Monday, September 29, 2014

Simple Professions 2014

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


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

Please keep all the newly professed brothers in your prayers.


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

Deo gratias!




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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Rosary: O My Jesus

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

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

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

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



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

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Scotland's decision


The recent referendum in Scotland asked 'Should Scotland should be an independent country?' The voter turnout reached an historic high for any democratic election, at over 84%. The result was 55% of voters rejecting independence. The lengthy campaign gave opportunity for every community in Scotland to discuss the constitutional issues facing not just Scotland, but the entire UK. Aside from some eggs being thrown at politicians and verbal or internet-based abuse, the referendum debate was on the whole peaceful and informative. Discussions, rallies and televised debates have ignited a fresh interest in politics and self-determination amongst Scots. Opinion is however, divided: some cities and regions in Scotland voted overall in favour of leaving the United Kingdom. To counter a growing swell of support for a 'Yes' vote in the last few weeks of the campaign, politicians from all the main UK political parties signed a pledge to deliver on maximising devolution for Scotland. So what next?



The result is perhaps the best that could be hoped for, given the constitutional crisis that would have resulted from a Yes vote for independence. The answers to questions over currency, stability of pensions and continuation of Scotland’s EU membership were at times left ambiguous. But the level of support for the Yes campaign, and the fact that 1.6 million people voted to separate as an independent country, clearly shows a major flaw in the political setup of the UK. One of the main conclusions of the referendum debates across the United Kingdom is that the question of autonomy should no longer be limited to the voters in Scotland, but extended to all of the areas of the UK who are feeling the same about the Westminster political setup. Power is far too centralised, and the economic policies are often designed to benefit a minority, or primarily boost growth in London and the South East of England. Entire regions of the UK (including Scotland, as a nation) are being inhibited from reaching their full potential. The slick catchphrase of the SNP (Scottish National Party) “Release our Potential” should not only be limited to a Scottish context, but the entire United Kingdom needs to do exactly what the name suggests. Unite as the Kingdom that we are, and demand more decentralised government, to release our potential. A more federal UK may be one solution, or perhaps a mixture of regional government and more control for cities over their own affairs. If people unite to demand constitutional reform in order to bring about devolution to regions and cities in England, as well as enhanced powers for the Scottish, Irish and Welsh assemblies, this will deliver on the ‘pledge’ that has been made by all three main political parties.



In a context of Catholic social teaching, we should now begin a meaningful process of agreeing on de-centralised governance, having a settlement that fulfils subsidiarity. A ‘No’ vote does not mean ‘no change’. In the case of Scotland, examples of more devolution would mean more control over things like the welfare system, VAT and other tax rates, government licensing of natural resources, the ability to issue bonds or take out loans, and enabling the Scottish Parliament to take more control over revenue raised. For the rest of the UK, part of the ‘healing’ process now should be a debate on what powers can be devolved to as local a level as possible. That might include some or all of the above points. It is the people who must decide on what the Government does, rather than the Government domineering over people’s affairs and inhibiting the potential growth of cities and regions across the UK.

Images from BBC news website
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Friday, September 19, 2014

Solemn Professions 2014

On 6 September 2014, fr. Oliver James Keenan and fr. Matthew Theophilus Jarvis made Solemn Profession in the Order of Preachers at the Priory of the Holy Spirit, Oxford. Many friars, sisters, and lay Dominicans, as well as the families and friends of the two brothers, came to celebrate with them. 


Solemn Profession is the final commitment of a brother to remain a Dominican for life – or, in the words of the profession formula, 'until death' (usque ad mortem). He promises obedience to God, to Blessed Mary, to Blessed Dominic, and to the Prior Provincial, who takes the place of the Master of the Order, and to his successors. Thus, Solemn Profession is about committing one's whole future to the Order, to serve the Church and the world through this band of Dominicans. 



As our brother Thomas Aquinas says, to take a vow is the only way to give our future, which must be lived successively through time, in the single moment of the present (see ST 2-2.186.6 ad 2). You could say that this is the greatest gift of oneself, the greatest use of our 'present'. Married couples, similarly, can attest to the importance of their vows as an act of total generosity towards each other.


Little wonder, then, that the Solemn Profession and the reception afterwards were very joyful! Some people travelled great distances to be in Oxford for the day, and many others also showed great kindness and generosity.


Please keep fr. Oliver and fr. Matthew in your prayers as they make this new beginning as fully committed Dominican friars in the service of God.

Deo Gratias!

Here are some more pictures of the celebrations:














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Monday, September 15, 2014

Fifth Luminous Mystery: Institution of the Eucharist

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15).

The fifth and final Luminous Mystery recalls the institution of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life. This sacrament is a sign of God’s self-sacrificing love for us and His desire that we should be united with Him. As Pope Benedict writes, “In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God Himself – His expectant love for mankind, for His creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God” (cf. Rom 8:19).

