Thursday, November 29, 2007

Advent Daily Meditations

Icon for Advent 2007

As we did during Advent last year, we will post a daily meditation on Godzdogz during Advent this year, beginning on Sunday 2 December. On the first three Wednesdays we will post videos of the weekly Advent talks given by Dominican students at Oxford. The icon shown here will subsequently be added to the sidebar on the right and that will take you to all the posts in the series. We look forward to sharing this quietly joyful season with you, so that we might watch together for the coming of our God.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Godzdogz: Some facts and figures...

The Godzdogz team has now been posting for over a year. The blog was launched on the 7th of November 2006, though things really started to take off with our daily Advent meditations.

In the last year:
  • We have posted nearly 250 articles, reflections, news items and answers to your questions, along with many videos.

  • The website has received around 110,000 hits.

  • The average daily readership now stands at about 400.

One of the things that is striking is that our readers come from all over the world. The map above shows something of the typical geographical spread of our readers in any given 5-6 hour period (locations are indicated by the red 'balloons'). Most of our hits come from the United Kingdom and the USA, but we get hits from all around the world. Here is a list of countries our visitors come from, which is not exhaustive ...

... UK, USA, France,

Belgium, The Netherlands,

Spain, Germany, Luxembourg,

Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, Norway,

Finland, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Latvia, Italy,

The Czech Republic, Lithuania, Portugal, Denmark, Malta,

Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Turkey, Qatar, India, Pakistan,

Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore,

Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea,

New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Belize,

Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Chile,

Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada,

South Africa, Lesotho...

Coming soon on Godzdogz: more articles on Dominican Saints, answers to your Quodlibet questions, new daily Advent reflections and much more....

Thank you for visiting Godzdogz! If you have any comments, questions, requests or ideas as to how the site might be improved, please email


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

St. Rose of Lima

St. Rose of Lima was born Isabel de Flores on April 20, 1586 in the city of Lima, Peru. One day, her mother and some friends were sitting around the sleeping babe when a rose was seen to hover in the air above her head and descend to kiss her cheek. Her mother was astonished and in her joy promised never again to call her by any name but “Rose”.

When she was only six years old she began a life of mortification: fasting on bread and water alone on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. When she made her first communion and received Our Lord, Rose beheld him in a vision who told her that he would from that day forward sustain her body as well as her soul on the bread of life.

When she reached marriageable age her parents, Gaspar and Maria were terribly distraught when she turned down an offer from a wealthy man as they thought that this would be the answer to the financial problems they had had for many years. They turned on her, bullying her with words and even hitting her in their anger. However, once they realised that her mind was made up they allowed her to follow her conscience.

Rose was not content with commonplace virtue, she knew that to become a saint one must be a man or woman of penance, a victim on the altar of sacrifice. Her only food by this point was the roughest crusts of bread to which she added bitter herbs from her garden. As an imitation of Christ she also daily rinsed her mouth with the gall of a sheep and formed a crown of thorns from some pliable metal which she spiked at various points. When she wore this crown she would cover it with roses from her garden so as to disguise her penance.

Rose considered becoming a cloistered nun but was dissuaded by a heavenly voice which rendered her immovable when she tried to leave the Dominican church. She then realised that she was to be a tertiary and went on to receive the habit, which she wore at all times as was the custom for tertiaries then. Rose felt that she lacked apostolic labours and so convinced her family to allow her some rooms in the house to which she invited poor Native American women who often lived in terrible poverty and were still unconverted. Here she would tend to their spiritual as well as their physical needs

Before her death she experienced the dark night of the soul where she felt terrible despair and was beset by demonic forces. Through this, however, she was guided by Our Lord, Our Lady, St. Catherine and her guardian angel. Rose was miraculously granted knowledge of the time of her death, having been made aware that she would not live to see her 32nd year. Her last words were: “Jesus, Jesus, be with me.” After her death there were innumerable cures and a great change for the better throughout Latin America. In 1671 she was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement IX and made special advocate of the Western hemisphere. She was the first saint of the Americas and is patroness of the whole of the Americas, as well as the Philippines.

