Friday, October 31, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 11

As a young child I was taken, by family living in the west of Ireland, to Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock. It was there, having been presented with a rosary and the obligatory bottle of holy water, that I first came to some early appreciation of the enormous affection and reverence with which Our Lady is held and of the vital role she plays in our lives as followers of Christ.

I knew there was something special about those beads and the prayers which accompanied them in that steady, comforting rhythm; something difficult to put into words, and twenty or so years later that sense of awe has not been diminished through repetition. It has in fact been deepened, as I find now that whatever the day has thrown at me, those mysteries still catch me and draw me out of myself and into the channels of grace whereby Mary Mediatrix takes our prayers, makes them hers, and blessed and approved by Christ, we again receive their fruitful graces by her hand.

Mostly I pray the rosary alone but have through the years prayed it in many places and situations, joyful and sad, and I have never failed to be calmed or moved in some way by it or ever doubted the efficacy of our most powerful intercessor.

Last year I returned to Knock just before entering the Order, again received a gift of a rosary, and as I prayed before her statue pondered, as I often do, on just how much through Christ she has made possible in my life.


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Thursday, October 30, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 10

What I love most about the Rosary is the depth contained in such a simple structure. Those three simple prayers at its heart - Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be - can say so much by themselves about God and our utter dependence on him, and remind us of our need for the prayers of other Christians, and most especially the Mother of God, both in our daily life and at the hour of our death. But then on top of that we have the twenty mysteries to meditate on, twenty "highlights" of the working-out of our salvation, each of which can give us some particular insight into our faith.

Now, that's not to say that it's always terribly easy to say the Rosary well. Personally, I often find myself thinking about the essay I'm meant to be writing, or what to make when it's my turn to cook for the brethren on Sunday. But that's not a reason to give up and say the Rosary is just not really for me. Rather, that difficulty reminds me that 'we do not know how to pray as we ought' (Rom. 8:26), and makes it even more important to ask Mary our Mother to pray for me: if we pray the Rosary even when it's difficult and ask persistently for our Lady's prayers, she will and does help us to grow in our love of God, and also of the Rosary, by which we particularly honour her.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ministry to those in prison.... some thoughts

During the summer months just like many of the other students, I spent some time carrying out a pastoral placement. For me this involved extending my term-time pastoral work in a prison into a month of greater engagement at the same prison.

Chaplaincy work in a prison is challenging and multi-faceted. It asks many different things of the individual. One must be prepared to work with challenging people with complex histories who live in circumstances which place restrictions on their ability to make their own decisions, to communicate, and to interact with others. Prisoners come from a wide range of backgrounds. Often their home life and upbringing will have been problematic, or they may have a history of drug abuse, alcohol dependency, be the victims of abuse, or suffer from mental illness. For most people, living in a prison is an unpleasant and stressful experience, and it is often difficult to adjust and make the best of the opportunities offered. Prison is also a place with a wide range of ethnic groups and different religions.

All these things together make for an interesting and diverse group which the Chaplaincy team has to minister to. Although as a Friar it is possible to have meaningful interaction with Catholic prisoners, helping with their spiritual and emotional needs, much of the chaplaincy work involves dealing with people who are not Catholics. The task is to listen to them, and help them as much as possible. From a Christian perspective, I believe that being available and present to all the prisoners is a way of witnessing to the loving mercy of God, made known to us through Christ. Matthew's Gospel reminds us of the need to treat each person we encounter as we would treat Christ himself, and that prisoners are no exception (see Matthew 25:36 onwards).

I have also discovered that Prison offers possibilities for evangelisation. Many prisoners lose much of what they hold dear when they are sent to prison, and are broken and humiliated. They may lose property, family and friends. As such, they have a great longing for Christ, and a thirst for the Gospel and its message of healing and forgiveness. Many rediscover their faith, or hear of the Catholic faith for the first time during their sentence. The openness of the prisoners about their sins and faults, and their determination to change and live a Christ-centered life is so often a truly wonderful thing to see, and is an example to us all. At such moments, the words of the Psalmist come to mind: 'The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit' (Ps. 34).

