Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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What I did in the summer... Hospital Chaplaincy

Friday, February 06, 2015

The bread and butter issues in life are what really matter, not so much the added extras. At least, that is what I took from my student placement this summer when I spent four weeks on a hospital chaplaincy placement in London. The NHS hospital where I was a chaplaincy assistant provides advanced medical care to patients from London and other regions of England; indeed patients even come from abroad for specialist care at the various surgical units. As with most hospitals in the UK, health care is free at the point of care, patients from all backgrounds are treated, and a wide range of health care is undertaken, from brain surgery and advanced cancer treatment to healing of broken bones. Read more

“Others merely hear, but we see and touch”

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

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What I did in the summer...La Route Dominicaine

Monday, November 26, 2012
Walking long distances is a very Dominican activity. St Dominic walked countless miles preaching the Gospel in southern France and northern Italy in the earliest days of the Order.
Later that century, St Albert the Great, as Provincial of Teutonia then Bishop of Regensburg, had such a job visiting his priories and parishes that he earned the nickname 'The Boot'. It was to send a clear signal of evangelical poverty that these early Dominicans refused to ride horses. Just as Jesus sent out the first disciples on foot, so do we poor preachers follow in their footsteps. We still don't ride horses! Now, while modern transportation has of course become indispensable, we must always strive for a prudent poverty and simplicity of lifestyle, suitably to adorn our preaching of spiritual riches. And so, occasionally, it is good to get back to basics, and leave behind the settled comforts of community or family life.
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What I did in the Summer.....France

Monday, November 19, 2012

What I Did in the Summer ... Placement in St Petersburg

Monday, November 12, 2012
At the beginning of July I was ordained deacon and, soon afterwards, I set out for my placement in a parish, which is quite a common place for deacons to be sent during the summer after their ordination. It’s not quite so common, though, for that parish to be in Russia, which is where I went, to our Dominican house and parish of St Catherine of Alexandria in St Petersburg. Why Russia? you might well ask. Wasn’t there somewhere in England I could have gone? Of course, I could have stayed in England, but I had studied Russian at university before I joined the Order and so asked the Student Master if I might be able to go to Russia to brush up my Russian and to get to know the brethren and their work in that country. He said yes, so off I went. Read more

What I Did in the Summer ... Hospital Chaplaincy

Sunday, November 04, 2012

What I did in the summer - Visit to Cairo

Monday, October 29, 2012
From the 15th of July to the 17th of August I visited the IDEO (the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies: www.ideo-cairo.org) in Cairo. Apart from holidays in the place of the birth of History, the other reason for my visit was to understand the life of Christian missions in majority Muslim countries. In the beginning I wanted to go to Iraq (I love the unequaled poetry and wisdom of Iraq) but the situation there and the fact that our Dominican houses have been living under constant threats dampened my enthusiasm a little bit.

From right to left: Frs René-Vincent, Jean, Adrien and Gustave

For the whole month, during a heat wave (38°C to 42°C), I managed to visit many Christian and Muslim quarters of Cairo, and I also visited some areas outside Cairo. I visited the Islamic Cairo (a couple of kilometres from the IDEO), entered beautiful mosques that reflect the genius of the Egyptian building skills in the Middle Ages, saw the remarkable and vast Coptic churches of Moqattamcarved in the rock (some beneath others), went to the pyramids, the Sphinx and the Solar Boat at Giza, visited some of the world’s most renowned museums (The Egyptian Museum, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Coptic Museum), entered overwhelming mausoleums and madrassas of the Fatimid period and went to the four monasteries of Wadi El-Natrun in the desert.

Gustave near Bab El-Nasr in the Islamic Cairo
Posing with a guide with his camel

One of the four monastries of Wadi El-Natrun

One of the churches of Moqattam
After spending days visiting highly different suburbs of Cairo, I came to realise that life there is more complex than I imagined, and so are people’s mindsets. I got different ideas of Cairo, moving from the postmodern houses of Smart Village to the City of the Dead (where families actually live in tombs), from the quiet and hyper clean streets of Az-zamalek to the noisy Sharia Ramsi’s or Sharia El Ghaysh, from the Sushi restaurants of El Ma’adi to the world’s largest recycling hub Moqattam (the ‘garbage city’), from the enormous futuristic shopping mall of Sun City to the more traditional (and more attractive) market of Khan Al Khalilli.

Aerial view of Moqattam, the 'garbage city'

Sun City from above

Children playing in the City of the Dead


Smart Village in Cairo

After ten formal interviews and countless long chats with people, Muslims and Christians, I came to understand that religious tensions in Egypt usually arise when an Imam speaks negatively of Christians or a Christian priest tries to undermine Islam. The killings generally start after a small incident: when I was there, an entire community started a fight in Dahshur because a Christian tailor had burnt a shirt belonging to a Muslim client while trying to iron it. As I visited Cairo during the month of Ramadan, I witnessed the highest level of Islamic spirituality, devotion and charitable works. Many times I was invited to the Iftar (the meal taken every evening by Muslims at sunset during the fasting of the month of Ramadan), sometimes by Muslims and many times by Christian friends who grew up in that tradition. I also spent hours reading books from the IDEO’s rich library, especially on the origins of the Christian-Muslim dialogue.

Inside the IDEO's library
Iftar with Christian friends and an Egyptian Dominican friar in Cairo








Inside the Dominican Chapel in Cairo

























As I cannot yet make public the findings of my research, that being part of an academic work in progress, I only can say that I learnt that our ways to relate to our neighbours from a different religious tradition, depend much on how and where we grew up, but also on how we choose to live with them. I am currently learning Arabic, hoping to re-visit Cairo sometime in the near future and one day to see the mythical Baghdad.
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