In our time the life of St. Rose is particularly instructive. She was a lay woman who demonstrated how one can live in the world and do a great deal of apostolic work and yet still remain deeply contemplative. In this respect her life embodies the balance of the Dominican vocation to be a contemplative who ventures out to preach and to save souls. Her penance teaches us not to be attached to worldy things and her love for the Blessed Sacrament shows us that it is only by the strength we receive from Christ through his Church that we can do any good in this world.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Angelicum video

Blackfriars Studium is the House of Studies of the English Dominicans and most of the Dominican students in Oxford are studying for the STB (Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology) granted by the Pontifical University of St Thomas, Rome (the Angelicum), which is a Domincan-run institution. It is also possible for lay men and women to begin the Angelicum's STB programme by studying in the Blackfriars Studium and to conclude the programme with at least a year's full-time study in Rome.

If you're interested in the work of the Angelicum or want a taste of what it is like to study there, do take a look at this video.

For more information on the Angelicum STB at Blackfriars, Oxford, click here.


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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving at Blackfriars

Thanksgiving with the Friars

Godzdogz wishes all our American readers and friends a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!


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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

fr Geoffrey Preston, O.P. (1936 - 1977)

Geoffrey Preston was was born in Winsford, Cheshire, where his grandmother lived, on 24 February 1936. He grew up in Beeston Castle where his father was the local blacksmith, as his grandfather had also been before him, and he was steeped in the Methodist tradition of his forebears. As Aidan Nichols OP, who was one of his novices, has written: "To this element in his upbringing belong his sense of the transcendence of God and his feeling for the local congregation as fully the church in its own place, as well as his love for the Bible and his extraordinary inwardness in getting beneath the skin of the scriptural text." He is also remembered for his love of Wesleyan hymns "though his rendering of them resembled a cow roaring"!

After attendance at the local grammar school and two years of national service with the Royal Air Force, he went up to read History at Durham University where he was active in various societies, a prize-winning debater, and "most improbably for a man of his physical proportions, the Tennis Club." Geoffrey was a voracious reader with "a delight in information on matters common and out-of-the-way alike" and his cell was crammed full of books on every conceivable subject, many "rescued" from second hand bookshops, and from his books he gleaned a collection of quotations which he used in his preaching and writing. It is said that "he never read without a pencil beside him, even in works of fiction". Eventually his treasury of books would became the nucleus of the Geoffrey Preston Library of the Catholic Chaplaincy at Leicester University, for he had been prior of Holy Cross, Leicester from 1976 until his premature death.

Nichols recounts how Geoffrey's encounter with Anglo-Catholicism confirmed his "horror of the demonstrative in religion though he saw good ritual as avoiding just such inauthentic over-statement". And so, Geoffrey converted to Catholicism via the Church of England in 1958. He spent a year teaching history in Blackpool before joining the Order where his desire "to get as deeply as possible into a living and articulate theological culture" was fed and in the Order his "zest for knowledge and a call to communicate to others" was fulfilled. He made profession on 28 September 1962 and was ordained priest on 15 July 1967.

Geoffrey lived as a religious in a time of great change for the Church and the question 'Where is God to be found?' would shape his response. According to Nichols, Geoffrey realised that "the clues to [God's] presence could only be uncovered in some rapport with the liturgical, spiritual and theological tradition which linked the church now with the time of Jesus and his disciples". Nevertheless, the process of finding God in a time when old certainties were called into question, and a traditional form of religious life was being re-evaluated, was one of interior suffering for Fr Geoffrey. From this suffering "issued a striking ministry of teaching and preaching and pastoral care. His gifts as a liturgist, a man of ritual, were out of the ordinary. He had a facility for combining the intimate with the solemn which made it thankfully impossible to claim him as either a progressive or a traditionalist" and this was a great gift indeed in a time of considerable polarisation. Thus, he was a pastor able to carry the burdens of God's people, whether they were impatient for change or distressed by it. These were certainly useful skills for someone who was appointed Master of Novices in 1970 and again in 1974 but he eventually resigned the position, though not without pain.

Fr Geoffrey's "theological and spiritual balance" which his novices appreciated seems to have had deep roots in a constant rumination of the Scriptures. According to one enclosed Carmelite, "one could feel that here was a man speaking of what he knew, and what he knew not 'through flesh and blood or through the will of man' but through the grace of the Father".

