Topic: Preaching

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

Vespers Preaching, 5th Sunday of Lent

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Homily for First Vespers of the 5th Sunday of Lent

 Ez 37:12-14:

Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the

land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

We were not meant to die. We were not meant to have our soul separated from our body. They were made for each other, radically incomplete without each other. But with the fall, sin entered the world and because of sin, death.

 

Unfortunately, when we consider death, we often only consider it in its finality: that cessation of vital functions, the decay of that which is no longer properly called a body, the mystery of what happens to the immaterial soul.

 

But death is something much more pervasive in our lives: there are many terrible ways we can die while we still live. We may find ourselves dead at any point in this Dominican life – dead to our vocation of study, dead to the work and the joy of prayer. Dead to the community, dead in our ministry. We can find ourselves in coffins of addiction, of acedia and envy, of anger, self-importance, or worst of all despair.

 

But, Thus says the Lord, O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them. The promise is not only to the resurrection in the age to come – but to the resurrection of our lives here and now. It is not only in the graves of Benicia [where all Dominicans of the Western Province are buried] that we hear this promise, it is in the graves of our choir stalls, the graves of our cell, of our communities – wherever it is we find ourselves, (or more likely) wherever we have made ourselves bound and dead, he stands and weeps, he cries out to us, he begs and promises, I will put my spirit in you that you may live.

 

He has promised, and he will do it. Yet he will do it through the mystery of the cross. Christ has taken the wood of his execution and made it the means of salvation. He has taken that which was the symbol of death and turned it into a symbol of life and resurrection. And as he has done with his own death and will do with ours on the last day, so also will he do in our lives now. The very crosses I bear will be turned into the means of my salvation. Those places I find myself bound will be the places in which I am given new life.

 

And thus I shall know that he is the Lord.

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Br. Christopher Wetzel, O.P.'s picture

Evangelization and the Order of Preachers

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One month ago, on March 11th, Fr. Bruno Cadoré, the Master of the Order of Preachers, was received by Pope Benedict for a short private audience. The Pope and Fr. Bruno discussed the state of the Order and the main themes addressed by the most recent General Chapter in late August and early September when Fr. Bruno was elected as Master. Going forward, the Pope encouraged the Order to focus on evangelization as a core component of the charism of the Friars Preachers. He specially highlighted the following dimensions:




    • Careful attention to the life-search and the spiritual quest of our contemporaries

 

    • The importance of studying and teaching theology in the line of the solid tradition of reflection initiated by Thomas Aquinas

 

    • Theology’s essential spiritual dimension

 

    • The vital bond between theology and worship

 

    • The particular challenge to theology posited by dialogue with new cultures and sciences – a clear sign of our relation with the world

 

    • The role of statistics in evangelization

 

    • Appropriate care given to the human, religious and theological dimensions in initial formation

 

  • The hope that our evangelizing efforts will give our contemporaries the possibility and the joy of a personal relationship with Jesus.

Many of these points are integral aspects of the historical Dominican charism of preaching. Certainly, the nature of Dominican religious life as a "mixed" life that joins contemplative aspects such as the common prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours with the active apostolate of preaching shows the "vital bond between theology and worship" and "theology's essential spiritual dimension". Similarly, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, as a member of the Graduate Theological Union, reflects the importance of the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and also the need to bring his teaching to contemporary discussions of philosophy and theology. The one point that stood out for me in this list is, "The role of statistics in evangelization". Although statistics is certainly not among the list of typical courses offered by a seminary or formation program, effective evangelization demands an intimate knowledge of the situations and circumstances in which evangelization is to take place. This, however, must be more than an experiential familiarity with a culture and based on anecdotal evidence. As crucial as personal relationships are to the endeavor of spreading the gospel, it is just as important to have a quantitative understanding of the factors influencing the way individuals grow into their faith (or lack of faith) beginning from childhood.

If you would like to see this process in action, I recommend Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adultsby Christian Smith and Patricia Snell. Based on a study by the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Notre Dame, this work describes the religious life of young adults using statistics and representative case studies drawn from the lives of 200 young adults. The study began with a diverse group of 200 or so teenagers who participated in in-depth interviews. Through follow-up interviews, the transformation of faith as these people matured into adulthood was tracked and statistically analyzed in depth. This analysis can then provide a basis for designing evangelization programs and approaches that address fundamental needs and problems in the growth of faith that might not be readily apparent or might appear relatively unimportant.

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Br. Ambrose Sigman, O.P.'s picture

Blessed Reginald of Orleans

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This Saturday, February 12th, we Dominicans honor the memory of one of the most important early members of our Order, Blessed Reginald of Orleans (ca. 1183-1220). Blessed Reginald was born in France, in the city of Orleans, and received his education in Canon Law at the University of Paris. Blessed Reginald was renowned as a brilliant teacher, and because of his talents and virtues he was made dean of the cathedral chapter at Orleans. He was known both for the brilliance of his mind and the eloquence of his preaching. He also was deeply devoted to Our Lady.

The zealousness of young Reginald soon led him to desire to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On his way to Jerusalem, he stopped in Rome and paid a visit to Cardinal Hugh de Segni, to whom he explained his desire for a more ascetic way of life. Cardinal de Segni told Reginald he knew exactly what he was looking for, and so sent him on to St. Dominic. Thus Reginald became an early member of the Order of Preachers.

