October 2013

Br. Thomas Aquinas Pickett, O.P.'s picture

Holy to the Core

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We're not bad people, right? Compared with the people described by the prophet Amos, we're veritable angels! But what really lurks within the depths of our hearts? Are we really the people that we think we are?


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

What's in a Name?

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Saint Michael, icon at Prince of Peace Monastery"War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it." --Revelation 12:7-9

Any brother who visits my room will find images of Saint Michael throughout: on the door, next to my bed, on the bookshelf, above my desk, and so on. Although most of these prayer cards and icons have been gifts that I’ve received since entering the Order and receiving Michael as my religious name, the fact is that I have had a great devotion to the captain of the heavenly hosts for many years.

My affinity for Saint Michael began in college, when I began to learn more about our Catholic faith and discovered that Saint Michael’s feast day -- which he now shares which the other archangels -- is on September 29, just a few days after my birthday.  Tradition teaches us that on this date, during the pontificate of Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Michael appeared to the pope in a vision. Saint Gregory was leading a penitential procession and praying for the end of a plague that was decimating the population of Rome. As he and the other pilgrims made their way across the Tiber River, suddenly the sound of an angel chorus could be heard. Saint Michael appeared above what is now known as the Castel San’Angelo, and sheathed his sword -- which was dripping with blood -- a sign that the plague was finished.

A lesser-known story says that it was on this date that Saint Michael defeated Satan, as described in the reading from the Book of Revelation above. After being cast out of heaven, the devil was hurled towards earth and finally crashed, landing on a thorny bush. The bush’s berries took on the color of the vanquished dragon’s blood, a dark violet that, at first glance, appears black. Seething and outraged, Satan cursed the bush and its blackberries. As a result, tradition holds that one should only eat blackberries harvested before this day, otherwise they will be too bitter.

Now as much as I love these stories and traditions associated with Sept. 29th, they are not my primary reason for venerating Saint Michael. The real reason I honor this archangel is because of what his name signifies. Despite the fact that “Michael” is often translated as a statement, it as actually a question – the question asked by this noble prince of heaven when Satan refused to serve and worship God. Michael means: “who is like unto God?” It is a rallying cry for the faithful, that causes the devil to tremble in fear, reminding him of that fateful day when he, in his pride, rebelled against God and lost his place among the heavenly host. At the same time, it is a reminder to all us that we must practice humility, for the answer to the question “who is like unto God?” is no one.

Let us pray, then, that Saint Michael, by the divine power of God, will help us to grow in virtue, and in humility, so that we may turn from sin and overcome the evil spirits who prowl this world seeking for the ruin of souls.

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Fr. Gabriel Mosher, O.P.'s picture

Connecting Threads

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It’s always been fascinating to me how many people we never get a chance to meet in our lifetime. Hint: It’s a really large number! Today, however, this number is significantly augmented by the phenomenon of Internet based communications (like this one!). Recently I was interviewed about my own work and interactions both online and offline by Benjamin Alexander on his new podcast Pulling the String.

You can also find the interview on iTunes. It's titled Kefitzat Haderech With A Contentious Monk.

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Br. Andrew Dominic Yang, O.P.'s picture

Cut to the Heart

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The Gospel of Matthew tells us that as soon as the Pharisees hear of the Sadducees’ defeat at the hands of Jesus, the Pharisees gather together in order to try their own luck in dealing with this new, upstart rabbi. One Pharisee in particular, a lawyer, comes up with the seemingly foolproof question – “Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” [1]  

Of course, what the Pharisee does not realize is that the one he questions is the very author of life (and Law) itself.  

Jesus answers him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” [2]  

The Gospel does not record the manner in which the Pharisee responded to these words, but to me, the evangelist’s choice to omit them speaks volumes. I happen to have a few lawyer friends myself, and rarely have I found them to be at a loss for words. One can imagine that Jesus’ perfect reply astounded the Pharisee to the point where he is “cut to the heart.”  