Preparing for a summer preaching tour of South Africa and on the eve of submitting a collection of writings to a publisher (edited posthumously for publication by Aidan Nichols OP), Geoffrey collapsed in Hawkesyard Priory, Staffordshire (where he is buried), and was diagnosed with gall-bladder problems but the surgeons could not operate immediately because of his size. As Nichols remembers, Geoffrey took communion to the sick "by bicycle... daily and perilously, for his girth had by now reached Falstaffian dimensions." He subsequently died, aged 41, of a heart attack with his brethren by his bedside; a death which might be regarded "not so much tragic as the plucking of ripened fruit."

How might we remember this "enormous, bovine, cheerful, inquisitive and childlike man"? Perhaps we can judge for ourselves from the three books which were published after his death. So many of his brethren and friends remember him with fondness and deep affection as a "generous and compassionate" pastor and Fr Nichols' biographical sketch exudes a certain devotion towards his former Novice Master. Indeed, the Province's obituary notices says that he was "foremost a preacher whose life and words he let be shaped by God and speak of God", a phrase used of our holy father Dominic himself. But the most memorable image we have is one offered by one of the brethren who remembers Geoffrey Preston as "that great mass of a man in a slightly grubby cream serge Dominican habit, occupying an armchair with the air of a beached whale, a rosary in his fingers and the Authorised Version of the Bible on his tummy."

May he thus repose eternally in the bosom of the Lord whom he loved and served so well.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Quodlibet 7: Is priesthood a higher, better, more spiritual calling than marriage?

Essentially it is not good to start considering the sacraments in terms of a hierarchical order: each of them has its particular role and function in the life of the Church. The seven sacraments touch the important moments in the Christian life, and this reflects a resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of spiritual life.

The sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony are directed towards the salvation of others, and so if they contribute towards personal salvation also, they do so through service to others - the priest in his service of the faithful, and the married person in the service of their spouse.

Through these sacraments, those who have already been consecrated by Baptism and Confirmation for the common priesthood of all the faithful receive particular consecrations. Those who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders are consecrated in the name of Christ to feed the Church with the word and grace of God. Those who are married are consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special sacrament.

Ordination is not therefore a higher, better, or more spiritual calling than marriage. Nor, indeed, could the reverse be argued. Both are sacraments for the channelling of God's grace to all those who require it.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

New Vocations Poster

OP vocations poster
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

“God Writes Straight with Crooked Lines”

Autumn portraitAlmost a decade ago, I was undertaking a pre-seminary year in a parish in west Yorkshire, as a part of my training for the diocesan priesthood. One Sunday in the sacristy before Mass, a teenage server who occasionally served at the Dominican parish in Leicester told my parish priest that he wanted to be a Dominican. I had never heard of them, and when my parish priest told the lad that he had to be very clever to become a Dominican, I wondered who these Dominicans thought they were. After all, I said to my parish priest later (and not wanting to lose out to these unknown Dominicans), even a diocesan priest has to be rather clever!

So began God’s way of writing straight with crooked lines in my life.

My next encounter with the Dominicans came in the form of a statue of St Dominic which I saw in the window of the CTS bookshop in Newcastle. I thought it was a statue of a Benedictine monk contemplating the Scriptures, and as I had (my brethren will say, have) a rather romantic view of religious life, I bought the statue as a reminder of what I then felt was the religious calling I had given up in order to serve the Catholic people of the north. I remember taking that statue to the counter, and when the saleswoman told me that a statue of St Dominic was a rather rare thing, I wondered again, who is this Dominic. I bought the statue anyway because, I told myself, it looks like a monk reading and that was what I intended it to be!

As I progressed in my theological training, I developed a fascination for Aquinas, whom I had heard about but had little opportunity to study in the seminary. As he seemed like ‘forbidden fruit’, I endeavoured to read parts of the Summa theologiae, although I was slightly daunted by the Scholastic language and style. Nevertheless I had no lasting impression that this saintly doctor of the Church was a Dominican.

After three years in the seminary, I left in search of something more fulfilling. One night, sitting in a presbytery in north Yorkshire, and having prayed for weeks for direction from God, I started typing the names of various religious orders into the computer. Racking my memory for every order I could think of, I recalled that day in the sacristy, and typed ‘Dominicans’. As I did so, I thought I probably wasn’t clever enough, but as I started reading the vocations page of the English Dominican site, I actually felt this inner warmth and excitement as I recognised the family to which God had been calling me all these years. And He had left these unexpected little signs along the way, from the first sighting I had of St Catherine’s head-relic while on holiday with my family in Siena to the statue of St Dominic in my room in front of which I used to light candles.

