Sunday, July 31, 2011

Novena to St. Dominic - Day 2

Reflecting on the life, character and example of St. Dominic during this Novena and simultaneously aware of the Mass Readings this morning focusing so strongly on the Eucharist, I was struck again, as I have been before, on how deeply St. Dominic seemed to have understood the extraordinary mystery of the Eucharist. We know this from several witnesses who gave testimonies at the process of canonization-for example:

Brother Bonvisus said: “Sometimes I served his Mass. I would then watch his expression, and I used to see so many tears running down his face that the drops ran in a stream.”

Brother Stephen testified “ that very frequently he saw him celebrate Mass, and noticed that his eyes and cheeks were wet with tears during the Canon. It was quite easy for those present to perceive this devotion from his great fervour during Mass and the way that he said the Pater Noster . He never remembers having seen him say Mass with dry eyes.”

Brother Paul of Venice said that “ if Dominic could find a suitable church, he wanted to celebrate a High Mass every day.”

We know that in the 12th & 13th Centuries it was both unusual and exceptional for priests to celebrate Mass daily and yet we know that Dominic did. The historian, William Hinnebusch, says of Dominic in reference to his love of the Eucharist:

“ Endowed with a charm and compassion that drew both men and women
into the orbit of his love, his dominant trait was a priestliness that was
marked by a profound love of Christ and the Eucharistic Mystery.”

It seems to me that St. Dominic was graced with an understanding of the deepest reality of this Mystery, having put into practice the words of the first reading from Isaiah this morning calling us ‘ to come to the Lord, to listen to Him, and so receive life for our souls ‘ – spiritual nourishment- which is given above all in the Eucharist and prefigured in the Gospel today when Jesus feeds the multitudes after taking, blessing, breaking and giving the loaves and fish- the exact verbs- to take, to bless, to break and to give - used at the consecration during Mass when Jesus gives his own body and blood for our salvation and for our continuous spiritual nourishment on our earthly journey.

Later in the 13th Century St. Thomas elaborates on this spiritual nourishment given in the Eucharist, articulating what St. Dominic truly realised and what we also are in need of being reminded of, so that we can enter more deeply into this extraordinary Mystery and not take it for granted. St. Thomas says :

“ This sacrament, the Eucharist, does for the life of the spirit all that material food does for the life of the body, by sustaining, building up, restoring and contenting.”

“ What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life, by preserving, increasing and renewing the life of grace in us, received at Baptism. The growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.”
( CCC 1392)

In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Blessed John Paul II said that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian Life and from it the Church draws her very life- because, he says:

“ The most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to us.” ( No 1)

Through the intercession of St. Dominic may we all be granted a greater appreciation, reverence and love for Christ in the Eucharist, becoming more and more receptive to this inflow of divine love and life, so that in the words of the Father to Catherine in the Dialogue “we may not slacken our pace because of weakness, nor forget the blessing of the blood poured forth for us with such burning love, but may be constantly strengthened and filled with pleasure as we walk.” ( Dialogue 78)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Novena to St Dominic, Day One

In reflecting on St Dominic, as we approach his Feast Day on the 8th August, I was impressed by something Simon Tugwell, O.P. wrote in his introduction to Bl Jordan of Saxony's "Libellus". He wrote,

In the 'Libellus', Jordan shows us how the Order of Preachers arose, not simply as the brainchild of one man, Dominic, but as a providential response to the needs of the time ... If it was, in fact, Dominic who actually brought the Order to birth, he did not create it out of nothing. The church was ready and waiting for it, and there were people waiting to join it even before it existed. ...
"The relationship between Dominic and his Order cannot be understood simply in terms of some uniquely inventive capacity in Dominic himself. Essentially he is the father of the Order because he gave it its job to do, and because he supports it with his prayers. ...
The true 'Life of Dominic' was not to be found in the past, it was to be found in the present, in the continuing preaching of his followers. As St Catherine saw so clearly, Dominic lives on in the work of his Order. ..."

"... a providential response to the needs of the time ..."

"... the church was ready and waiting ..."

"... the life of Dominic [is] to be found in the present ..."

I wondered what job Dominic would give us to do today, when our church has such great needs now, and is ready and waiting ... for us?

Nothing new.
"Everybody was enfolded in the wide embrace of his charity, and since he loved everyone, everyone loved him." At a time, now, during these days, when it is so much more easy to criticise and condemn and cut ourselves off from people who committed unspeakable, unforgiveable acts and destroyed the lives of the innocent - Dominic prays for us, pleads before the Father for us who seek to continue to do the job he gave his Order to do: that we be love now.

Love to those who suffer
and love to those who cause so much suffering.

That we come to God at the foot of the Cross, look up, and see that healing comes only through love and mercy ... divine love ... supernatural mercy.
Remember that we have committed ourselves to Jesus, our brother and our God.
Trust, when we pray as Dominic prayed - 'Lord, what will become of sinners?', that the Lord has already won for them the answer.