Whilst there are many programs to help prisoners to deal with their offending behaviour, perhaps one of the most valuable things I can do as a Dominican is to help a prisoner to put what has happened to them into the context of faith, and help them to look forward to a new life in Christ, a life of faith, strengthened by hope, making Christ present in the prison, and upon release, to the wider world, through love.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 9

When I was growing up in the south of Ireland the rosary, as a form of private and communal prayer, was a part of everyday life. It was still common to see elderly people on buses or trains praying the rosary. In churches it was also common to see people praying the rosary on their own, or in groups. As a child I would have learned this prayer from my grandmother, for whom it was her main devotion. This was the way I first learned about the main events in Jesus' earthly life, from his birth to his resurrection. I was taught to pray over these events with Mary, his mother and mine.

During funerals in Ireland the rosary is a prominent prayer. It is prayed at the wake, when the dead person is brought to the church, and finally at the graveside. At these moments of sadness and heartbreak we remembered that Jesus went through the pain of death, and Mary wept over him, just as the mourners are weeping at that moment. Before my grandmother died, two years ago, I was with her in her final hours, and I got the chance to pray the rosary with her for the last time. Fighting back the tears, we prayed the five sorrowful mysteries. I am very grateful that I had the chance to pray for the last time with the woman who had taught me how to pray, and in the following months it was a very consoling memory.

Whenever I pray this beautiful prayer I recall the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and also my loved one who has died, and who I hope to see again. In this prayer we learn that in our lives we will have sorrowful moments as well as joyful ones. We hope that by following Christ as faithfully as we can we will come to the glory he has promised us.


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Monday, October 27, 2008

Oxford Martyrs' Mass at Blackfriars

Over two hundred people gathered in Blackfriars Oxford on 25 October for a High Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Roman rite. This was probably the first time that this particular form of Mass, now called the 'extraordinary form' of the Roman rite, has been celebrated in the Oxford priory church with Dominican friars serving at the altar. Fr Dominic Jacob from the Oxford Oratory was the celebrant, and he was assisted by fr David Rocks OP as deacon and fr Lawrence Lew OP as sub-deacon. In addition, five other Dominican brothers served as Master of Ceremonies and acolytes at the High Mass. Also present in choir were Bishop William Kenney CP who preached, and priests and religious from around Oxford.

The Mass was a votive Mass to commemorate four martyrs of Oxford who were executed for their Catholic Faith on 5 July 1589. Fr George Nichols, Fr Richard Yaxley, Thomas Belson and Humphrey Pritchard were beatified in 1987. To mark their heroic witness, the Latin Mass Society (LMS) erected a plaque at 100 Holywell Street in Oxford, which is the site of their martyrdoms. 

Since 2004, Dr Joseph Shaw has been organising a Pilgrimage to honour the Oxford martyrs and this year was especially significant because the newly-erected plaque was to be blessed. After the Mass and lunch, an even larger group met at Cornmarket, near the site of the old prison where the four men were imprisoned, and went in procession singing the Litany and Te Deum to Holywell. There, Bishop Kenney, who is the auxiliary bishop for Oxford, blessed the plaque and reminded us that even today we have to die to ourselves and suffer for our Faith. The group then returned to Blackfriars for Benediction which was given by Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP.

Below are photos from the Mass, courtesy of Joseph Nunan and Martin Beek.

View of the High Altar from the nave which was completely full.

Prayers at the foot of the altar said by the priest, deacon (right) and sub-deacon (left).

The altar is incensed at the beginning of Mass

fr Lawrence sings the reading from Revelations 7:13-17

The Gospel procession forms up in front of the High Altar

fr David sings the Gospel from Luke 2:9-19

Bishop Kenney preaches on the value of suffering and the need to bear witness to Christ with our very lives in an age where the Church is still under attack but in a more subtle manner than in the 16th century.

During the Eucharistic Prayer, or Canon of the Mass, the three ministers at the Altar adopt this position, with the sub-deacon holding the paten in a humeral veil. This is a seemingly odd, but interesting, survival from the 7th-century papal liturgy in Rome.

View from the gallery of the Canon of the Mass being prayed

The bishop receives Holy Communion

Above and below, the distribution of Holy Communion

Acolytes bearing torches lead the procession at the end of Mass

This High Mass, which was celebrated in a form that was familiar to the Oxford martyrs, was a beautiful occasion which reminded us of the richness of the Church's liturgical tradition. It is part of our Catholic heritage, and links those of us who usually celebrate the (post-Vatican II) 'ordinary form' of the Roman rite to those saints we commemorated. 

