Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Novena to St Dominic - Day 2

This reflection concerns prayer and spirituality in the lives of St. Dominic and the early Dominicans and I will quote some passages from the book ‘ Early Dominicans’ (The classics of Western Spirituality) – from the Introduction by Fr. Simon Tugwell O.P.

Fr. