Saturday, November 29, 2008

First Sunday of Advent - Waiting and Hoping

Readings: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

Not My will but Yours Father
Beginning a new year often prompts us to take stock, to celebrate the events that have gone well, and to review those that haven’t gone so well, when we’ve been injured by others; or, worse, found ourselves becoming injurious to others, even if we didn’t intend to. And this sense of attention, of alertness, preparedness, is central to today’s gospel. Jesus tells us all to ‘stay awake’. Mark uses the same language ‘stay awake’ in the next chapter of his gospel, when he describes Jesus and his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane.

And, of course, the disciples fail. They fall asleep, and soon will fall away. They are not alert to God working in and through Jesus: at the Cross, it is the pagan centurion who affirms that Jesus ‘Truly was God’s Son’; and even after the Resurrection the women who witness the empty tomb ‘said nothing, because they were afraid’.

Like the first disciples, we, too, fail. Our disordered appetites leave us being tossed about in every wind like Isaiah’s dry leaves, and our shame at our failure to live up to the commitments we’ve assumed as disciples leaves us cowering in filthy clothing before the all-Holy God. Yet, Isaiah finishes by making the audacious claim that the people of Israel, and, by extension, ourselves, are God’s responsibility, His treasured possession, the work of His hands.

This is so, St Paul reminds us, because God has called us, poured out the gifts of His Spirit upon us, and joined us to his Son. God’s face does shine on us, if we will only recognise that, turn back to him, and seek forgiveness. Every year this season is given to us to renew our sense of what really is important, and to seek God’s gift of forgiveness, sacramentally or otherwise.

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Visit our newly relaunched websites!

On the first Sunday of Advent, as the Church begins a new liturgical year, the English Dominican Province is happy to announce the relaunch of two of our websites:

1) English.op.org, which is the main website for the English Province, has been completely redesigned and rewritten. There is a new photo gallery, new articles, and various downloads including the Dominican Ordo for this new liturgical year. Do take a look and explore the site.

2) Torch.op.org is the online preaching site for the English Province and has also been revamped with a new look and interface, as well as a foray into audio-recorded sermons, and new short daily reflections for Advent. Most of the students who write for Godzdogz move on to write for Torch after their ordination, so do visit it, subscribe, read and listen. 

Have a blessed Advent.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving at Blackfriars

Each year, the community of Blackfriars in Oxford celebrates Thanksgiving with students of the Hall and Studium many of whom are American.

Thanksgiving is a time for family and reunions, and it was wonderful to see two of our former Hall students from last year who chose to spend the holiday with us.

Above, fr David Sanders OP, who is Dean of the Hall, celebrates with one of our new students. Thanksgiving is a chance for us to celebrate together and to give thanks to God for His providential care.

fr Gregory Murphy OP carves one of the four turkeys, and the tables are laden with dishes prepared by the students.

"Every joy and suffering, every event and need can become the matter for thanksgiving which, sharing in that of Christ, should fill one's whole life: 'Give thanks in all circumstances' (1 Thess 5:18)" - Catechism of the Catholic Church §2648.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Remembering... fr John Martin McGowan OP (1949-2008)

Godzdogz readers may recall an announcement on this blog about the sudden death of fr John Martin McGowan OP on 16 June 2008. fr John Martin was born on 11 May 1949 together with his twin brother, George, who was born shortly after him and who survives him. They grew up in Wishaw, north Lanarkshire, and before entering the Order, John Martin trained as a plumber.

While in Edinburgh, he moved into a room in the University chaplaincy which is still run by the Dominicans and which has limited accommodation for lay students. A student who was also in the community then was Gilbert Markus; both he and John Martin were later to join the Order of Preachers.

In 1980, fr John Martin was the first Dominican novice since the Reformation to be clothed in the habit of St Dominic in Scotland. He was professed on 14 November 1981 as a cooperator brother. Cooperator brothers are friars who are not ordained but who "take part in the community apostolate not only by providing for the needs of the convent but also by a ministry properly so-called, either working with their brother priests or exercising their own talents in the apostolate" (from the Order's Constitutions, no. 100 § 2). Also professed at this time with him, as a clerical brother, was fr Aelred Connelly OP. 

