Topic: Formation

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

Brothers Meet to Discuss the New Evangelization

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“Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)

In the past, I was happy to leave the work of evangelization to missionaries serving in foreign lands, or to those who make it a habit of going door-to-door to share their faith. Today, that is no longer the case. As a Dominican I feel compelled to preach the Gospel, to those who have never heard of Jesus, but also to those who have. Since we typically think of evangelization as being directed towards those who do not know Christ, this might seem a bit strange. However, in the last 30 years a different concept of evangelization has come to the foreground. In a number of countries we are now seeing “a weakening of faith in Christian communities, a diminished regard for the authority of the magisterium, an individualistic approach to belonging to the Church, a decline in religious practice and a disengagement in transmitting the faith to new generations.”1 This phenomenon has resulted in what many in the Church refer to as the “new evangelization,” i.e., outreach to those who identify themselves as Christian, but are no longer practicing their faith.

Not surprisingly, this “new evangelization” was the main concern of Dominican brothers from the provinces of the United States, Canada, Poland, and the Vietnamese Vicariate, who met at St. Albert’s this past weekend to discuss the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document now under review by the Synod of Bishops currently meeting in Rome.

In my small group we focused on chapter two of the text, which looks at some of the influences that shape modern society, and their effect on the faithful. These influences fall into seven general areas: society, culture, civic life, the economy, science, communications, and religion. Each area, or “sector” as they are referred to in the document, has its pros and cons, elements which can lead to a deepening of faith, and those which can lead to “silent apostasy”2 – which isn’t so much a hostility to the faith, as it is a general sense of apathy towards Christianity. For example, a positive component in the sector of communications would be our ability to converse with individuals on the other side of the globe, even if we don’t speak the same language. Sadly, there is a downside to the advances made in communications technology in recent years. Because there is now so much information available on the Internet, and so many other voices competing for the attention of the faithful, it becomes more and more difficult to share the truth of our faith.

This is why each of us must heed our baptismal calling. Every Christian has been commissioned to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and has a responsibility to share our faith, and to provide a reason for our hope.3 At times we might be tempted to leave this work to those who are more qualified, those with a charism of missionary service, or a degree in theology. While those things are helpful, they are not absolutely necessary. All that the Lord asks is that we talk about how he has changed our life, our experience of mercy, forgiveness, and grace. This is what the first apostles did, and what each of us can do to bring our neighbors back to the faith.


1Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod on "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith," #48.

2Ibid, #69.

3 cf. 1 Peter 3:15

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

Proud to Be a Dominican

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Br. Brad's first vows.

Presently, I have completed the first semester of my first year as a student Brother at St. Albert’s priory, last year being my novitiate year. It is hard for me to believe that a year and a half has past since I entered the order. This has only recently come to the forefront of my consciousness due to the home visit that I and the other student friars just enjoyed. Every year, after the Christmas day liturgies are through and the academic term is fully at rest, the brothers are afforded two weeks to leave the nest of the studentate and visit family and maintain established relationships with friends. But this being my first year in vows, it had been over a year since I had seen my family, and the visit provided for me an opportunity for reflection that I have not had since entering the order.

I have titled this entry, “Proud to be a Dominican”, since this was precisely the blessing of the visit. I had forgotten, in the day-to-day humdrum of academics, how blessed I am to be here at St. Albert's Priory and how proud I am to be in the Dominican Order. But first, what could this sense of “pride” mean? Isn’t that somewhat oxymoronic? Isn’t the religious life supposed to be a school of humility? Isn’t saying “proud to be a Dominican” like saying “proud humility” or “humble pride”? No, I do not think it is. Once again the sword of good Thomistic training must be pulled from its sheath and the correct distinctions must be made.

A man can be proud because he is enamored with himself, focused exclusively on his own goodness and blush at the thought of his own great deeds. This pride is largely self-focused. Certainly, in the past, I have felt this way about many of my accomplishments; I would be suspicious of anyone who claimed that they had not. But this is not the good pride that I am talking about here and it is precisely because I have succumbed to this self-focused pride in the past that I now clearly see the distinction. Indeed, the two experiences, one of the self-focused pride and the other of the good pride, are wholly opposed to each other.

