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, October 31, 2005

Iustorum animae in manu Dei sunt, alleluia!

This was posted on All Hallows' Eve, as we mark the holy Vigil of the Solemnity of All the Saints:


"Give me the wings of faith to rise
within the veil, and see
the saints above, how great their joys,
how bright their glories be.

Once they were mourning here below,
and wet their couch with tears:
they wrestled hard, as we do now,
with sins, and doubts, and fears.

I ask them whence their victory came:
they, with united breath,
ascribe their conquest to the Lamb,
their triumph to his death.

They marked the footsteps that he trod,
his zeal inspired their breast;
and following their incarnate God,
possess the promised rest.

Our glorious Leader claims our praise
for his own pattern given;
while the long cloud of witnesses
show the same path to heaven."

Words by Isaac Watts (1709)

There is a fine anthem setting of part of this poem by Ernest Bullock which may be heard online at this link, courtesy of Lammas Records.

The photo above is from a Book of Gospels & Epistles, (1864: Ratisbon & New York).

Friday, October 28, 2005

Prayer for Dominican Vocations

We say this beautiful prayer every Friday evening. I invite you to join us in its recitation and of your charity to pray for and with us:

Blessed Jordan, worthy successor of St Dominic, in the early days of the Order, your example and zeal prompted many men and women to follow Christ in the white habit of Our Holy Father.

As patron of Dominican vocations, continue to stimulate talented and devoted men and women to consecrate their lives to God. Through your intercession, lead to the Order of Preachers generous and sacrificing persons, willing to give themselves fervently to the apostolate of Truth.

Help them to prepare themselves to be worthy of the grace of a Dominican vocation. Inspire their hearts to become learned of God, that with firm determination they might aspire to be "champions of the Faith and true lights of the world."


Look out for more about Blessed Jordan of Saxony next week...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Notes from the Past...

Daniel Jeffries has tagged me to do this rather odd meme and since he's a friend and part of the Dominican family, I shall acquiesce...

The Instructions are as follows:

1. Go into your Archives.

2. Find your 23rd Post.

3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to it).

4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.

My 23rd Post was rather pointless. It was called "...We're gonna find out who's naughty and nice..." and was posted on Tuesday 19 April 2005. It was an attempt at mocking the government of a certain infamously repressive Island-City-State. I have since turned away from such aimless posts!

The fifth sentence of that post is: "This circular structure which is still being constructed stuck out like a sore thumb and blighted the skyscape."

It refers to the photo above.

I refrain from tagging anyone to do this meme but leave it to the discretion of readers to conduct a similar search into their past posts if they so desire...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Thoughts for 'International Forgiveness Day'

According to this article in The Independent, today is 'International Forgiveness Day'. Initially, I was non-plussed by this declaration. It seemed like yet another gimmick devised by greeting-card companies or bureaucracies that is so often unheeded and ignored. However, as I read the article and pondered the notion of forgiveness, I became quite keen on the idea. Indeed, I feel this is a day that should not be ignored! After all, forgiveness is such a vital aspect of our faith and one that the world does not mention very often so anything that will draw our attention to it is to be valued. Contrary to this, our national tabloids tend to highlight a very unforgiving and hypocritical world that delights in the peccadillos of others. It seems that forgiveness is rather in short supply these days!

As Pope John Paul the Great said 15 years ago: "Modern man often anxiously wonders about the solution to the terrible tensions which have built up in the world and which entangle humanity. And if at times he lacks the courage to utter the word "mercy," or if in his conscience empty of religious content he does not find the equivalent, so much greater is the need for the Church to utter this word, not only in her own name but also in the name of all the men and women of our time (Dives in Misericordia, 14)."

So, we really need a day marked out like this; a day to take stock and seek forgiveness and humbly give it to others.