After his novitiate, fr John Martin lived his Dominican life in Leicester, Glasgow, Newcastle, and finally back in Edinburgh. John Martin exercised a ministry of great compassion and was known wherever he lived as a true friend to those most in need of help and support. He devoted his time to the fabric of the priory buildings, and in his final years travelled the breadth of the Province, ensuring the safety of their electrical equipment. This chore was always enlivened by his cheerful conversation and humour, and his annual visits to Oxford were appreciated by all the student brothers. We missed not having him come down to test our electrical appliances this year although he lives on in our memories and fond anecdotes. He was also much loved by the university students who frequented the chaplaincy in Edinburgh.

But this big-hearted brother eventually died of a heart attack, and the swiftness of his death was a shock to us all. He was aged just 59, and had been professed for 27 years. His funeral on 27 June 2008 was held in the Mercy Convent, Edinburgh, a short walk from the Dominican priory. The Requiem Mass was celebrated by the Provincial in the presence of the Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Institution of Acolytes

On Friday 21st November, the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, two of our brothers, fr Robert Verrill OP and fr Daniel Mary Jeffries OP were instituted as acolytes by the Prior Provincial, fr John Farrell OP during the Conventual Mass.

The ministry of acolyte was created by Pope Paul VI in 1972 along with the ministry of lector to replace the minor orders that existed up to that point in the Latin Church. The idea of ministries as opposed to orders was that the then Holy Father wished to open up what had previously been clerical orders to a wider group so that any layman could be instituted in them. 

The acolyte's function is to assist the priest and deacon. "It is his duty therefore to attend to the service of the altar and to assist the deacon and the priest in liturgical celebrations, especially in the celebration of Mass" (Ministeria Quaedam). The acolyte is instituted to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion when there are not enough priests and deacons, to take communion to the sick, and to expose the Blessed Sacrament for the adoration of the faithful. However, the acolyte may not give Benediction. 

For clerical brothers of religious institutes and seminarians, being instituted as an acolyte is seen as a step towards ordination, God willing, that enables the brother or seminarian to take a more active role in the sacramental and pastoral service of his community. As he passes from lector to acolyte, the increased intimacy with the Sacrament of the Altar that his being instituted brings, requires of him a greater love for the Lord and his Mystical Body, the Church, so that that which is symbolised in the Sacred Liturgy might truly represent the reality of the community. So the acolyte not only assists at the Eucharist but also brings Holy Communion to the sick and housebound helping them to maintain their link with the sacramental life of the community.

Below are photos from the Mass in which our brothers were instituted as acolytes:

Acolytes1
The provincial addresses the brothers who are to become acolytes, reminding them that their closeness to the altar is to be marked by a growth in charity: "In performing your ministry, bear in mind that as you share one bread with your brothers and sisters, so you form one body with them. Show a sincere love for Christ’s Mystical Body, God’s holy people, and especially for the weak and the sick…"

Acolytes2
A prayer of blessing is said over the acolytes, and the provincial prays God to "make them assiduous in the service of the altar, faithfully distributing the bread of life to their brothers and sisters, growing always in faith and charity."

Acolytes3
As the paten with bread and chalice with wine is handed over to the acolytes as a sign of their ministry, the provincial says: "Take this vessel... for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church."

Above, fr Robert Verrill OP receives the bread and wine, and below, fr Daniel Mary Jeffries OP.

Acolytes4

Acolytes5
The newly-instituted acolytes assist at the preparation of the gifts, because they have been called to "assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry."

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Monday, November 24, 2008

The Martyrs of Vietnam

Today we remember the Dominican Martyrs of Vietnam. Many of them were European missionaries supported by the King of Spain. The Spanish monarch exhorted missionaries to proclaim the faith and cultivate home-grown vocations in the territory. Scholarships were provided for Vietnamese men to study in Juan De Letran College in Manila. One friar to follow this path was Saint Vincent Liem Le Duang.

He was born into the Christian community of Thong-Dong in 1731. From a young age he showed great devotion and ability. He was sent to the Philippines at the age of fifteen and took the habit in 1753. After completing his studies at the University of St. Thomas, he was ordained priest and returned to his native land. As he could speak Vietnamese he started his apostolate immediately. He spent the next fourteen years ministering to Christian communities, teaching at the seminary of Trung-Linh and preaching in the non-Christian areas.

