Thursday, July 30, 2009

Novena to St Dominic

Today we begin our Novena in preparation for the feast of our holy father Dominic on the 8th August. During the coming 9 days we invite our readers to join in prayer with us. Before Vespers each evening we sing the following – known in Latin as the O Spem – the equivalent of a national anthem for Dominicans!!

O wonderful hope which you gave to those who wept for you at the hour of your death, promising that after your death you would be helpful to your brothers and sisters;

Fulfil Father what you have said and help us by your prayer

You shone on the bodies of the sick by so many miracles, bring us the help of Christ to heal our sick souls;

Fulfil Father what you have said and help us by your prayer.

We offer here for your reflection the main points of a letter, which Fr Carlos Azpiroz Costa, Master of the Order sent, (Advent 2008), to all the members of the Order as we began another year of our 9 year Dominican Jubilee Pilgrimage which will culminate in 2016, with the celebration of the 8th Centenary of the confirmation of the Order by Pope Honorius III.
This year’s theme is: Dominic – Preacher of Grace.

Dear brothers and sisters in St. Dominic and St. Catherine:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:1.14).

…….In these few words, the evangelist invites us into the fullness of the mystery of the Incarnation. This is not a spectacle that we contemplate from afar, for as the text says, the Word came to dwell “among us,” as one of us - … is the actual heart of the Christian faith”…………

For Dominic, too, the Word of God was present “in the beginning” of the miracle that gave birth to the Order of Preachers. His entire life, lived in intimate union with the Word, invites us into a profound contemplative listening to the Word and a bold commitment to preach that very same Word to the world today. In the Dialogue of our sister, Catherine of Siena, we read, “[Dominic] appeared as an apostle in the world, sowing the seed of my Word with great truth and luminosity, dissipating the darkness with the gift of light” (n. 158). The Word of God that became flesh and burned in the heart of Dominic was the very same Word which he preached with ardent zeal, setting Europe on fire with the love and tender mercy of Christ.

The Blessed Dominic had a great and burning thirst for the salvation of souls, for which he was an unequalled apostle. He gave himself to preaching with great fervour, and he exhorted and obliged his brothers to announce the Word of God by day and by night, in churches and in homes, in the fields and along the byways – in other words, in all places to speak only of God.

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, in opening the Synod on the Word of God, reminds us that, “It is important that individual believers and communities enter into ever increasing intimacy with God’s Word…[for] to draw nourishment from the Word of God is [the Church’s] first and fundamental task.” Therefore, as part of our ongoing Jubilee pilgrimage that began with the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the community of Prouilhe, the whole Dominican Family is invited to pause and focus on the following theme throughout this year of 2009:

“In the beginning was the Word: Dominic, Preacher of Grace”.

With the help of this theme, we commit ourselves to sit with Dominic at the feet of Christ, and with him, “to draw nourishment from the Word of God.”

This is the heritage of grace which is shared by all of us – friars and nuns, apostolic sisters and lay Dominicans, young and old, rich and poor. And we well know that once we have been nourished by the Word, we face the other great challenge that St. Paul had to face, summed up in his apostolic cry: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). Therefore, following the example of Dominic, we make St. Paul´s cry our own, and we do so by making it the overall guiding theme for these years of Pilgrimage, from now until we reach the Jubilee celebration of 2016. To do this, though, we recognize the need to make one small, yet essential modification: as Dominicans we can only be true to our vocation if we cry out as a community:

“Woe to us if we do not preach the gospel!”

These words of St. Paul, said Pope Benedict in his opening address of the Synod, are, “a cry that becomes for every Christian a pressing invitation to serve Christ.” And so we take to heart these words, recognizing in them the very Gospel that gave birth to the preaching mission of our Holy Father St. Dominic who, carrying the Gospel of St. Matthew and the letters of St. Paul with him as he travelled, truly became God’s Preacher of Grace. Each time we sing the O Lumen we invoke Dominic under this title: Prædicator Gratiæ, (Preacher of Grace) for it is he, the preacher, the disciple of the Word, who promises to walk with us and renew in us the gratuitous out-pouring of the Word that was present when the first seeds of the Holy Preaching were sown in the fertile ground of southern Europe. May he unite us as a family gathered around the Word, and give us a contemplative, obedient heart, willing and ready to respond in freedom to the challenges of the Gospel in our day.

……….“Bethlehem” – the house of bread – is a reminder to us of two important realities. First, the Incarnate Word has come to nourish us. May we feed at his table of mercy and compassion each day……. And secondly, in a world that continues to face massive hunger and the ongoing scourge of war, let us look again to Christ, whose “words proclaim justice, instil courage to the disheartened and offer forgiveness to sinners” (Synod Message, IV, n.13). May His words become our words, so that we, too, might proclaim the gospel of peace in his name.

Brothers and sisters, we walk this pilgrimage of faith together, as a family, encouraging one another along the way. May the Holy Spirit anoint us as we journey forth in hope, and may St. Dominic bless us and inspire us to be ever faithful to the great heritage which he has left us.

Your brother in St. Dominic, Preacher of Grace, “

bro Carlos A. Azpiroz Costa, OP
Master of the Order

We invite you to join us in reciting the special jubilee prayer for the renewal of the Order, remembering especially the many young men and women who are in formation and the many others who are discerning their vocation to the Order throughout the world and indeed in our own Irish province.

Jubilee Prayer

God of Mercy,
In your eternal Wisdom, you called your servant Dominic to set off on a journey of faith as itinerant pilgrim and preacher of grace. With your Word of gentle Truth in his heart and on his lips, Dominic invited the first sisters and brothers to join him in a life of contemplative obedience in the service of the holy preaching.