We are all a part of one another and so we need to be love; love every part of ourselves. The church is waiting for us and there are people waiting for us to be what Dominic was, in imitation of the Lord whom he so passionately loved - that they may find their way home.

Novena in preparation for the Feast of St Dominic

Today the 30th of July we begin the Novena of prayer in preparation for the feast of St Dominic which we will celebrate on the 8th of August.
In our community each evening before Vespers there is a short reflection Prepared by one of the sisters which is followed by the singing of what we Dominicans call the 'O Spem'- a kind of national anthem for the Order. Here is an English translation:
O wonderful Hope which you gave to those who wept for you at the hour of your death, promising that after your decease you would be helpful to your brethren.

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

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 prayers.

V.Blessed Father Dominic pray for us
R That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Throughout the week we will publish the various reflections here:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Learning the Art of Flower arrangement

On Monday and Tuesday of this week our kind friend Mrs Eileen Davey from Belfast gave us some wonderful classes in the art of flower arranging at which most of our community participated - the photos which follow are self-explanatory!

In the Lord's providence some of our kind friends and benefactors provided us with some beautiful gifts of flowers just in time for these classes - we are most grateful for their constant support and generosity.

A big 'thank-you' to Eileen for the joy of these days! and we have also learned a lot!

Friday, July 22, 2011

St Mary Magdalene - 22nd July

Today is the feast-day of St Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, and Patroness of the Order of Preachers. We're lucky to have her! As I think about her now, you know, she's quite an inspiration, a good teacher.

In the Gospel according to John, we read:

"Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb, ..."

(John 20:8-11)

Just these few verses got me thinking - about how the disciples left and she stayed. They went home, but she had no home to go to.
JESUS was her home - that's why.
The disciples had left everything to follow JESUS, but I suppose here you could say that as yet JESUS didn't wholly possess them - they had left everything, but as yet they hadn't given Him their very selves, they didn't realise that they couldn't do without Him. So they went home ... sad? yes; ...lost? yes, probably; ...confused? surely; ...disappointed? I think definitely so. They didn't have JESUS any longer, He was gone. Where were they to go? What to do now? They had homes, they could pick up their lives again, the lives - the everything - they had left and try to keep going ... that would fill the void that JESUS had left in them.

But when JESUS reached out to Mary that first time, and saved her - she had been about as far away from Him as it is possible to be - had given up even on herself. It was a miracle, a wondrous miracle that He would even look at her, not to mind want her. But she saw that He did, and when she saw Him, she saw that He was everything and that now, knowing Him, her life would be nothing ... she would be nothing ... without Him, apart from Him.

He was her home.

He is our home.

He is my home. The ground beneath my feet.

Thank God for St Mary Magdalene, may she pray for us that we may find our way home.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Video of the Solemn Profession of Sr Mary Teresa

Below is a short video clip of some scenes from the Solemn Profession of Sr Mary Teresa Dunphy. We hope you enjoy it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Solemn Profession of Sr Mary Teresa OP

On the 29th June Sr Mary Teresa's solemn profession was a wonderful celebration of joy and thanksgiving for our community. The profession took place during the celebration of the Eucharist at which Fr Laurence Collins OP, vicar of the Master of the Order for our community presided. Fr Noonan from Sr Mary Teresa's home parish, concelebrated as well as several Dominican friars - some of whom travelled from as far away as Cork and Limerick in order to be with us on this special occasion. Also in the congregation were some Dominican student brothers, sisters from the Cabra Congregation of Dominican Sisters and local Lay Dominicans and friends. Of course Teresa's proud parents,Nuala and Brian Dunphy, her sister and her seven brothers were present and participated in the Readings, Prayers of the Faithful and Offertory procession. Fr John Harris OP preached the homily which we are happy to share with you here.

According to our 800 years' Dominican tradition we make our profession in the hands of the prioress while holding the Book of the Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order.

Here we share a few photos but shortly we hope to be able to share more of this joyful occasion through video - so keep your eye out for it!

Fr John Harris preached the following homily
Anyone who knows Sister Teresa will know that if you ask her a question you will get a quick, clear and intelligent answer. An answer that leaves you in no doubt about what she is thinking. Never in her life has she given such a clear answer to a question as she does today. To the question of questions, “who do you say I am?” today Sister Teresa says in reply to Our Blessed Lord with her whole life “you are my all”. For this is the meaning of solemn profession. One could easily use the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading “My life is being poured away as a libation”. Today Sr. Teresa in a solemn act of Holy Church offers herself totally to God in an act of perfect love. She does so in this community, following a way of life blessed by the Church which can lead her to true holiness of life.