Reginald had scarcely entered the Order when he became deathly ill. St. Dominic, knowing that this bright young man would be an invaluable asset to the fledgling Order, prayed earnestly for his recovery. It was the Queen of Heaven herself who responded to the prayer. In a dream, Reginald had a vision of Mary, accompanied by St. Cecilia and St. Catherine of Alexandria. Our Lady anointed Reginald with a heavenly perfume. She also showed to Reginald a long white scapular and told him it was to be part of the habit of the Order. The friars, who up until that time (1218) had worn the garb of Canons Regular, gladly changed to the scapular designed for them by the Mother of God. Reginald wore this new habit for two years, preaching to huge crowds in Paris and Bologna, drawing many to follow his footsteps into the Order, famous professors and doctors of law, including a young German, Jordan of Saxony. He was dubbed a kidnapper of souls for the service of God. After two years Reginald died, having the honor of being the first friar to wear the distinctive Dominican habit and the first one to die in it.

Blessed Reginald remains for us one of the great models of our way of life. He was a man of great intellect, one of the leading academic lights of his day, yet these talents were always put to the service of God. His eloquence as a preacher and his life of virtue has rightly earned him a place among the greatest of Dominicans.

Br. Mark Francis Manzano, O.P.'s picture

The Squirrels

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Preaching is a craft that all of us are called to refine and perfect. One of the ways we do this is to survey and study other - often creative - ways in which stories can be told.

Haibun is a Japanese form of literature. It is commonly used to tell of one's travels by means of a short story set in the present tense and the use of Haiku.

I wrote the following Haibun last Fall. There's nothing theologically deep or profound about it; rather, it is a playful observation I felt compelled to put down on paper.

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The brothers want to go out for a movie. There's a new film released. "The end of the world!" "The Apocalypse!" "Humanity ends!" We grab our coats and head downstairs. Pre-conceived thoughts of special effects and mandatory world monument destruction compel us down the street to the station. I hear "Let's hurry and get there before one o'clock".

The squeak of the door-
step step step step step step step.
No one in the street.

The squirrels in the neighborhood scurry about. They search for food and safety. We walk about amongst fallen leaves and branches, and take the sidewalk next to the school. Blue skies smile down upon us. On our way to watch the world's end, I think to myself and wonder how this neighborhood will see its end. What will be my end?

The honk of a car catches my attention. We turn the corner and cars bustle around. Noise and actions break my thoughts. Where did all these people come from? At last, entering the station, I dig into my pockets for change.

Marquees scroll train times.
"Four" and "Twenty-four" minutes
until our train comes.

The passengers in the train cars move in and out. They are oblivious to me. They are not like the squirrels in the street. They are not scurrying about concerned about food or safety or the end of their lives.

We arrive at our stop and my mind comes back into reality. We exit and take the escalators up out of the depths of the subways. Down the street the billboard highlights the movie name "2012". We arrive at the theater.

I look at my watch
and it says "12:45".
Movie fans scurry.

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Br. Isaiah Mary Molano, O.P.'s picture

Fourth Sunday of Lent

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This past weekend, I preached at Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord, CA. I hope you enjoy.

During the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, the Catechumens undergo the scrutinies. These are times in the catechumens’ lives where the Church asks them why they want to enter the Catholic Church, testing their resolve.

At the end of each scrutiny, the Catechumens go through an exorcism to purify their intentions. The scrutinies are moments in which catechumens’ souls are exorcised in order to prepare them for the Easter Vigil.

Exorcism.

We don’t talk about the Devil anymore. We generally think that the Devil can be explained through a bad childhood or a bad situation.

Yet the Devil exists.

Lucifer spends his time keeping us from Christ. Lucifer tells us that we cannot pray more, that going to Mass once a week is enough, or that we don’t need Confession. Lucifer tells us to think that praying 5 minutes before Mass is sufficient for spiritual growth. He tells us that what we do behind closed doors has no ramifications in family life or in the public sphere.

This is the work of the Devil.

The work of the Devil is to keep us from God. Lucifer paints a picture of the God of Wrath and Destruction, as though God were sitting atop Mount Tamalpais, waiting to strike us down.

This is not God.

Moses reminds the Isrealites that God has made them “dearer than any other nation”. The prophet Hosea talks about God as the Seducer of Hearts. Tradition has interpreted the Song of Songs as God wooing the soul into a loving and passionate relationship.

This is God our Father.

The Prodigal Son is useful here. Like the father in that story, God the Father has let all of us go in order to allow us to understand what God the Father has to offer us. We might go to Church every Sunday. We might give a lukewarm Confession to Father so-and-so. But we live a life where God is uninvolved, compartmentalized on Sunday, whereas our real life is everything except Mass and prayer.

But as the story of the Prodigal Son shows us, the moment we turn back to Him, God the Father chases us like a little puppy. The Majestic, Glorious, All-Knowing, All-Powerful King, the Creator of the Heavens and Earth, losing all of His dignity in order to grab our attention. God the Father waits impatiently for our attention, and does not want to let us go.

When the catechumens are scutinized, they will be given grace from the Father to live in compassion and love.

This is the work of God our Father.

This grace is offered to us also. The Prodigal Son teaches that God yearns for our attention. Let us give the Father our attention. As Lent continues, let us offer the Father fervent prayer and thanksgiving. As we go to Reconciliation, let us resolve to turn our hearts to the Father with zeal and passion. As we receive the Eucharist, let us be like God the Son, who always had the Father in the forefront of his mind. As we live our lives, let us offer everything to God our Father.

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