From 1767 the Church in Vietnam came under attack from the authorities. Vincent nevertheless continued to proclaim the Gospel openly,  regardless of the obstacles and threats. He was captured in 1773, beaten and imprisoned. He was placed in a cage and displayed like a wild animal. However the local Mandarin believed that this ritual humiliation would not help the authorities’ attempt to crush the Christian religion. Vincent was released from his cage and allowed to walk about the prison. He took advantage of his relative liberty and preached the Gospel to his fellow prisoners and all who would come to listen. This status was short lived and he was put back in his cage and taken to Hanoi and the Imperial Court.

At the Court the Emperor arranged a disputation between Vincent, a Buddhist, a Confucian and a Taoist. His reasoning, clarity and elegance, in defending the true faith, left a deep impressio, so much so that an Imperial Prince declared the superiority of Christianity. However Vincent’s fate was decided after a stormy dialogue with the Queen Mother. He was sentenced to death and was beheaded on the 7th of November 1773.

The persecutions of the Vietnamese Church would continue. In 1975 the exodus of Vietnamese friars would result in the formation of a new vicariate outside their motherland: the Vicariate of St Vincent Liem. Every day, the brothers of the vicariate, pray for the conversion of Vietnam, through the intercession of St. Vincent. Let us join them today in that prayer -

Dear God, 
You have granted the Vietnamese Church 
a courageous witness in St. Vincent Liêm, 
in order that the seed of faith may bring forth fruits in abundance 
on the ground of our country Vietnam. 
Accept his intercession 
and help us to follow the example he left to us: 
courageously to bear witness to Christ 
and be faithful to the end.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. 
Amen.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

A Life Poured Out


November is a time for remembering the dead, and on 18th November, Blackfriars was privileged to host a special talk commemorating the life, vision and eventual martyrdom of the Dominican bishop of Oran in Algeria, Pierre Claverie. Bishop Claverie was confident that dialogue through friendship was essential for a Christian living with Muslims in Algeria, and his assassination in 1996 showed the depth of his love. On 1st August of that year, Bishop Claverie was assassinated by the 'Islamic Salvation Front' in a booby trap explosion at the entrance to his house. His young Algerian driver, Mohammed Bouchikhi, died with him and the mingling of their blood was seen by many as a symbol of the bishop's desire to find a home in the hearts of the Algerian people and to participate in their sufferings.

The talk was given by fr Jean-Jacques Pérennès OP, who is the General Secretary of the Dominican Institute for Oriential Studies in Cairo, to a full hall of Dominican friars, sisters and laity, as well as students and friends of Blackfriars, and Muslim scholars. fr Jean-Jacques, who was Bishop Claverie's friend and fellow friar, has spent years editing the enormous body of correspondence generated by Claverie - he wrote a letter a week to his parents for four decades. The result is a fascinating biography, now available in English, called 'A Life Poured Out'.

Bishop Claverie's cause for canonization, along with 18 other martyrs of the Algerian civil war, was opened in 1997, and thanks to fr Jean-Jacques, Claverie's clear thinking and important contribution to the subtle and sensitive area of inter-religious dialogue can be appreciated. In his talk, fr Jean-Jacques frequently referred to passages from Claverie's writings which included the bishop's homilies and pastoral letters. fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, who wrote the foreword to the book and also knew Bishop Claverie personally, read these excerpts aloud for us.  

As John L. Allen has written: "A perennial temptation with saints, whether of the formally canonized variety or not, is to reduce their lives to bumper stickers." However, as fr Jean-Jacques emphasised, the issues are too complex and the writings of Bishop Claverie too subtle and nuanced to be simplified in this way. In a classically Dominican way, friendship stood at the core of Claverie's thinking and is the basis for dialogue, which will include disagreements and persuasion. Allen continues: "In a time when discussion of Christian/Muslim relations is dominated by ideology and abstract theological debate, Claverie represents an utterly different path: a life lived as a 'guest in the house of Islam', not blind to the challenges and never fuzzy about his Christian identity, but relentless in his commitment to friendship. Claverie's interest was what he called the 'real, living Islam', meaning people rather than theories."


fr Jean-Jacques also commented on Claverie's approach which gave priority to friendship. He said: "If you start with formal theological exchanges, you come very quickly to big, difficult problems. We will argue about the Trinity and other matters, which requires a lot of skills, reflection, and preparation to deal with it well. But if you start at the human level, it's different. Often Claverie would say, 'We don't have the words for dialogue yet.' So, let's start first by living together, addressing together common challenges. This is what he tried to do, to build what he called 'platforms of encounter,' meaning places where people can work together on human rights, women's issues, and so on. Then you feel that you are all human beings, you come closer to each other." fr Claverie's approach to dialogue is ever more needful today in a world where fear of the other robs all of us of our common humanity. Such dialogue also has deep roots in the example of St Thomas Aquinas who did not hesitate to listen to others (whether pagan Greek, Jew or Muslim) to draw from their wisdom, and to befriend them for the sake of the Gospel.

