “that quango”) – but he was also aware of the need to forgive, and to put the past into the past. When he was around 75, he wrote about the importance of “denying oneself the right of disappointment even for five minutes or so,” and about how brooding can destroy one’s obedience to the brethren – and can even destroy oneself in some degree.

When Carisbrooke closed, Bede and the archives moved to Edinburgh. He filled a huge basement with material relevant to our history, to the context of our history, and illustrative of our influence.

Bede’s interest in our past went with an interest in people – a wide-ranging, and largely non-judgmental interest, an attitude which also made him a very kind confessor. All sorts of people came to visit Bede and the archives.

Of course Bede was upset by things like betrayal of confidence, and by the Order’s failures to appreciate and cherish its past and the people who were important to it, notably David Jones. He was (rightly) angered by stupidities and injustices in the Church. It was notable that along with his interest in the past, he was in many ways forward-looking. He was struck by the work of Conrad Pepler at Spode House, and how this prepared English Catholics for Vatican II. Bede was aware that many old rigidities and fussy rules would have to go – I guess he saw them as unnecessary, un-Dominican, un-English. His three years as Prior of Oxford, 1964-67, were rather traumatic, and I am not sure he ever referred back to them.

Bede was also interested in ecumenism, and when he was in Oxford set up some joint lectures with Pusey House. Later he invited Michael Ramsey to lecture in Newcastle. Bede was himself a visiting lecturer for a term at Lincoln Theological College.

In 1996, at the Diamond Jubilee celebration that Bede shared with Columba Ryan and Bernard Jarvis, Malcolm, then Provincial, spoke of the determination that had kept them faithful for 60 years, a determination born of love of the brethren, love of the project set for us by St. Dominic, and above all love of the Divine Word whom we have to preach. That determination kept Bede faithful during tough periods. But a few years earlier he had written, “I am quite convinced that I have been given more happiness by the Order ... than most people in life experience, and I am happy and hope to help in other people being happy… our province is blessed more than most in that. On the whole we don’t seem to bicker.” Then he added, “One has to prepare for old age just as one has to prepare all the time for dying, and dying happy.” That fits with a story Bede sometimes told of a renowned monk and teacher at Ampleforth, who was asked what he was concerned to impart to the young, and replied, “I prepare them for death.”

Almost exactly 10 years ago, Bede reported that his doctor had said he might live another ten years – “A prospect that does not fill me with enthusiasm.” But he was given all of 97 years. I feel that the last eight or so of them were years of waiting, in the spirit of our first Reading: “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.” So we pray that Bede will “be glad and rejoice in [God’s] salvation.”

A great deal of Bede’s ministry was of course sacramental, and he had a profound sense of the power of the Sacraments. He once remarked to me that if we had to choose between keeping Mass going without preaching, or keeping preaching going without Mass, the Mass would do more to build up the Church. It is that Eucharistic Sacrifice that we now offer for the repose of his soul, that Eucharist which, as we heard in the Gospel reading, is the pledge and cause of the final resurrection. Here, the Word who became flesh still lives among us, to impart grace and love. This grace and love must “take flesh” in the fabric of our lives and relationships, in our historical “locatedness”. Bede could see how grace and love “took flesh” in the lives of real people, not bypassing their characters and their connections, their strengths and their foibles. He could see how grace and love had to “take flesh” in the life of the Province, the Order and the Church – and often had to empower the forgiveness of mistakes, betrayal, injustice, enabling us to build for the future rather than brood on past hurts. We saw grace and love “take flesh” in Bede’s own life and ministry, not bypassing his own talents and foibles. So we pray that God “who began the good work in” him, may “bring it to completion in the Day of [our Lord] Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Rosary: Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen)

The Salve Regina is a fitting way to end the Rosary as it provides a summary of the entire prayer. Having meditated on the mysteries of Jesus Christ – joyful, sorrowful, glorious, luminous – through the eyes of Mary his mother, we turn to her with a final request: look kindly on us in all our difficulties, and bring us home to Jesus.

In the prayer, we call Mary 'Queen' (or 'Holy Queen') after her coronation in heaven, celebrated in the Fifth Glorious Mystery, and greet her with appropriate titles and affectionate praises. What follows is a string of expressions of our great distress and our cry for help. We confidently ask Mary our Queen to show us the same loving compassion that she has always shown to the world, from the moment she said 'yes' to God at the Annunciation, to the darkest hour of her suffering with her Son at the foot of the Cross, and now in her ongoing intercession among all the Saints in glory.

