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

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Retreat from Blogging...

"My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away" (Song of Songs 2:10-13 - KJV)

As I now enter the final stage of my Novitiate and (hopefully) prepare to make Simple Profession in September, it would be expedient for me to take a break from this blog. I ask my readers to pray for me and for my brother, Paul Mills in these months ahead as we hope to proceed towards making first vows on 20 September. I shall need to apply for an extension for my religious visa too and ask your additional prayers for this intention.

I hope to resume blogging again in October, quite possibly from Oxford by then... Those of my readers who wish to be informed when I resume posting to this site are requested to e-mail me with their address so as to be informed in due course.

I believe this retreat from blogging will be beneficial for me. As the Dominican mystic John Tauler said:

"There must be a definite introversion, a gathering up, an inward recollection of faculties without any dispersal, for in unity lies strength. So a marksman who wishes to hit his target more accurately shuts one eye to focus with greater precision... Moreover, should a going forth, an elevation beyond and above ourselves ever come about, then we must renounce our own will, desire and worldly activity, so that we can orient ourselves single-mindedly toward God, and meet Him only in complete abandonment of self..."

Until the next post, God bless and take care. Thank you all for reading and may we 'meet' again after the end of this 'fast' and retreat from blogging. In the interim, perhaps you may want to look at my posts from this time last year!

The photo above was taken in the environs of Norwich cathedral, last Friday.

Blackfriars' Corpus Christi Procession

As promised, here are some photos from our Eucharistic Procession on Thursday, the Feast of Corpus et Sanguinis Christi, which was held in the grounds of the Dominican Priory in Cambridge:

The Blessed Sacrament was taken under a canopy on procession around the garden. Above, bearing torches, are Sr Jordan James, OP and the Prior, Fr Richard Conrad, OP who served as deacon at the Mass.

We knelt in adoration of the Lord at the outdoor altar and sang the Tantum ergo hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas.

"O sacrament most holy, O sacrament divine..."

Benediction was given by the Novice Master, fr John Patrick Kenrick, OP

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Woman of the Eucharist

On this Saturday after (or before, in some countries) the Feast of Corpus Christi, let us contemplate this wonderful sacrament with Mary. As the words of this famous hymn puts it:

"Ave verum Corpus, natum
De Maria Virgine,
Vere passum, immolatum
In cruce pro homine,
Cuius latus perforatum
Unda fluxit et sanguine,
Esto nobis praegustatum
In mortis examine."

'Hail, true Body,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Truly suffered, sacrificed
On the Cross for mankind,
Whose pierced side
Flowed with water and blood,
Be for us a foretaste
In the trial of death.'

The Lord took His flesh and blood from the Blessed Virgin; they are intimately bound as only a mother and child can be and moreover, also as Saviour and Redeemed, she who was chosen to be Mother of God. In a sense, we too share that intimate bond between Jesus and Mary when we partake of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the Lord. Thus, Pope John Paul the Great in his encyclical, 'Ecclesia de Eucharistia' taught:

"In a certain sense Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist, by the very fact that she offered her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God's Word. The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood."
(para. 55)

The icon above of Our Lady of the Eucharist, portrays the Mother of God in the orans position, the posture of prayer. Shown in this manner, Mary, the "Woman of the Eucharist" also stands for our Holy Mother, the Church, who prays and intercedes for the world. In the centre of the Church, at her heart, is the Lord who give us His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. This great sacrament is the fons et culmens, the very "heart of the mystery of the Church", as Pope John Paul II said in his encyclical on the Eucharist. But this is heart is laid bare, open to all and the Lord gives Himself through Mary, through the Church to all people. As the Magnificat antiphon for Second Vespers of Corpus Christi puts it:

"O how sweet, O Lord, is thy spirit, who, to show thy tenderness to thy children, feedest them with thy sweetest bread from heaven, feeding the hungry with good things, and sending the disdainful rich away empty."

And so, together with Our Lady, let us give thanks and praise to God for the gift of His Son, for the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist and sing her Magnificat. May we too share the Eucharistic faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

* * * * *

Of your charity, please pray for Christopher Angel, a friend of mine who is to be ordained to the priesthood today by Bishop Arthur Roche. Br Paul Mills and I shall be travelling to Bradford today for the celebration of this sacrament.

Friday, June 16, 2006

St Richard's Prayer

The English Church rejoices this day in the memory of St Richard de la Wyche (c.1197-1253), Bishop of Chichester. St Richard was born in Droitwich (hence his 'surname') near Worcester and was initially educated by Benedictines.

He went on to study at Oxford, Paris and Bologna and was captivated by the new Order of Friars Preachers. He studied theology with the Dominicans in Orleans and was ordained priest in 1242; thence he was recalled to Canterbury by the new Archbishop who had succeeded St Edmund of Abingdon, his great mentor and friend.

In 1244, Richard was consecrated bishop of Chichester and although he served for only eight years, he was noted for his effective care of souls, his zeal for reform and his love for the poor and sick, whom he served with exemplary holiness.

St Richard was canonized in 1262 by Pope Urban IV and on this day in 1276, his body was translated to a splendid shrine in Chichester Cathedral, which was to attract as many pilgrims as St Thomas of Canterbury's. As with that great English martyr, this holy bishop's shrine was despoiled by Henry VIII in 1538 and the bones of the saint were destroyed! A shrine in memory of him has since been established in the cathedral and one may visit it virtually here.

The beautiful Prayer of St Richard is one of my favourite and prayed in the aftermath of the wonderful Feast of Corpus Christi, it takes on a special resonance:

"Thanks be to you, my lord, Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits that you have given me;
For all the pains and insults you have borne for me.

O, most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know you more clearly;
Love you more dearly;
And follow you more nearly."

Like the famous antiphon written in honour of the Blessed Sacrament, the 'Ave Verum Corpus' and as St Thomas Aquinas also taught in the antiphon, 'O sacrum convivium', in the Holy Eucharist, Christ's "Passion is renewed"; the Eucharist is the Body of the One who "truly suffered, sacrificed on the Cross for mankind [and] whose pierced side flowed with water and Blood...". As such, when we receive the Eucharist and participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we do well recall Christ's saving Passion and to render unto Him thanks and praise, as the first part of St Richard's prayer does.

By Christ's Paschal Mystery which is made present in the Mass, He has redeemed us and restored us to friendship with God and made us adopted sons of God, co-heirs with Him, our brother. This is succinctly expressed in the address of the second part of St Richard's prayer and from thence flows a series of requests which find their fulfillment in the Eucharist: By partaking of Christ's Body and Blood, we come to know Our Lord more clearly and to love Him more dearly and these enable us to walk with greater fidelity in the Way of the Lord. But we have also seen how the Corpus Christi Procession is a real enactment of walking with Christ; in the Eucharistic Procession, we actually can follow Him more nearly and He enters our world, our lives, our ways to transform and renew them.

This Blessed Sacrament is truly a great gift, uniting us with St Richard of Chichester and all the saints, and a foretaste and promise of that blessed feast when we shall be united with them at the Lamb's Supper.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Corpus Christi at Blackfriars


The Dominican Priory of St Michael the Archangel
Buckingham Road, Cambridge

The Solemnity of
(A Holy Day of Obligation)

Second Vespers 6pm
Solemn Mass 7pm
followed by Corpus Christi Procession and Benediction
Reception afterwards in the Priory

Of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar

The English Jesuit, St Robert Southwell (1561-1595) was a poet of some note, who was martyred for the Faith at Tyburn. Unlike his family who capitulated to Anglicanism, St Robert Southwell maintained and professed the Faith of the apostles and saints and he wrote much of his poetry, which is radiant with this Faith, when he was imprisoned for it. It is believed that some of the saint's poetry was read by and influenced even William Shakespeare.