fr Pierre Claverie's commitment to dialogue, and to his friends in Algeria, was such that even when it became clear that his life was in danger he refused to leave. Many years earlier, as people fled Algiers, he found himself one of the few who had chosen to enter, and so he chose to stay and be with those whom he loved. His example, which has inspired Christians and Muslims alike, was deeply moving, and I felt humbled and privileged to be a brother in St Dominic to someone like him, and to the many other Dominicans who still suffer for their faith.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quodlibet 13 - Salvation and Hell

Question

If the saved know that some of their loved ones are damned how is it that they can have perfect happiness? How is it that they could not lament the loss of souls? How, indeed, could God not lament their loss?


Answer

God is the Answer, and in Heaven we will know God as He is (see John 17:3, I John 3:2, St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I 12, 1) – but since, even then, we will not be able to fathom Him completely (Summa Theologiae I 12,7), I wonder to what extent we will, even then, understand how absolutely everything fits together under God’s providence.

“God wills all people to be saved (I Timothy 2:4).” Now, If God wills something, in the most absolute and unqualified sense, then what He wills, comes to pass (Summa Theologiae I 19, 6; 19,8). If God wills Fred to be saved then Fred will infallibly be saved. Not because God will over-ride Fred’s will, but because God will create in Fred a good will, such that Fred loves God freely; He will draw Fred to Him in such a way that Fred journeys into Him voluntarily.

According to many Gospel passages, it is at least possible that some human beings are not saved; it seems certain that the fallen angels are not saved (See Matthew 25:41 and Revelation 20:10). Therefore it seems that God does not, in the absolute and unqualified sense, will all His rational creatures to be saved. We must take “God wills all people to be saved” in a less absolute sense. In the present case, we can say that God provides superabundantly for the salvation of all, through Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection, and through planting in all people at least an implicit thirst for Him, one they can honour or resist. The basic shape of God’s plan is a plan for salvation; He has no plan of damnation – that is, it never happens that He creates, say, Joe with the intention of sending Joe to hell. But it can happen that God permits Joe to reject Him, and to die refusing to journey into God. Then, Joe gets eternity without God.

If we say, “Of course, God gets everyone to heaven” we run the risk of effectively obliging God to do this, and salvation ceases to be a gift; and we run the risk of making our decisions and actions eternally irrelevant. We cannot rule out the possibility of hell but we are obliged to hope for heaven (Summa Theologiae II.II 20,1; 20,3; 22,1) building our lives on the energising conviction that God who has begun a good work in us will securely bring it to completion.

By charity, we are obliged to thirst, pray and work for the eternal salvation of all people. When we get to heaven we will delight in a special way in the glory of the greatest Saints, but also in a special way in the glory of those who have shared our journey (Summa Theologiae II.II 26.13). We are obliged to pray, “Thy will be done,” but we are not in fact obliged to want the damnation of any whom God permits to go to hell! While they live, we are obliged to be concerned for the salvation of all, even if it turns out that some we try to save, will not be saved.


At the Last Judgement, the attitude of each to God is revealed on the public stage, and the mysteries of God’s grace and providence are revealed for praise and thanksgiving. Presumably this means that we see, to some extent at least, why God has permitted the evils He has, and how He has brought good out of them. Will we give praise and thanksgiving for the damnation of those (if any) who are lost? I suspect not. To some extent, we have to praise God for His judgements (Revelation 16:5-7, 18:20, 19:1-3). But we don’t have to picture God positively punishing the damned, nor do we have to picture the saved watching the torment of the damned. Julian of Norwich says there is no mention of satan or of the lost before God and His elect (Revelations of Divine Love, long text, chapter 33) – the vision of God, and the common rejoicing of those who have journeyed together into Him, is more-than-sufficient delight. Further, if the lost have rejected life with God, they have opted for next-to-nothingness and for insignificance (for it is only in God we find our meaning). The pictures of lakes of sulphur and the like are not so much pictures of a positive retribution as of the stupidity of choosing life without God.