As Pope Benedict XVI said: "There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place".   - Letter accompanying 'Summorum Pontificum'

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 8

As someone who was preparing to be received into the Church, the Rosary fascinated me. I grew up in a Protestant environment, so I had little idea about the Rosary, other than that it was the most Catholic of things. I arrived early at a weekday Mass one evening, and saw a whole group of people praying the Rosary together ... there was something rhythmical, almost hypnotic about it. And what about the mysteries, and the prayers which I didn't know? It was clearly something that needed further investigation.

The following Saturday, I went into the local Catholic bookshop, and purchased a Catholic Truth Society Rosary Book, and a set of black Rosary beads. The book explained about how to pray it, and offered reflections on the mysteries. It seemed simple in some ways, and yet ... fifty Hail Marys seemed like an awful lot! Sitting down to pray for the first time, I was struck by how the Rosary seemed to engage more of the senses than any other prayer I had been used to. Later I came to see how truly Dominican this idea is! The rhythm and flow of the prayer made it easy to pray. I found it suited me to pray it whilst walking, or on a train, a bus or a plane. I find the Rosary important because of the way in which it helps bring the mysteries of our salvation to mind, and keeps them there for us to think and pray about, allowing them to transform us. It is a great encouragement that we do this with Mary as our companion, the one who guides us in our contemplation of her Son, and intercedes for us as we attempt to live in the light of the mysteries.

The mysteries are certainly what make the Rosary. One of my greatest joys in recent times has been to introduce someone to praying the mysteries of the Rosary, rather than simply repeating the 'Hail Mary'. I now get very excited, animated accounts of thoughts and prayers that have been inspired by the message of the Gospel as presented to us in the mysteries! And this is not surprising - the Rosary opens our eyes to the Gospel, the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is a source of joy for us all. The Rosary has a great value to me personally, as it accompanies me on my journey, but has also proved valuable as a way of preaching the Gospel to others.


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Saturday, October 25, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 7

When I think about the Rosary I am taken back to my childhood. My mother taught me how to say it and I can remember her teaching myself and my sisters the Hail Holy Queen. Later I would go with her to the Rosary group in a friend of the family’s house; it was such a social occasion. Friends would meet after sometimes a week apart and greet each other warmly. Then there was the Rosary of course and also the Divine Mercy chaplet. There was always tea and biscuits and in the cold weather a little sherry. In the maternal embrace of Our Lady we learned to be brothers and sisters to one another, united by our devotion to her, learning from her how to love her Son more dearly. In my early teens, however, I failed to grow in love for God and never really learnt how to pray as a young man. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I was given the gift of a fervent faith and my return to the Rosary was very much a part of that. At the age of 19 I came across St. Louis Marie de Montfort and The Secret of the Rosary and it was such an inspiration to me. His spirituality of "Through Mary to Jesus" made perfect sense to me because it was the way that I had come. I was even happier when later I found out that he was a Dominican tertiary!


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Thursday, October 23, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 6

Detail of Our Lady of Lourdes praying the RosaryI’ve always found it difficult to pray the Rosary well. Often my mind wanders and I find that I need to pray the Rosary in a group if I am to avoid falling asleep. Still, it was only when I stopped worrying about how badly I pray the Rosary that I started to reap the benefits. It’s a prayer I’ve come to love very much.

I didn’t use to have a particularly strong devotion to Our Lady, but praying the Rosary has really helped me get to know her and to love her. She is our mother who is always inviting us to meet her Son. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never prayed a Hail Mary perfectly, because her prayers are perfect and she carries on praying for us even when our prayers stop.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 5


I close my eyes and I reach for the beads. I squeeze the sharp edges of the Crucifix in the palm of my hands, as I try to remember once again what that means for me. The love that was poured out on that day was for me, and that love fills me. I kiss that symbol, I unite myself to that love, and I begin my journey with the Sign of the Cross.

I make this journey very frequently, and I pass by the same way. Sometimes it is joyful, other times it is sorrowful. It is always illumined by the light of His love, and it always radiates a particular glory. And through times of joy and of sorrow, through times of glory and of pain, the gentle fragrance of His love, the love of the Cross embraces all that I am and all that I will be.

I follow the circle of beads, and the chain that binds these simple beads to the simple crucifix binds me firmer and deeper in that which completes me, that which redeems me.


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 4

Praying the rosary is somewhat like walking into a (pre-Reformation) cathedral covered with bright images depicting the culmination of the story of God’s shaping our salvation in the life, death and resurrection of his Son; whose abiding presence with us in Word and Sacrament has been recently embellished by John Paul II’s ‘Mysteries of Light’.