And yet, forgiveness is something we Christians pray for every day. In reciting the Lord's prayer, we ask that we be forgiven by God even as we will forgive those who sin against us. But we know how difficult it is to truly forgive... I can forget, I can say I forgive and I can pray about it but deep down if I have been offended or wounded by someone, the scars still take years to heal! Not surprisingly, the axiom "To forgive is divine" still holds for it is a divine gift to be able to forgive in the wholly giving and selfless way that God forgives; it is only by the grace of the Holy Spirit that I can transcend my sinful human limitations and fully participate in God's work of liberating forgiveness.

The Servant of God, Pope John Paul II wrote the following words which are still as evocative and powerful today, a meditation on the Lord's all-encompassing forgiveness and mercy:

"It is precisely because sin exists in the world, which "God so loved...that he gave his only Son," that God, who "is love," cannot reveal Himself otherwise than as mercy. This corresponds not only to the most profound truth of that love which God is, but also to the whole interior truth of man and of the world which is man's temporary homeland.

Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father's readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.

Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Conversion to God always consists in discovering His mercy, that is, in discovering that love which is patient and kind as only the Creator and Father can be; the love to which the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is faithful to the uttermost consequences in the history of His covenant with man; even to the cross and to the death and resurrection of the Son. Conversion to God is always the fruit of the"rediscovery of this Father, who is rich in mercy."
Dives in Misericordia, 13

As such, every day in the Church is and should be an 'International Day of Forgiveness' and above all, a Day of Mercy. Thus it is very apt that in our time, the 'Divine Mercy' devotion should be given to us, for we are ever more in need of God's mercy "on us and on the whole world". Every Monday afternoon, I iron the sacred linens which we use in the Mass, and as I do this, I watch and pray the sung Chaplet of Divine Mercy on EWTN and it never fails to move me with love and gratitude for our God of Mercy and Love and I praise Him for his unfailing Forgiveness upon me, a most dreadful sinner.

But how does one receive the grace to forgive as God does? I would say that this is possible only when we ourselves have really experienced and appreciated God's forgiveness for us. Therefore, it is precisely a devotion like the 'Divine Mercy' chaplet that helps me to meditate on the Lord's forgiveness. Such prayer and contemplation in turn fills me with gratitude for having been forgiven and that moves me to forgive others. I truly want to love as He does and to share in His forgiveness. Thoughts such as these crossed my mind this morning during Mass, which is the primary sacrament of God's love and forgiveness. Thus, Pope Benedict XVI said yesterday, at the Close of the Year of and the Synod on the Eucharist: "Whoever receives Christ in the reality of this Body and Blood cannot keep this gift to himself, but is impelled to share it in courageous witness of the Gospel, in service to brothers in difficulty, in forgiveness for offenses."

In another way, Catholics who receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Right, at WYD2005, courtesy of and humbly confess their sins to the Lord in the person of His priest celebrate the 'Day of Mercy' par excellence. For in celebrating this sacrament, I come to the Throne of Mercy and confess myself to be in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. In doing so, I not only recall the things I have done (or omitted to do) for which I seek forgiveness and pardon but I also ought to call to mind the ways I have not myself been forgiving or the grudges I still nurse with a perverse fondness. So long as I do not allow myself to be liberated by God's forgiveness and share in His mercy, I am still bound by sin. For the act of asking for forgiveness not only liberates me from my misdeeds but when I forgive others who come to me seeking forgiveness, I liberate them and when I release any grudge I still bear, I myself am also liberated from hard-heartedness which prevents us from truly loving, truly forgiving and truly living. For anyone who has experienced forgiveness knows how life-giving it is, it breathes new breath into our souls!

As such, these Sacraments and the 'Divine Mercy' devotion are vital means to forgiveness, an antidote to hard-heartedness and the source of conversion to the God of Mercy in our sadly unforgiving world; a world which cries out for forgiveness, mercy and love. If it is these we seek, there is only one source where it may be found: Christ Jesus who is rich and infinite in mercy and love. Therefore, Pope John Paul II taught: "The Church must consider it one of her principal duties-at every stage of history and especially in our modern age-to proclaim and to introduce into life the mystery of mercy, supremely revealed in Jesus Christ" (Dives in Misericordia, 14).

