The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Sacraments: Christ's Gift of the Spirit

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
One of the ways we can think about sacraments is as God reaching down through history to apply the power of the cross to the present moment. Since Christ handed on to us the gift of His Holy Spirit through the cross, the re-presentation of the sacrifice of the cross in our sacraments becomes the means by which Christ re-presents his offer of the Spirit. This is because, as has been discussed in previous posts, sacraments are signs that make real what they signify. Our sacramental signs, instituted by Christ himself, point to his Incarnation and thus perpetuate that Incarnation among and in the Christian community across all time and space. As the Spirit is received through Christ and therefore through the sacraments, we can also think of the sacraments as a kind of re-actualization of Pentecost. This points us to the complementary missions of the Son and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit, sent by Christ (who was himself conceived by the Holy Spirit), allows us to receive Christ in a new and deeper way.  Read more


Tuesday, May 29, 2012
On Saturday evening the community celebrated Pentecost Vigil, and on Sunday the feast continued, with the conventual Mass being followed by a feast to which all the doorkeepers at Blackfriars were invited. Here are some pictures from the two evenings: Read more

Pentecost - Visible and Invisible

Sunday, May 27, 2012
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The Sacraments as Liturgy

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dominican Pilgrimage to Walsingham 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Last Sunday 20th May, when the Solemnity of the Ascension was observed in England and Wales this year, the annual Dominican pilgrimage to Walsingham took place. Groups came from Cambridge, Leicester, and London as well as Oxford, and after a long bus journey, the pilgrimage began with the solemn Mass in the shrine church, at which the Prior of Cambridge, Fr Martin Ganeri OP, preached the homily. Read more

Sacraments: Marriage

Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste (Song of Songs 2:3).

One of the most beautiful things that can happen to a human being is to love someone and being loved in return. It becomes even much more agreeable when both people choose to spend their lives together forever and to start a family. That is why, since the dawn of time, societies saw marriage as an important institution, not only for their survival, but also for their happiness.

Philippe Béguerie and Claude Ducheneau in their work How to Understand the Sacraments state that “[t]he church did not invent marriage. Marriage existed long before the church. And the first Christians married, like those around them, without needing a special religious ceremony. However, from the beginning marriage was considered important in the Christian community” (1991:137). Nevertheless, Canon 1055 §1 of the Code of Canon Law, tells us that “[t]he matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” And it is “[f]or this reason [that] a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament” (CIC 1055 §2).

Canon 1056 tells us that “[t]he essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage obtain a special firmness by reason of the sacrament.” The firmness consists in the fact that God is the one to unite the spouses and no one should separate them (Mark 10:9). Thus, one could say that when God created a man and a woman it implied complementarity (Gen 2:18) which is more clearly expressed in the sacrament of matrimony. Thus, marriage, that union between a man and a woman, is part of God’s plan. The Catechism of the Catholic Church thus tells us that “[m]arriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics” (CCC 1603).

Marriage leads to family. Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in his letter to families, Gratissimam Sane, that “Christ … entrusted man to [the Church] as the 'way'of her mission and her ministry… Among these many paths, the family is the first and the most important. It is a path common to all, yet one which is particular, unique and un-repeatable, just as every individual is unrepeatable; it is a path from which man cannot withdraw” (1994: §1 – §2).

It is obvious that today the institution of the family suffers a lot. Many people no longer are born in torn families, in many countries children are born in deplorable situations that leave them orphaned, and hundreds of thousands of children grow in separated families or in child-headed households. It becomes even sadder when Christian families choose to end their relationship and opt for a separation. However, Christian families are not immune to the problems that tear down our society.

Where families are torn from the separation of the spouses, the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us the reason saying that “[e]very man experiences evil around him and within himself. This experience makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation. This disorder can manifest itself more or less acutely, and can be more or less overcome according to the circumstances of cultures, eras, and individuals, but it does seem to have a universal character” (CCC 1606). A more compassionate approach towards current problems in families might assist in helping to solve them. It would be an enormous mistake and utterly wrong to start looking at marriage as a less important vocation. It is different from the calling to religious life but it has its own irreplaceable role to play in the building of the kingdom of God. But still, we need to find a solution to this persisting – maybe worsening – crisis in the institution of marriage.

We need to be continuously reminded that, as Herbert Vorgrimler puts it in his book Sacramental Theology, marriage being the symbol of the love of Christ for the Church, is an enduring sacrament [which] implies this continuing symbolic value and the ongoing state of being Church and building Church. From this fact alone results the indissolubility of the marriage of believing Christians and the unity (monogamy) of this marriage, things that cannot be made conclusive with purely rational arguments based on nature. The result of this theological reflection is that marriage – at least a marriage that is deliberately sacramental – cannot be built on a love that is primarily thought of as feeling, emotion, sympathy, or attraction […] love expresses itself not only in the decision made at the beginning, but above all in fidelity (1992:309 - 310).

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Sacraments: Holy Orders

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sacraments: Anointing of the Sick

Friday, May 18, 2012

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Sacraments: Penance

Sunday, May 13, 2012

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Seven Painters at Blackfriars

Saturday, May 12, 2012
As part of Oxfordshire Art Weeks, from Saturday 12th May, and lasting just over a week, there will be an exhibition of paintings entitled, 'Seven Painters at Blackfriars,' in the priory church. The exhibition will be open every day 9am-5.30pm, apart from Sundays, when it is open from 1.15-5.30pm. Some of the paintings are by artists who attend Blackfriars. One of the artists, Louise Sturgis, will be displaying some of her paintings of scenes from the Rosary.  Read more
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