Today, in celebration of Corpus Christi, this martyr's poem, below, in honour of the Blessed Sacrament expresses well our catholic and orthodox Faith. And it is fitting too that just as Christ continues to give His Body and Blood to us, so we recall the saints like St Robert Southwell who gave their lives for Christ's sake; we confess with them our common belief in this great Sacrament of unity.

The stained glass window, above right, of the 'Pelican in her piety' is a medieval symbolic expression of Christ feeding us with His life's Body and Blood; it is a symbol of the sacrificial love of which we partake in the Eucharist. This particular depiction is from the Round Church in Cambridge.

Angels left

"The angels’ eyes, whom veils cannot deceive,
Might best disclose that best they do discern;
Men must with sound and silent faith receive
More than they can by sense or reason learn;
God’s power our proofs, His works our wit exceed,
The doer’s might is reason of His deed.

A body is endued with ghostly rights;
And Nature’s work from Nature’s law is free;
In heavenly sun lie hid eternal lights,
Lights clear and near, yet them no eye can see;
Dead forms a never-dying life do shroud;
A boundless sea lies in a little cloud.

The God of Hosts in slender host doth dwell,
Yea, God and man with all to either due,
That God that rules the heavens and rifled hell,
That man whose death did us to life renew:
That God and man that is the angels’ bliss,
In form of bread and wine our nurture is.

Whole may His body be in smallest bread,
Whole in the whole, yea whole in every crumb;
With which be one or be ten thousand fed,
All to each one, to all but one doth come;
And though each one as much as all receive,
Not one too much, nor all too little have.

One soul in man is all in every part;
One face at once in many mirrors shines;
One fearful noise doth make a thousand start;Angels right
One eye at once of countless things defines;
If proofs of one in many Nature frame,
God may in stranger sort perform the same.

God present is at once in every place,
Yet God in every place is ever one;
So may there be by gifts of ghostly grace,
One man in many rooms, yet filling none;
Since angels may effects of bodies shew,
God angels’ gifts on bodies may bestow.

What God as author made he alter may,
No change so hard as making all of naught;
If Adam framed was of slimy clay,
Bread may to Christ's most sacred flesh be wrought.
He may do this that made with mighty hand
Of water wine, a snake of Moses' wand."

- from 'Of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar'

These stained glass windows of angelic musicians are from the former Dominican Priory church at Hawkesyard. On this festal day, they remind us of St Thomas Aquinas' exhortation in the Sequence hymn for Corpus Christi, the 'Lauda Sion':

"Zion, to Thy Saviour sing, to Thy Shepherd and Thy King! Let the air with praises ring!... Let us form a joyful chorus, may our lauds ascend sonorous, bursting from each loving breast."

Indeed, let us lift up our voices with the angelic choirs! Let us sing and rejoice! Let us hail this great Sacrament with thanksgiving and praise! Let our jubilation spill into the streets as we take our Eucharistic Lord in Procession and profess, with the martyrs and saints, our faith in this sweet Sacrament most holy and divine!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

BBC's 'The Convent'

The first episode of 'The Convent' which follows four English women trying to live with the Poor Clares in their community in Arundel has just been aired on BBC 2 tonight. It was an excellent introduction to contemplative religious life and I was very moved by the women's stories and experiences. We're really looking forward to the next episode and the series promises to be as good as, if not better, than 'The Monastery'.

Thanks to the BBC, one can now view the entire episode online. If you missed the program, do visit the site and watch it and share it with others! It's well worth the effort! Sadly, I'm told that one can view the program online from outside the UK, so those who live elsewhere have to wait for it to air!

AMENDED ON 15/06 at 23:18

Bread for the Way

The Holy Eucharist is Viaticum, Bread for the Way. Some of us may be familiar with Tolkien's interpretation of this phrase, as expressed in the 'Lembas', or 'Waybread' which the elves give to the Fellowship of the Ring: this Bread is more strengthening than any other food known to mankind, it is offensive to evil creatures and the more one relies on it alone, the more powerful its effect on the one who consumes it. In Tolkien's words, "It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind" and he came to acknowledge this link between Lembas and the Eucharist himself in one of his letters.

On the Feast of Corpus Christi, we take the Sacred Host in Procession, so that this signification of the Eucharist as Viaticum is made shown forth; we journey together with the Lord and in His grace and strength, walking along His Way. The Holy Father in his 'Meditation for the Feast of Corpus Christi' which we have been following has already expressed this idea and he explains the full implications of this Procession. In the extract below, which concludes his meditation, we are invited to follow the example of St Peter and his successors, to continue to follow Christ and walk in His Way, with the Eucharist as our 'Waybread' that gives us strength for true discipleship and for building God's kingdom:

"In the Eucharist, God's tomorrow comes closer to us, so that his kingdom begins even today among us. And last but not least, let us not forget that all the petitions of the Our Father are in the plural form. No one can say 'my Father' except Jesus alone. We all can only say 'our Father' and therefore must always pray with others and for others, going out of ourselves, opening ourselves, and only by becoming open in this way do we pray correctly at all. All of this is expressed in the fact of being on the way with the Lord, which is, so to speak, the special sign of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

When our Lord had finished his eucharistic discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum, many of his disciples went away. All of that was too hard for them, too mysterious. They just wanted a political solution; all the rest was not pragmatic enough for them. Is that not the case today as well? How many people, over the course of the last hundred years, went away because Jesus was not practical enough for them? And we see what they accomplished then. If the Lord asks us here, today, 'Will you also go away?' then we should answer him with our whole heart, together with Simon Peter on this Feast of Corpus Christi: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God' (Jn 6:67-69). Amen."
(from 'On the Way to Jesus Christ', pp102-106)

The painting above is from the refectory of the Dominican convent at the Penya de Francia Marian shrine in Spain.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Give us This Day our Daily Bread...

"The Lord has put his faithful servant in charge of his household, to give them their share of bread at the proper time" (Lk 12:42).

This verse is fittingly given as the Communion antiphon in the Common of Doctors of the Church. Today, we commemorate one such doctor, St Anthony of Padua, popularly invoked as the patron of lost things (and persons)! However, St Anthony was also known for his love for the poor and as we read yesterday, he who feeds on the God of love and is filled with Him, gives in love and justice to the world. From St Anthony's own example (left) arose the custom of St Anthony's Bread, which is the giving of alms or food to those in need. Today's reflection continues this theme, using the Dominical Prayer as the basis of our contemplation.

We pray the Lord's Prayer several times daily but seldom give careful thought to the petitions and prayers contained therein. Pope Benedict XVI published his 'Meditation for the Feast of Corpus Christi' in 2004 and we share his reflection on the phrase: "Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie..." and he begins with the way we - in the pattern of St Anthony and the saints - ought to bring the Eucharistic Bread, the Lord, sacramentally present, into our daily lives so that we begin to love and to bring justice and peace to the world. He writes:

"We carry the Lord, who is the Lord-made-flesh, the Lord-made-bread, out into the streets of our cities and towns. We carry him out into our everyday lives. These streets are supposed to become his paths. He should not live alongside of us, locked up in tabernacles, but rather in our midst, in our daily routine. Wherever we go, he should go; where we live, he should live. Our world, our daily routine should become his temple. The Feast of Corpus Christi shows us what it means to communicate sacramentally: to accept him, to receive him with the fullness of our being. One cannot simply eat the Lord's Body the way one eats a piece of bread. We can only receive him by welcoming him with our whole life. By opening our hearts to him. 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock', our Lord says in the mysterious Book of Revelation. 'If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me' (Rev 3:20). The Feast of Corpus Christi is supposed to make this knocking of our Lord audible to us, who are spiritually hard of hearing. By means of the procession it knocks loudly on our daily routine and asks: Open up! Let me in! Start to live on me! This does not happen in a moment, quickly, during Mass, and then no more. This is a process that permeates all time and all places. 'Open the door to me', says the Lord, 'as I have opened myself for you. Open the world for me, so that I can come in, so that I can enlighten your twisted mind. So that I can overcome the hardness of your heart. Open for me, as I have allowed my heart to be torn open for you. Let me in.' He says it to each one of us, and he says it to our whole community: 'Let me into your lives, your world. Live on me, so that you may become truly alive' - but to live always means to give to others.