Let us consider ways to proclaim with love God's forgiveness to the people we meet today and indeed, every day.

For the sake of His Son's sorrowful Passion, may the Father of all Mercies have mercy on me and on the whole world!

Update on my Grandmother's health

Thank you all for your prayers for my grandmother. I received the following email from my aunt , who is caring for her, this morning:

"She [my grandmother] managed to go to church yesterday, using the walker. God's timing was very good - there was a Chinese pastor (from Sabah) who was conducting a healing service. As there were so many people at the altar, we told her to just stand up and trust God's healing. [My grandfather and my aunt] were laying our hands on her back. A few minutes later, she noticed and felt that the pain at her back was gone and her legs had gained a little strength. At the end of the service, she stood up by herself and walked out of church without using the walker! Praise the Lord. He has done a healing on her. Truly doctors can only give medication to help but healing comes from the

This certainly sounds wonderful and I thank God for his mercy, love and healing. I thank Our Blessed Mother for her powerful intercession and continue to entrust my Grandmother and family to her.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Gift of the Elderly

Yesterday was the anniversary of the election of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI said in his Angelus address:

"Before his tomb, in the Vatican grottoes, the pilgrimage of many faithful still continues without interruption, and this constitutes an eloquent sign of how our beloved John Paul II has entered people's hearts, above all because of his testimony of love and surrender in suffering. In him we have been able to admire the strength of faith and prayer, and the way in which he entrusted himself totally to Mary Most Holy, who always accompanied and protected him, especially in the most difficult and dramatic moments of his life."

It is to these difficult and dramatic moments of life, the years of suffering and patient endurance brought on by age, that my mind turns. Last week, I received news from my family in Kuala Lumpur that my paternal grandmother (right) - who you'll remember celebrated her 80th birthday only two months ago - had slipped in her bathroom and hurt her back. She was hospitalized for a few days and is now recovering at home, with the care of my ever patient and loving aunt. All these miles away, I prayed for and with the family for my grandmother and I ask your prayers too for her continued recovery and for those who care for her.

There is nothing quite like the rigours and frailty of old age to remind one of one's mortality and in the a week when that happened at home, followed by a reminder of our late beloved John Paul II, I spent some time pondering the mystery of ageing and human mortality. Moreover, in a religious community like ours, one encounters a wide range of ages in community and it is not unusual to find oneself living with elderly Dominicans. It is rather like the family set-up I am accustomed to in Asia, where extended families of three generations or more live in close proximity to one another, and sometimes even under the same roof! Here in England (and by extension, in Europe), it truly breaks my heart to see the elderly, bent over with age, still having to shop for themselves and struggling with heavy bags of groceries which they take to an empty home. In many ways, older religious are spared at least this aspect of the elderly life even though they still bear many responsibilities and duties and it is an inspiration for a young religious like myself to see the joy, steadfastness and resolution with which they live out their religious life.

Whether it is the late Pontiff, or my own grandmother, or a brother in my religious family, or simply the aged parishioners and passers-by I come across in my life, I often ponder the witness they offer to me... It is heart-rending that society so often rejects or ignores the elderly; we live in a time of ageism, where youth is idealized and even idolized. It annoys me when people make disparaging comments about the elderly, who after all only suffer the natural decline of human mortality, which we all will face one day. In this social and cultural climate, the British Parliament is discussing its' terrifying Euthanasia Bill, which could herald a legal development in which "a right to die can become a duty to die" as people could feel pressure from families caring for them. Those were the words of warning issued by Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor. Moreover, as Pope John Paul II taught in 1999, "Regardless of intentions and circumstances, euthanasia is always an intrinsically evil act, a violation of God's law and an offence against the dignity of the human person" (Letter to the Elderly, 9).