Beate pater DominiceThat Easter, I went on retreat to a Benedictine abbey to discern if I was called to share their life, but, while I was there I started reading every Dominican-authored book I could find in the library. It was a period of intense discovery and prayer as I began to wonder if I might actually be called to become a Dominican. Many of Timothy Radcliffe’s letters as Master inspired me and towards the end of my time in the abbey, I felt that God was certainly asking me to try my vocation as a Dominican. As if in confirmation, that evening when I came down to Vespers, in processed a white-habited Dominican along with the Benedictines.

I initiated a series of visits to various Dominican houses and discovered the joy, prayerfulness and intellectual stimulation of our life, and after a year ‘on mission’ as a lay Dominican Volunteer in the Philippines, I entered the novitiate in Cambridge. God still writes with crooked lines, but He also continues to deepen my love for the vocation He has given me among this band of preaching brothers and I thank Him daily for the “grace of a Dominican vocation”.

Br Lawrence Lew is a second-year student.


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Monday, November 12, 2007

fr Sebastian Bullough, O.P. (1910 - 1967)

Born in Cambridge on 17 May 1910 to parents who were both to become lay Dominicans, Fr Sebastian was baptised Halley Edward. His father, Edward Bullough, was a professor of German at Cambridge University and his mother, Enrichetta Marchetti was the only child of the Italian actress, Eleanora Duse.

To be precise about his baptism, Halley (undoubtedly named after the comet) had in fact first been baptised in Little St Mary's, an Anglican church in Cambridge. But when his mother rediscovered her Catholic faith, she took him to the Catholic church in Cambridge and had him conditionally baptised again and gave him the names Hugh Dominic!

Hugh Dominic subsequently received a Dominican education at the English Dominicans' schools at Hawkesyard and Laxton. His father had converted to Catholicism in 1923 and, together with his mother, were active in the promotion of the faith. Given this background and the active Catholic life led by his parents, "Halley Bullough stood little chance to escape." He joined the Order in 1931 and entered the Province's novitiate at Woodchester.

Meanwhile, his parents began to build a fine Italianate house in Cambridge (shown in the photo below) which was dedicated to St Michael, but sadly, Professor Bullough's unexpected death from septicaemia in 1937 meant that he never saw the completion of his house, nor did Mrs Bullough inhabit it for long. In 1938, upon completion of the house, she bequeathed it to the English Dominican friars. This outstanding generosity crowned the gift of her two children to the Order, for Br Sebastian - as he was now called in the Order - had been joined by his sister Leonora who became Sr Mary Mark of the English Dominican Sisters at Stone.

Fr Sebastian was ordained on 22 July 1937 and assigned to the new priory of Cambridge where he could care for his mother who lived close by the house. He began his studies in Hebrew and Aramaic at the university rather than in Jerusalem, as was initially intended and after two years of further study in Rome, he was sent to teach at Laxton. He also served as prior at Woodchester, and taught in Blackfriars Oxford and finally from 1960, at the Cambridge faculty of Oriental Languages. Thus he returned to his roots where his mother died in 1961.

Fr Sebastian was a noted Biblical scholar who had a "passion to integrate Scripture as completely as possible with the Catholic organism", such that references in Scripture could give rise to footnotes on Roman basilicas or articles in the Penny Catechism and his Advent meditations frequently connected Scriptural texts with a rumination on plainsong melodies. His concern for Scripture as the inspiration for all things Catholic anticipated in many ways the Vatican II document 'Dei Verbum'. He was a member of the committee of the Society for Old Testament Studies and chairman of the Catholic Biblical Association. He was also vice-president of the Latin Mass Society, and the changes in the Church's liturgy in the wake of Vatican II saddened him.

He died on 30 July 1967 at the Dominican sisters' convent in Stone and was buried at Cambridge according to the Dominican rite so beloved by him. His Requiem was celebrated by the bishop of Nottingham according to the "full Latin liturgy of the Mass".