But the Pharisees' silence should not surprise us, for Jesus has not come to make us feel comfortable, or to condone our rebellious behavior. In order for Him to shake us from our doldrums, we must be disturbed. In order for Him to exorcise our tendency to desire mediocrity, we must be bothered. For Him to dispel our inner, self-righteous Pharisee, we must be silenced. Otherwise, we will not change.  

Whenever we hear the Word of God preached, and by grace, are able to receive it with openness, we also find ourselves “cut to the heart,” much like the first hearers of the Gospel message in the Acts of the Apostles. This holy preaching– this kerygma–so explosive in power, facilitates an encounter with Christ that convicts us to live better; a life that is ultimately conformed to the life of Christ. For it is only after the Word is preached that we turn with open hands to Peter and the apostles asking, “What are we to do, my brothers?” [3]

Unfortunately, the human condition is such that we must be constantly exposed to this Word, for it is all too easy for us to slip back into our old ways. We who are self-content require Christ’s liberation and encouragement to “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [4]

One of our problems today is that this kerygma is taking place exclusively in the Sunday pulpit. Instead, it should also be on our lips wherever we are: in our streets, in our workplace, and most importantly, in our homes. The reading from the Office of Compline after Evening Prayer I on Sunday exhorts us to “Take to heart these words…[and] drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.” [5]

The Dominican Order has taken these words to heart, and in its great wisdom, has required each Priory to read the Rule of St. Augustine on a regular basis. The Rule, a true spiritual masterpiece, serves as the Order’s founding document and reminds us of how we should conduct ourselves in the monastery. When read aloud in common, it becomes our own internal kerygma. The Rule’s message, however, is by no means exclusive to monks, nuns, or friars. It can serve as a reminder to all that the demands of the Gospel orient us towards true love of God and neighbor, so that we may achieve the perfection we seek. 

Each time the Rule is read, I am “cut to the heart” by its words. I recognize my many failings, petty behavior, and selfish desires. As this kerygma burrows its way into my soul, a new fault of mine bubbles to the surface. And I am grateful for it, because there are many faults I may otherwise be unaware of. But even after hearing the Rule read aloud dozens of times, I feel no closer to having accomplished its prescriptions. It is here where I realize that I have lots of work to do.

But there is hope, for the kerygma is never meant to lead us to despair. While each new day may bring the inevitability of sin, the story does not end with this. Christ's victory on the cross has won for us the great gift to repent, and to believe anew. For this, we are in constant need of the grace of the Word, and I find myself consoled by the concluding sentences of the Rule: “If any one of you realizes that he has failed on a specific point, let him be sorry for the past, safeguard the future, and continue to pray for his offences to be forgiven, that he not be led into temptation.” [6]

[1] Matthew 22:36

[2] Matthew 22:37-40

[3] Acts 2:37

[4] Matthew 5:48

[5] Deuteronomy 6:4-7

[6] Rule of St. Augustine, Chapter 8

Br. Thomas Aquinas Pickett, O.P.'s picture

Heart of Mercy

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            What's the point of being a Christian? This is a question that applies to many groups: those outside the Church; those who are estranged from the Church or are living on the cusp of faith; and even those fully within the Church who practice their faith. Indeed, while it is a simple question, it is an essential one that we should ask. Knowing why, knowing the point or goal, is as essential as knowing how: the two must go together. So, what is the point of being a Christian?

            Unfortunately, how some have answered this question has either caused people to lose interest in becoming a Christian, or has caused division and polarization within the Church that has driven some away from the faith. Some who have been seduced by contemporary secularism might reduce the point of being a Christian to a vague moral system concerned, first of all, with justice and being nice to others: deifying any and every element of human life and proudly casting off any belief or practice that interferes with the latest political fad. Others who have the ossified faith of Pharisees can codify the point of being a Christian to following rules, maintaining traditions, preserving customs, and being staunch signs of stolid contradiction to a world gone to hell: humanizing the divine and turning religion into a quaint museum of antiquarian oddities. It is not that justice, morality, tradition, or rules are bad in themselves, but that some confuse the part with the whole.