None of the above symptoms are surprising, given our social climate. For, as John Paul the Great said in a letter in 2002,

"In the first place, the elderly must be considered in their dignity as persons, which does not diminish with the passing years nor with physical and mental deterioration. It is clear that such a positive view can flourish only in a culture capable of transcending social stereotypes which judge a person’s worth on the basis of youth, efficiency, physical vigour or perfect health. Experience shows that when this positive view breaks down older people are quickly marginalized and condemned to a loneliness which is a kind of social death. And does not the self-esteem of older people depend in large part on how they are viewed in the family and in society?"

The wonderful gift of the presence of the elderly both in the family home and in a religious community is that it stands as a sign of contradiction to the folly of the world and precisely those attitudes highlighted by the late Pontiff. For in such communities, the elderly are present as vital members of that community where they may be loved, respected and given responsibilities, consonant to their capabilities and talents, so that they are not regarded as useless or marginalized by ageist attitudes - in short, they are accorded human dignity.

There is indeed much that the elderly can teach the young and we should strain to listen more carefully to them and ask them to share their experiences and reflections with us. As a child I delighted in my grandmother's tales and quizzed her on life 'in the good ol' days' in Malaysia and China. Even now, I enjoy listening to the stories told by the older brethren in our religious community and the experiences of elderly parishioners. I have often learnt much from the elderly in this way.

As Pope John Paul II said in that 1999 'Letter to the Elderly':

"Consequently, whereas childhood and youth are the times when the human person is being formed and is completely directed towards the future, and — in coming to appreciate his own abilities — makes plans for adulthood, old age is not without its own benefits. As Saint Jerome observes, with the quieting of the passions, it “increases wisdom, and brings more mature counsels”. In a certain sense, it is the season for that wisdom which generally comes from experience, since “time is a great teacher”. The prayer of the Psalmist is well known: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart”... Thus the teaching and language of the Bible present old age as a “favourable time” for bringing life to its fulfilment and, in God's plan for each person, as a time when everything comes together and enables us better to grasp life's meaning and to attain “wisdom of heart”. “An honourable old age comes not with the passing of time”, observes the Book of Wisdom, “nor can it be measured in terms of years; rather, understanding is the hoary crown for men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age” (4:8-9). Old age is the final stage of human maturity and a sign of God's blessing"
(paras.5 & 6).

It is sad when the elderly in fact no longer feel this sense of blessing but rather see their age as a burden on society... But youth has little wisdom and a society that neglects to heed the wisdom and experience of the old but is so enamoured by novelty, innovation and youth is one that is ultimately foolish and misdirected.

There is also the Christian witness offered by the elderly and I think their example in steadfastly living the Christian life inspires me most, both in our religious community and also in the lives of the elderly parishioners I used to visit. In the words of the previous Pope,

"The Christian community can receive much from the serene presence of older people. I think first of all in terms of evangelization: its effectiveness does not depend principally on technical expertise. In how many families are grandchildren taught the rudiments of the faith by their grandparents! There are many other areas where the elderly can make a beneficial contribution. The Spirit acts as and where he wills, and quite frequently he employs human means which seem of little account in the eyes of the world. How many people find understanding and comfort from elderly people who may be lonely or ill and yet are able to instil courage by their loving advice, their silent prayers, or their witness of suffering borne with patient acceptance! At the very time when their physical energies and their level of activity are decreasing, these brothers and sisters of ours become all the more precious in the mysterious plan of Providence"
(Letter to the Elderly, 13).

But this is not to romanticize old age, which has very real sufferings and the onset of the symptoms of advanced years can be quite merciless and debilitating - but only if we allow it to rob our beloved elders of their dignity. Again, as Pope John Paul II said,

"It is also true that old age is a season of life in which individuals are victims of human frailty, and so are especially vulnerable. Very often, the onset of chronic illness incapacitates the old person and serves as an inevitable reminder of life’s end. At such times of suffering and dependence, the elderly not only need to be cared for with scientific and technical means but also to be looked after with efficiency and love, so that they do not feel that they are a useless burden or what is worse reach the point of wanting and asking for death"
(Letter to the President of the Second World Assembly on Ageing - 2002).

