Topic: Summer

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

Ignite Your Torch

Filed under: 

Ignite Your Torch…Conquer for Christ! This was the rallying cry of those attending Ignite Your Torch (IYT), a youth conference which made its way to the Pacific Northwest earlier this month in order to evangelize and inspire 200 teens from Oregon and the state of Washington. IYT offers something unique in the way of youth conferences.  Frequently the accent at youth ministry events is on fun, games, and music, with a dash of catechesis and preaching that goes only so deep.  IYT also allows teen to participate in beautiful and reverent liturgies, and learn about the Catholic faith and how to put it into practice. In addition to being Eucharistic-centered, Marian, and pro-life, IYT invites priests, religious brothers (Br. Peter, myself, and Fr. Stephen Maria represented the Western Province of Dominicans) and sisters, and many others to come together and offer catechetical presentations and workshops on a number of topics.

Some of the highlights from the conference, in my opinion, included Br. Peter’s talk on natural law, and a presentation by Sister Angela Marie, O.P., who spoke about the human person and love, referring to St. Thomas Aquinas as she distinguished between the emotion of love and love as an act of the will. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak on a vocation panel for young men discerning the priesthood and/or religious life, and to talk about the Angelic Warfare Confraternity. Below are some excerpts from my presentation:

Even if we are vigilant and have the best intentions, resisting the devil is not an easy task. Satan is tricky. He appears as an angel of light, but is really the father of lies. His purpose is to thwart God’s plan, and to consume as many souls as he can, by any means necessary. He tried to do this 800 years ago with a young man named Thomas Aquinas, but thanks be to God, he failed. 

At the age of eighteen, Thomas had decided to join the Dominican Order. But his family was fervently against it. Because the Order of Preachers was new in the early 13th century, it had no prestige. Thus in order to keep him away from the Dominicans, Thomas’ family held him captive in one of their castles. After a time, his brothers came up with a plan that they were sure would cause Thomas to abandon his religious vocation. They hired a prostitute to seduce Thomas, but the plan backfired. When the prostitute entered the room and began to undress, Thomas grabbed a searing hot poker from the fireplace and drove her out, chasing her from the room! He then slammed the door and fell to his knees, praying to be preserved in chastity and in his intention to live the vocation of religious life. His prayer was answered in a vision. Two angels came to him and tied a cord around his waist, saying “On God’s behalf, we gird you with the cincture of chastity, which no attack will every destroy.”

This event, which was made public after Thomas Aquinas’s death, is the foundation of one of the oldest groups associated with the Dominican Order, that of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity—a fellowship of men and women, bound to one another in charity and prayer, dedicated to pursuing chastity under the patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Members throughout history have included: Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and many others.

As I’m sure you all know, the pursuit of chastity is often a battle with the world. It is a battle against the devil, who prowls like a roaring lion, who works to devour and destroy the true beauty of our sexuality. Because he cannot create anything himself, the devil mimics God’s power by trying to corrupt everything the Lord has made. Thus the beauty of the human body and the gift of our sexuality is misrepresented in art, television, film, advertisement, etc. People are turned into objects, and love is replaced by lust. What’s sad is that this has occurred so gradually over time, many people don’t even notice it any more. They’ve become desensitized to the hyper-sexualization of our culture. Now, immodesty and promiscuity are practically deemed normal.

As human beings, affected by original sin and concupiscence, we are weak; tempted to act on sexual desires outside of the proper time and place. But we do not have to be controlled by our sexual impulses. God wants us to be free, and to pursue true happiness in a way that avoids the false and counterfeit loves the devil sets before us. Pursuing a life of chastity helps us to do this, for when we practice self-discipline in our thoughts and actions, this in turn leads to self-control, which ultimately leads to self-possession. And it is only when we truly possess ourselves that we can give our whole being back to God and find the happiness we seek.

This is just one of the benefits of joining the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, but there are many others. In addition to having Saint Thomas Aquinas as a personal patron, one is also strengthened in their resolve to resist temptation, especially as the prayers of hundreds of thousands of other Confraternity members, both on earth and in heaven, come to our aid each day. And on certain days, one may receive a plenary indulgence if the usual conditions are met…

As you begin to discern if you want to make this commitment, I offer one final thought. The Angelic Warfare Confraternity is not a magic wand. Members promise to strive for chastity, but you still might fall into sin. We are not perfect. The point is to grow in chastity, and to pray for others as they do so. God granted to St. Thomas Aquinas a purity that infused all his thoughts and actions for the rest of his life. As we pursue chastity, let us seek his intercession and remember that our Lord Jesus Christ calls each of us to be happy and holy saints-in-the-making.

For more information on the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, and how to enroll, please visit angelicwarfare.org

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

McKenzie Bridge 2012 Photos

Filed under: 

Here are some photos from our time at St. Benedict's Lodge in  McKenzie Bridge, OR, where the student brothers gather every August for our annual vacation. Some of these photos were taken at St. Benedict's itself, and others are from our various hikes or adventures in the beautiful outdoors in the surrounding area.
 

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

Szczęść Boże!

Filed under: 

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

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

God bless, Br Kevin

Categories: 
Tags: 
Br. Chris Brannan, O.P.'s picture

A Summer of Dispersion: On Wandering and Resting

Filed under: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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