            Authentic, orthodox Christianity, subsisting in the Roman Catholic Church (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus) however, reveres tradition, advocates for justice and morality, establishes sound laws and rules, and, in addition to these things, offers something beyond what mere human institutions can: satisfaction of the infinite longing of the human heart. As the Catechism puts so well, "The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for..." (CCC #27). The Church, by joining humanity with God through the Sacraments, Doctrine, Scripture, and Tradition, offers to every man and woman of good will the One answer to the deepest desires of their hearts.

            So often in our world the hearts of men and women are filled with fear, shame, and pain. They fear loneliness as they draw closer through communication devices but father apart through a disturbing ignorance of the experience of true, lasting love. They experience shame through the haunting memories of using others or of being used themselves. They feel a deep, silent pain as they secretly call out to the others surrounding them, their neighbors, their co-workers, and those whom they call their friends, "Here I am! Love me! Know who I am!", but are met with the superficial niceties of bourgeois civility: they are left empty by the empty words and empty gestures and empty "love" of those who, themselves, are empty. 

            Recently I was out in the Berkeley area doing some street evangelization, when I came across a woman, who I will call Alice. Alice was sitting down on the driveway in front of her house with her knees pulled up to her chest, smoking a cigarette, listening to her MP3 device, and generally looking miserable. I came up to her and asked her if she wanted a rosary. She looked up at me with a mien of a person who has been taken advantage of too many times to distinguish goodwill and deceit. After several moments of pensive silence she responded, "O.K". As I gave her the simple plastic rosary, tears began to fill her eyes. I asked her if she was all right. Alice replied, "I am just a little heartbroken."

            The point of being a Christian is that we have found the answer to the fear, shame, and pain within our hearts. We have found the answer, we know the answer, we have come to love the answer, and we are called to give that answer to the aching hearts in our own time and place: the mercy of God, misericordia Dei. To have mercy means to have our hearts ache (in Latin Miser, "unhappy" Cor, "heart") at another's sorrow or distress. To be a Christian means to realize that, in the person of Jesus Christ, God is merciful: He is not an aloof universal force, nor a pathetic projection of the human psyche, nor a bearded entity enfeebled with senescence. No! In Jesus God is moved with mercy for us! For me! For my heart! And he came to heal our hearts, so that we may no longer "sit in darkness and in the shadow of death" (Lk 1:79), but may "have life, and have it abundantly." (Jn 10:10). All the evil and garbage that we have done to others that weighs upon our heart, all the evil and garbage that has been done to us and that scars our heart, is met, embraced, forgiven, and healed through entering into the love of Jesus. Our hearts are restless until they find this merciful love: "Behold, the ears of my heart are before Thee, O Lord, open them, and say unto my soul, 'I am thy salvation'. I will run after that voice, and take hold of Thee." (Augustine, Conf. I.v)

            But how do we run after that voice of mercy and love? How do we take hold of it? Through conversion. Conversion to Jesus "always consists in discovering his mercy, that is, in discovering that love which is patient and kind" (Bl. John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, 13) By entering the hospital of the Church, where Jesus has called sinners, that is, those in need of a physician of hearts and souls (cf. Lk 5:31-32), the new convert is given divine medicine to remove the scars of the heart: "He healed many who were sick" (Mk 1:34). By remaining in the hospital of the Church, where "the heart is strengthened by grace" (Heb 13:9), the faithful continually grow in love, and are invited to seek out new patients for the heavenly physician.

            However, not all patients in the hospital of the Church take their medicine. Like Ananias and Sapphira (cf. Acts 5:1-11), they hold on to their old ways and refuse to turn over their hearts to the new life in store for them. Like the crowds at Athens who dismissed the message of St. Paul (cf. Acts 17:16-33), they are unwilling to let their hearts be changed by the Gospel. These patients require great attention, because the medicine of God's loving mercy works with only those who are willing.

            The point of being a Christian is that, in entering the hospital of the Church, where we are gathered with others suffering similar symptoms, our hearts are healed and strengthened by the infinite love and mercy of Jesus, and we, in turn, proceed to seek out other patients whose hearts are longing for the fullness of life that we have embraced.

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

Vanity of Vanities!

