Dear Friends and Benefactors,
So how did you feel this year? Normally that would be a question I couldn’t answer for myself, but this year I think we all have a good idea about how we felt. Anxious, lonely, frustrated, a bit angry but not sure with whom, and so forth. One thing Covid has done for us is force us all into the same world, odd as that sounds, since Covid has done so much to separate us from each other. Yet it is a shared experience. There will always be illness, always epidemics of one sort of another, but this one will pass. Neither the good things nor the bad stay the same. When it passes, there may be a legacy. Perhaps we won’t shake hands again, probably not at Mass anyway, perhaps we will whip out the masks every winter, but we forget stuff too. Ordinary life will come back. We will get back to a normalcy of sort, but normalcy has its problems too. There are these bleak words from Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. (Book 11. vv. 779-784)
I had hope
When violence was ceas’t, and War on Earth,
All would have then gone well, peace would have crownd
With length of happy dayes the race of man;
But I was far decav’d; for now I see
Peace to corrupt no less than War to waste.
This is Adam speaking after the Archangel Michael has shown him a vision of the future of mankind. We can lose the benefits of this epidemic, which has been a kind of war, much as peace, no matter how much we long for it in time of war, can be disappointing. The care and consideration we have had to learn to show each other can be allowed to fade. The sense of unity against a great threat, can be allowed to disappear. Normalcy has its problems too, as we get back to our old lives. We fall asleep again, and much that was valuable to our humanity is lost. Remember how often Our Lord tells us to stay awake, how easy it is to forget the terrible things have happened in history, and how easy it is to be taken unawares the next time. How easy it is to forget the promises we might make in times of stress, to be a little better as a neighbour in the future, to try a little harder to care. That’s the real challenge and it is what Adam means about peace corrupting.
So we have to continue to keep each other awake. That’s what we are trying to do in our work in the Order of Preachers. The priory tries to strengthen itself by constantly being awake. Keeping up our prayers, studying, thinking, being open to each other, learning as we teach. It has been an odd year for us, as we have had to celebrate our liturgy on our own, reminding us how much our religious life is bound up with the many who come to us. That is what apostolic life means, a life shared with others who seek God, and no priory could flourish in isolation. So once more we ask for your help to continue this life here in Cambridge, where we try to offer our novices a chance to make a good beginning to their Dominican life, and try to be of service to those who come to us. So let’s look forward to a new year, and by God’s grace, let’s be a little nearer to heaven.
With Christmas blessings,
Fr Euan Marley OP, Prior