In his last book, 'Roman Catholicism', written in 1963, Fr Sebastian said that Dominicans "were to combine the secluded monastic life of the monk, including the Divine Office in choir, with the priestly work of the canon regular and the independent poverty of the itinerant preacher, free to be assigned anywhere in the Order." His understanding of our life remains true today, but in 1967 - the year of his death - he made an observation about the importance of contemplative prayer and choral office in the authentic Dominican life: "[St Dominic] founded a monastic Order whose members are, so to speak, 'preaching monks', from which it follows that monastic life is of the essence of the Order." In many ways, his spirit and ideals live on in our Cambridge priory, the house which owes its existence to the generosity of the Bulloughs.

Forty years after his death, Fr Sebastian's words continue to remind us that Dominican should be preachers of a word that has been prayerfully contemplated in humility, in silence and in assiduous study. Or as the Preaching Commission to the General Chapter at Krakow said in 2004: "In this world we will have something to say, but only if it is a word for which we have suffered, a word we have fought for, and a word for which we have prayed."

In remembering his 40th anniversary, we recall his wisdom, we ponder the fruit of his contemplation, and we give thanks for his example.


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Sunday, November 11, 2007

November Days

After the Autumn of our yearsNature parades the last of her autumn splendour but will soon be completely stripped for the winter months ahead. It is a dead time, the fag-end of the year, short evenings and cold mornings, days neither wet nor dry, the sun trying to break through. ‘The end is nigh’, we might be tempted to cry, as nature retreats underground.

This dead month of November is the month of the dead. Remembrance Sunday comes with its quiet solemnity, its sad memories of young lives cut short, the tragic waste of human life that the last century saw (and that, sadly, continues). At Mass all this month we remember the dead, all those we have loved, young and old. Some died in the fullness of their years, others before their lives were fully underway. We remember all who have gone before us, parents, children and friends whom we continue to mourn and whom we continue to miss.

On the banks of the river Boyne in county Meath stands a structure older than the pyramids. The passage grave or tumulus at Newgrange was constructed some five thousand years ago. Its builders seem to have been preoccupied with winter and with death. Above the entrance to the passage there is a small opening through which the sun shines on the morning of 21 December, its rays penetrating some fifty feet to the inner chamber where the ashes of the dead were kept. It is an extraordinary construction that required painstaking and precise work and nobody knows for sure what it means.

At Newgrange the mid-winter sun reached — and still reaches — deep within the earth to illuminate the place of the dead. Because of this some think it is a very ancient expression of hope in an after life. In the moment when the northern hemisphere is at its lowest point these primitive but sophisticated people looked, it seems, to the return of the sun, to a light illuminating the winter darkness, to some way in which the life-giving rays of the sun might reach the place of the dead.

We stand on firmer ground when we read the Book of Daniel, written a century and a half before the birth of Christ. It contains the first clear enunciation in the Bible of belief in the resurrection of the dead. ‘Those who lie sleeping will awake’, it says, the just to receive the reward of ‘everlasting life’ (Daniel 12.2). It is also the first time that the phrase ‘everlasting life’ occurs in the Bible. Those who have taught others goodness and virtue will ‘shine like stars for all eternity’. This is quite a change from the grey and mouldy Hades of which the earlier Hebrews spoke, a place of ghosts, neither alive nor dead, an in-between place not reached by God’s light and from which God is not praised.

The firmest ground of all is the Christian hope in the resurrection of the dead founded on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In one of the earliest New Testament texts to witness to this hope Saint Paul says ‘we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him’ (1 Thessalonians 4.14).

There is an end time to which we look forward which will not be a November end, nor a winter time of mourning and tears. Even in these dog days of the year’s decline we look forward to an eternal spring in which all that has been sown in tears will be reaped in joy. Much has been wasted, much has been left unfinished, much has already been surrendered to death. But nothing is lost because Jesus Christ ‘has offered one single sacrifice for sins and then taken his place forever at the right hand of God’ (Hebrews 10.12). When the Son of Man comes in power and glory he will send out his angels ‘to gather his chosen from the four winds’ (Mark 13.26-17).

For the present we wait as we protect ourselves from the wintry chill. In many churches a ‘Book of the Dead’ is placed on the altar and left there throughout November. We hope that all whose names are entered in such books — together with all our deceased relatives and friends — also have their names inscribed in the Lord’s ‘book of life’ (Daniel 12.1). We pray that their good deeds have gone with them and that when winter has passed they will shine like stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12.3).