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King Solomon by Gustave Doré [courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is one of my favorites. Now it may seem strange, at first, that this book would be a "favorite"—or even included in the biblical canon and revered as divinely inspired by Jews and Christians at all—when  perhaps more than any other, this book appears so permeated by pessimism about life and its meaning. How can a writing which repeats, thirty-seven times, the exclamation, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!" be a "word of God" to us, not only showing forth the mind of an ancient Semitic sage, but also be a "God-breathed" work which is both true, and useful for attaining wisdom (cf. 2 Tim 3:16)?

A partial answer to the question is captured in the witty claim of Dr. Peter Kreeft, who says that Ecclesiastes "is divine revelation precisely by being the absence of divine revelation"1; it shows us the results of the quest for knowledge and wisdom by a human mind to which God has not revealed himself. We see, in the narrator of this book—who calls himself "Qohelet," which might mean "Leader of the assembly," or, even the "Teacher" —the limits and apparent absurdity of life in the absence of God's revelation. Thus, it is as if God is saying to us through Qohelet, "Behold and consider what life would be like were I not to reveal myself to you! All is vanity without me!"

But, I think, this book also shows us a common human encounter with the complexities and injustices of life, even for those who have faith in the God who has revealed Himself. It shows, in its own way, that faith does not always give neat and easy answers to life's deepest problems, and that faith often does not give us exactly the answer we thought we were hoping for.

For instance, Qohelet tells us, speaking across the centuries in a rather melancholy tone, "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for that is the end of every human being, and the living should take it to heart" (Eccl. 7:3). "Sorrow," he then tells us, "is better than laughter, because when the face is sad the heart grows wiser." These are not the words we may want to hear; but what wisdom, what profound life lessons are hidden in this short proverb, born of a lifetime of experience, forged on the anvil of decades of trial and error! And not only one lifetime, but that of generations, of centuries, of Jewish and then Christian men and women who have read and lived these words, and who testify, from the very grave, to their validity. A wise heart is born of sorrow! How hard this lesson can be to those of us now who suffer or mourn, and how unbelievable to those who have not yet tasted the bitter cup of grief! Why must our hearts taste sorrow in order to grow wiser? Why must we suffer such painful loss in order to grow up? While Qohelet sees wisdom in a willingness to face the harshness of life, he does not seem to have good answers to these underlying questions. Sometimes, even when we have faith in God, we do not—at the moment at least—have good answers in the midst of our confusion.

And yet, to get back to Dr. Kreeft's remark, for the Christian, even though our lived experience can indeed resonate with Qohelet's confusion—and almost anyone who has experienced suffering or loss knows the  "feeling" which can express itself in the phrase, "All is Vanity!"—this book of Ecclesiastes is not the final word. It is incomplete. He did lack something that we now have, and which can illuminate the darkness of meaninglessness which threatens to overwhelm us at times, and with which the contemporary world is all too familiar. We have a greater Word which fulfills and encompasses all that was said before, and all that will be said: the Word, the "Logos,"—the Reason and Meaning of Being—which precedes all things and gives them their existence, and which offers to them their restoration, healing, and elevation: Jesus Christ, the Word of God who become Man for our sake.

We, as Christians, can then appreciate a book like Ecclesiastes in a two-fold way. On the one hand, we can value the realism with which it describes the harshness and injustices of life, even for those who have faith in God. On the other, we can see it as a limited perspective—though still true within its own context—which God Himself has filled out, enlightened, and completed by his Incarnate Word. This Word is Wisdom-in-Person Who experienced the bitter cup of suffering, and yet Who by His own passion has opened up new meaning to our otherwise "vain" and apparently meaningless existence; a Word Who puts an end to sin, death, and vanity, by enduring them with humility, faithfulness, and love.