Although the phrases about this 'vale our tears', our 'exile' and being 'banished' may seem very dark and depressing, the Salve is actually a prayer of confident hope, a hymn of rescue from all our difficulties. The Rosary has so often been used by Christians in their times of greatest need, and the Salve gives powerful expression to this. This point is more poignant when we consider that the prayer and its music were probably composed by Blessed Hermann 'Contractus' von Reichenau, a polymath monk who overcame enormous obstacles as a man severely disabled from birth (hence 'Contractus'). In his monastic community he flourished as a man of many talents, from theology, languages and history to music, mathematics and astronomy. He must have known many trials in his short life (only 40 years) but turned these into a greater depth of devotion, so that it remains ever fresh and relevant in our own time.

The Salve is very important for Dominicans in particular. In about 1221, we began the tradition of singing it after Compline in procession, as the last prayer of the day. Dominicans can also use the Salve after Compline throughout the year, instead of switching to the other three anthems, Alma Mater, Regina Caeli, and Redemptoris Mater. At the end of the day, so also at the end of our life: we sing the Salve at the bedside of a dying Dominican and at their funeral. At all times, we trust that Mary will look kindly on us in all our difficulties, and bring us home to Jesus.

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ, 
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. 
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ, 
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. 
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte; 
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. 
O clemens, O pia, 
O dulcis Virgo Maria. 

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, 
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope. 
To thee do we cry, 
Poor banished children of Eve; 
To thee do we send forth our sighs, 
Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. 
Turn then, most gracious advocate, 
Thine eyes of mercy toward us; 
And after this our exile, 
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. 
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 29, 2014

Simple Professions 2014

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Sunday 14 September 2014, we rejoiced at the Simple Professions of two of our brothers at the Priory of St Michael in Cambridge. fr Joseph Bailham and fr. Christopher Pierce made their vows – a commitment for three years – in the hands of the Prior Provincial, fr John Farrell, for the Province of England. frs Joseph and Christopher have now arrived at the Priory of the Holy Spirit, Oxford, where they will begin their formal studies in the Order. We therefore welcome them to the Godzdogz team this year!

We are also delighted to report the Simple Professions of two of our Dutch brothers, fr Richard Steenvoorde and fr Matthijs Meeuwsen, at the Dominicanenklooster, Zwolle, in the Netherlands, having completed their year-long novitiate in Cambridge. fr Matthijs will do pastoral work in the Netherlands and continue his studies there, while fr Richard has moved to Oxford for his studies and will join the Godzdogz team.

Please keep all the newly professed brothers in your prayers.

Also in Cambridge, two new novices have been clothed in the habit of our holy father Dominic, one for the Province of England and one for the Province of the Netherlands. Please keep them, including the formation communities of Cambridge and Oxford, in your prayers.

Deo gratias!

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Rosary: O My Jesus

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.

The ‘Fatima Prayer’ given by Our Lady to three young visionaries at Fatima, Portugal, has been included in the recitation of the Rosary since those visions in the early 1900s. Though the entire Rosary is a meditation upon the life of Christ this is the only prayer directed expressly towards him.

Each mystery of the Rosary unfolds the glories, joys and sorrows of Christ’s life. But more than this, through meditation the Christian soul is raised up into that Divine Life. It becomes an actual witness, seeing through the eyes of faith, to those miraculous things which happened long ago or beyond this world.

However, this lofty engagement is not always achieved. Sometimes the Christian uses spirituality as escapism from the world because it is a difficult place to be. This ‘failed’ spirituality feeds the image of the spiritual person as someone slightly ethereal someone who appears rather untenable. Spirituality, in this later sense, becomes less about God and more about us.

The Fatima Prayer can head off this false spirituality of escapism by appeal to the personal encounter with Jesus, the Word-Made-Flesh. When we speak to Jesus we speak to the one who bears his own wounds. How then can we try to hide ours? In speaking to Jesus we find that it is not just necessary, but good, to acknowledge the world around us and all its trials. In Jesus we see the immense importance the Father has placed on the world, which is the road we walk back to him.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share