As we commemorate this Jubilee, we ask you to breathe the Spirit of the risen Christ once again into our hearts and minds. Re-create us, so that we might faithfully and joyfully proclaim the gospel of peace, through the same Christ, our Lord.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Resting in God

Last Sunday (16th Sunday Yr B) brought us a lovely invitation to “Come away …..and rest for a while.” (Mk 6:30-34)
This week Jesus re-issues the invitation when He says …to all who are “sitting ready” that He would give as much as was wanted. (Jn 6:1f) What is it like to “come way and rest awhile?” and to sit, waiting in emptiness and yet ready…???

You may say ‘rest’!!!! what can the Lord be possibly talking about? All I feel is toil and pain – not rest. When I try to follow His invitation, suffering and struggle beset me on all sides …if this is rest! I think it is an odd kind of rest ….
But hold on, there’s hope in the sitting and waiting….
Doesn’t Psalm 39 say:
“I waited, I waited for the Lord
And He stooped down to me”

Imagine the Lord stooping down to me! Can you really believe this? when you see your desires obscured and your mind blank? Be not afflicted by this but rather consider it a great happiness because that person is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and desires and without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of failure and neglect and wandering forgetfulness and hear Him say:

Come then my love
My lovely one come
For see winter is past
The rains are over and gone
The season of glad songs has come
Come then my love
Show me your face – your heart
Let me hear your voice – your requests
For your voice is sweet
And your face beautiful…. (Cf Song of Songs)

Ah yes Lord – here I am – coming to You
“Breathe over my garden”

I wonder what G M Hopkins had in mind when he wrote:
… “and the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast
And with ah! Bright wings”

What wonders would He not work in our heart if only in our times of rest we would allow Him to brood over us as He did for Mary:

…. “and the Holy Spirit came upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her…… (Lk 1:35)

“Stand stoutly then in this work, ever more heaving up unto Him thy lovely consent in gladness of love”. Book of Privy Counsel

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is Religious Life just ‘Hard Work’?

Please accept our apologies for our silence during the past few weeks!
In the meantime we have had a week's community's 'holidays' - during which work is reduced a minimum and there is time and space for each sister to relax and take some extra rest, engage in favourite hobbies, watch a video etc.

Last week was given over to a course of lectures on St Thomas and his theology of grace.

On Monday next we begin our annual retreat of 8 days - at the end of which we look forward to welcoming an aspirant for a month's 'live-in' experience. We ask your prayers for the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit for her and for the other young women who are discernimg their vocation to contemplative monastic life in our Dominican Order.

We offer you the following reflection:

Is Religious Life just ‘Hard Work’?

Recently I came across a mention on a blog I follow to the effect that some people felt that his presentation of the spiritual life seemed to be one of working our way toward God, almost an endurance test. That got me thinking, since it seems to be a difficulty many people have with the Religious Life – the idea that it is something hard. I remember when I decided to enter I received a number of comments suggesting that I was doing something very demanding, especially since so few are entering nowadays. This impression of Religious Life as a hard thing fails to take into account the fundamental factor involved in a religious vocation – love.

In the first place, from a purely natural point of view, anyone who is passionate about something, regards as nothing what others would see as difficult. To give an example, I would consider 3 hours music practise a day as ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ if I had to do it, but for a gifted pianist it is as vital as breathing, because she loves it and, on good days, she is most fully alive while playing. In the same way, my religious life is where I am most fully alive and, more importantly, most fully open to God and in tune with His plan for me – “the glory of God is man fully alive” (St Irenaeus) In fact, that is what Vocation Discernment is all about, discovering that God is asking me to be here, in this place, for Him.

But it can appear to others as just ‘doing things for God’ or attempting to ‘earn salvation’. This is where love comes in. Everyone needs to give, do things for those they love. Think about it - if you were married to someone could you come home from work everyday and watch TV, totally ignoring your husband/wife and never doing anything with or for him/her, except periodically saying (while engrossed in the TV show) ‘Yes, of course I love you, how can you doubt it’. You couldn’t do it. We need to do things to show our love. And the beauty and wonder of God is that He lets us, even encourages us to, do things for Him. We don’t think we’re earning anything, anymore than a 3 or 4 year old who ‘helps’ with the housework thinks that he’s earning anything.

God doesn’t need us to do things for Him but He knows that, for our own sake, we need to do things for Him. First, because we have no other way to express our love, and also because our outward acts form our inward selves i.e. the surest way to become loving is to act lovingly. So my monastic observance (i.e. Daily Mass, Divine Office, Lectio Divina, Adoration, regular prayer times, spiritual reading, charitable acts etc.) helps me become more and more conformed to God and grow in love of Him. Now, God sees our need to show our love by concrete acts, but he also knows that we’re not much good at this loving action and so He gives us His grace, which enables us to “act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with our God” (Mic 6:8). And this is the most important factor in any Religious Vocation – God’s grace/love. Each person’s vocation is God’s work, He calls us and He gives us the grace to be able to respond to His call - “He who called you is faithful and He will carry it out” (1Thess 5:24) It is in this grace that I live my monastic life and when I make my vows for life I will do so knowing that I can make this vow because God is faithful and in Him my vow rests secure. I do not rely on my own ability but on the strength of God’s grace upholding my efforts. But, and this is important, I must make the effort. To take an example from my own vocation discernment – initially I just prayed that I would discover my vocation and expected God to do everything else. I was waiting for the right Order to ‘appear’. But it was only by contacting Orders, visiting them and praying about my impressions that I discovered where God wanted me to be.

So Religious Life (or any Christian Life) does involve work and effort but it is work with God rather than work for God and so it is in no way hard work.