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Friday, November 09, 2007

A Dominican Vocation

Whilst I have always been a Catholic, for most of my life I had great difficulty in seeing myself as the sort of person who could become a priest. I decided my true calling was to be a mathematician, so I duly went off to Cambridge to study mathematics.

It was whilst finishing my PhD in Cambridge that I spent 9 months living in the Dominican lay community. The lay community consisted of about six lay students living alongside six Dominican friars and sharing in their prayer life. I really enjoyed life there, and the thought did occur to me that maybe I could become a Dominican. But I hesitated. There were so many other things I wanted to do. Religious life would be fine if only I could pick and choose the bits I liked and reject the bits I didn’t. So instead I got a job as a software engineer in Somerset. Maybe there I could settle down, buy a house and have a family.

Two years into my job, I was listening to the radio and a journalist was saying that there was a crisis in religious vocations. I wondered whether there really was a crisis. Maybe there was only if people like myself didn’t respond to God’s call. Maybe God was calling me but I just wasn’t listening. So over the next few days I listened. It was only then I really started to understand how much God loved me and how much I loved God. I didn’t need to get married to be a complete person. My faith in Jesus Christ made me a complete person. For the first time in my life, becoming a priest was something I really wanted to do.

At this stage I didn’t know what sort of priest I should become, so I got in touch with Worth Abbey which runs a religious discernment programme. Over the next year, I went to Worth Abbey once a month. This really helped me discover how I could best serve God, and I soon started to look at the Dominicans. It wasn’t just that I enjoyed living with Dominicans, but I really believed in their mission statement – preaching for the salvation of souls. Being a fairly shy person, the thought of being in the Order of Preachers was fairly daunting, but I felt I didn’t have to rely on my own strength – God would give me the strength to do His will.

So here I am, in the Order of Preachers, confident that God will give me the grace to live out my Dominican vocation.

Br. Robert Verrill is a first year student

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Not fanaticism but radical love

"Peter began to say to him, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life." - Mark 10:28-30

Hawkesyard West window

Fr Peter Hunter OP preached at Mass for the feast of All Saints of the Dominican order (7 November) and the Gospel appointed for the feast is that given above. The homily inspired his hearers and we hope that it will give Godzdogz readers an appreciation of our life and hopes.

Fr Bob Ombres once told me a story of travelling in his native Naples. He was talking to a man who told him he was a Catholic. Fr Ombres expressed interest and asked the man where he went to church. Puzzled, the man replied, “Cattolico, non fanatico!”

Yet, religious life can seem in today’s world like fanaticism, a wide-eyed pursuit of an ideal, giving up all sorts of important things in this pursuit. Jesus, in the Gospel appointed for today’s feast (Mark 10:28-30) talks about leaving family and property for his sake and for the Gospel. Isn’t that rather fanatical?

The same Fr Ombres said to me when he heard that I had made the decision to make final vows in the Order, “I’m so glad! If you really throw yourself into it, the life will make you very happy.” But can this kind of wide-eyed pursuit, this kind of fanaticism, make you happy?

The feast we celebrate today, the feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers, is our more parochial version of the universal Church’s celebration of All Saints. That it makes sense to celebrate it at all is confirmation that the Dominican way of life is rich enough and wide enough to be a way of holiness. That is to say, it says that after all, the Dominican way of life is a way to be happy.

What is this way of life? Our Order is dedicated to the study and preaching of the truth of the Gospel. And when we characterise it like that, we see that commitment to this life cannot be fanatical. It cannot be fanatical because it is, we now see, not a wide-eyed pursuit of an ideal, but based on the love of a person. Loving the truth of the Gospel is ultimately nothing other than loving Jesus. The Dominican saints, no less than the apostles, leave family and property not for an ideal, but out of love for the Son of God. This means that this following, while radical, is not fanatical but reasonable and human.

An early Dominican expressed a worry (perhaps a tongue-in-cheek one) that the life gave him so much joy and hence could not be a way to heaven for him. But it was for him, and it is for us, if we give ourselves to it freely and fully. We can celebrate today that our way of life turns out to be rich enough, broad enough, to be a way to heaven and rededicate ourselves to living that life properly. In doing that, we leave behind things which we rightly love, not out of a wide-eyed fanaticism, but because we love Christ more.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Remember, remember...