Beautiful and comforting as God’s infinite love for us is, it can also be overwhelming. In the face of such love, if we reflect on our lives properly, then we may well feel distinctly unworthy. This is not a bad thing, the words of the Mass (“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you...”) acknowledge this, yet we are encouraged by the Church to make whatever reparations are necessary and go forward to receive our Lord, and grow in communion with Him and those around us.

The French writer, Francois Mauriac, expresses this beautifully:
There is a mysterious mingling of conflicting feelings in the man who is about to receive Holy Communion: fear and confidence, open-heartedness and remorse, shame and love. The small Host which the sinner approaches throws an impartial and terrible light on irretrievable deeds: on that which he has done, on that which he should not have refrained from doing. No man knows himself if he has not looked at his soul in the light of the Host lifted above the ciborium…

Salvador Dali's, Last Supper

Yet all the misdeeds that the communicant sees at a glance are no longer his; someone else has taken them over since the pardon of Christ has come down on his soul with the absolution of the priest. His misery, far from driving him into despair, helps him understand how much he has been loved…

What is almost always obtained through frequent Communion is a grace which surpasses all perceptible favours; an increased light and, better still, a new strength in God."

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration

‘“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain’ (2 Peter 1:17-18).

St Peter witnessed what had been foreseen by the Prophet Daniel ‘and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him’ (Dan. 7:13). In the Transfiguration Christ’s true identity was made manifest. His face shone like the sun and ‘his garments became as white as light’ (Matt 17:2). The Son of Man and Son of God stood atop the holy mountain wrapped in all the glory of Heaven and wreathed in the sacred cloud from which sprung forth the voice of the Father.

Faced with such an awesome, and apocalyptic, sight who then could blame St Peter for assuming that the end of Jesus’s mission had come? It was his desire to set up tents and stay wrapped up in this Divine encounter. His presumption can be contrasted with the attitude of those disciples left at the bottom of the mountain. Immediately after the Transfiguration Jesus encountered a paralytic whom his disciples could not heal. Why, asked the disciples, were the unable to heal the man? “Because of your little faith,” Jesus answered them. If they had but a little faith they could have moved mountains (Matt 17:20).



Archbishop Fulton Sheen observed that whereas Peter had a desire for great Faith he lacked the zeal of the other disciples to do good work and those same disciples didn’t grasp the Divine dimension of charitable work. So it can be with Christians today: some seek such a devotion to the spiritual life that they forget to love their neighbour. Others are so wrapped up in helping the poor they forget their need for God.

In the Mystery of the Transfiguration Christians can help avoid these two pitfalls. By joining the Apostles on the mountain they can meet Christ’s divinity and dwell at the heights of faith. However they must then join them on the way down to go forth and share the fruits of their encounter with the whole world. 
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Friday, September 12, 2014

Third Luminous Mystery: The Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Conversion

'The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel' (Mk 1:15).

This Luminous Mystery can be understood very broadly as the whole public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, lasting three years, but for the sake of meditation during the Rosary we can focus on the very beginning. That is where we see the essence of the proclamation of the kingdom of God.

The beginning of Jesus's preaching mission is to call us to conversion. Our sins have led us away from God; and that is very foolish, not just wicked, because we cannot find happiness apart from God. Just as a sick person cannot be healed unless they admit their frailty and visit the doctor, so we cannot be forgiven without acknowledging our sins: 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners' (Mt 9:13). Through the interior liberty gained by our conversion, we are simultanesouly freed from all kinds of external oppressions; Christ came 'to preach good news to the poor', that is, to bring healing and peace to all who suffer (cf. Lk 4:18).

When he sends out the 70 disciples, Jesus makes it clear that they are on a mission of peace (Lk 10). They are to bring peace and healing to every house they enter. No wonder, then, that the disciples 'returned with joy'. Jesus warns them not to rejoice in the wonders and miracles they worked, but 'rejoice that your names are written in heaven'. Our true joy comes from our own conversion – we were sinners, but we have been healed. We must become more like Mary, whose pure heart enabled her to play her part in the coming of the kingdom on earth.

This task of proclamation, however, is not an easy one. In the sending of the Twelve (Mt 10), they go out 'as sheep in the midst of wolves', yet Jesus tells them to 'have no fear'. The proclamation of good news is its own reward. Dominicans are vowed especially to this preaching mission and, like all Christian witnesses, we must go out not trusting in our own gifts or righteousness, but knowing ourselves to be sinners redeemed, with the love of God in our hearts.

