Br. Kevin Andrew, O.P.'s picture

Szczęść Boże!

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Br Brad and I in Krakow’s medieval marketplace, or Rynek GłównySzczęść Boże! Or, “God bless you,” a greeting Br. Brad and I along with our student master Fr. Michael Fones heard many times when we went to Poland this summer. We went for a preaching camp focused on Pope Benedict’s apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini. The camp, now in its third year, was held in English and consisted of 12 Dominicans – 6 student brothers and 6 priests, with representatives from the US, Ireland, and Poland (including one Pole from the Vicariate of Russia and the Ukraine). The camp took place in Korbielów, a ski town near the Slovakian border. We were made up of a mix of friars – some with decades of priestly experience, some more recently ordained, and some of us still in initial studies for the Order. We looked at points from the document such as how we “enable the people of our time once more to encounter God” (paragraph 2). As Dominicans – the Order of Preachers – how do we do that in our existing ministries? What new opportunities can we look for, or start up? What does it mean to “encounter God?” Such discussions were mixed with plenty of time for rest, hikes, or trips to the nearby towns – all of which naturally included further discussions of ministry, liturgy, and theology.

The three of us from the Western Province were blessed to have some time after this camp for some of the more standard “tourist fare” in Poland, mostly around Krakow. We visited sites from the somber and horrific (Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp) to the beautiful and inspiring (Czestochowa – the home of the Black Madonna icon). In between, we saw more churches than I thought could ever fit in an area that size. Fr. Michael described the route he walked one day in Krakow just by mentioning the churches along the way – it seems like there was one on every corner!

God bless, Br Kevin

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Br. Bradley Thomas Elliott, O.P.'s picture

Why the Catholic Church?

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On July 25th I gave a presentation at St. Dominic's Church in Eagle Rock entitled, "why the Catholic Church?". Below is a link to the talk. This presentation followed a presentation that I gave earlier this summer, "Who is Jesus?" 

Br. Dominic David Maichrowicz, O.P.'s picture

"Stern as Death is Love": A Wedding Homily

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Raphael's Marriage of the VirginOn July 7th, I stood as a deacon on behalf of the Church and received the marriage vows of my sister Rebecca and her new husband Joe. It was a tremendous blessing to be able to welcome Joe into the family at the altar and do everything I could to make the liturgy as beautiful as possible for Rebecca. As a Dominican, of course, I did not pass up the opportunity to preach the wedding as well. Below are the readings they chose (which should be read first) and the homily that followed. If you need a teaser, I claim that obedience is necessary in marriage, that love is not about our feelings, and that, as an institution, marriage is more concerned with the couple’s relationship to the community than with their relationship to each other.

Readings:

Homily:

Stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away. Scripture gives us this beautiful image of love as everlasting, as having a power over all those forces which have plagued humanity from the beginning, even death. Today, however, we might be tempted to think that Scripture is being a little overly optimistic if not proposing a downright fantasy. Today and throughout history we see human (so called) “love” being used to take advantage of others, for selfish gain; love that is fleeting and the failure of divorce; “love” that divides and cuts people off from their family and community.

But what Joe and Rebecca are being called to witness to here today is not a merely human love, but divine love, a love that loves one another as God has loved us. St. John tells us “this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us.” Our love is not some evolutionary development of brute desires or pleasure seeking or herd mentality. It is rather derived from the divine love that pervades all of creation, a divine love we are therefore called to imitate. Today, Rebecca and Joe, you must you take on a special responsibility, a special vocation, to be an image of that divine love before the whole world. You must not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed . . . , that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

The first aspect of that love you are called to imitate is obedience. Divine love is obediential love. Now I know you did your best to avoid that theme in choosing the readings; and that’s no surprise in our culture. Our culture sees obedience almost as a pathological condition, a sign of weakness, an excuse for tyranny. And yet obedience means first of all a listening, a harkening to the other implying a readiness to serve the other. We imagine or assume it is something always divorced from love and yet in reality it is something absolutely necessary for love. Love without this listening, without service, without sacrifice, cannot endure. Even the readings you chose reflect this. My lover belongs to me and I to him. That real sense of a mutual ownership between the lover and the beloved. I urge you, my brother and my sister, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,to anticipate one another in showing honor. And of course Christ’s assertion that if we are to remain in his love we must keep his commandments just has he keeps the Father’s commandments.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the perfect image of that obediential divine love in that he heard our cry, he harkened to our needs, and he laid down his life for us on the cross. Christ made a complete gift of himself to his Church, and you are called to imitate that by making a complete gift of yourselves to each other, to love one another as he has loved you. Far from losing ourselves in this service, it is paradoxically only in giving ourselves to another and receiving the other in return that we truly find ourselves.