Today Teresa is saying to God first and foremost, but also to us present and to the world “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as so much rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him... I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection”. (Phil 3:8-10)

Is she doing a foolish thing? Absolutely not! She is answering the deepest longings in the human heart, loving God with all her mind, all her will, all her body and all her soul. She is reminding us all of our own precious calling, to love God and to come to know ourselves truly in this Love. If one tries to know oneself outside of this love one searches in the darkness and never attains true happiness. Love of God is not the denial of humanity but its highest calling and its truest expression.

Today Sr. Teresa you are the freest creature on the face of the earth.

To make an act of solemn profession to love God is to make the freest act possible for a human being. Your voice today as you make your solemn profession is a making present of Christ’s voice in the Garden of Gethsemane, echoed in the voice of Mary at the Annunciation. To say yes to God is to be fully human.

Today in Rome the new archbishops will receive the Pallium from the Pope, a circular band of lamb’s wool, worn about the neck, breast, and shoulders (one could say our religious scapular is a development of the Pallium), said to have been originally a brace which kept slaves together as they were being transported from one place to another: Pope Benedict XVI says that “this may be considered an image of the yoke of Christ, which one takes upon one’s shoulders. God’s yoke is God’s will, which we accept. And this will does not weigh down on us, oppressing us and taking away our freedom. To know what God wants, to know where the path of life is found – this was Israel’s joy, this was her great privilege. It is also our joy: God’s will does not alienate us, it purifies us – even if this can be painful – and so it leads us to ourselves. In this way, we serve not only him, but the salvation of the whole world, of all history”. Today Teresa takes on this yoke of freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1).

Teresa’s yes of today will be lived out her whole life long as she prays to God unremittingly, continuing the prayer we read about in today’s first reading. Her life of prayer here in Siena monastery will be a source of life and freedom for the whole Church. Just as the prayers offered for Peter in today’s reading set him free to preach the word of God so the prayers offered in this holy place is the real heart of the preaching of the Dominicans on these islands. From prayer, from contemplation comes the preaching of the Gospel as we pray in psalm 67: The Lord gives the word to the bearers of good tidings. The Lord is the source of all our preaching and the Nuns here in Siena not only remind of this truth but also are active in that public preaching by their prayers. Without the prayers offered unremittingly for Peter he would have stayed in prison and could not have continued his ministry of preaching so without the prayers offered in this monastery no Dominican could preach a homily, no teacher could give class, no confessor would hear confessions, no writer would write books. The life lived here silently in Siena is no quaint curiosity adjacent to the story or the work of the Order of Preachers it is a vital component of the holy preaching.

Today Teresa, daughter of Brian and Nuala, you are a happy woman, blessed are you Teresa, for it was not flesh and blood which revealed the beauty of this life to you, but it is your calling from God, to a life of intimacy and love. A life lived in freedom for the good of the Holy Church and the preaching of the Good News.

My final words to you come not from me, words that were given to me many years ago by Fr, William Barden (a great friend of this community and all that it stands for) words from the other great Teresa, Teresa of Avila:

“Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All thing pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. The one who has God finds she lacks nothing: God alone suffices.”

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel, we hear those gracious words of Jesus: ‘Learn from me to be gentle and humble in heart’. The ‘heart’ that is the secret Jesus is revealing to us in these encouraging words – if our heart is not at rights with God, then our thoughts and words and actions cannot be rightly motivated. These words of Jesus recorded in today’s Gospel seem to be the only ones recorded in which Jesus says specifically – ‘Learn from me…’.

Rather surprisingly, he doesn’t say; ‘Learn from me how to pray or how to spread the Good News’, BUT ‘Learn from me to be gentle and humble in heart’.

True gentleness and humility are qualities so precious and so beautiful, so awe inspiring as to defy adequate definition in any dictionary. They are not sentimental watery qualities, on the contrary, the truly gentle and humble, possess great strength of character and are very genuine and wholesome people.

There are so many instances in the Gospels of the gentleness of Jesus in the way we normally conceive of this virtue – but when we reflect on Jesus calling Herod a fox, or addressing Peter as Satan, and the Pharisees as hypocrites, we wonder what kind of gentleness is this? This is where we see the ‘balance’ of the genuinely gentle and humble person coming into play – Jesus says ‘learn from me. Learning requires a strong application of our mind and will but especially it needs a good teacher – and as Cardinal Hume once said: ‘example is the best of teachers. Meditating on the life of Jesus and that of so many of his faithful followers in all walks of life through the centuries, is a great encouragement to us. In our own lives too, many of us have been touched by the true gentleness of others - this fills us with deep gratitude to God and inspires in us the courage we need to respond to Jesus’ invitation in today’s Gospel.

Each day, let us dedicate ourselves anew to walk hand in hand with Jesus, so that listening with our heart to his words, we may learn to know his immense love which calls us to live his gentleness and humility in joy as well as in pain. Thus we carry within us the whole world which has so much pain in it. As has been wisely said, it is the heart not the head that is the home of the Gospel.
What truly blessed words of Jesus, what an immense plea from his own most Sacred Heart - ‘Learn from me…’. and you will find rest for your souls.