Thus, even in those moments when it seems as though "All is Vanity!", we can resonate with this ancient, divinely inspired sage, and we can also hold out hope that God will not—that God has not—left these cries of desperation unanswered. His answer—His Word—may not always be nice and tidy; it may not always make us "feel good" at first; we may not even like it—we may not even directly hear or see it—but we can know and believe that Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, has spoken and still speaks. It may be true that "all is vanity," empty and void, if we were to be without Him, if God were not to speak. But we need not be without Him, since He has spoken into our emptiness and darkness: "Let there be light." And there was Light. And that Light has shown in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.2


1. Peter Kreeft, Three Philosophies of Life (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1989), 23.

2. Gen 1:2-3; John 1:5.
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Br. Cody Jorgensen, O.P.'s picture

Instructions for Novices

Last Winter I discovered an absolute gem of a book. Thanks to the diligent work of two translators, Instructions for Novices by Bl. Hyacinth-Marie Cormier, O.P., was made available in English.

Now this book, much like black coffee,1 is a highly acquired taste, and this in two ways. First, the audience that would profit from this book is probably rather particularized. The Master General, Fr. Emmanuel Suarez, O.P., wrote in 1950 that this book would appeal to every member of the Dominican Order, and possibly be profitable for members of other Religious Institutes. Bl. Cormier himself foresaw many persons, whether Dominicans, other religious, or lay, all benefiting in some way from this work. My gut, however, tells me that Dominicans and other religious would stand to gain the most from it.

Secondly, Cormier published the work in 1880, which places it within a distinct cultural context. In the introduction written for this edition, Dominican friars Basil Cole and Ezra Sullivan make the point well: "Much of Part Two contains practical recommendations in which tradition, virtue, legislation, custom, and nineteenth-century French manners and circumstances are intimately intertwined.""Part Two" spans 179 pages of the 492 page book--not a small section. The point is important to make since, even if you are a Dominican, without a reading of all three introductions, Bl. Cormier's work is difficult to contextualize and so be profitable for the modern reader. Not all spiritual writers, from the novice to master, appeal to the same audience. We all, I imagine, pick and choose.

In all honesty, I haven't been devoted to reading this work since day one; only recently have I made it a part of my early morning spiritual reading. It should also be noted that while there are assuredly many passages that come from the pen of Bl. Cormier himself, the work is "Assembled from ancient manuscripts" from the Toulouse Province during the 17th Century. The translators themselves are probably in the best position to differentiate the sections directly from Cormier from the others. Many passages resonate in a special way with someone, like myself, who has some years in profession under his belt. I find myself laughing out loud occasionally when I encounter a passage so rich with the lived experience of the cloister. When cautioning against visits with women, treated in the section on living the vow of chastity, Bl. Cormier lists the objections brothers might give, and then responds in a way that only a wizened Novice Master could: "One [who seeks the conversation of women] equally finds around himself men of wittiness and knowledge, but he does not seek frequent and extended conversations with them, nor with as much satisfaction."4 True; funny; and piercingly on target!

I lament that this short article cannot do justice to the work's richness, wisdom, and innumerable keen insights. What I can point out, however, is how rewarding this work can be alongside other historical Dominican texts dedicated to articulating our life and spirituality5; and this especially if you yourself are a Dominican struggling to find a relatively recent voice to inform your spiritual life, vows, and understanding of the Rule and our Constitutions. One might think of Pope Paul VI's decree Perfectae Caritatis, and how the Dominican Order specifically has adapted and renewed itself since 1965. Cole and Sullivan make the point well:

"Every age in the Church is confronted with the question of what practices from the past should be 'brought out of one's treasure' and what should be left behind. Not all practices should be followed to the letter merely because they are old; but neither should they be neglected solely because they are unpopular at the moment. Often what is most up-to-date is a return to a time-honored tradition."6

The book is much more than the detailing of strict and apparently dated "practices." It contains very worthwhile sections on a variety of topics pertaining to the Christian life in general, as well as specifically to vowed religious. Cole and Sullivan note that this was not an unpopular work at a certain time. The fact that in 1950 the Master General had the book republished,7 attests to its applicability beyond the Toulouse Province where it originated. I would propose it retains its relevance for the Order as a whole and, for those with ears to hear, can yield much spiritual fruit.