So, a bit like appreciating artworks, then: to let the images speak to us necessitates a certain attentive stillness, a willingness to be caught by one particular shard that illuminates especially a given time (why I favour private over communal recital).

The images, ideally, serve as icons, not idols, drawing us further into the Holy Mystery that we seek.

No accident, maybe, that it’s name derives from a garland of roses: the scent, symbolising the beauty of Holiness; the thorns, goading us out of our complacency and reminding us that our salvation has been bought by the blood of the Lamb.


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Monday, October 20, 2008

Join us for Adoration and Compline

Compline poster 2

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

What the Rosary means to me... 3

Some years ago, at a Youth 2000 retreat in Walsingham, someone described the action of praying the Rosary with it wrapped around one's hand as holding the hand of our Mother as she leads us home. This image struck me with some force because until then I had often seen the Rosary as a mental prayer, and it was unattractive to me because there was too much to think about - the mystery, the intention, the words of the prayers etc - and characteristically, I worried that I was not doing each part well enough!

However, that simple image, full of childlike confidence appealed to me immediately and I began to appreciate the Rosary much more. Soon, I began to keep one beside my bed, so that if I was awoken by bad dreams, I would be able to reach out for Our Lady's hand. I also began to carry the Rosary in my pocket and discovered that I enjoyed saying the Rosary as I travelled. It became a way of talking to "Mama Mary" during my journeys, invoking her presence and intercession for the people, places and incidents I saw on the way, and contemplating the saving presence of God in our human history and lives, which is what the Mysteries reveal. 

The Rosary still has this intimate character for me: I prefer to pray it alone, whispering to my Mother and asking her to show me the face of Christ. Oftentimes, the Rosary has been a comfort to me, and in those moments, the words of Psalm 131:2 come to mind: "Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace. A weaned child on its mother's breast, even so is my soul."


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Saturday, October 18, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 2

In the last couple of years Rosary beads have become something of a fashion accessory. Leading fashion houses have started to produce them and celebrities such as David Beckham are seen wearing them at film premieres and night clubs. It is shame that such an obvious symbol has been lowered to the level of a trinket.

However a set of rosary beads does have a beauty to it. The shape of a traditional set of rosary beads show us how to lead our lives. Christ must be the focal point, just as the crucifix is the focal point of the rosary. This does not of course devalue the Marian character of the rosary. Our Lady is our greatest example; as John Paul II says in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae “With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. “

Let us pray this October that the true message of the Rosary is heard and this marvellous sign is not trivialised.


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Friday, October 17, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 1

Our Lady of the Rosary & St DominicOctober is the month of the Rosary and Dominicans continue to mark a 'year of the rosary', the first in a novena of years leading up to celebrating the 8th centenary of the Order's establishment in 2016. Godzdogz has already offered reflections on each of the mysteries of the Rosary (follow the links below for these). In addition each member of the Godzdogz team will now offer a short reflection on what the Rosary means to him.

The Joyful Mysteries
The Annunciation
The Visitation
The Nativity
The Presentation in the Temple
The Finding in the Temple

The Mysteries of Light
The Baptism of the Lord
The Wedding at Cana
The Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Repentance
The Transfiguration
The Institution of the Eucharist

The Sorrowful Mysteries
The Agony in the Garden
The Scourging at the Pillar
Crowning with Thorns
Jesus Carries his Cross
The Crucifixion and Death of our Lord

The Glorious Mysteries
The Resurrection
The Ascension
The Descent of the Holy Spirit
The Assumption
The Coronation of our Lady


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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Godzdogz Team 2008-2009

A certain amount of interest has been expressed in seeing the names and faces of the contributors to So here we are, from left to right, fr David Barrins from Sligo of the Irish Province, fr Romero Radix from Grenada of the English Province, fr David Rocks from Newry of the Irish Province, fr Dennis Murphy from Kilkenny of the Irish Province, fr Gregory Pearson from Norfolk of the English Province, fr Lawrence Lew from Malaysia of the English Province, fr Graham Hunt from Northampton of the English Province, fr Vivian Boland from Dublin, Master of Students, fr Robert Gay from Wales of the English Province, fr Daniel Jeffries from Portsmouth of the English Province, fr Martin Grandinger from Bavaria of the Province of Southern Germany and Austria, fr Mark Davoren from London of the English Province, fr Gregory Murphy from Dundee of the English Province (being uncharacteristically coy), fr Robert Verrill from Rugby of the English Province.