Although the image of God’s grief is in Scripture (Isaiah 63:10, Ephesians 4:30) we know that He is beyond emotion so that we can’t say He is literally “hurt” by anyone’s loss. But how His delight in being and goodness is compatible with permitting anyone’s loss is a mystery. We will give eternal thanks for His justice (the wisdom and beauty of His ways) and for His mercy (His steadfast, saving love, which “goes before and beyond” justice [Summa Theologiae I 21,4]). We will rejoice in the glory He wills to give us, and the way He has brought us to it, without envy of those whose glory is greater, and without any sadness due to its limitations (Augustine, City of God, Book XXII, ch. 30; Summa Theologiae II.II 26,13; Dante, Paradiso, Canto 3). I will not be sad because I never had any brothers or sisters with whom to share the journey to heaven. If I notice the absence of some cousin with whom I have shared the journey, and for whose salvation I have prayed, it is hard to see how that could increase my joy – but presumably I will see, in God, how it should not spoil my joy.


I end by pointing out with Julian of Norwich (Revelations of Divine Love, long text, chapters 11 and 32) that we expect the Holy Trinity to do something on the Last Day that will ensure that all manner of thing shall be well, and will show how, since all that is done, is done by God, all is well done. Which does not mean God does evil, since, as Julian explains, following Augustine and Aquinas, evil has no being in itself, but is the absence of a good that should be there.

Richard Conrad, O.P.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quodlibet 12 - How much do Dominicans study?

People who know only a few things about the Dominicans are likely to know that the Order places greater importance on study than almost anything else, besides the vocation to preach. In the English Province, most students will study for a minimum of five years before ordination to the priesthood, and many will study for higher degrees after ordination, either immediately or following a few years of pastoral and preaching experience. However, for the Dominican, being engaged in theological study at some level is a life-long occupation, and does not merely end with formal studies during preparation for the priesthood. It is important that all Dominicans have a good knowledge of theology, because it is needed to preach the Gospel, to shape and influence our entire ministry. We might say that a certain intellectual curiosity is one of the signs of a Dominican vocation.


Despite our reputation for a love of learning, it is important to stress that not all Dominicans are academic high flyers: the call is, after all, to be preachers. Some may study and teach full time, others may spend much less time on the intellectual life. Our ongoing studies need not necessarily be high level academic research. But we need nevertheless to cultivate and use our intellectual gifts in whatever way we can to serve the mission in which we are engaged. This means that we also study a wide range of things, and try always to broaden our horizons. Being a good preacher means being able to speak to a wide range of people, people from different backgrounds, with their hopes and fears. Our study should have as its aim to improve our knowledge of the mysteries of salvation, but also, say, an awareness of the realities faced by the people to whom we preach. The skill is to unite the two aspects in such a way that the Gospel is being communicated to people in a way which they understand, and is true to their circumstances and experiences. So whether a brother is engaged in full time research and writing in Cambridge, teaches moral theology in the Studium here at Oxford, or is a hospital chaplain in Leicester, study of theology and its application to the work being carried out is essential, because it nourishes and sustains the individual, and gives shape, content and depth to his preaching and ministry.


The picture shows St Albert the Great, Doctor of the Church, patron saint of scientists, and teacher of St Thomas Aquinas. His feast is celebrated on 15th November. For an account of his life and work click here.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remembering ... Fr Gordian Marshall OP (1938-2007)

Fr Gordian Marshall was born John Francis Marshall on the 19th of November 1938 in Edinburgh. He was educated at Holy Cross High School, where he was a classmate of Cardinal Keith Patrick O' Brien. After years devoted service as an altar boy to Fr Anthony Ross OP, he asked to enter the Dominican novitiate, and was accepted in 1956. Following completion of his studies and ordination to the priesthood, Gordian was sent to teach at Llanarth, a preparatory school in Wales run by the Dominicans, where he remained until his appointment as novice master for the cooperator brothers, which required him to move in 1967. In this role he became noted for the courage with which he stood up for the brothers' interests, and the gentleness with which he related to his novices.

