Browse by Topic: Common Life

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

Abandoning our nets

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As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
(Mark 1:16-20, from the Gospel for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time)


Brs. Kevin and Dennis in San Diego

Recently, my classmate Br. Dennis and I flew down to the UC San Diego Newman Center at the invitation of our brother, Fr. John Paul Forte. Our novices visit them every year on the “southern tour” (as they are doing now) and offer reflections on their discernment journeys at the Masses. Fr. John Paul felt it would be beneficial for the Newman Center community to hear from some of us who have already been in the Order for a few years to describe our lives now (Br. Dennis & I entered the Order in the summer of 2010, and are now students at St. Albert's). What is our life like, now that we have abandoned our nets? What has changed over the years? What supports do we have?


For myself -- and I feel for many of my brother Dominicans --  that first moment of abandoning our nets to follow Jesus turns out -- in hindsight -- to have been rather easy. We really don’t know what we’re in for when we receive the habit. The image, the idea, the fantasy of religious life is one thing, the reality is often much more complicated. We give up much of our autonomy, we are thrust into a community of men that we don't personally choose, and we have to adapt suddenly to an entirely new daily schedule. After the first year, we begin studies in earnest and take on more ministry duties, as well as chores around the house. The ongoing challenge is to persevere in following Him our Lord after the initial excitement wears off, after we lose the emotional high we feel when we first receive the habit. We must base our vocation on prayer and God’s active grace in our lives. Our energies fade, our willpower at time fades, but God’s grace will continue to support us all unfailingly. When we forget that, we no longer live up to our call as friars preachers and simply become a community of men.


All four of the men that Jesus called that day at the shoreline went back to fishing after Jesus’ death. Unsure of what to do, all of them pick up their abandoned nets once again and headed back out to sea. Only by God’s grace did they recognize the risen Christ, and abandon their nets to once again become fishers of men. We must always remember to do the same.

 

Saints Peter, Andrew, James & John, pray for us!

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

The Bible in Jerusalem

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Basilica of St. StephenCan you imagine a better place to study Scripture than in the Holy City of Jerusalem? Earlier this January I had the chance to spend a few days there, at St. Stephen Priory (located on the site where tradition says St. Stephen was martyred), attending "The Bible in Jerusalem," a conference for new and upcoming Dominican Scripture scholars. St. Stephen's is the Dominican priory associated with the École Biblique et Archeologique Francaise de Jerusalem, a Dominican school of scripture and archaeology founded by Fr. Marie-Joseph Lagrange, O.P. in 1890. This gathering was the first of what we plan to make an annual event, the purpose being to promote and foster collaboration and fraternity among young Dominicans pursuing Scripture scholarship, all for the sake of the Order's mission of preaching the gospel for the salvation of souls.

Between January 3rd-5th, more than 15 friars participated from around the world (e.g., France, Poland, Ireland, England, Ukraine, Croatia, Mexico, the United States, and the Phillipines), most of whom have begun or recently completed doctoral work related to Scripture; I hope to begin doing so in a few years. We handled this first meeting with a two-pronged approach: (1) to provide individual friars with an opportunity to present their current research topics and interests; and (2) to have some focused exegetical discussions about the relation between intra-biblical and patristic exegesis. This second part focused on Luke 4:19-30.

Our sense of fraternity and devotion to studying, exploring, and proclaiming the written Word of God was very tangible. I presented a synopsis of my MA Philosophy thesis on "Truth and Hermeneutics," and all the presentations led to some very lively discussions. We spoke of how to collaborate with each other and with the École in our work of Scripture study, and how our way of life as Dominicans makes us uniquely suited to study, mediate upon, and preach from the Scriptures. The tradition of the Order of Preachers, and the work of the Ecole and its founder, offers us the opportunity to pursue a Thomistic approach to biblical exegesis, one that is both scientifically and academically rigorous, yet inspired by faith and thus theological.