This gift of yourselves to each other would not truly be complete if it was not for the rest of your lives. And so there is a second way that your love is to image divine love. Christ’s love for his bride the Church is eternal and so your marriage as the image of that love is indissoluble; a bond of love that cannot be broken. Now there will certainly be times when you are not altogether happy with something the other has done – there will be times when the feelings grow cold – there may even be times when you feel like you don’t even like your spouse. But love, the love you are called to and that you vow today, is not something based in feelings. Love is a choice; it is a choosing of what is truly good for the other. It is in that constant choosing of the other’s good that marriage really can image the eternal divine love through whatever storms and difficulties you may face together in life. And of course the true good, the final good, of every person, is not something that can be found here below, but is eternal life in heaven. And so if I can put on my older brother hat for a moment – Joseph, I trust that not only will you do whatever is in your power to take care of my sister in this life, but that you will also do whatever is in your power to make sure that she will get to heaven. Stay close to the Sacraments, persevere in prayer, make it a central part of your life together, hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; strive every day to help each other get to heaven and your love will be an image of that eternal divine love.

The third way in which you must imitate divine love is in its fruitfulness. It is out of the superabundance of God’s love that all of creation came to be. It is out of the sacrificial love of Christ on the cross that the Church is born and that we are born again through baptism into eternal life. In fact, despite some contemporary sentiments, marriage as an institution is really more concerned with the fruitfulness of your life together – with your relationship as a couple to the community – than it is concerned with your relationship to each other. The primary hope of fruitfulness in your marriage will be in the growth of your family. The family is the beginning and foundation of all of society. And so it is expected that you will welcome children into your home, that you will as St. Paul said, exercise hospitality to the next generation, and that you will teach them this divine love you are called to today through your own example and through bringing them to Christ and his Church. More broadly, it is expected that your marriage will contribute to the needs of the holy ones; that it will be a source of service to the Church and to your friends and family; that you will stand not just as two individuals facing each other, but that you will stand side by side together that the abundance of your love may bear fruit in all the world around you.

Now you might think that this sounds like a lofty and rather absurd set of unreachable ideals. And, indeed, you would be right. Neither one of you is ready to perfectly give yourself to the other, neither one of you knows if you will always choose the other’s good, and you do not yet know how as a couple you will be called to be fruitful. But this is precisely why God gives your marriage the grace of a sacrament. Today you vow before us and before God to strive for these things, to learn and grow together in the imitation of divine love: but let me also remind you of what is being promised to you. First, this whole assembly of family and friends promises to stand by you and support you in this great endeavor but more importantly God swears by his very self that he will give you the grace you need to accomplish what he has called you to. He is calling you to do something that is naturally impossible, to be that image of divine love in our world today, but nothing is impossible for God – his grace perfects and elevates our nature to realize what is impossible for us alone.

I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as God loves us all. Be imitators of that obedient, eternal, and fruitful love. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed . . . , that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Joseph and Rebecca, this whole assembly longs to see the work of divine love in your lives and so if you are ready…

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Br. Chris Brannan, O.P.'s picture

A Summer of Dispersion: On Wandering and Resting

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St. Dominic's dispersion of the brethren.It is often reported how St. Dominic, in the early days of the Order, dispersed his small group of newly-formed friars from the house in Prouille, France, sending them to university centers throughout Europe, in view of the missionary and universal vision which he had for the Order. This summer, all of the student brothers of our province have experienced something analogous, with the student master having sent us all out of St. Albert's to live in various Dominican communities throughout our province. This “summer of dispersion,” if we can call it that, is providing each of us with a chance to live for a few months in one of our smaller communities and experience life away from St. Albert's in a more ministerial setting.