Thus the Feast of Corpus Christi is a call of the Lord to us, but also a cry from us to him. The whole Feast is one big prayer: Give us yourself. Give us your true bread. The Feast of Corpus Christi helps us in this way to understand the Lord's prayer better - to realize that the Our Father is the prayer above all prayers. The fourth petition, which asks for bread, is, so to speak, the hinge between the three petitions that pertain to the kingdom of God and the last three petitions that have to do with our needs. It joins the two sets together. What do we pray for here? Certainly, for bread for today. It is the petition of the disciples who live, not on stored up treasures and investments, but rather on the daily goodness of the Lord and who therefore must live in a constant exchange with him, watching for him and trusting in him. It is the petition, not of people who heap up many possessions and try to gain security for themselves, but rather of the people who are content with the necessities, so as to have time for what is truly important. It is the prayer of the simple, the humble, the prayer of those who love poverty in the Holy Spirit and live it.

Yet the petition goes still deeper. For the word that we translate as 'daily' is not found anywhere else in Greek - epiousios. It is a word from the Our Father. And however much scholars may debate its significance, it very probably means at least this, too: Give us bread for tomorrow, namely, the bread of the world to come. In fact, only the Eucharist can answer the question of what this mysterious word 'epiousios' means: the bread of the world to come, which is already given to us today, so that the world that is to come might begin already in our midst today. And so, through this petition, the prayer that God's kingdom will come and earth will become like heaven becomes quite practical: through the Eucharist, heaven comes to earth, God's tomorrow comes today and brings tomorrow's world into today's. But the petitions about deliverance from all evil, from our guilt, from the burden of temptation, too, are practically summed up here: Give us this bread, so that my heart may become watchful, so that it will resist the Evil One, be able to distinguish good and evil, so that it may learn to forgive, so that it will remain strong in temptation. Only when the next world comes to be, a little bit, today, only when the world already begins today to become godly, does it become genuinely humane. In asking for bread, we come closer to God's tomorrow, the transformation of the world."

May St Anthony of Padua pray for us and inspire us by his holiness and preaching.

The photo above is of a Eucharistic Procession in the diocese of Kalookan in Manila, the Philippines; Fr Tereso Campillo Jr, O.P. carries the Sanctissimum through the streets of Dagat-dagatan. The engraving above is from a 19th-century Pontificale Romanum and shows a bishop giving communion to nuns.

Monday, June 12, 2006

In memory of fr Romy, O.P.

Of your Charity, please pray for the Repose of the Soul of
fra' Romeo Asuzano, O.P.
who was called to the Lord on this day in 2004.

Readers who are not aware of the manner and nature of his passing and the significance of this event in my life, may want to read last year's post.

"Receive our prayers, O Lord,
on behalf of the soul of Thy servant Romeo,

that if the stains of earthly contagion remain,
they may be mercifully washed away
by Thy merciful forgiveness.

Through Christ our Lord"


Bread for the World

The next three days before the beautiful Solemnity of Corpus et Sanguinis Christi may be marked as a 'Triduum'. The Lord's sublime gift of the Holy Eucharist is so central to our lives that, in so many ways, our thoughts, reflections and contemplation often dwells upon It. However, just as we have just celebrated a Feast, highlighting our faith in the Triune God, confessing the One Whom we worship and adore and in Whom live and move and have our being to be a Trinity in Unity, so too, it is desirable and fitting to focus upon the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, present in the Eucharist. This we shall do, of course, on Thursday -unless one has the misfortune to live in a diocese where holy days of obligation tend not to fall on weekdays! But, in addition, I should like to present here on the three days preceding the Feast, excerpts from a reflection by the then-Cardinal Ratzinger; what he calls a 'Meditation for the Feast of Corpus Christi':

"Why is there so much hunger in the world? Why must some children die of hunger, while others are smothered in an overabundance? Why must poor Lazarus watch in vain even today for crumbs falling from the rich glutton's table, without ever being able to cross the threshold to him? Certainly not because the earth cannot produce enough bread for everyone. In Western nations, some farmers are paid to destroy the fruits of the earth so as to keep prices steady, while elsewhere people are starving. The human mind is more resourceful in discovering new means of destruction than new means to support life. It is more ingenious in making weapons of destruction plentifully available in every corner of the world than it is to bringing bread to those places. Why is all this so? Because our souls are undernourished, because our hearts are blind and hardened. Our hearts are not showing our minds the way. The world is not in order, because our hearts are not in order, because they lack love, which would show the way to justice...

In order for there to be bread for all, the heart of man must be nourished first. In order for justice to be done among men, justice must grow in our hearts, and this does not grow without God and without the basic food of his Word. This Word became flesh, became man, so that we can receive it, so that it can become our food. Because man is too small to be able to reach God, God himself became small so that he could become our food and so that we could receive love from his love and the world might become his kingdom. These connections are what the Feast of Corpus Christi are about..."

An excellent homily by fr Leon Pereira OP for the Feast of Corpus Christi has just been posted online. Do take the time to read it here.

The photo above was taken in Manila, the Philippines last year - children are scavenging in bags of refuse, looking for scraps of food.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rocco's Viewpoint

It came as a revelation to me that Rocco Palmo, who writes for 'The Tablet' and who blogs the informative and delightful Whispers in the Loggia is only twenty-three years old. And he has some very interesting view points, which are well worth reading. Do check out The Rocco Report and The Gospel according to Rocco. Here are a few quotations I felt was quite thoughtful and insightful:

About the witness of the Church:

"The church is supposed to be there for those who have no one to speak for them, no one to fight for them, who have nothing else to get them through. This isn’t simply some social justice thing, but what Christ tells us, that “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.” Not just Catholics, not just Christians, but everybody. That the world may have light. The salt of the earth and the light of the world – not the salt of the church and the light of the church. It’s supposed to change the world, starting with the people closest to the flame. And the Pope just said this. That there’s all this self-absorption going on and people are complaining, “People aren’t listening, people aren’t listening.” Well no one’s listening because we’re not giving them an incentive to."

About the current Pope and the distressing polarization of groups within the Church:

"Here is this Pope saying, “God is love.” Talking about the primary importance of the unity of the church. And while this is going on you have these factions of the church that want to rip their opponents to bits. There’s no justification for that. If these are the people most heavily invested in the church they should be listening most closely to what the Pope has to say. And if he’s saying “Here I am,” and these people are trying to say they’re more Catholic than the Pope, well, that’s not how it works.

We call this church “the bark of Peter.” He’s the helmsman, with the bishops. The rise of the Catholic blogosphere has led to the rise of everyone thinking they’re their own bishop. And thinking they get to decide what elements of church teaching they will follow and enforce and which they will choose to ignore, both on the right and left."

On living our faith in a God of love:

"I’m very hard pressed to understand how people who are committed publicly and experience the perks, both lay and clerical, of being ambassadors of God’s love to the world – how they justify having enemies and hating people. Trying to destroy and go after people and not aspire to the better angels. I have a very hard time seeing how it’s possible to hate anyone. I mean, God is love. That’s the message of this pontificate. These “eager disciples” of Benedict putting their fingers in their ears and going, “lalalalala.” This is supposed to be the man from orthodoxy. And he is. This is the most crucial point of orthodoxy. And this is the contradiction in Christian teaching. Love becomes the teaching. Most teachings you hold in your mind but this is the one you live. It’s kind of staggering and it’s sad. I just do my best. I say I’m an okay Catholic but I’m an aspiring Christian. That kind of perspective helps."
But read it all for yourself, from 'Busted Halo'!