I also found our exegetical discussions about Luke 4 to be very engaging and stimulating. We all agreed that such collective work and dialogue is something we would like to continue; and we proposed a theme of "The Word," and the text of Sirach 24, for our next meeting in January of 2016.

Fr. Olivier-Thomas Venard, O.P., the director of "The Bible in its Traditions" project, presented some of the purpose and structure of this ambitious, and decades-long project of the École to produce a wide-ranging exegetical tool and commentary on all of Scripture, to be made available online (examples can be found here). You can also read more about it on its blog here. He hoped we would be able to collaborate in this project, and we thought that we should use the "BEST" website (the French acronym for the project) as part of our annual meetings and preparation.

In spite of spending about 60 hours of travel time in 5 days, the visit was very worthwhile, and left me, and I believe the other friars who participated, hopeful for the future of biblical scholarship in the Order. This being my second trip to Jerusalem, it was no less poignant to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher again and to pray there, as well as at the Cenacle (the site of our Lord's Last Supper). Being physically present at "Mt. Zion, true pole of the earth," (Ps. 48:3) and in the very places in which our Redeemer lived and won for us a share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), gives a whole new dimension and meaning to praying the Psalms everyday and reading the Scriptures! I look forward to further visits and time spent in Jerusalem and at the École Biblique.

Many thanks to the friars of the École Biblique and St. Etienne, especially Fr. Marcel Sigrist, O.P., the director of the school, and Fr. Guy Tardivy, O.P., the prior of St. Stephen's, for welcoming us and encouraging us in our collaboration for the renewal of Scripture studies in the Order. And to our own New Testament scholar, Fr. Gregory Tatum, O.P., who lives, studies, and teaches at the Ecole Biblique; he was kind enough to take me to the aiport early in the morning on my last day. Thank you, Fr. Gregory! May God bless the work of the École Biblique and all those pursuing Scripture studies, that by their work, the Word of God Himself might more fully illumine not only our Order, but the world with His Wisdom, His Truth, and His Grace!

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

Fit for a True Calling from God

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The word of the LORD came to me: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. But you, prepare yourself; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Do not be terrified on account of them, or I will terrify you before them; for I am the one who today makes you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze, against the whole land: Against Judah’s kings and princes, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you. -- Oracle of the LORD.

Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19

As a candidate for the Catholic priesthood, I have had the opportunity to speak with many priests and seminarians about their own unique vocations. Over the years, I have begun to detect a common theme -- a sense of unworthiness. They all tell of a moment of doubt, fear, and even paralysis at the beginning of the journey, due to a looming suspicion that “they can’t do it” or “God’s got the wrong guy,” because “I am not enough.” One seminarian even told me that he delayed the pursuit of Orders for over ten years out of fear of inadequacy.

This is not unique to priests. Married men often speak of the same phenomenon that strikes them soon before the birth of their children; and mothers, when they become awestruck at the task of motherhood, often feel the same. I believe that one of the most common human experiences is the feeling of unworthiness. In the face of responsibility, duty, and even honors, how often do we feel like we are not enough?

I think it probable that this very same all-to-familiar doubt was also churning in the soul of the soon-to-be prophet Jeremiah. The Lord tells the prophet that before he was ever formed in the womb, God knew him, formed him, dedicated him according to a plan known before all creation. It is only after assuring Jeremiah of this fact that the Lord then commands him to “prepare himself.”

The awareness that God has perfectly designed him for the task to which he was called is the only backdrop, the only frame, within which Jeremiah could ever muster the courage he needed to realize his calling. The Lord pleads with Jeremiah to “not be terrified” on account of His commands and tells him: “For I am the one who today makes you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze.”

Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord teaches us an important lesson: when God calls us, it is He, not we, that first provides the necessities. It is God who qualifies us, not we that provide the qualifications. In fact, this providence is the very beginning of God’s call.