Please keep us in your prayers through the coming academic year and let us know if there are topics you would like us to speak about. There will be more 'quodlibetal questions', more memories of deceased Dominicans in November, more news about the Dominicans in Britain, more vocation stories about ourselves and other brothers in the Order - and there is a piece coming up about soccer teams (some of them quite famous) that wear black and white because of a Dominican connection. Do any of you know of any other use of Dominican colours in sporting or other contexts?


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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Ordinations 2008 (Part Two)

Below are more photos from fr Bruno Clifton's ordination in Edinburgh:

fr Bruno promises obedience to his Ordinary, placing his hands between those of Cardinal O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is conferred upon the one to be ordained by the laying on of hands and the prayer of ordination. The Archbishop lays his hands, in silence, on fr Bruno, and each of the priests present does likewise.

The Archbishop anoints the hands of the newly-ordained priest as a symbol of the anointing of the Holy Spirit which took place through the laying on of hands and the prayer of ordination. The anointing also symbolises the priest's distinctive participation in Christ's priesthood by the sacrifice he will offer with his hands.

The bread and wine are a sign of the priest's duty to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Archbishop says: "Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord's cross."

After Mass, fr Bruno gives his first blessing to his mother as his father looks on.

fr Bruno gives his blessing to the prior of Leicester, fr Leon Pereira OP. Traditionally, one receives a first blessing by kneeling in front of the priest, and then kissing the newly-anointed palms of the priest.

Please keep fr Bruno Clifton OP in your prayers.
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Friday, October 03, 2008

Ordinations 2008 (Part One)

Regular Godzdogz readers may recall a previous post about four Dominican brothers of the English Province who were ordained deacons in July 2007. Three of them were recently ordained to the priesthood, while the fourth will be ordained later this month.

On 20 September 2008, fr Bruno Clifton OP was ordained in the chapel of the Mercy Sisters' convent in Edinburgh by His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien. Friends, brethren and family gathered from England, Scotland and further afield (fr Bruno's Salesian uncle travelling from Malta, for example) to witness the occasion and to join in the celebrations afterwards at the Dominican priory in George Square. 

fr Bruno, whose vocation story is online, trained as a composer, so naturally music was a prominent part of the Mass. A specially-formed choir comprising fr Bruno's friends and colleagues, students of Edinburgh University and friars sang Byrd's 3-part Mass, 'Os Iusti' by Bruckner and some Dominican chant. 

After the ordination Mass, fr Bruno gives his first blessing to those present. Above, fr Bruno's father, who is a permanent deacon in the diocese of Arundel & Brighton receives a blessing from his newly-ordained son.

fr Bruno gives a blessing to fellow composer, James Macmillan. James is a lay Dominican and directs the choir at the Dominican-run St Columba's parish in Glasgow.

On 27 September 2008, fr Benedict Łukasz Jonak OP and fr Alistair Jones OP were ordained in St Dominic's Priory church in London by our brother, Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP. Once again people gathered from all over the country and from as far afield as Poland. 

The music at the ordination Mass was beautiful and lent solemnity to the occasion. An excellent choir came together to sing Victoria's motet and Mass 'O quam gloriosum', Tallis' 'Salvator mundi' and friars sang the 'Veni Creator', Litany and propers from the Dominican Gradual. Below are photos from the ordination itself:

Having been judged worthy of ordination, called by the Bishop and acclaimed by the people, the ordinands are examined concerning their willingness to take on the office and duties of a priest. They then promise obedience to their Ordinary.

All then kneel and invoke the intercession of the saints as the ordinands prostrate themselves and ask for God's blessing on what they are about to undertake.

In silence, the bishop lays his hands on the ordinands, and all the priests present do likewise. The bishop then says the prayer of consecration which includes these words:

"Lord, grant also to us such fellow workers, for we are weak and our need is greater. Almighty Father, grant to these servants of yours the dignity of the priesthood. Renew within them the spirit of holiness..."

The newly-ordained priests are then assisted by fellow priests who vest them in the priest's stole and chasuble
The bishop then anoints the hands of the priests, saying: "The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God."

fr Benedict and fr Alistair take their place around the altar as concelebrants with the bishop and their fellow priests.

The Mass was followed by first blessings from the newly-ordained and a celebration in the parish hall which spilled out into the garden outside the priory.

Please pray for our new priests, and for fr Dominic Ryan OP who will be ordained a priest in Cambridge on 23 October 2008.

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