After the merging of the cooperator and clerical novitiates, Gordian was sent to the newly developed Spode Conference Centre, where, in collaboration with others, he developed a mission to schools. This interest in education remained throughout the rest of his life, expressed during his time in Leicester as University Chaplain, and in his work in Glasgow, training future Catholic teachers at St. Andrews College. From his move to Glasgow onwards, Gordian developed a significant interest in inter-religious dialogue, and became known as an authority in the field. As superior of the Glasgow house, Gordian supervised the move to take over the running of St. Columba's parish, Maryhill, Glasgow. Gordian was seen very much as an elder statesman of the Province, a deeply practical man whose level head and gentle wisdom were greatly valued. He attended the General Chapter of the Order in Bogota in 2007, where the altitude made him ill. Yet he carried out his duties to the best of his ability, obedient as he had always been in his Dominican life.

I have fond personal memories of Gordian. When I was an enquirer, Gordian kindly allowed me to stay at the house, then located in Queen's Drive on the South side of Glasgow. This helped me greatly in my time writing my doctorate. I was always made to feel especially welcome. I remember his affectionate teasing of a brother of the Glasgow house. After any teasing comment, a quick wink or smile followed quickly behind. I also remember the time when the house was plagued by a troublesome rodent visitor. I was sat at the breakfast table eating my cornflakes one morning, and Gordian appeared with a smile on his face, wearing a pair of yellow rubber gloves. He reached behind the bin, and picked up a large rat trap with its victim caught fast, and smiling, said 'gosh, she's a big one!' That morning I was especially grateful to have been blessed with a strong stomach.

Gordian died suddenly on the 14th of December 2007. He was 69 years of age, and had been professed for over fifty years. RIP.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

What the Rosary Means to Me ... 14

For me the rosary is an allegory of hearing and responding to the message of Our Lord and living the Christian life, as exemplified by Our Lady. With the Joyful Mysteries, we accept and welcome Christ into our hearts. With the Mysteries of Light we hear and acknowledge his message. With the Sorrowful Mysteries we join Christ and take up our cross. And through His glory, we, like Mary, are raised to be with him.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Dominican Martyrs of Japan

During his life our Holy Father St. Dominic dreamed of going to the pagan mission fields of the east to proclaim the Gospel and suffer martyrdom. He never fulfilled this dream but his spiritual children have never forgotten it. This is seen today in our celebration of the martyrdom of Alphonsus Navarrete, a friar and priest, and Alexius Sanbashi, a lay Dominican and catechist.

St. Alphonsus was born into a devout Spanish family in 1571. He entered the Order as a very young man and in 1585 he volunteered to be a missionary in the Far East. He arrived in Manila in 1595 (via Mexico). However he was plagued by ill-health and returned to Spain in 1600. He spent the next few years recruiting friars for the mission in Asia and after assembling a sizable group of friars from across Europe he returned to the Philippines and was assigned to the House of the Holy Rosary in Kyoto in 1611.

Alphonsus was reassigned to St Dominic’s House in Nagasaki in 1612 just as the first major wave of persecutions against Christians was beginning. By the end of the year he and all missionaries were exiled from the region. Undeterred Alphonsus led his band of friars to Oita on the other side of the island of Kyushu. Over the next five years Alphonsus helped to build a thriving and fervent Christian community. The strength of the Christians in Oita however only highlighted the suffering of the church in Nagasaki. Alphonsus and the Augustinian, Hernando de Ayala, decided they would return to Nagasaki. Within four days of their return Alphonsus was captured by the authorities. On the first of June 1617 he was beheaded for publically preaching the faith, the first Dominican martyr of Japan.

Little is known about Alexius Sanbashi; except that he was a native of Nagasaki and that he was a lay Dominican catechist with Blessed Joseph of St. Hyacinth. It has been suggested that he had been a secret Christian until St. Alphonsus returned to Nagasaki. Inspired by Alphonsus’ preaching he became a lay Dominican and began publically instructing people in the faith. He was captured in 1621 during the second major wave of persecution and burned alive the following year.

Over one hundred members of the Dominican family and their benefactors have been recognized as martyrs by the Church. Their blood helped establish a small yet significant Christian community in Japan, especially in and around Nagasaki, until the Second World War.

Let us today pray, through the intercession of Our Lady of Akita and these glorious martyrs, for the conversion of Japan. Let us also follow their example and proclaim our faith in a world which is hostile to it.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 13

In a very beautiful poem Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ says that Mary had this one work to do: let all God's glory through. The mysteries of the rosary are moments in the lives of Jesus and Mary when the divine glory shines powerfully through. God is the artist or composer who created these mysteries. He composes or paints them in different hues and tones, with different shades and contrasts. In some of them the note of joy predominates, in others the note of sorrow. In others it is the clear light of revelation that helps us see who Jesus is and what His mission is about. In the last five mysteries we are held by the golden light of glory, overwhelmed by the mighty trumpets that herald the new creation.