The wise artist, craftsman, or architect, before ever setting out to build a structure, first knows the structure’s purpose. Only then, in light of that purpose and with that purpose in clear focus, does he collect materials needed for the task. The craftsman would be a fool if, in aiming to build a firm load-bearing structure, he chose brittle clay or weak straw. The craftsman would be a fool if, in aiming to lay a stable foundation, he chose sand instead of solid rock. Instead, the wise craftsman always chooses the right material for his purpose. Yet even this human craftsman, as wise and skilled as he may be, is always laboring with materials that are not of his own making.

If even these human craftsmen can be trusted with their skill and the materials that they have, how much more can we trust the Divine craftsman who, not only chooses and calls us according to His purpose, but even creates us and provides for us according to His master plan set from all eternity? Does the Divine craftsman not know His material? Is God unaware of the task to which He sets out? If a calling is from God, it is He, and only He, who possesses the power to work out the calling through us.

The Lord is the only solid foundation upon which we may live our unique callings. Only upon Him can we become, like Jeremiah, a pillar of iron, and a wall of bronze. The mystery of our vocations as Christians is buried deep in the mystery of God, and we can never possess the strength needed unless we first possess Him. Brothers and sisters, let us not be afraid but let us take courage…for we are the creation of God.

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Br. Clement Lepak, OP's picture

Eu-tra-pa-li-a

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The Fall semester of studies at the DSPT has begun. As the readings, assignments and liturgical duties begin to fill our schedule it is not surprising that the atmosphere of the priory has turned more to silence, contemplative reflection and regular observance. "Go to thy cell, brother, and study. Do not emerge until you have memorized Aquinas' Commentary on the Metaphysics." Little surprise there.

What may surprise some, are the shouts of victory, defeat, and laughter -- the heckling is not so surprising -- emerging from the badminton court, ping pong table or lawn games during recreation. Dominicans, known for our commitment to preaching, study and prayer, also hold common life up as one of the four pillars of the Order. In the Summa Theologiae, II-II Q.168, art. 2, St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., answers the question, "Whether there can be a virtue about games?" He replies to the objections by reminding us of the limits of the human mind and body to labor; and of the need for rest and refreshment: "Now just as weariness of the body is dispelled by resting the body, so weariness of the soul must needs be remedied by resting the soul; and the soul's rest is pleasure." He is speaking specifically of words and deeds that give pleasure to the soul, which are playful or humorous.

God's Dogs At Play

I remember visiting the Western Dominican Province as a vocation candidate a few years ago, and during recreation one of the friars told me that the Dominicans in our province were known for their eutrapalia. "Eutrapalia?" I repeated, "Have you called a psychiatrist?" But after reading the above article in the Summa, I now know that he meant the brothers here have a good sense of humor, a sparkling wit and potential cheerfulness about them.

So laugh out loud all you like, within reason. Rapidly shout the word "eutrapalia" 10 times. Whisper it to your friends; teach it to your enemies.  

Laughed enough? Good, now it's study time. St. Thomas Aquinas, in the same question 168, goes on to address "excess in play" and "a lack of mirth." Read the full Question here: Study this then call our Vocation Director

  Called to a Community of Preachers and Life of Study

Called to the follow in the footsteps of St. Dominic and St. Thomas Aquinas? Visit vocations.opwest.org

Called to Preach and Study in a Community? Visit us on facebook at facebook.com/opwestvocations

Congratulations to our newest DSPT Professor, Fr. Justin Gable, O.P.: dspt.edu/gable

Prof Gable

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

First Vows

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This past week, the Western Dominican Province was privledged to hear the first vows of two of our newest brothers. It was an occasion for me to reflect, first upon the awesome privledge of living this life of prayer, study, and contemplation, but moreover, upon the very meaning of making a religious vow.