Gloria tibi, Trinitas aequalis, una Deitas!

Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas atque indivisa unitas:
Blessed be the holy Trinity, and undivided unity:

Sancta Trinitas

Te toto corde et ore confitemur, laudamus atque benedicimus:
tibi gloria in saecula!
With all heart and voice we confess, praise and bless You:
to You be glory forever!

Fr Geoffrey Preston, OP, in his book, 'Hallowing the Time', offers some thoughts for today's great Solemnity and encourages all to celebrate the One whom we worship, love and serve, to delight in the mystery of the Triune God and to experience God as Father, Son and Spirit:

"In the Dominican tradition Trinity Sunday is the day when the brightest theologian in the house, the Regent of Studies, the 'primus doctor', preaches the sermon at the liturgy of the brethren. How quickly that can lead to talk about talk, to use words to say what are the appropriate words to use about the Blessed Trinity. For today's feast is a feast of orthodoxy, a celebration of the correct ways of talking about the God who can scarcely be talked about. Here at least lie the origins of the feast in the Calendar, for St Thomas Becket introduced it at a time when theology in England was vigorously alive, when people loved to talk about the central concerns of the faith and about none more than the Trinity, and when the theology of the triune God was again attracting the attention of brilliant minds after lying dormant for centuries. The feast of the Trinity was a feast for the theologians in the narrow sense, an occasion for the bright boys to let go.

It would be a pity to underplay that by underestimating the importance of right belief. What a man believes is not incidental to how a man lives, granted always that it is a question of what a man really and truly believes and not purely and simply of what he is prepared to say he believes. How you live depends in fact on what you really believe, on what you are prepared to put your trust in, and to stake yourself on. Perhaps it is all to the good that once in a while we should celebrate not, as in the usual Christian tradition, some concrete historical event which has changed our lives but simply the One who is the source of those events. Gently contemplating him in whom we put our faith we can let the words we utter about the Three-in-One and One-in-Three bemuse and bewitch us. We can deliberately let ourselves get lost, once in a while, in the paradoxes of the language of orthodoxy, for going beyond reason is part of the significance of 'metanoia', repentance.

Christianity is an historical religion through and through. It is concerned with the events God has brought about for our well-being, as St Thomas would say, to make us happy. For us and for our happiness the Word of God became a man of flesh and blood, altogether one of us. That is what we celebrated at Christmas and on the Epiphany. For our sakes too, the Word of God made flesh was crucified, suffered death and was buried in the time of Pontius Pilate. This is what we commemorate in Holy Week. Then for our well-being the Word who had become man and who had been killed was raised again in the Holy Spirit from amongst the dead. We celebrate that in the fifty days of Easter. And then, so that we might be fully happy, the Father sent the Spirit through the Son. That is what we concern ourselves with at Pentecost. But when we keep Trinity Sunday it seems that we are not really being encouraged to remember anything in this way at all. You can only remember what is, in one sense at least, in the past. Today we concern ourselves instead with what happens in time out of time. We look to how God happens, to how God is in himself. It is true that we could never know how God is in himself if we knew nothing of what he had done, but knowing that, we do know God in himself. There is nothing extraordinary about that condition of knowing God. After all, we only know what one of our fellow men is like by looking at what he or she does. Through this characteristic behaviour of God we rejoice to know that he is good and loving and true. Deeper still, in how God is God, we delight in the mystery of his being Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A mystery, we are told, is beyond reason. That suggests that the more we reason the closer we approach it, although it always lies on the further side. But that is not the meaning of 'mystery' in this context. Of course we have to try and understand as thoroughly as possible what it is we believe. We have a duty laid on us to love God with all our mind, as well as with all our heart and soul and strength. But while problems are there to be solved by brain-power, mysteries are to be lived with, lived from and lived out... The Trinity, on the other hand, is a mystery which cannot be solved for there is no problem about it. It is too flat a view of reality which assumes that all we encounter in life are problems to be solved. People, for instance, may have problems yet people are not problems. Every human being is a mystery in his or her own right, and woe betide us if we treat other people or ourselves as jumbles to be sorted out. We have always to live with one another as people beyond our control and manipulation. And equally, we have always to live with ourselves as the mystery which we are... As for each human being, so for the origin and ground of all things, for God. That off-putting language about 'one and three, persons and natures' is there to remind us that we must not attempt to solve the Trinity as though God were a problem. We are being told, in the classical formulae of Christian faith, that we have to say apparently contradictory things about God if we are to get anywhere near the truth...

Our best approach [may be] to live with the experience we are baptized into sharing, praying to the Father, with the Son, in the Holy Spirit and leaving it to the threefold Lord to show us in the future how his name is one. As the Athanasian Creed has it: 'Now the Catholic faith is this - that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.'"

The images above, all from my own collection of photographs, show artistic attempts to depict and teach this divine mystery of the Trinity: the stone relief from St Paul's church in Salamanca, the 'shield' of the Trinity in stained glass from All Saints' church in Cambridge and the illumination by the Dominican illuminator, John Siferwas, taken from the 15th-century Sherborne Missal.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

For God, Queen and Country?

Bro Paul Mills and I watched England's first game in the FIFA World Cup this afternoon, which produced a not-great-but-satisfactory result... however (as usual) my mind was ticking over with other thoughts. I have long wanted to research and write a thesis on 'Elements of Ritual, Cultus, and Liturgy in Football' and could not help noticing how many 'religious' or 'devotional' aspects there are to the cult surrounding the game. But it also struck me as somewhat incongruous that the fans lustily sang out the first verse of the National Anthem, which invokes God and extols the monarchy: Both the Deity and the Sovereign are less than popular and not quite revered in England these days... and yet (as in medieval pilgrimages and celebrations) both were raised up in song. Anyway, I thought this phenomenon ought to give one pause and, perhaps, cause one to pray for the day when the cultic expressions which surround Football may be also justly rendered to God in worshipful devotion.

And of course, this stray thought also gave me an excuse to write something about the World Cup which is attracting even my interest!

The Spirit of Freedom

Freedom is one of contemporary society's most valued concepts and yet it is probably least understood; many seem to view freedom as liberality or relativism. The freedom that Christ promises us however, is true freedom, predicate on the Truth (cf Jn 8:32). Rather like the peace He gives us which is not of this world (cf Jn 14:32), so too this promised freedom is not the kind which the world envisages. Indeed, even the early Christian church at Corinth misunderstood what it meant to be free in Christ and the Spirit (cf 1 Cor 6:12ff) and they had to be rebuked and corrected by St Paul. What is freedom then? The Holy Spirit teaches us:

"'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom' (2 Cor 3:17). What distinguishes the son from the slave is that he is free. Freedom is one of the greatest goods that humans can possess. There is today a universal aspiration towards freedom from political, social, economic, psychological and other constraints. We are witnessing an ever deeper sensitisation with regard to the bonds that fetter our human freedom and a relentless effort to break them. The Christian, as a human being, plays a part in this effort. But the freedom given by the Spirit of Christ is situated at a different level; it is independent of external conditioning. St Paul's surprising indifference to a person's political condition is thus accounted for: to be a slave or a free person, where civil liberty was the very basis of human dignity, that seemed immaterial to him (1 Cor 7:21). Christian emancipation is radical in a different way. Nor is it to be confused with the ideal of wise men, Stoics or others, who, through reflection and moral effort, sought to acquire perfect self-control and to establish themselves in an inviolable inner tranquility.

The Christian's freedom is emancipation with regard to sin, to the law and to death. It is personal and interior, a fruit of the Spirit of Christ in us. A person can be free in a prison. Politically and socially without constraint, he can be the slave of his passions, which stifle his options and force him into evil. Our selfishness, our pride, our sensibilities, our need to impose ourselves, to look well, our narrow attitudes, these are our real chains...