It is possible to 'press' each mystery against our lives, or rather to press our lives against the shape of each mystery, to see how what it contains is being fulfilled in our journey of faith. What is God asking of me? Who needs me to turn towards them today? How am I helping the Word come to birth in the world? Where do I find the Lord's presence? Do I not know that I should be occupied with my Father's affairs? And so on for the rest ... humanity is greatly exalted through these mysteries of the Word made flesh, which embrace and transform all joy and sorrow, all understanding and desire for love.

Mary, says Hopkins, not only 'gave God's infinity, dwindled to infancy, welcome in womb and breast, birth, milk, and all the rest' but 'mothers each new grace that does now reach our race' ... countless such new graces reach our race through the rosary and very many people, clever and simple, have become great contemplatives through meditating on its mysteries.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What the Rosary means to me ... 12

Thinking back, I can remember saying the rosary with my family as a young boy. The attempt of my mother to get us all to settle down, concentrate and pray was heroic if not always successful. Yet the love for Our Lady and the rosary had its seeds in those early memories. The rosary, like the Eucharist, has been a constant strength in my spiritual life since I was young. Through it I have prayed at the times of my greatest need and for the needs of others. Often when I could not find the words to pray, the familiar and comforting lines of the rosary were my rock. For me the constant repetition of Hail Mary’s draws me into a relaxed state of meditation on the various mysteries of Christ’s life and ministry. It is also a way of greeting and expressing words of love an affection for a mother who has always guided me closer to her Son. I love the fact that it is such a scriptural prayer and yet so easy for all people to use and pray. Often I find it difficult to settle down and begin to say the rosary. But I can honestly say that afterwards I have always been grateful that I did. And so in whatever place you may be in life or faith, whether in family or single life, I think the rosary is a powerful help in drawing closer to the love of God through the hands of his loving Mother.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Remembering ... fr Kieran Mulvey OP (1913-1988)

fr. Denis Kieran Mulvey was born in Harthill, near Glasgow, on the 27th September 1913. After finishing school he attended the University of Glasgow but left before finishing his degree to join the novitiate at Woodchester in 1934. He made profession on the 5th October 1935 and was ordained priest on the 14th July 1940.


In 1942 he went to Edinburgh to study in the university. His conversations with his superior in Edinburgh, the scripture academic Hugh Pope O.P., led to the publication of a memoir Hugh Pope of the Order of Preachers in 1954. That same year he joined the staff of the school at Laxton, where over the next ten years he played a full and diverse role. During his time there he was, among other things, cantor, archivist, sacristan, and editor of the school magazine. Whilst at Laxton he had two more books published: The Martyrdom of Mary, Queen of Scots (1954) and a history of the White Sisters, Daughters of the Holy Spirit (1955)

In 1955 he was assigned to London and was elected prior three years later. The following years saw a flurry of movement. He was elected Prior of Oxford in 1961, sent to Barbados in 1964 and appointed superior in Edinburgh later that year. In 1966 he was assigned to Leicester to act as chaplain to the prison.

He stayed in Leicester until 1972 when he was sent to the Isle of Wight, to be Chaplain to the Dominican Nuns at Carisbrooke. He briefly returned to London and then again to Leicester and the prison chaplaincy.

He died suddenly on the 30th April 1988, aged 74 with 52 years of profession and 47 of priesthood. He is buried at Gilroes cemetery in Leicester.

Kieran Mulvey’s life in service of the Gospel is an example of the variety and instability that Dominican life entails. Within his time in the order he was a prior, a parish priest, a prison chaplain, a missionary, a convent chaplain and a teacher. He preached from the pulpit, through his books and through his actions.

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him, O Lord and Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Souls - 2/3 November

In November, more than ever, we remember the dead, holding in our hearts those we have known and loved, and praying for the salvation of all.


We pray especially this year for our Dominican brothers who died in the past year:

Gordian Marshall and John Martin McGowan
of the English Province
Brendan O'Rourke, Henry Peel, Bernard Casserly
Stephen Doyle, John Cahill and Austin Flannery
of the Irish Province

Each Wednesday in November, from 9.30pm to 10.15pm we will pray for these and for those you would like us to remember.

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