In the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas asks whether or not it is actually fitting or expedient to take a religious vow. The first objection goes as follows: "It would seem that it is not expedient to take vows. It is not expedient to anyone to deprive himself of the good that God has given him. Now one of the greatest goods that God has given man is liberty whereof he seems to be deprived by the necessity implicated in a vow. Therefore it would seem inexpedient for man to take vows" (ST, IIaIIae, Q88, a4, Obj 1).


Simply put, is not the binding of oneself through religious vows an inhibition to one's freedom? If so, would it not be better to perform acts of prayer, preaching, and devotion to God out of pure human freedom rather than performing these acts through the bonds of a vow?


St. Thomas answers: Even as one’s liberty is not lessened by one being unable to sin, so, too, the necessity resulting from a will firmly fixed to good does not lessen the liberty, as instanced in God and the blessed. Such is the necessity implied by a vow, bearing a certain resemblance to the confirmation of the blessed. Hence, Augustine says that “happy is the necessity that compels us to do the better things" (ST, IIaIIae, Q88, a4, Reply ObJ 1).


Being vowed to God, the highest good and the end of human life, could never be a corruption of freedom. It is, on the contrary, the full flowering of human freedom, the highest expression of a mature human being acting as a true self-director of his own actions and fixing his will on that which is good. St. Thomas distinguishes between a mere "act of a human being" and a true "human action." True "human action" is always free and self-directed. Good human action is that which brings us closer to our final end, that is, union with God.

St. Thomas explains:"...one makes a promise to a man under one aspect, and to God under another. Because we promise something to a man for his own profit; since it profits him that we should be of service to him, and that we should at first assure him of the future fulfillment of that service: whereas we make promises to God not for His but for our own profit. Hence Augustine says: “He is a kind and not a needy exactor, for he does not grow rich on our payments, but makes those who pay Him grow rich in Him.” And just as what we give God is useful not to Him but to us, since “what is given Him is added to the giver,” as Augustine says, so also a promise whereby we vow something to God, does not conduce to His profit, nor does He need to be assured by us, but it conduces to our profit, in so far as by vowing we fix our wills immovably on that which it is expedient to do. Hence it is expedient to take vows" (ST, IIaIIae, Q88, a4).

Praise God for the witness of these two brothers, who have so firmly fixed their wills on God. May they continue to inspire us with their fidelity and may we all continue to pray for them.

Br. Clement Lepak, OP's picture

Knights and Dames of Malta

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The Sovereign Order of Malta joined our Dominican community for a Sunday evening of prayer, recreation, dinner and adoration. The Knights and Dames of Malta continue to support our community of student brothers with their prayers and generosity. Our sincere gratitude to all who joined us for such a solemn and festive evening. The Dominican community of St. Albert's sends you peace through Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit

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

Vestition 2014

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On Thursday, August 28, 2014, the Feast of Blessed Augustine, the author of our rule of life, we received into the novitiate eight new brothers. We celebrated the Vestition ceremony of the Dominican Order at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in San Francisco. In the midst of the community joined in Compline, that is, night prayer of the Divine Office, eight men from all parts of the world received the habit of the order of preachers and began their journeys as Dominican brothers living the evangelical counsels according to our constitutions. It was truly a joyous occasion.

As I am now experiencing this ceremony after four years of Dominican life, the words carry all the more meaning as I hear them, not through the fresh ears of our eight new brothers, but through ears seasoned by four joyful years of prayer, study, and contemplation that our rule of life has afforded me. Let me take this opportunity to share one prayer that I found particularly powerful.

"Brought here by the mercy of God, we have come to undertake your way of life; teach us, we ask you, evangelical perfection according to the rule and constitutions of the Friars Preachers, so that through this following of Christ we may grow in the love of God and neighbor as men who desire to obtain their own salvation and that of others, as evangelical men following in the footsteps of their Savior."

As they begin their new life at St. Dominic's Catholic Church, all of us student brothers here at St. Albert's priory will be keeping them in prayer.

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. 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. 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

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