Some of the brothers, in fact, are spending the summer enrolled in Clinical Pastoral Education – a hospital chaplaincy training program. Hopefully some of them will share a bit about their experience of this on the blog soon. And there are four brothers – Br. Richard, Br. Christopher, myself (Br. Chris), and Br. Tuan (with the Canadian Vietnamese vicariate) – who have begun or will soon begin a year-long “residency year” in which we live in one of our smaller communities for an entire year to gain more ministerial experience and to aid in our formation and discernment with the Province.

For my part, I have recently moved into Holy Rosary Priory in Portland, OR, for my residency year. Last Monday, after having completely moved out of my room at St. Albert's and shipping a number of my books to Portland, I drove straight from Oakland to Portland (which took about ten hours). I spent a bit of the week's remainder unpacking and settling in to my new, temporary home. Fr. Gregory Tatum, who is staying here at Holy Rosary for the month of July, was kind enough to give me a brief tour of a few parts of the city later that week – but as this is only the second time I have ever been to Portland, I'm still a bit unfamiliar with it and need to explore it a bit more.

In any case, this whole experience of moving out of one place and traveling to a new location is one that can feel both jarring and exhilarating – and is something Dominican friars must learn to accept; our Order began, after all, as a group of itinerant preachers. Thus this life requires a sort of detachment from any particular location, a willingness to uproot oneself and travel for sake of the Order's mission, for the sake of the Gospel.

I am reminded by this of a short conversation between a scribe and Jesus in the gospels: “And one scribe, approaching, said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you will go.' And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to rest his head'” (Matt 8:19-20). There is a sense, indeed, in which every Christian, like Jesus himself, is “homeless” on this side of heaven, and must not remain too attached to particular possessions or places. This may seem, at first, a bit too “unearthly”, or aloof from a genuine human existence. After all, who does not long for a stable home, a safe place in which one can consistently retire each day, a haven and refuge from the busyness and stress of the outside world? Who does not value a home to which one is attached? What can it mean to be constantly “detached” from such genuine goods of this world, if not simply to be perpetually disoriented and unstable? How is such a life, in any meaningful sense, “healthy”?

To make sense of this, we should keep in mind a general truth which is essential to the Christian life: we are all pilgrimspilgrims who have not yet arrived at our true and final home. While this world was created good, it is but a foretaste and preparation of that for which we were created and redeemed – dwelling in glorious communion with the Triune God. Thus any attachment to the things of earth which hinders our approach to the Heavenly Jerusalem will not do us any good; we must be willing to “let go,” to “move on” as God draws us onward and upward toward our celestial home. It is not that we should not have any affection or love for the good things of this earth; quite the contrary: to despise what is good, in so far as it is good, is to despise Goodness himself. But our love, much like our homes, must be “in order,” and properly arranged: we must love most only what is best, and love the lesser in view of the greater. Our love for God must be first; our love for the lesser things for country; for home, family, and friends; for career and leisure; for food and for sex – must all be subordinate to divine charity, the love of God which has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).

And this is what this “summer of dispersion” causes me to remember: God's love for us is greater than any other good or pleasure we can experience or imagine on earth, and we must, therefore, let our love for Him – itself a divine gift – transcend all other loves that move our hearts. The alternative is the restlessness which we all fear. So the choices are simply these: abiding in divine love, or drifting in perpetual restlessness. And, paradoxically, unless we see ourselves as wanderers on earth, we will not be able to rest in the bosom of the Father. For that is the only place the Son rests his head (cf. Jn 1:18), and the only place in which we, his Body, can find our true home.

Br. Michael James Rivera, O.P.'s picture

Fireworks, Freedom, and Frassati

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A month after his 21st birthday -- a time when most young people are trying to find themselves -- Pier Giorgio Frassati became a member of the Dominican family. Kneeling down in the gothic church of San Domenico, with the soft glow of candlelight reflecting off the vaulted ceilings, and the sweet aroma of incense filling the air, he received the white scapular of the Third Order of St. Dominic. Taking the name Gerolamo, after the Dominican friar whom he so admired for his religious zeal and fervor, Pier Giorgio had no doubts about his purpose in life. He was to be a man of the beatitudes: merciful, pure of heart, a peacemaker.

