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In January this year we had a recital in our Catholic Cathedral and also in St Francis Catholic Church which we billed as "a concert of classical cameos" sung by two brilliant sopranos.  It was deeply moving but because it was a concert it was accepted that everyone should applaud the end of each item. A number of times I was so moved and almost wanted to call out "Don’t applaud, let's just savour the moment and the movement.”

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Time was when all I wanted from life was to be a simple pulpit preacher, even without a mike to enable my message to reach the distant corners of large churches. This was in the early 1950s. Now, with today’s galaxy of media outlets my words travel to every corner of the world. So it is for every modern preacher who is willing to become ‘media wise.’

Without shame I boast of being somewhat unique. My twin brother is also a Dominican priest. He is in England. I am in the West Indies. No problem here! The Internet unites us. Now at our disposal is a technology that enables us to dispatch quality recorded messages from an armchair on one side of a vast expanse of ocean to a radio station on the other. Thanks to Skype we have developed a deep trust between us, a willingness to share our insights. Each of us puts into a common pool his pastoral experience, his personal studies, and the anecdotes that have flavoured his personal life. Eagerly we evaluate, hone, correct and even trash each other’s work. Whatever appears to come from either of us is, in fact, the product of ‘TWINCLARKE CO. LTD.’ Now as octogenarians, as brothers we are closer to one another than ever before - at the intimate meeting of personal faith and mission - with the wonders of Information Technology being harnessed to our Dominican preaching! Absolutely marvelous!

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The Retreat can best be described as an in-depth soul-searching exercise on our personal relationship with God.

                In the first session of our retreat we were reminded that God is merciful and we should be aware of this.
While we live in a busy, noisy and confused world, we should make time for God and try to connect with Him even in the midst of our crowded agenda.
Spending time with God should not be a calendar item but rather, by our commitment, it should become habitual. There are simple and practical ways to achieve this e.g. by getting out of bed fifteen minutes earlier or if possible just taking a quiet walk alone and listen to God. We were advised that we should “slow your life down and just listen.”

Spending time with God is continuous and one hour of weekend mass may not be enough to show our love for our best friend and Saviour who suffered the indignity and humiliation of death on the cross to cancel our debt of original sin. This was the ultimate expression of God’s love for us, of His showing His mercy for us and assuring us that there is no sin so grave that will not be forgiven and that we have the gift of eternal life if only we can make time for God.
We each have received a special gift from God but even if we do not know what it is, if we would listen and not be distracted by disturbances of the world and temptation, as Jesus was, in the desert, we may find out what it is.We should always also selflessly care for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

                Session two dealt specifically with God’s unending mercy for us and that we should trust in His mercy. Even though we believe that Jesus died to save us, we seem to lack the courage to seek Him out when we need to. There are many instances in the Bible where Jesus talks about his mercy and tells us “do not be afraid.”
Why is it that we think ourselves unworthy to receive God’s mercy? Mercy is there for all who ask for it but we must not ask for it on our terms but leave it in the hands of God.
 In our daily lives, we too should be merciful and forgiving. In Luke Ch. 6 we are told “to be merciful just as the father is merciful...” We were reminded of the story in which the master forgave his servant his debt but the servant in turn did not forgive the one who was indebted to him.
We must “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”
We were asked to look back at our lives and think of a situation when we received God’s mercy.

Session three was centred on the call to repentance. We should remember that Jesus Christ died for us; he is calling us to holiness and to live our lives in His glory. Quoting from the Cathechism of the Catholic Church, we were reminded of the call to conversion and the opportunity to say we are sorry when we have times of weakness. God, in his mercy will always give us another chance.
The call to conversion however is not only about ourselves but to have us thinking on how we can serve God and our neighbours. We can answer God’s call: “here I am Lord;” help someone less fortunate; become the servant of others and recite often the “Jesus Prayer”:
                Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
The Retreat ended with a Healing Mass.
The retreat was conducted by Deacon Ray del Castilho, Barbadian born and now living in Canada. He is married to Barbara, a Canadian born and has two daughters. He was ordained a Deacon in 2004 after four years of training, and assigned to his home parish, serving hospitals, nursing homes and mentoring aspirants to the Diaconate.
Deacon Ray, it was a privilege to have you conduct the Lenten retreat at St. Dominic’s Parish this year. We have had four days of inspiration, soul searching and receiving guidance as to how to have a better personal relationship with God.
We trust that God, speaking to us, through you, may help us in our daily lives.

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Signs of a Dynamic Catholic Reflection

Signs of a Dynamic Catholic Reflection

Many of you would have read  Matthew Kelly’s ‘Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic ’  -- a  must-read for those who haven’t.    In it, the author sets out to share his ideas on how individual Catholics can be on fire for the Lord, rekindle their faith, and by so doing help to change the world.    Kelly himself experienced this transformation, and so speaks from personal knowledge as well as from empirical evidence.    As a result, he has heeded God’s call to “go and teach all nations.”

Let’s look at the four signs.  The first  is  Prayer.    Prayer must become a priority.   There must be a daily commitment to prayer, for the “things we do repeatedly determine our character and destiny.”  You cannot love someone and do not want to be in their presence.    Set aside a time each day as your prayer time to be with God.    Remember a Christian is not one who knows about God; it is one who has a relationship with Him.   What you will find is that by dedicating your day to the Lord, God permeates every aspect of your life.     Prayer is also a time to listen to God.  Don’t spend all your time talking.  It is also a time to be before God in silence, just acknowledging His majesty, and His presence.

The second sign of a dynamic Catholic is Study.  “Highly engaged Catholics are continuous learners,” Kelly observes.    Paul advised Timothy to “Study to show thyself approved unto God.”  (2 Tim. 2:15).   Catholics are noted for not knowing their faith.    The wealth of information that is available may seem overwhelming, but if every parishioner undertook to add five pages of spiritual reading a day to their routine, the transformation would be significant.  Taking small incremental steps to let the teachings of Jesus and His Church permeate our thinking would be a game changer, Kelly predicts.   There is a lot to read and learn, but, as the author wittingly suggests:  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

Here is a very revealing statement.  “The happiest people I know are also the most generous people I know.”  Kelly lists  Generosity as the third sign of dynamic Catholics.   They realize that they have been blessed by God to be a blessing to others; hence gratitude is a strong motivating force in their lives.  They are generous with their praise, appreciation, and encouragement, and generous with their time, talent and treasure.  “God  loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Cor. 9: 7).  God looks at the heart, and the generous Catholic knows that giving back is an expression of thanksgiving and love. 

Evangelization is a current topic in the Church today, and it is the fourth dynamic sign.   “Dynamic Catholics invite others to grow spiritually by sharing the love of God with them.”   But this love of God must be a dominating force in the sharer’s life.   Evangelization must first of all be an inside job, starting in the hearts of all of us.   Our lives are a great evangelizing tool.   Distributing literature, inviting people to Catholic events, articulating the views of the  Church when necessary,  offering “faithful and generous friendship” are some of the ways we are called to evangelize.  

J. F. Kennedy once said “one person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”   Want to make a difference?  Do you want to be a better-version-of yourself in 2016?    Put into practice  the  three CCCs -  Catholic, Committed, Called to service.

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