The Christian paradox is that we live in this world with our hearts burning for the next. The world is fallen, redeemed, and awaiting its re-creation. The kingdom of God is already and not yet; now is the time for mission.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Second Luminous Mystery: The Wedding at Cana

The wedding feast at Cana is one of those mysteries of the Rosary which shows a side of the Apostles and Jesus that Dominicans can identify with; that is, being at a banquet drinking copious amounts of wine in celebration of a certain feast or solemnity. Enjoying food and drink in temperance, in a fashion that is appreciative of the beauty of creation, is part of what it is to be a Christian, as well as not just going along with gluttonous appetites. Nor however is the tone of this wedding feast cold and anxious, for all the wine ends up being consumed. When the wine runs out at this feast in Cana, it is Mary the mother of Jesus who more or less asks him to turn the water into wine. In this first public miracle of Jesus, he turns the water that the rigid Jewish ablutions rituals required into the best wine for those at the feast to drink. Jesus does this at a time of joy, a moment of public declaration of love between a man and woman, and of their intention to be part of the fabric of society having children of their own, committing themselves to each other for life. The symbolism of turning this boring ablutions water, stored in banal stone water jars, into the best sort of wine to fuel the banquet, is quite profound. Jesus requests the religious and anthropocentric water jars are turned over to be used for something much better, all in the context of temperance of our appetites. This marks the start of Jesus's ministry, and in an atmosphere of joy and happiness, this contrasts to the more puritanical interpretation of religious self-denial, such as seen in the movie 'Babette's Feast'.




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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The First Luminous Mystery: Our Lord's Baptism


Baptism is the basis of our entire Christian life; it is the gateway the Lord opens into the life of the triune God of grace. We know baptism as the Sacrament of Faith that has been established by God as the normative means through which we are freed from original sin, re-born by Water and the Holy Spirit as daughters and sons of the Most High. But all this leaves us with a puzzle when it comes to understanding Jesus’s own baptism: what need had Christ, the spotless and perfectly sinless Son of God, for baptismal grace? What need had Jesus, who enjoyed the vision of God throughout his life, for the sacrament of faith? What need had the second person of the Trinity for initiation into the life of the Trinity? Are we to conclude that Jesus’s baptism was just an empty gesture, a redundant sign of deep significance and profound aesthetic value, but which nonetheless changed nothing?

Christ’s baptism is, clearly, of a different type to our own: Christ’s baptism by John inaugurates Christian baptism as an efficacious means of grace; our own baptisms are dependent, derived, actions that baptise us into Christ’s own baptismal life. It is by being baptised, submitting himself to baptism at the hands of a man, that Jesus creates and establishes Baptism as the Sacrament of Faith in Himself. Yet Baptism is no individualistic event that cleanses our souls as if God intervened surgically by dissecting us away from others. Rather, baptism engrafts us into the Christian community, making us members of Christ’s own body. Christ’s own baptism manifests his status as the head of the community of the baptized.

Indeed, Christ’s baptism is a moment of revelation—the dove, representing the Holy Spirit, descends onto the waters and the voice of the Father reveals Christ’s identity as Son (all of which resonates with the creative imagery of Genesis, in which the Spirit of God hovers over the waters and the world is created by a spoken word of God). At this moment, Christ’s true identity—revealed to his mother Mary at the annunciation—is made manifest on the public stage. It is in our own baptisms that we too discover our deepest identity as those claimed for Christ, and—over the course of a lifetime—it is in the outworking of our graced baptismal vocation that we discover who God created us to be and the tasks that he has bestowed upon us. The waters of Baptism are the short, sharp, shock that wake us up to our most essential identity: "Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him" (Benedict XVI).

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Rosary: The Luminous Mysteries

"The Transfiguration", Raphael

The Luminous Mysteries (or Mysteries of Light) were introduced as “a proposed addition to the traditional pattern" by Pope John Paul II, in October 2002, at the start of the Year of the Rosary. These mysteries focus on the public ministry of Jesus Christ, and were added in the words of St. John Paul “for the Rosary to become more fully a 'compendium of the Gospel'”; in contemplating revelatory moments in Christ’s public ministry, the Christological depth of the Rosary is brought out more fully.



In St. John Paul’s words: Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth [the Joyful Mysteries] to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way 'mysteries of light'. Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the 'light of the world' (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Indeed, one idea when praying these mysteries is to ask for the intercession of St. John Paul whose devotion to the Rosary, was clear. We pray the Luminous Mysteries especially on Thursdays, but of course one can pray mysteries of the Rosary at any time, and in any place - and that is part of their beauty! May the Luminous Mysteries enlighten our path as we go about our daily business praising, blessing, and preaching the Word of God.