Like many Catholics in the modern age, Pier Giorgio was no stranger to political unrest. He understood, perfectly well, the struggle for peace and religious freedom. As a young man he participated in a number of religious processions that often led to his being “detained” by the police. They were afraid that he might be trying to stir up trouble as a member of the Popular-Socialist Party, who along with the Fascists, were vying for control of the Italian government in the early 1900s.

In spite of his distaste for the Fascist Party, the affairs of state were not Pier Giorgio’s chief concern. He simply believed that violence was never the answer and that “true peace is more a fruit of Christian neighborly love than of justice” (A Man of the Beatitudes, 99). So he used his brief periods in jail, not to promote some political agenda, but to encourage his fellow prisoners – to pray the rosary with them, to counsel them, and to ease their pain. For Pier Giorgio, this is what it meant to be a Christian, to be blessed. As a man with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, he had discovered that freedom is not merely something political. True liberty is spiritual – freedom from the power of Satan and slavery to sin.  

We find an example of this type of freedom in the Gospel of Matthew (8:28-34), when Jesus heals two men who have been possessed by evil spirits; men who had been held captive in Satan’s grasp for many years. By sending these demons into a herd of pigs, Jesus reveals that his miraculous work is not limited to feeding the hungry crowds. He also has the power to free us from the bonds of sin. Like the demoniacs who are freed from their spiritual imprisonment, we too can experience the power that frees us from spiritual death and raises us to new life in Christ. It is made available to us in the Sacraments, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when we are absolved of our sins, when grace is poured upon us, and we are given the strength to resist future temptation.

These least two weeks, during the Fortnight for Freedom, have been a wonderful time to reflect on our belief as Americans that everyone has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” While I will gladly admit that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are essential aspects of our way of life, we must not forget that spiritual freedom – freedom from the power of sin – is just as important. For Christ’s reign extends over all creation and the proclamation of his kingdom includes a declaration of liberty to captives – those under the thumb of human oppressors, as well as those who find themselves oppressed by spiritual forces.

Pier Giorgio knew this well. He believed that “faith enables us to bear the thorns with which our life is woven,” whether they be political or spiritual. This is why he went to Mass daily and once told a group of young people, “Feed on this Bread of Angels and from it you will gain the strength to fight your inner battle, the battle against passion and all adversities, because Jesus Christ has promised to those who feed on the Holy Eucharist eternal life and the graces necessary to obtain it…you will enjoy the peace that those who are happy in accordance with this world have never experienced, because true happiness does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we only have if we are pure in heart and mind” (A Man of the Beatitudes, 97-8).

Pure in heart; these words were often used to describe Pier Giorgio, by those who knew him best. When he died of polio on the 4th of July, 1925, it seemed as if the entire city of Turin turned up to pay their respects: Ester, the housekeeper whom he had brought to the faith; Signora Converso, the poor woman to whom he had sent medication while on his own deathbed. These and many others poured into the house, lined the streets during the procession, and crowded into the Church during the funeral. In Pier Giorgio they had been witness to a life touched by grace, a man of blessedness, who had experienced spiritual freedom in Christ and wanted to share it with the world.

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Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1990, and is a patron of World Youth Day. 

Br. Bradley Thomas Elliott, O.P.'s picture

Who is Jesus?

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On 13 June 2012, I gave the Dominican Forum presentation at St. Dominic's Parish in Eagle Rock California. The topic of the talk entitled, "Who is Jesus?" was on the nature of Jesus Christ as true God and true man and the importance and centrality of this teaching for the Christian faith. 

Starting from Scripture and moving through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I attempted to illustrate in a straight-forward and easy to digest fashion what the Church understands about the nature of Jesus Christ and how she has articulated that understanding throughout the centuries.

Br. Chris Brannan, O.P.'s picture

“He shall be called a Nazarene”

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Mosaic of NazarethIn the Gospel of Matthew, we read about Joseph taking Mary and Jesus and fleeing Judea for Egypt because of Herod’s plan to kill all infant boys in the area. On their return after Herod’s death, Joseph is warned in a dream about Herod’s successor, and so they flee to Nazareth – where Jesus subsequently grows up. Matthew then writes that this happened “in order to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: ‘For he shall be called a Nazarene’” (Matt. 2:23).

