Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Monday, May 09, 2005

London and Back Again

The last few days in London have been very nice... There's always something exhilarating about going to London and coming from the quiet and idyllic market town of Skipton, I feel like the proverbial country boy in the big city when the train pulls into Kings Cross station. Incidentally, they've installed a "Platform 9 & 3/4" with a luggage trolley half-way inside the wall at the station. Unsurprisingly, there were many kids and tourists around it.

Arriving in London, one is faced with a barrage of faces and languages. I am immediately struck by how London is truly a global city - people from all over the world converge in London and almost all the waiters and baristas I encountered over the next few days were non-English. It is said that only 50% of Londoners are white English and in some parishes, over 200 languages are spoken!

It was a delight for me to live with the Dominican community at St Dominic's, London for 2 nights. The picture above is from the Priory church's Lady Altar. The atmosphere at the Priory was convivial and I was particularly bowled over by Fr Columba, OP who is 89 years old - he was very alert and still showed a sharp wit and incisive mind. I realised after I left, just how much I missed the community life I had in Dagat-dagatan with the Dominican fathers. Fortunately the Fathers in San Lorenzo still keep me involved with regular email updates, many of which have me in fits of laughter. While I was in London, I also had the chance to attend a school Mass at St Dominic's primary school on Ascension Thursday. I was impressed by the children's behaviour (much better than in my school in Manila) and was amused when one (Ultramontane) child gave the reply "Pope Benedict" to the question: "Who is the ultimate King?"

I stayed another two nights at Ealing in west London with a friend whom I have known for 5 years. It was most enjoyable and also enlivening. While in London, I also met up with my cousin who is a lay assistant at All Souls' (Anglican) church and another old friend from Singapore who is doing a Masters in Classics at KCL. It was a pleasure for me to meet up with them and simply catch up.

One piece of news caught my attention. I seems that not so long ago, a certain seminary in the north of England (which now languishes with 17 students) had rather ill-advisedly decided to discard with their old library books. Admittedly some were duplicate copies but they could have been sold or offered to students. Instead they were, with the disregard for antiquity so typical of that place, dumped in a skip and readied for burning. The burning of books is a very symbolic act and in this case, all too apt for describing the mood and feel of this place. Among the books discarded were the complete works of St Augustine (in Latin) and the (masterful) 1921 translation of the Summa Theologiae of St Thomas Aquinas. The place in question had not shown much regard for the Doctors of the Church in recent years and so it is not uncharacteristic for them to throw out and incinerate the works of such people. Apparently, this was just what was saved by my friends... much else was lost to the Philistines! Trawling through the second-hand bookshops of Charing Cross on London, we saw books dumped by that place which were being sold for as much as 50 Pounds Sterling a volume!

Speaking of Philistines... on Friday, we went to watch "The Kingdom of Heaven". It was very disappointing and indeed, rubbish! Apart from a fascinating depiction of seige warfare, the film was wildly inaccurate and made no sense as a story! From start to end, it floundered aimlessly and employed music and costumes which were out-of-place and misleading. In particular, I wonder why the Patriarch of Jerusalem was depicted in white papal robes (which only evolved after the Renaissance) and why Dominicans were seen loitering in Jerusalem in 1187 when St Dominic was still an 8-year-old child and the Order not even in existence?! The Templars are no longer around to defend themselves but they came across as blood-thirsty fanatics and the Patriarch was a cowardly apostate, clinging to power and prestige. The knights had 21st century pre-occupations and bias. On the whole, the film was unsympathetic to its inspiration, disrespectful of history and had bad plot lines, ridiculous dialogue, weak acting and characterisation and disappointing sets.

A final thought... on Saturday, a housemate of my friend commented albeit in jest: "Oh, guests are such a pain!" Although I think she was joking, it was a comment which stung. On reflection, I realised that even if it was said in jest, it should not have been thought of in the first place. From my experience of Filipino and indeed Asian hospitality, such a notion would never have crossed their minds. In the Philippines, a guest is an honour to have at one's home, a blessing, a joy; never an inconvenience or a burden or chore. This is true hospitality and a key Christian principle. May we seek to cultivate that kind of love in our homes.


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