For what gives all people of whatever age dignity, respect and true humanity is love. At the end of the day, the elderly asks of society, of us, of me, to love them for who they are and, in this respect, they are no different from anyone younger than them. We all long for love. It is when we fail to love properly and with Christian charity that we neglect, abandon and forget the elderly, seeing them as mere burdens and an inconvenience or even a drain on hard cold resources.

Finally, as Pope John Paul II wrote:

"It certainly helps to solve the problems connected with ageing if older people are effectively made part of society, by providing space for their experience, knowledge and wisdom. The elderly should never be considered a burden on society, but a resource which can contribute to society’s well-being. Not only do they show that there are aspects of life – human, cultural, moral and social values – which cannot be judged in terms of economic efficiency, but they can also make an effective contribution in the work-place and in leadership roles."

So let us pray for the elderly and thank God for them and the vital roles they play in our lives and may He grant us the courage and grace to love them as they deserve.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Royal Patron Saint of England

This year marks the thousandth anniversary of the birth of St Edward the Confessor (right), who was born sometime between 1002 and 1005. He reigned as the penultimate Anglo-Saxon king of England from 1042 - 1066 and he was canonized by Pope Alexander III in 1161, renowned for his piety and charity.

As such, today, the Church in England celebrates his memory. There is good cause to regard him as the Patron Saint of England and in the beautiful Wilton Diptych (below), housed at the National Gallery in London, one sees King Richard II flanked by the sainted Kings Edward and Edmund kneeling before Our Lady, whose Dowry England is. Happily, King Edward's body still lies in the royal abbey he established at Westminster, although the current building is the second church on the site, rebuilt in the splendid Gothic style by Henry III. His shrine is remarkably intact despite the ravages of the English Reformation. The same cannot be said of King Edmund - the great abbey of nearby St Edmundsbury no longer stands and its shrine is despoiled.

The Westminster Abbey website has a well illustrated biography of the saint's life as well as this page on the Shrine and Chapel of the Confessor. There is also a lavishly illuminated manuscript housed in the Cambridge University library which depicts his life in detail. It may be viewed online here.

As the Collect for this day says: "Lord, you raised Saint Edward, king and confessor, to excel in good government and faithful service. May these ideals survive and flourish among us through his prayers. Amen."

In a similar vein, His Eminence the Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster preached at the Abbey last week to mark the millennial year of the Confessor's birth and I would like to end by quoting him:

"[We] give thanks for this holy king, and for what he represents: wise and peaceable government, compassion for the poor, justice for the oppressed, openess to the wisdom and the word of God, an openness to all humanity. Here at the shrine of St Edward we ask God’s blessing on our country and on all its people, we ask that it may be a place where all its citizens, whatever their origins or their beliefs, can live together in dignity and safety, where hatreds are defused by love, where the truth is spoken and heard, where the stranger, the widow and the orphan are received with open hand and heart, where our rulers seek wisdom, and our people peace. Amen."
I entrust this prayer to the Blessed Virgin, that she may ever protect and rule over England, her Dowry!

St Edward the Confessor is depicted in stained glass in the photo above taken at the church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, my local parish here in Cambridge.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Prayer for the Blessing of Roses

From the Dominican Breviary and used today on the Feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary:

"Our help is in the name of the Lord...
Who made heaven and earth.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Let us pray.
O God, Creator and Preserver of the human race, who grant us the Holy Spirit with His seven-fold gifts, and who generously bestow eternal salvation:

Sanctify, we pray, and bless these roses.
We present them before You today, and seek Your blessing upon them, to express our thanks to You, and our devotion towards the blessed Ever-Virgin Mary and her Rosary.

You created these roses as a source of pleasant fragrance and gave them to us to lift our spirits. Then through the power of the holy Cross pour out upon them Your heavenly blessing.

Signed by the holy Cross may they receive so powerful a blessing that in the houses and hospitals where they are taken the sick may be healed.
From the places where they are kept may the powers of evil flee in fear and terror, nor may they presume again to disturb Your servants.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Ave Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii

From the 'Vitae Fratrum', the 'Lives of the Brethren' of the Order of Preachers, a 13th century redaction of early Dominican legends and spirituality:

"The Virgin Mother of all love both cherishes with a very special affection and watches over this Order which she has founded, while the devil - who is jealous of everything that is good, and who hesitated not to tempt the Lord of all - assailed our brethren in Bologna and Paris... Having recourse to their singular protectress, Mary most holy, they made it a rule to have a solemn procession, after Compline, while singing the Salve Regina with its proper prayer. At once the phantoms were put to flight... Blessed Jordan of blessed memory, the second Master General of the Order, wrote in his history of the foundation of the Order how a holy and trustworthy man told him that while the Salve was being sung he often saw the blessed Virgin Mary cast herself at her Son's feet and pray for the preservation of the Order."

It follows then that today's Feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary honours she who is the Protectress of the Order, particularly as the Rosary devotion has long been associated with and even attributed to the Order. Fr Timothy Radclilffe, OP, former Master of the Order has preached excellently on the Dominican character of this devotion and I could do no better than to recommend his homily to you today.

On this day, there is an early Dominican custom of blessing roses after the conventual Mass which are then distributed to the faithful as marks of our Blessed Mother's favour and blessing. Happily, our Priory in Cambridge maintains this custom, as well as the Salve Procession mentioned above. More about the custom of blessed roses on this festal day may be seen and read on the MonialesOP blog.

Finally, may I end by offering this verse from the Office Hymn, 'Te gestientem gaudiis', which may be found in full here:

"Venite, gentes, carpite
ex his rosas mysteriis,
et pulchri amoris inclitae
Matri coronas nectite."

'O come, ye nations, roses bring,
culled from these mysteries divine,
and for the Mother of your King
with loving hands your chaplets twine.'

May Our Lady of the Rosary ever lead us to her Son and into a deeper love for Him as we contemplate the Truth of His life through her eyes. Amen.

The photo above of Our Lady giving the Rosary to Ss Dominic and Catherine is from the Antipolo Shrine in the Philippines.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Blackfriars' Chapel

I'm not usually drawn to modern architecture, especially that of the 1960s, but over the past few weeks (indeed, I have now been here for exactly 3 weeks), I have found myself increasingly appreciative of the modern building of Blackfriars Cambridge which connects the two villas which form the original premises of the priory. In particular, I have become rather fond of the chapel (above) which is on the second floor of the building and which forms the main feature of this structure. The exterior of this building, with the glass windows of the chapel clearly visible is depicted on a previous post in this blog.

Cambridge does not suffer from a lack of beautiful and note-worthy architecture. In fact, I have spent a few afternoons wandering about the town and marvelling at the Tudor and Gothic edifices of the various colleges, and engaging in gargoyle-spotting. I found this particular beast (below) and many others like it surmounting the chapel of the famed King's College where its renowned choir sings almost daily.

Blackfriars is neither Gothic nor Tudor in style, however it shares the exposed brickwork of the latter and the creamy-golden colour of the former's stonework. Like the College chapels that are so prominent in many of Cambridge's older institutions, the chapel of Blackfriars is punctuated by windows, but rather than being panes of stained glass, these are floor-to-ceiling sheets of clear glass, which alternate with sections of creamy brickwork. The friars in their habits seem to blend into the background against this hue of local brick!

Etched into the glass (below) are medieval-inspired icons of the archangels, whose feast we celebrated only this week. Chief among them is St Michael in whose honour this priory is dedicated, indicative of the triumph of Truth and Good over Evil. As these angelic designs are merely etched into the glass, they are unobtrusive and their presence is only hinted at by the play of light upon them. In this sense, they are truly like the angels they represent, who are ever present in our lives yet who are barely seen and whose presence is felt and glimpsed in the most unexpected of moments. There is a clear beauty in such theologically-minded symbolism and art that, in my opinion, (and in this rare circumstance) can surpass even stained glass!

This symbolism continues in the very position of the chapel, whose windows look onto a mature and tranquil garden on one side and a busy street on the other. In the morning, as the autumn sun rises, one sees (and hears in the distance) the buses, cars and ubiquitous bicycles traversing the street to and from the centre of Cambridge. But on the opposite side of the chapel, one sees only the dappled shade from the trees cast onto a well-cultivated lawn. The boughs of the trees sway gently in the morning breeze, one hears the wind rustle the leaves and beholds them gradually gilded as the autumn days progress. These two sides of the chapel clearly symbolize the twin dimensions of the Dominican life - contemplation and the apostolic life; the quiet and calm of the interior garden, the "cell of self-knowledge" of the soul (as St Catherine of Siena memorably phrased it) and the world of the preaching mission and apostolate which takes the Gospel into the streets and thoroughfares of life.

In the evenings, when the chapel is in use, and were one to approach it from without, it glows with a golden light from within, like a lantern or as an icon of the "city of the hill-top" which shines out and bears witness to Christ, the true Light. Indeed, the priory is built on one of Cambridge's rare few 'hills', hence its dedication to the Prince of the Heavenly Host, whose shrines are customarily built on hill-tops. Moreover, passers-by can clearly see the friars, sisters and lay faithful within the illuminated chapel, who are engaged in the Liturgy. One even hears the strains of Gregorian chant if you walked close enough. As such, we bear witness to the worship of the one God to all the world that comes our way.

These glass sheets, our windows, which let so much of the outside world into the visual spaces of the chapel and which form a living, ever-changing backdrop to the Liturgy, and which - at the same time - make visible the Liturgy and prayer of the community to all and sundry is indicative of the openness which characterises Dominican spirituality. It also speaks of the interaction between the friar and the world which always informs and stimulates our theological reflection and preaching. As the Dutch lay Dominican, Erik Borgman, writes in his book 'Dominican Spirituality: An Exploration', "Dominican life needs to be like an open book which tells of an ordering that gives life a divine quality..." and "true spirituality consists especially in openness, attentiveness and the capacity to be touched." I think this chapel indicates this openness.

Truly, I feel this chapel embodies that and many of the qualities of the Dominican life, and this is fitting. For it is a place I shall spend many hours in prayer and reflection (and working, as assistant sacristan!) How wonderful that its very walls speak so eloquently to me and that its architecture has been so conducive to prayer and contemplation.

I would love to mention more too on the art found within the chapel, especially the replica of the 'Thornton Parva' retable which is seen above and adorns the east wall of our chapel. It is a beautiful example of medieval Dominican art of the East Anglian region. Fr Aidan Nichols OP has already written well and at length on this artifact and I refer you to his article on the Blackfriars' website. Suffice to say that it too is a rich image for meditating upon.

Beautiful too is the simple iron crucifix (right) that hangs above the altar. Most evenings, before Compline, I like to just gaze upon this image of our Lord crucified and linger on the finely-wrought hands and feet of Him who were pierced for our sake. And as we sing and pray "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit", echoing the words of Christ on the Cross, I am able to unite myself with Him through this iron crucifix with the open arms; the arms of Christ who are open in readiness to embrace me and all sinners... Looking at the subtly-crafted hands of this crucifix, I place myself into the hands of the Lord every night, trusting in Him and knowing that it is only by His grace that I have been brought here to Blackfriars Cambridge and that with Him alone will I continue steadfast on my Novitiate journey this year and persevere and grow in my Dominican vocation.

Let us pray for this grace of perseverance, and place ourselves into the Lord's hands. May Our Lady of the Rosary, Patroness of the Order of Preachers, whose feast we celebrate this week, guide and protect us and may St Therese of Lisieux, whose memoria is marked today intercede for us!