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Friday, September 05, 2014

Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Coronation of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and the Glory of all the Saints

When viewing the mysteries of the Rosary through the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary it is not difficult to discern why some of them are called glorious. When Our Lady witnessed the Resurrected Christ she saw her son returning triumphant from a great battle. At his ascension she marvelled at his elevation above all things, from where he sent forth the Spirit as guarantor and guide of his newly-won kingdom. But in these Glorious Mysteries were do not solely encounter Our Lady as a spectator but equally as a participant. For at Pentecost the apostles were gathered around her and through her assumption into Heaven she entered the Divine Bliss where she was crowned queen to reign with her Divine Son for all eternity. Yet, in the Fifth Glorious Mystery it is not only Our Lady who is shown as a recipient of Heavenly glory: attending her coronation as the Queen of Heaven sit all the saints; God’s justified called up to reign with him for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)


This destiny is for all God’s faithful. The Fifth Glorious mystery contains then the promise of our future glory. However, as we humbly look forward to these heights which God has destined us we remember that the great victory which gives birth to this destiny is Christ’s saving Passion and Death upon the Cross. As St. Paul says, ‘if we are to share Christ’s glory we must also share his sufferings’ (Romans 8:17) In our present day trials we can turn to this final glorious mystery and find waiting for us the gift of hope. As we witness Our Lady’s coronation let us ask that the fruit of our contemplation might be the perseverance to walk the narrow path of Calvary to the mansions of Heaven.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven


Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is alive with her Son in heaven. Alleluia!

She has been raised through him, with him, in him, into the glory of God's eternal dwelling-place. Christ had said, 'If I go and prepare a place for you, I shall come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also' (Jn 14:3). Mary is privileged to be the first to follow her Son, body and soul, into heaven. She participates already in his bodily resurrection. Where Jesus is the 'first-fruits', Mary is chief among 'those who belong to Christ' (see 1 Cor. 15:23), showing what we too may achieve if we follow him faithfully.

In her earthly life, the Virgin Mary was Christ's closest follower, from the moment of her fiat when she gave her life fully into God's hands all the way to the foot of the Cross. Now that he is raised to new life, she shares in that glorious beatitude. Assumed body and soul into heaven, Mary's privilege anticipates our own bodily glory in the general resurrection.

It is indeed a privilege, not something Mary grasped for herself or earned by her own unaided efforts. Mary's honour flows from the grace of Jesus. As God singled out Mary for the unique privilege of bearing his Only-Begotten Son, so Mary's Assumption can be seen as another unique privilege of grace.

Let it remind us that 'in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose' (Rom. 8:28). 

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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Dominican Way - Arundel to Canterbury


From 7 to 17th August, a group of more than 20 young pilgrims walked from Arundel to Canterbury, a distance of about 130 miles. This was The Dominican Way, the national event for the Dominican Youth Movement this summer, bringing together young Catholic adults from all over the country and even from overseas. In fact, we calculated that between us some 12 nationalities were represented!


The pilgrimage was inspired by the Routes Dominicaines run by the French brethren, but was adapted to the English context. Canterbury is in many ways the heart of English Christianity and was frequented by thousands of pilgrims a year following the shocking martyrdom of St Thomas Becket in the cathedral on 29th December 1170. At the the other end, Arundel is the the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, the premier Catholic noble family in the land, and has an inspiring recusant history - the skyline is dominated by their castle as well as the magnificent cathedral dedicated to Our Lady and St Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel and martyr during the penal times. In between, we visited many religious communities, shrines and other places of great historical and religious interest.


But this pilgrimage was not just about discovering the glories of a historic Christendom. It was a living adventure, through which we young Catholics entered more deeply into our spiritual heritage and received blessings and inspiration for our mission as Christians in the 21st century. Along the way we encountered countless strangers and friends who shared our passion for the Faith, or simply offered us their kindness and hospitality. In particular, we were very grateful for the warm welcome we received at the places we stopped for the night, including cathedrals, religious communities, Catholic and Anglican parishes - and some individual parishioners even welcomed us into their own homes.


The pilgrimage aimed to realise the four pillars of Dominican life - community, prayer, study, preaching - while on the road. So, besides the obvious benefit (and challenge!) of walking some 20 miles a day, we were making friends and learning to live together; learning about the places we were visiting; being schooled in the lives of the saints; praying the Divine Office using our Dominican melodies; sharing short thoughts from our experiences; and preaching in diverse ways to people we met along the way - in the countryside, in churches, and even in pubs!


After successfully navigating several perils of the English countryside - including hornets, black sheep, and Brother Jordan singing - we arrived safe and sound in Canterbury. The joy of reaching our destination quickly outshone the memories of the difficult terrain we had traversed. This short pilgrimage gave us perhaps a foretaste of that greater destination we hope to reach at the end of our pilgrim lives on earth. But meanwhile, we look forward to the next DYM pilgrimage!


Here are some photos to give you a glimpse of what we did. You can find more through the Facebook page for The Dominican Way.










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