What Old Testament passage(s) did Matthew have in mind when he wrote this? This question has puzzled biblical commentators for centuries, because the apparent quotation does not precisely match any known text of the Old Testament.1  One possible explanation is that offered by the research of Maarten J. J. Menken, who argues that Matthew has in mind the Greek translations of Judges 13:5,7, and 16:7.2

Judges 13-16 describes the life of Samson, a “Nazirite” known for his rather supernatural strength. His mother was originally “barren,” a rather shameful state for a woman, but was told by an angel, “You shall conceive and bear a son, whose head no razor shall touch. For he shall be a Nazirite of God, from his infancy and from his mother’s womb. And he shall begin to free Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judg 13:5).  The Hebrew term “Nazirite” is נָזִר or נָזִיר (pronounced “Naw-ZEER”), and meant “consecrated” or “holy.” It relates to those consecrated by a vow as prescribed in Numbers 6, in which those so consecrated must not shave their heads nor consume anything from the vine.

Interestingly, in some versions of a Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (LXX), the Hebrew term נָזִיר (naziyr, or Nazirite in English) in Judges 13:5, 7 was transliterated into Greek as ναζιραῖος (naziraios). The same Hebrew word was treated similarly in Lam 4:7 LXX.  In various other Greek translations of the Old Testament, including those done by Jewish scholars of the early Christian era, in several places in the Scriptures this same Hebrew word was variously translated as ναζιρ, ναζαραιος, ναζηραιος, or ναζιραιος (nazir, nazaraios, nazeraios, and naziraios; notice that the only difference between these last few is that of one vowel).3 Matthew’s Ναζωραῖος also differs only by one vowel – the same vowel position (he uses the Greek ω where others used ι, α, or η). If we keep in mind that the Hebrew text originally did not have any vowels – these were only marked by later scribes for the sake of pronunciation –, there may be enough "wiggle room" to allow Matthew to see a linguistic connection between "Nazarene" (Ναζωραῖος) and "Nazirite" (Ναζιραῖος). It may be that Matthew was familiar with such Greek renderings of the Judges 13 passages, and he made precisely such a connection.

If Menken is right—and there is more to his argument than that briefly mentioned above4—, then it means that Matthew sees in the story of Samson a “type” of Christ. If we compare these two figures, we notice many parallels: Samson’s mother was promised by an angel that she would conceive and bear a son, that he would be a Nazirite (i.e., “holy”); her son was given a supernatural strength so as to bring (brief) respite for the Israelites from the Philistines. Similarly, in Matthew Jesus’ birth was announced by an angel who said that he will be conceived by the Holy Spirit and who promised that Jesus would save God’s people from their sins (Mt. 2:20-21).  Jesus himself is the “strong man,” overcoming the strength of Satan (cf. Mt. 21:29).

SamsonIf we continue with the comparison, we notice that, like all Old Testament foreshadowings of Christ, there are differences among the similarities: Samson falls for the ploys of the Philistines via the woman he loves, and as a result loses his strength, his freedom, his sight, and – eventually – his life. Jesus is confronted with the deceptions of Satan, but does not succumb. But Jesus’ ultimate act of triumph over his “enemies” – Satan, sin, and Bronzino's "Christ on the Cross" (1545)death – also involves the giving of his own life, on the cross. After Samson was captured, he stretched out his hands to dislodge the pillars of the Philistine house in which he was imprisoned, taking down numerous Philistines with him. Jesus, in turn, stretched out his own hands on the cross, and destroyed the powers of sin and death that reigned over the human race: a victorious strength exercised in weakness.

If Menken is correct, then, Matthew has drawn a typological comparison between Jesus and Samson, and we can see in Jesus the one who is truly “consecrated” to God (ναζιραῖος), the “strong” one who overcomes the enemies of God and brings freedom to His people.