What we do according to our will is free. Our will is directed towards what is good. If, because of a passion or a bad disposition, we turn away from what is good, we act slavishly, because we are driven by a force external to our will. However, we are easily mistaken. We mistake what is not the true good for the good. Blind, we willingly follow the inclination of our passions. We seem to be free, but, in fact, we are the slaves of our evil passions. We are slaves too when we abstain from evil only because of a contrary, coercive law. Freedom is essentially positive. It is emancipation from fetters, but more profoundly, it is the capacity to accomplish good.

We are free when we act voluntarily through love of the true good. On the one hand, there is the demand for the truth. We must act with a view to the true good. We do not discover the knowledge of this good by a philosophical analysis. Christ reveals it to us, he who is the Truth... The freedom of the Spirit is lucid and true. It is the power to accomplish good, the true good that the Spirit of Christ brings to our knowledge. The Christian's freedom is not independence from every law. As St Paul, that great champion of freedom says, 'I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law (1 Cor 9:21).

On the other hand, there is in freedom a demand for spontaneity. We are only free when acting of our own volition. A law imposed from outside is a servitude. The freedom of the Christian consists precisely in this, that the Holy Spirit predisposes our will to do the true good, by the gentle attraction of love for that good. It is by pouring his love into our hearts that he makes us free, to follow the law of love. Whatever we do because we want to do it, we do freely, even if that is prescribed by God. Freedom is necessarily internal. 'For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery' (Gal 5:1)...

That does not happen automatically. We do not receive our freedom as a boon acquired once for all. And we do not become free passively. The gift of the Spirit is rather a power to become free. It remains a task to be accomplished, by allowing the law of love to penetrate progressively and actively into every layer of our being and our activity - and that is the work of a lifetime.

Our freedom demands our co-operation with grace, our persevering and laborious efforts, which express in a concrete way our constant docility to the Spirit... If we look within ourselves, we can easily see the multitude of bonds that fetter the freedom of the Spirit, that hinder the blossoming of love in us. We easily confuse freedom with self-assertion, the affirmation of our egoism. But true freedom is a service of charity, of self-forgetfulness...

The Spirit of love who acts in us does not lead us to an isolated perfection. His action is always directed towards the growth of the whole Body of Christ, the gifts he bestows are for the good of all. We are never so free as in the renunciation of our individual freedom in order to put it at the service of our brothers...

Where the Christian's emancipation is most clearly distinguishable from every other freedom is in the emancipation from the ultimate slavery of death. In Christ we are freed from the fear of death (Heb 2:14) and that silent anguish that it engenders in the inmost depths of human consciousness, an anguish which more often than not does not have a name, but which is present like a sombre back-drop to the whole of life.

'If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you' (Rom 8:11)."
(From Advent to Pentecost, pp194-198)

Let us pray:

"We beseech You, O Lord, mercifully pour into our souls Your Holy Spirit, by whose wisdom we were created and by whose providence we are governed."

The stained glass image of the Holy Spirit, descending as a dove, is from Jesus College chapel in Cambridge.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Interior Master

In the Novena before Pentecost, we looked at the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and tried to gain some understanding into how these Gifts aid us in the spiritual life and facilitate our growth in holiness. In a sense, these Gifts train and teach us to advance in the Christian life of perfection, perfecting the virtues within us, and the One who trains us and causes the virtues to mature is the Holy Spirit. Continuing our series of reflections by a Carthusian, as a means of marking the Octave of Pentecost, we look today at this aspect of the Spirit's activity in our lives:

"The Spirit dwells in our hearts. He does not remain inactive. 'For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God' (Romans 8:14). 'If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit ' (Galatians 5:25). We are spiritual men, in the Christian sense of the word, not to the extent that we free ourselves from the human condition, or that we become disembodied spirits through an ascetic and human effort; but to the extent that we are led by the Spirit of Christ. The spiritual life is nothing other than the life of the Holy Spirit in us.

The Spirit has two ways of leading us. He acts under the form of inspirations which manifest themselves in a twofold way. Sometimes, he simply lets us act by ourselves, make acts of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, or moral acts of prudence, justice, fortitude or temperance. We ourselves set these acts in motion. The Holy Spirit is not absent, he is the first cause that puts our supernatural energies into action, but we hold on to the direction, the management of our life. That is the foundation of the Christian life: the supernatural but personal government of ourselves through the Christian virtues.

Only we possess those virtues in such an imperfect way! The exercise of the virtues suffers from the weakness of our will and our reason, even when enlightened by faith. Only the Holy Spirit is at the level of the divine life in us. That life can only blossom fully if the Spirit takes direction of it himself. This second way of leading us exists and it is guaranteed to us through what we call the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit which are infused into our souls with sanctifying grace at Baptism: gifts of the intellectual order, of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel; and gifts of the order of the will, those of piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord. These gifts are interior receptivities which permit us to receive and to respond to the inspirations by which the Spirit urges and prompts us. Then we no longer have the principal role in the direction of our conduct; filled with his assistance, we have only to consent to his working.

These two ways of being led could be compared to the progress of a boat with oars of with a sail. With oars, one must work with the strength of the arms and direct the boat: one keeps the initiative. But with a sail, if the wind blows, the course no longer depends on us, we go faster and are not as tired.

The ordinary mode of our life is to work actively by means of the virtues, for the Spirit does not always blow (although he blows more often than not, but we do not pay attention, because we are not on the same wavelength). The Spirit's voice is gentle and discreet, and the voice of our nature speaks more loudly. And besides, we like to direct our own affairs according to our own understanding.

In short, with the years, there is a more and more marked tendency in us to listen rather to ourselves, whereas the Spirit, the Power of God, is in us. Let us resolves not to extinguish the Spirit. Let us listen to him by interior silence, humble prayer that he will guide and enlighten us, mistrust of our human strength, humility and receptivity to his delicate touches. Indeed, one can be mistaken. We need a discernment of spirits and an apprenticeship, under the control of a human guide. But if we are faithful, our perceptive capacity will be sharpened, just as the ear of a trained musician becomes capable of picking up more and more subtle nuances of sound. When all is said and done, that is the only way to reproduce the beauty of Christ's face in us, to allow him to love and to live in us. By ourselves, we are too coarse. His Spirit, his love must live in us. The whole art of the spiritual life lies there."
(From Advent to Pentecost, pp189-191)

Let us pray:

"Grant unto Your Church, we beseech You, O merciful God, that being gathered by the Holy Spirit, she may never be troubled by attack from the foe."

The stained glass of the Holy Spirit descending as a dove is from All Saints' church on Jesus Lane in Cambridge.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

To Heaven with Diana!

Today, we join the Dominican nuns in celebrating the memorial of Blessed Diana and Blessed Cecilia. One of the great joys of the Order of Preachers is the various branches that comprise the Dominican Family. The contemplative nuns of the Order are the oldest branch and indeed, this year they celebrate 800 years of the Dominican charism which first took root among them at Prouille in 1206. The Dominican contemplative nuns are the praying heart of the Order and a source of great strength and joy to all of us Dominicans who praise, bless and preach in the wider world.

As the Master of the Order wrote recently: "It is truly right and just that we thank God for the gift of our contemplative sisters! They support us in the path we follow; they participate in a special way in our preaching; they welcome us that we may share the hopes and joys, the grief and anxieties of our itinerant ministry. As Saint Catherine of Siena did, so they encourage us to have no fear, to go forth in the highways and byways to meet those who thirst for God; they compel us to live a passion for Christ and for humanity."

In a sense the blessed couple who epitomise the relationship between the nuns and the friars are Blessed Jordan of Saxony and Blessed Diana d'Andalo whom we remember today. The letters which the Second Master of the Order wrote to her are a testimony to the mutual love and spiritual well-being that is at the heart of the relationship between the friars and the nuns; they stand as an outstanding example of Dominican spirituality and are solidly within the tradition of saints who corresponded and so spurred each other on to greater holiness and love for God. To read more about these letters and the saints who exchanged them, I would encourage you to obtain a copy of 'To Heaven With Diana' by fr Gerald Vann, OP, which has been recently re-published in a beautiful new edition by the Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey or, you may wish to read my previous post about this or read the letters online.

Following is an extract from the Chronicle of the foundation of the Monastery of St Agnes in Bologna where Bl Diana lived with Bl Cecilia. Also commemorated today was a Bl Amata and she is depicted with Bl Diana and Bl Cecilia in the painting above which is from the Priory of Santo Tomas in Avila.

"In the year of the Lord 1218, Friars Preachers were sent by St Dominic from Rome to Bologna. On their arrival they asked Br Rudolph for the church of St Nicholas, known as St Nicholas of the Vines because of its location. The brother in question was at that time the priest of that church. This, however, was the property of the Lord d'Andalo, the father of that most illustrious woman, the Lady Diana. The said Lord d'Andalo did not wish to give the aforementioned place to the friars, but at the request of the Lady Diana who was later to found the Monastery of St Agnes, he gave his assent and handed it over to them. Here the friars built a house and a cloister and by the grace of Christ they began to grow in numbers.

Meanwhile, since Master Reginald had come to Bologna and was preaching the word of God with great fervour, this Lady Diana, moved by the Holy Spirit, began to disdain the pomp and vanity of the world and to frequent the company of and to speak with the Friars Preachers. As a result, when blessed Dominic came to Bologna, she began to love him with all her affection and to speak with him about the salvation of her soul. Finally, a short time later she made profession in his hands.

Encouraged by her example, many noble women and illustrious matrons of the city of Bologna began to visit the Friars Preachers and converse with them about the salvation of their souls. As a result, the devotion of noble knights and their women relatives was awakened and they began to assist and revere the brethren.

In the meantime Diana, mindful of her vow, began to speak with blessed Dominic about how she could fulfil it. And so on a certain day, blessed Dominic called his brethren together and asked their consent to build a convent for women that would belong to the Order in name and in fact. When the brethren had given their opinions, the blessed man himself turned to prayer, as was his custom. Some days later after the chapter prayer, he said: 'Brothers, it is entirely fitting that a convent for women be built, even if the building of our own house be put off.'

The Lady Diana resided at the home of her father in body, but not in spirit... Once a small house had been built, the brethren came for her and brought her and four other women of Bologna to it. This happened in the year of the Lord 1223, within the Octave of the Sunday after Ascension. On the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul, they received the habit of the Order from... Master Jordan [of Saxony].

Master Jordan of happy memory wanted four sisters to be brought from St Sixtus [in Rome] with the permission of the Supreme Pontiff to teach them the way of religious life. Thus four sisters who had made their profession in the hands of the blessed Dominic and had received the habit from him came to the Monastery of St Agnes. They stayed with them until they died, helping them by the great vigour of their holiness. Sister Cecilia, who was one of those sisters, is still alive today."

Let us pray:

"Merciful Lord, we welcome in joy the feast of Blessed Diana and Blessed Cecilia. With the help of their prayers may devotion to truth and love for our brothers and sisters fill our hearts and our lives. Through Christ our Lord." Amen.

May these Beati and their sisters around the world continue to pray for us and may God shed the light of His face upon them.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Spirit of Love

Today's reflection by an anonymous Carthusian monk, given as conferences to novices, beautifully describes the Holy Spirit as the kiss of love between the Father and the Son. Thus the Church says in the words of Solomon's Song: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine" (Song of Songs 1:2). Truly on Pentecost, Holy Mother Church has been kissed by her Divine Spouse and in this Octave of Pentecost, she basks still in the afterglow of that kiss, inebriated with the new wine of the Spirit:

"We know that in the divine life it is from the reciprocal love of the Father and the Son that the Spirit proceeds. We readily call him the Spirit of love. It is he who pours out the love of God in our hearts (Romans 5:5). How is he also the principle of light, of truth? Precisely because he is Love. By giving us the Spirit, the Father gives us what is most intimate in himself, he gives us his heart. And it is only because his heart is in us that we can understand something of his love, of what he is. 'Love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows Gods. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.' (1 Jn 4:7-8).

Christ is the human face of God's love. 'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father' (Jn 14:9). The Spirit is his heart. He enters into us, he creates in us a love like his own, and having become 'perfect' like the Father, we love with his love.

'No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us his Spirit' (1 Jn 4:12-13).

The Spirit does not bring us a new revelation. Everything has been given in Christ. The Spirit 'will take what is mine and declare it to you' (Jn 16:14). But the mystery of Christ is a mystery of love and only love is capable, by transforming us progressively into itself, of giving us entry into it. That is meaning of the age of the Church, of the age of worship in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23); it is the meaning of our vocation and of prayer...

Only the heart inhabited by Love, become Love, can know God.

Those who love one another aspire to be one. By their love they live in each other. Love transports the lover into his beloved's heart.

That affective ecstasy by its nature tends to become a real unity. Lovers seek actually to transmit their respective lives to each other and to fuse them in one single life. The kiss is a definite expression of that aspiration. The fusion of breaths signifies the fusion of lives and hearts, but cannot be realised, for in human beings the breath, although the vehicle of life, is not life itself.

In God, the kiss of love between the Father and the Son is not the expression of an aspiration, but the fruit of a perfect union. The Father and the Son are one in their single nature. The impetus of love of one towards the other is so total that it achieves the gift of their whole heart, of their whole being, of one to the other. This ecstatic gift, bearer of the divine nature, 'materialises' as the bond and pledge of the love of the Father and the Son: it is the Holy Spirit, 'the flame that shoots forth from a furnace of infinite love' (Scheeben).

Just as inevitably, his presence in our hearts creates love. Inversely, all the love there is in the universe, every desire for unity, every act of charity and tenderness, even if obscured and only partly true, every aspiration towards communion which is secretly at work, even in inanimate creation, all that is dependent on the heartbeat of him who is love. The heart of being - its ultimate secret - is love. One day all will be love.

The Holy Spirit is like an immense wave of energy which traverses the entire universe, an ebb and flow: creative love born of the Father through the Son, sanctifying love, returning to the Father through Christ, bringing everything to its consummation."
(From Advent to Pentecost, pp187-189)

Let us pray:

"May the Holy Comforter, who proceeds from You, enlighten our minds, we beseech You, O Lord, and lead us into all truth, even as Your Son has promised."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Spirit of Truth

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth..." (Jn 16:13).

We continue our journey during the Octave of Pentecost by considering through the conferences of a Carthusian monk what it means to call the Holy Spirit the 'Spirit of truth':

"The Paraclete is called the Spirit of Truth because he is the Spirit of Christ, who, himself, is the Truth. Certainly, Christ revealed everything, he opened his heart to his disciples: 'I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father' (Jn 15:15). But they are unable to understand, to 'bear' it, says the Gospel, employing a word used most often in the context of the Passion (19:17). Why are they unable to understand? Are they not intelligent enough or sufficiently cultured? No, for the wise of this world did not recognise the wisdom of God revealed in the Cross of Jesus; to human intelligence, it is foolishness (1 Cor 1:18-31)...

The wisdom of God so transcends what we can imagine, that it can only be received by the humble in spirit who open themselves in total simplicity to the divine light, that is to say, to the light brought by Christ...

The truth that Jesus reveals is the manifestation of the intimate life of God, a participation in the knowledge of the Father. It is not an 'objective' truth which remains outside us, like a scientific datum about material realities, but a reciprocal knowledge between persons which demands an intimate and transforming encounter. This knowledge is only realised in love, the gift of oneself. But the depth of contact is determined by what we are, and what we are is infinitely below what God is. That is why the disciples are unable to bear that truth. They are not equal to it. We are not equal to it. That truth demands too much of us: a participation in a mystery that frightens and disorientates us. Our heart is too small. We do not understand, because we do not want to understand, because we do not love enough.

God has to transform us, has to give us a principle of knowledge and love that would be at his level. But there is none, except his own knowledge and his own love, his Word and his Spirit. The Word of God has revealed him in the objectivity of a human nature and a human life. That was only for a short period of time. It will be up to the Spirit who dwells in our hearts to introduce us from within into that knowledge, and to enable us to live according to the mind of God and the spirit of Christ.

The thoughts of God 'no one comprehends... except the Spirit of God', he who 'searches everything, even the depths of God.' And it is that Spirit that we have received, 'the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God' (1 Cor 2:12). 'We have the mind of Christ' (1 Cor 2:16) says St Paul, as if it were the equivalent of having the Spirit of God."
(From Advent to Pentecost, pp186-187)

Let us pray:

"Grant, we beseech You, O Lord, that the power of the Holy Spirit may abide in us; may it mercifully cleanse our hearts, and defend us from all danger."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pray for Us...

Br Paul Mills and I have now entered the final stage of our Novitiate. The process has begun for our brethren to consider and vote on whether we may proceed to make Simple Profession in September. We had our first interviews today and the Formation Council votes on 16 June. Following that, if successful, we shall have yet another interview before the Provincial Council votes on 9 July. The Prior Provincial is expected to give us his decision fairly soon after that date and, if accepted, we will be allowed to make Simple Profession on 20 September 2006.

Do please pray for us as this month and this process unfolds, that God's will be done and that we be found worthy of the grace of a Dominican vocation.

I entrust myself and our cause into the hands of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the intercession of St Dominic, Blessed Jordan and all the Dominican saints.

Discovering the Paraclete

For the Octave of Pentecost, we shall consider various roles attributed to the Holy Spirit and hopefully, come to know better who He is in our Christian lives. From the Ascension until Pentecost Sunday, the versicle after the brief Scripture reading at Vespers simply sang: "Spiritus Paraclitus", 'The Spirit [is the] Paraclete'... This word, Paraclete, taken from St John's Gospel, is a Greek word, rich in meaning, that originally was used in a legal context.

Thus, this Octave, we shall consider, through the eyes of an anonymous Carthusian monk, the many implications of this word and the rich theology found within the Scriptures about the Holy Spirit, the "Gift of God Most High".

The Advocate
John 16:8-11

"The Paraclete appears first of all in the role of advocate, in a process whose protagonists are Jesus and the world. That process is present right through St John's Gospel. The world, represented by the Jews, refuses, judges and condemns Jesus. But another judgement happens in the believer's heart in the light of the Spirit whom the world does not know. The one who is judged becomes the judge. The proceedings are initiated on the subject of the nature of sin, the nature of justice, the nature of judgement. Each time, the Spirit confounds the world.

It's sin consists in its refusal to believe in Jesus, in its refusal of the light.

Justice, throughout the proceedings, is what is accorded to the advantage of the litigant who is in the right. That justice was accorded to Christ in the act by which the Father called Him back himself by bringing him back to life and exalting him, so that the disciples do not see him any more after the Easter apparitions.

The judgement of the condemnation of the one who ruled the world is necessarily implied, and is already pronounced in Christ's victory.

So, thanks to the Spirit, and contrary to all appearences, a conviction grows in our hearts: it is not the world, it is Jesus who is right; so, we too are right to believe, we are right to dedicate ourselves to Christ's cause; in him, we are already conquerors of the world and of the devil.

This function of the Spirit remains relevant today, for the process with the world still continues, and we need our Advocate to convince it of its mistake, for the world still believes itself to be right in its opposition to Christ. Monastic [and by extension, religious] life can be regarded as raised up by the Spirit as a testimony of faith in Christ's victory and in the risen life."
(From Advent to Pentecost, pp185-186)

Let us pray:

"O God, Who sent the Holy Spirit to Your Apostles, grant to Your people the fruit of their loving prayers; that You may bestow peace upon those to whom You have given faith."

The stained glass image above is from the Anglican parish church of St Giles which is a few minutes' walk from our Priory in Cambridge.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


My Stat-Counter logged its second visit to date from the Holy See today... I often wonder what people working at the Vatican think of the many Catholic weblogs that are around and which ones they read, if any! Well, for the visitor from the Vatican City State who stopped by, albeit for 0 seconds (!): "Benvenuto".

Veni Sancte Spiritus!

"And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak of the wonderful works of God." (Acts 2:4)

Today's reflection for Pentecost Sunday was preached by fra' Johannes Tauler, O.P., (c.1300 - 1361) who was a contemporary and disciple of the Dominican Meister Eckhart, one of the school of Rhineland mystics and one of the most influential medieval German preachers who is credited (among others) for the development of Middle High German. Tauler invites us today to shut out all distractions and worldly attractions so that we may prepare a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit Who makes us receptive to His divine operation within us, giving us the Seven Gifts we have considered this past week:
"This is the marvellous day on which the Holy Spirit descended in the form of fiery tongues upon the disciples and upon those who were united with them. This is the day on which the priceless treasure, lost in Paradise through the evil counsel of Satan and human weakness, has been returned. It is the day on which it has been restored to us.

Even the outward circumstances of the event fill us with wonder; but the spiritual reality hidden and contained with it exceeds everything that could be known, conceived, or expressed by any creature. It is past all telling. So incomprehensible is the Holy Spirit in His greatness, so infinite in His loving richness, that all His greatness and infinity eludes any image our human reason could form. Heaven and earth and all they contain are as nothing in comparison. Compared to Him, all creatures together are as small as the tiniest particle beside the whole world. All created beings in their entirety are a thousand times less than the least that may be said of the Holy Spirit. If, therefore, He should be fitly received, it is He who must prepare the place, create the receptiveness in the soul, and also dwell there to receive Himself. It is the ineffable abyss of God that must be His dwelling and the place where He is received, not that of creatures.

"And the whole house was filled". God fulfills wholly. Wherever He enters, He fills the entire capacity of the soul completely, every nook and corner.

The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. First, we must observe what were the circumstances when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, for these should be the same for all of us. They were gathered there, gathered within themselves, and they were sitting still when the Holy Spirit was sent to them. This Holy Spirit, so rich in love, will be sent to each of us as often and as much as we withdraw ourselves from creatures and turn wholly to God. The very instant we do this, the Holy Spirit comes at once with all His gifts, flooding the recesses of the soul down to its very ground. On the other hand, the moment a man turns willfully away from God to creatures, whether it be to himself or to any created thing whatever, the Holy Spirit immediately flees and leaves the soul, taking with Him all the treasures and riches. Wherever such a man now turns without God and outside of God - it is his own self he is now seeking.

The house where the disciples gathered was completely filled. In one sense this house signifies Holy Church, which is indeed God's dwelling place. In another sense it signifies each man in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. Now, just as there are many dwellings and rooms in one house, so in one man there are many faculties, senses, and activities; and in all these He enters in a special way. When He comes, He urges, impels and straightens man by His influence and illumination. However, these operations are not perceived by all people in the same manner; for in reality He dwells in the souls of all the just. Yet, if we wish to feel His action, if we desire to savour His presence, then we must bring ourselves to a focus, shut out external matters, and allow the Holy Spirit to unfold within us in stillness and repose. In this manner we first and foremost become aware of Him and so He reveals Himself to us. Our awareness will increase in proportion to our consent. And hour by hour He will reveal Himself more clearly, although He has been given to man from the very beginning...

Beloved, how glad, how exceeding glad we should be to forsake all things and to follow this blessed Spirit Who is given to us today and always, and Who will be given every day and every hour to those who are ready to receive Him. May God grant that we will receive Him in so noble a manner. Amen."

(from Sermon 26, trans. Maria Shrady)

Come, O Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of thy Love. Amen! Alleluia!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fortitude of the Martyrs

Today Holy Mother Church commemorates St Charles Lwanga and his companion martyrs (left). These 22 Catholic martyrs of Uganda were executed by king Mwanga between 1886-1887. It is said that when St Charles Lwanga"was sentenced to death, he seemed very peaceful, one might even say, cheerful. He was to be executed by being burnt to death. While the pyre was being prepared, he asked to be untied so that he could arrange the sticks. He then lay down upon them. When the executioner said that Charles would be burned slowly so death, Charles replied by saying that he was very glad to be dying for the True Faith. He made no cry of pain but just twisted and moaned, 'Kotanda! (O my God!)'."

What is it that gives the martyrs such strength and courage? It is the Gift of Fortitude, the last of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit which we have been considering.

Fortitude makes the soul "intrepid and valiant in every type of danger or against every kind of enemy" such as was evident among the apostles and disciples of Christ after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Fortitude also gives the soul "the quality of heroism in great things and in small things". Thus fr Jordan Aumann OP holds that "No greater fortitude is required to suffer the martyrs' death at one stroke than to endure without failing the prolonged martyrdom of the heroic practice of virtue and the fulfillment of one's daily duties to the smallest detail."

Therefore the Gift of Fortitude is given not just to the martyrs but to all of us, in order that we may persevere and live a life of Christian virtue. Fortitude enables us to stand up for our faith and what we believe in, even in difficult situations, it gives us the strength to perform acts of virtue and overcomes all lukewarmness in the service of God.

To grow in the Gift of Fortitude we ought to ask God for the strength to bear our cross patiently, enduring all trials and sufferings for the love of Christ, to undertake voluntary acts of mortification, such as fasting or the traditional Friday abstinence, and to fulfill our duties with a willing and uncomplaining heart.

If we can be faithful in such little things, the Gift of Fortitude will aid us for our lifetime to persevere in a virtuous Christian life or give us the courage needed to witness to Christ, even to the shedding of our blood in His name, as the holy martyrs did. May the Martyrs of Uganda pray for us and their countryfolk.

Novena Prayer to the Holy Spirit

"O Holy Spirit of God, take us as Your disciples. Guide us, enlighten us, sanctify us. Bind our hands that they may do no evil. Cover our eyes that they may see it no more. Sanctify our hearts that evil may not dwell within us. Be our God and our Guide. Wherever You lead us, we will go. Whatever You forbid us, we will renounce. And whatever You command us, in Your strength, we will do. Lead us, then, into the fullness of Your Truth."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Counsel and Piety


"The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26).

We have seen in past days how the Holy Spirit enlightens us to perceive rightly and He directs us to judge rightly. It is particularly noteworthy that so many of the Spirit's seven Gifts involve right judgment. In the Scriptures and in the 'Veni Creator Spiritus' hymn, the Holy Spirit is called the Paraclitus, the Counsellor, although it is sometimes translated as Helper or Comforter. Anyone who has been agonizing over an important decision may well understand what a comfort and a help a true Counsellor like the Holy Spirit is!

The Gift of Counsel is given us by the Spirit to "enable one to judge rightly in particular events what ought to be done in view of the supernatural ultimate end and personal sanctification." Unlike prudence, which is a very important virtue helping us to make moral judgments and which operates under the dictates of reason enlightened by faith, Counsel operates under the impulse of the Holy Spirit Himself and surpasses any judgment that human reason alone can arrive at. In fact, it often seems to run counter to human reasoning, as can be seen in the logic of the Beatitudes! In addition, fr Jordan Aumann OP gives the following examples:

"It is at times difficult to know how to equate suavity with firmness, how to reconcile the necessity of guarding a secret with the obligation to speak the truth, the interior life with the apostolate, an affectionate love with perfect chasity. It is even more difficult for persons charged with government and administration - in religion, in the family, in civil and economic life - to be able at every instance to do that which is prudent. In many instances, the prudent action will have to be the result of the operation of the gift of counsel."
(Spiritual Theology, p279)

The Dominican Rhineland mystic, fr John Tauler says: "The gift of counsel is sorely needed, in order that we may conduct ourselves in the way God wishes." Hence, this Gift is about our conduct, choosing rightly that we may do what is pleasing to God and consonant with our Christian faith. We are often faced with so many decisions in life; decisions that require prudence, but more than that, we need the Help, the Comfort and the good Counsel of the Holy Spirit.

Is it possible that in our contemporary Western societies, decisions to embrace the Cross and follow Jesus, decisions regarding a religious or priestly vocation may seemingly run counter to human reason? In common parlance, it seems "mad" to become a celibate priest or nun these days! Often people who are agonizing over a vocation are faced with many perfectly sensible objections from friends, family and themselves - they hesitate, vacillate and worry about the future. How can one commit oneself to God in a religious vocation? I would suggest that the Gift of Counsel comes to our aid to help us make the right decision, enlightening us with divine insight and judgment.

Fr Aumann maintains: "Thus it often commands actions for which human reason would never be able to give an explanation, nor would human reason alone, even with the light of faith, be able to come to such practical and particular judgments." Some might well call this a 'leap of faith', although it is more properly the exercise of the Gift of Counsel.

Another virtue often misunderstood and even mocked in some circles is Piety. The virtue of Piety is related to justice because it is a "supernatural habit that inclines us to render to our parents, our country and to all those connected with them the reverence and services due them." It is related to justice because it pertains to that which is due and thus within the natural order of things. Hence for Aquinas, religion is also related to justice as it is about giving due worship to God.

However the Gift of Piety (pietas) is "a supernatural habit infused with sanctifying grace, which arouses in the will, through the motion of the Holy Spirit a filial love for God as Father, and a sentiment of universal love for all men and women as our brothers and sisters and as children of the same heavenly Father." St Thomas Aquinas holds that just as the virtue of piety causes us to love and reverence our parents and our blood relatives, so too the Gift of Piety is not restricted to love and reverence for God our Father but all people, in so far as all are related to God.

Thus fr Richard Conrad OP explains that pietas can also be translated as Devotion and he teaches that this Gift of Piety or Devotion makes us able to hear the Counsel of the Holy Spirit. He writes:

"By the Gift of Devotion we can respect the people around us, we share God's real care for them, and help them the way they need, because we truly love them... Even if we are virtuous, we don't always know exactly what to do in the here and now... we need a 'feel' for the right way forward. In fact, we need the Holy Spirit's advice! And it is by the Gift of Devotion that we are able to hear that advice."

Hence Piety enables us to love our neighbour, to treat those around us, especially our parents, with the reverent love and respect which is their due. It enables us to look out for their needs, to minister God's love and care to them and to discern when and how to speak or act appropriately with regard to our neighbours' spiritual and personal well-being. Many of us know that one of the 'spiritual acts of mercy' is to rebuke the sinner, and yet we recongnize that not everyone does so in charity. Piety ensures that we are reverently disposed to our neighbour and do the right thing in the most Christian way possible!

As Hans Urs von Balthasar says: "Christ's love possesses the utmost tact. It knows how to combine the most intense demands with the most exquisite unobtrusiveness." It is this Christ-like tact that the Holy Spirit teaches us with His Gift of Piety.

Let us pray:

Novena Prayer to the Holy Spirit

"O Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, You drew into unity a world whose speech and worship had been divided. Best of all teachers, You turned people from idols to the worship of the true God. In Your mercy hear our prayers, for without You no prayers are worthy of a hearing. Continue in our day the work you began at Pentecost; convince the world of that truth whose fruit is freedom."