When a man claims to be proud of his family, proud of his alma mater, proud of his country or proud of his church, he is speaking of a pride that is not self-focused but focused on another. Indeed he feels a sense of greatness, but it is not a sense of his own greatness; it is a sense of being a part of something greater than himself; it is the greatness of the other that swells his heart. This is a pride that draws a man out of himself and towards something great. Since he is focused on an ideal, a goal, or a vision that is beyond him, he is called by this pride to do greater things, more virtuous things, and more courageous things, things that he otherwise would never be inspired to do of it was not for this pride. This is precisely the pride that I feel about being in the Dominican Order. I am part of an order that is older than I, larger than I; its mission, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, existed long before I was born and will continue long after I die. I am both proud and humbled to be a part of something so great.

This is what St. Thomas Aquinas calls the virtue of Magnanimity and it is indeed a long forgotten virtue in our time. I was reminded, after reflecting on this experience, of the words of Joseph Pieper describing this virtue:

“Magnanimity, a much-forgotten virtue, is the aspiration of the spirit to great things, extensio ad magna. A person is magnanimous if he has the courage to seek what is great and becomes worthy of it. This virtue has its roots in a firm confidence in the highest possibilities of that human nature that God did "marvelously ennoble and has still more marvelously renewed" (Roman Missal). Thus magnanimity incorporates into itself the aspiration of natural hope and stamps it according to the truth of man's own nature. Magnanimity, as both Thomas and Aristotle tell us, is "the jewel of all the virtues", since it always-- and particularly in ethical matters-- decides in favor of what is, at any given moment, the greater possibility of the human potentiality for being.”      Josef Pieper, On Hope (Ignatius Press, 1986 [1977]), p. 28.  

To come back to an earlier question, is saying, “I am proud to be a religious” a contradiction like saying “proud humility” or “humble pride”? No, it is not a contradiction at all. There IS indeed a type of pride that a man can feel and grow in humility at the same time, this is precisely the “humble pride” that I felt during my home visit when I was overwhelmed by gratitude in the face of the sheer awesomeness of God’s call, that He would call me, insignificant man that I am, to be part of something as great as the “holy preaching” of the Dominican order.

I pray that my brothers and I can live up to such a great call. Since we are each a part of something so much greater than ourselves, we need each other; we cannot live up to this call on our own. All Dominican Saints… pray for us.

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

Upcoming Ordinations

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It has been about a month since our last post, so let me start by apologizing for the delay. As many of you know, the month of May is a very busy one for the brothers. Spending countless hours in the library, studying for exams, and writing research papers keeps everyone quite busy. In addition to preparing for the end of the academic year, some brothers must also begin preparing for ministry over the summer and moving out of the house of studies. Such is the case for two of our brothers who have completed their initial formation: Br. Mark Francis and Br. Boniface.


The Dominican Friars of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
joyfully announce to you the
Ordination to the Holy Priesthood
of their Brothers
Mark Francis Manzano, OP and Boniface Robert Willard, OP
by His Excellency the Most Reverend Anthony Fisher, OP, DPhil,
Bishop of Parramatta, Australia.

Please join us for this wonderful celebration on:
Saturday, the 28th of May at 1:00pm
at St. Theresa Catholic Church
30 Mandalay Rd., Oakland, CA 94618

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

Institution of Acolyte

This past Friday, March 28th, our Provincial conferred upon three of our brothers the ministry of acolyte. This means that Br. Justin, Br. Richard, and Br. Tuan have now been entrusted with the sacred duty of assisting the priest and deacon at the altar. They may also serve as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration by the faithful, when the ordinary minister--a priest or deacon--is unavailable.

Br. Tuan Ngo, of the Vicariate of St. Vincent Pham Hieu, receives the paten and chalice.

Congratulations to our brothers. Please pray that they may continue to grow in fervent devotion of the Eucharist as they move towards ordination to the priesthood.