Notes:

  1. There are two common solutions to this problem, both of which St. Jerome noticed in his day, although he ended up favoring the one posited in this article: it could be referring to the Hebrew word for "shoot" in passages such as Isaiah 11:1; or to the Hebrew word for "Nazirite" in Judges 13:5. [Back to reading]
  2. Maarten J. J. Menken, “The Sources of the Old Testament Quotation in Matthew 2:23,” Journal of Biblical Literature 120, no. 3 (Autumn, 2001): 451-468. For those with full-text access to JSTOR, the article can be accessed here. Menken also sees the language of Isaiah 7:14 -- which Matthew has already invoked in chapter 1 -- being mixed in with the quotation, specifically, the use of the verb καλέω, "to call." [Back to reading]
  3. Additionally, the Greek text of Maccabees 3:49, which is believed to have been originally written in Hebrew, uses ναζιραῖος as the equivalent of “Nazirite.” [Back to reading]
  4. Menken also argues that Matthew's use of the Greek word ότι in Matt. 2:23 is intended to be part of the OT quotation itself, not as part of the quotation formula which precedes it (a purpose this word sometimes filfulls). In which case, the OT citation is, "For[ότι] he shall be called a Nazarene." And as it turns out, the relevant phrases in Judges 13 and 16 (in the LXX) all began with this same Greek word: ότι. Menken also notices that Matthew refers to "the prophets" (in the plural) when prefacing the quotation. He does not do this in any of his other formula citations of the OT, even when he forms a quotation by mixing two different prophets into one quote (e.g., Mt. 21:5 = Is 62:11 + Zech 9:9); in every other case, he speaks of "the prophet" (in the singular, and he often names the prophet). But if we consider that the book of Judges belonged to the so-called "former prophets," and that these books were not yet enumerated by individual authors by the 1st century like the other prophets (such a enumeration and naming was done later), this would account for Matthew's phrase, "what was spoken through the prophets" (Matt. 2:23), i.e., "through that unenumerated collection by the former prophets." These two points give further reason to suppose that Matthew is refering to Judges 13. [Back to reading]

Fr. Emmanuel's Ordination & First Mass - May 2012

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This past Saturday, May 26, we celebrated the ordination our Dominican brother, Fr. Emmanuel Francis Taylor, OP, to the priesthood at St. Dominic's Church, San Francisco. On Sunday morning, he celebrated his first mass here at St. Albert's. It was a very joyful weekend for all of us to witness this important event in the life and vocation of Fr. Emmanuel, whose priesthood, no doubt, will be a valuable gift to the life and ministry of our province. Later this summer he will begin his first priestly assignment just across the Bay at St. Dominic's Church. Please join us in congratulating Fr. Emmanuel and in praying for a fruitful life of ministry for the sake of God's kingdom!

UPDATE: Many more pictures and a copy of the bishop's homily from the ordination are available at this page on our province website.

Br. Bradley Thomas Elliott, O.P.'s picture

To know Mary is to know Jesus

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            I once read an interesting story about Non-Catholics attempting to live out their anti-Marian biases. The story illustrates the misunderstandings of Marian devotion.

            There was a group of Protestant Christians in England, where GK Chesterton lived, who took over and occupied an abandoned building once owned by a community of Catholic monks. The building, being a pre-nineteenth century ecclesial structure, had an architectural style that was overtly religious. There was no doubt at all that the building once belonged to Christians practicing the Catholic religion. The structure was replete with vertical lines shooting to the heavens, archways for every door and window. Every nook-and-cranny of the building had some figure or religious image or statue of a saint.

            Given that this was a Protestant group that took over the property, they were somewhat trepidatious about the images and icons; idolatry as they called it. Nevertheless, they gladly moved in to the building with the hopes that they could remove from the structure all the imagery and iconography that was distinctly Catholic. They, being Christians, did not necessarily mind the fact that there were images of Jesus and Angels.  After all, many main-stream Protestants still believe in these, but the icons of the Catholic saints and, most especially, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, had to go.

            So they went on and began the work of covering up or removing the uniquely Catholic imagery. In the paintings they covered over the saints and left most of the walls white-washed. They left the images of Jesus untouched; after all, they were devoted to Jesus and wanted to keep the images of Him as a constant reminder of their faith. When it came to the statues, since most of the statues were of Catholic Saints, they were thrown out all together. There were some statues that contained imagery that were favorable to them. Wanting to do the least damage to the structure, they did not throw these statues out all-together, but brought in sculptors and stone workers to chip away only those elements they did not like, only what reminded them of Catholicism. St. Joseph was chipped away and the child Jesus was left standing; St. Catherine was chipped away and they left a solitary image of Jesus handing a crown of thorns to any hypothetical believer. The Sacred Heart was chipped away and a very shallow bust of a man who looked like Jesus was left.