On 2 November, the Master of Ceremonies at Blackfriars, Oxford puts up a notice saying: "Remember, remember the second of November". This, of course, is an allusion to the chant sung by English children in the run up to Guy Fawkes' day which falls on the fifth of November. But what are we friars asked to remember on the 2 November?

We are reminded to don the black cappa of the Order for Mass and the major offices:

November is a month for remembering, for calling to mind those holy souls who rejoice in heaven (All Saints' Day) and those who undergo purgation (All Souls' Day). In addition to these feasts of the universal Church, Dominicans also celebrate their own feasts, All Saints of the Order of Preachers on 7 November and Commemoration of our Deceased Brothers and Sisters on 8 November.

As this is a month for remembering the dead, Godzdogz will be recalling the lives of deceased English Dominicans. Watch this space.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Credo 46: 'Amen' - Video of Credo 1

To mark the end of our commentary on the Creed, which we've been publishing on Godzdogz since April this year, we have recorded Credo I (which is in the 4th mode) according to the Dominican chant books. Do excuse the few stray notes - this was the fifth attempt!

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Credo 45: … and the life of the world to come.'

Maybe it is only when someone actually dies that the full strangeness of these words hits us. The creed’s words are themselves stark. They are uncompromising, and do not go into any details. There is an appropriateness to that. Talk about the ‘world to come’ has often been marked by a certain articulate sentimentality. This can be honestly or kindly intended, but it does not take account of the disturbing and complete rupture that comes with death. It often feels as though that there is a staring discrepancy between the models and schemes that people sometimes use and even the tiny insights that can be gathered about what is to come. Of course, people need some language to talk about these things. The danger is that the words become too familiar, and do not do justice to the otherness of what is called ‘eternal life’ and the ‘vision of God’.

The great theologian Karl Rahner was said to be afraid of death, though he did not lack faith. In trying to give some limited sense of what is meant by the ‘world to come’, I cannot do much better than to quote some of his words. He spoke them when he was eighty and did not have much longer to live

…when all the stars of our ideals, with which we ourselves in our own presumption have draped the heaven of our own lived lives, have burned out and are now extinguished; when death has built a monstrous silent void, and we have silently accepted this in faith and hope as our true identity; when then our life so far, however long it has been, appears only as a single short explosion of our freedom…when then we are shown in the monstrous shock of a joy beyond saying that this monstrous, silent void, which we experience as death, is in truth filled with the originating mystery that we call God, with God’s true light and with God’s love that receives all things and gives all things… - then, then I don’t actually want to describe anything like this, but nevertheless, I do want to stammer out some hint of how a person can for the moment expect what is to come…

Rahner’s speech finished soon after this point and then he made a collection for a poor priest in Africa who had written to him out of the blue, to ask for some help towards buying a motorcyle. Asking for the money, Rahner said how he felt ‘all our theological talk’ was not as important as when ‘we gave a poor person a bowl of soup’. Perhaps, after all, in these or similar gestures, you get the hint of what is meant by ‘the world to come’. In gifts freely given, with the hope of nothing in return, but with the sheer delight of the giving…there is some tiny anticipation surely of what the saints will see and adore in the vision of the one who is all in all.


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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Credo 44: We look for the resurrection of the dead ...

The end of the Creed – the symbol of our Faith – reflects the end towards which our faith is oriented: the resurrection of the dead.

Since we believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, we firmly believe that the righteous will live for ever through sharing in His resurrection. This has been a central aspect of Christian faith from the beginning. But isn’t this a little far off to consider at the moment?

Christ will raise us up on the last day; but in a sense we are all risen with Christ. By the virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ now on earth. We are united to Christ by baptism, and so we already participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains ‘hidden with Christ in God’. We have already been raised by the Father to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. As we are nourished with His Body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day, we will also appear with Him in glory.

While we wait for that day, the body and soul of the believer already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity demands that both our own bodies and the bodies of all other human beings should be treated with respect. Through the justification we have celebrated in the Creed, we declare that we have been won for Christ. Our whole being and nature has been united with the Godhead. In these last days, we await the consummation of that glory.


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