I chose the photo for this article purposefully. Of the many portraits of former Masters that we brothers have in our Studentate, this one is in my opinion the most impressive black and white portrait.8 There's something in the look of Cormier's eyes that reminds me of photos of recent Saints; maybe a resemblance to the gaze of Mother Teresa. When I sit down to read this text, I prepare myself to be challenged. I imagine I'm having a conference by this holy and beloved brother of the Order. When something in my life needs renewal (or even if I don't think it does), I often find myself consulting this work first. Last year I was having difficulties in how I was approaching Confession. I was able to greatly deepen my understanding and disposition towards Confession by reading Bl. Cormier's treatment of the matter. I also found beneficial his soberingly simple discourse on what it means to live the vow of celibate chastity. In the post-Vatican II landscape--filled with so many voices, some helpful, some not—this text retains a remarkable significance for any number of issues vital for living, and renewing, religious life today.

I unhesitatingly recommend the work, while at the same time urging a careful read of the introductions for context. Frs. Cole and Sullivan do a great and thorough job of setting the stage in this respect. In the end, Cormier's work is about forming Dominicans to get to Heaven, in other words, to save our souls. Many of the passages are arresting, even upsetting and eliciting cringes, but they all have challenged me to live my vows more intentionally and faithfully. Blessed Hyacinth Cormier, ora pro nobis!

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1While we all may be wonderfully caffeine addicted, we don't seem to be born so. I, and I'm assuming you other coffee drinkers can as well, remember when you first started drinking coffee. It's not something you instantly enshrine as an everyday habit in teenage years.

210, emphasis mine

325

4339

5The concept of a "Dominican Spirituality" is famously controverted. Some actually hold that Dominicans have no unique spirituality; some that it's simply co-extensive with the spirituality of the Church; and again, some that it's a combination of select aspects of the Church's spirituality, in other words, a middle position between the first two. I don't propose Cormier's work as somehow providing the definitive "Dominican Spirituality."

611

7Interestingly, in his introduction to the 1950 text, Suarez himself notes that this text may seem strange to the brothers. It's interesting that having been published in 1880, it was seen as being historical only seventy years later.

8Bl. Hyacinth died in 1916. I'm guessing this photo was taken sometime during or after his term as Master General (elected 1904).

Br. Thomas Aquinas Pickett, O.P.'s picture

Contemplative Shock Troops: Dominican Renewal after Vatican II

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Anniversaries are unique phenomena where the past takes priority over the present time, illumining it with a light of meaning that permits a clearer vision of our self-identity, of our goals for the future, and of what truly ought to matter in life. For example, wedding anniversaries remind couples of love and commitment and the gift of their lives to one another. The particular day, be it December 21st or April 27th, is not significant of itself, but because of what happened in the past, i.e., marriage, a couple recalls who they are to one another, where they hope to be in the future, and why they came together as man and wife. Anniversaries, then, if we are attentive and mindful, can be moments of profound change as we are awakened to something greater than the routine now of everyday life.

It is for this reason that Catholics, especially vowed religious, should hold very dear the date of October 28 as the anniversary of Perfectæ Caritatis, the Second Vatican Council Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life, proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on this date in 1965. Of particular significance in this document is the call for religious orders and institutes to look back to their founders and bring their inspiration to life in the contemporary world: "The adaptation and renewal of the religious life includes both the constant return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time." (#2)

This "constant return" to the "original spirit" of each order or institute is significant since, while all sharing a common "pursuit of perfect charity through the evangelical counsels" (#1), these communities individually offer to the People of God and to the whole world a unique expression of Christ's love manifested through their distinctive charism. "So it is that in accordance with the Divine Plan a wonderful variety of religious communities has grown up, which has made it easier for the Church not only to be equipped for every good work (cf. 2 Tim 3:17) and ready for the work of the ministry--the building up of the Body of Christ (cf. Eph 4:12--but also to appear adorned with the various gifts of her children like a spouse adorned for her husband (cf. Apoc. 21:2) and for the manifold Wisdom of God to be revealed through her (cf. Eph 3:10)." As a body has many members, each of which performs a unique task for the benefit of the whole, so in the Body of Christ, each religious order and institute has been gifted by God with a unique charism, a unique task and role to play.