            The most prominent statue of the entire complex was the one that stood at the entrance. It was a statue of the blessed Virgin Mary holding her infant Child Jesus. The stone workers had orders to keep the images of Jesus but take away all that was added on around Jesus that smacked of Catholic devotion. But they couldn’t do it. There was no way that they could chip away Mary and not chip away Jesus. If they chipped away all that reminded the viewer of the Mother of Jesus, they would chip away so much of her child that there would be virtually nothing left to refashion into anything edifying or inspiring to religious devotion at all. There would be nothing left that looked like Jesus

            What did they do? They did what they had to… they simply threw out both Mother and Child.

            This story provides an illustration for the Christian life. Many Christians have a sincere desire to hold on to Jesus, and Jesus alone, to the exclusion of any other character that the Catholic Church might slide in. But there is a deep misunderstanding behind this.

            As Christians, we  cannot take Jesus alone because Jesus did not come alone. God, when he became man to walk among us, live among us, and die for us, did not come down in a vacuum. He came down as a human baby with a Mother. He was born in history, born in time once for all time. Sacred Scripture never tires of outlining for us his genealogy, showing us quite clearly that he was truly one of us, truly a human being born in the line of history shared by every of other human being. And, just as in the natural order, where children to not drop out of heaven by themselves, but come from mothers and fathers, so in the spiritual order our savior comes to us in a family.

            The recognition that our Lord is a sharer of our common human nature (Emmanuel, God with us) is lived out in the Catholic religion in many forms of devotion. Most especially, this is played out in the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary without whom there would be no Jesus. We cannot chip away the mother without chipping away the child. For a Christian, cultivating a devotion to the Mother of God is not optional, it is not something tacked on from the outside. No… it is an obligation of all who call themselves followers of Her Son. If we as Christians begin to chip out of our lives a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, we will soon find that remains may barely resemble authentic Christianity at all. 

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Br. Michael James Rivera, O.P.'s picture

A Letter from the Studentate

Dear Friends and Loyal Readers,

On behalf of the studentate, I must apologize for our lack of posts over the last few weeks. The month of May is typically very busy at St. Albert's, as we begin writing papers and studying extra hard for our final exams. Now that the semester is over, we should get back to our usual schedule of one or two posts a week.

In the meantime, let me give you a little update as to what has happened in the last month...

1) Towards the end of April we celebrated the Solemn Profession of Br. Corwin Saxon Low, O.P., and Br. Peter Junipero Hannah, O.P. In the beautful liturgy on April 28 at St. Dominic's in San Francisco, our brothers made a vow obedience until death into the hands of Fr. Mark Padrez, O.P., Prior Provincial of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

2) A few weeks later, on May 7, I had the privilege of helping to light the consecration candles in our chapel as we commemorated the dedication of the chapel by Archbishop Mitty many years ago. The readings and prayers for the day are some of my favorites, since they remind us that the churches in which we pray should be beautiful signs of the presensce of God in our midst.

3) On Mother's Day a number of us traveled to Corpus Christ Monastery in Menlo Park, to be present at the simple profession of Sister Mary Isabel of the Angels, O.P., one of our cloistered nuns. During the Mass Sister Mary Isabel received a black veil, in place of the white one she wore as a novice, and was honored for her willingness to give her life in prayer to the Lord. Sister Mary Isabel is a prayer partner to many of the brothers in formation, and constantly offers spiritual bouquets on their behalf.

Sister Mary Isabel receives her new veil from Fr. Mark Padrez, O.P.

4) The Vigil of Pentecost was especially exciting for all of this year, since it was on this day that our brother Emmanuel Francis Taylor, O.P., was ordained to the priesthood. Fr. Emmanuel has been preparing for this day for many years, and it was a blessing to see the joy on his face as he was vested in his chasuble and his hands were anointed with sacred chrism. Hopefully we'll have some pictures up soon, so be sure to visit our site again.

And when you do, you'll also find some posts from our brothers regarding their summer assignments. A few of us will be in Clinical Pastoral Education programs, while others will be living and working with our communities in Portland and McKenzie Bridge, OR, Seattle, Antioch and Eagle Rock, CA, and Las Vegas.

 

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