It is thus by strict and faithful observance to their respective rules, in a loving embrace of these unique charisms, that religious orders may experience a spiritual renewal and rejuvenation in pursuit of perfect charity. Perfectæ Caritatis is quite explicit on the point: "everyone should keep in mind that the hope of renewal lies more in the faithful observance of the rule and constitutions than in multiplying laws." (#4) Pope Paul VI, invoking the spirit of Vatican II, re-echoes this point in his Message to the General Chapters of Religious Orders and Congregations, given on May 23rd, 1964: "With respect to undertaking new projects or activities, you should refrain from taking on those which do not entirely correspond to the principal work of your Institute or to the mind of your Founder. For Religious Institutes will flourish and prosper so long as the integral spirit of their Founder continues to inspire their rule of life and apostolic works, as well as the actions and lives of their members." When religious orders and institutes begin to undertake ministries that are not in accord with the vision of their founder, they then declare such a vision to be irrelevant to the contemporary world.

For Dominicans, though, the commitment to the vision of St. Dominic will never be irrelevant so long as there are men and women who have not heard the Gospel, and so long as those who have already heard the Gospel are not moved to live it with the fire of the Holy Spirit. St. Dominic's radical vision was of an order of contemplative apostles: of religious who, from the silent base of a monastic and canonical environment, are sent out (apostoloi) preaching as contemplative shock-troops of God's love and truth. As itinerant preachers and as advanced teachers of doctrine, Dominican preaching, as articulated by St. Thomas Aquinas, comes from an abundance of contemplation, "abundantiam contemplationis." (III.40.1 ad 2) This is also articulated in the Fundamental Constitution of the Order: "It [the Dominican vocation] is an apostolic life in the full sense of the word, from which preaching and teaching ought to issue from an abundance of contemplation." (1 §IV) The famous Dominican motto contemplata tradere aliis presupposes that what has been handed on in preaching, has first been contemplated (quid traditaest , contemplata est). For Dominicans to engage in non-contemplative preaching and ministry is to, effectively, ignore the vision of St. Dominic.

Thus it is that any authentic renewal of Dominican life must begin with an intensification and rediscovery of the value of the contemplative life within the monastic and canonical settings of our priories. This is argued for by Paul Hinnebusch, O.P., in his book Renewal in the Spirit of St. Dominic: "Dominican renewal must begin with an all-out attempt to recreate esteem for the contemplative spirit. Any renewal that does not enrich the contemplative element in the Dominican way of life must be rejected." (55) It is also clearly and forcefully explicated by Valentine Walgrave, O.P., in his book Dominican Self-Appraisal in the Light of the Council, " the future of the Preachers depends on a renewal of the contemplative spirit." (73)

As a unique order of contemplative apostles, Dominicans should not do what is proper to Carmelites, Franciscans, Jesuits, Benedictines, or diocesan clergy, nor should any of these, likewise, do what pertains to the Dominican charism; this would be to trivialize the unique gifts belonging to each member of the Body of Christ. Rather, Dominicans must hold fast to the contemplative life and its observances, and to the itinerant preaching and doctrinal teaching that flows from it. Dominicans as contemplative preachers do not set out to find Christ in the world, but they set out to bring Christ into the world; a world which hungers for the contemplative encounter of God. All men and women are born to have contemplative knowledge of God, and it is up to the Dominicans to awaken, stir, and enable this loving knowing.

As we hold dear the anniversary of Perfectæ Caritatis, let us also hold dear to the original vision of St. Dominic, and our unique Dominican charism. Let us always strive towards the ideal, correct what hinders progress, and guard zealously the charism to which we have vowed ourselves.

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Br. Peter Junipero Hannah, O.P.'s picture

Strange Grandeur: Embracing Catholic Distinctives in Today's World

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The Scriptures, and the God who inspired them, invariably disturb and surprise us. In the readings for my recent preaching, the prophet Joel describes a Day not of Light, but of Darkness; and our Lord Himself is accused by his adversaries of exorcising demons in the name of Satan. What, pray, could such contrasts have to say to us today? Much if we are willing to embrace what St. Paul calls the "foolishness of the Cross."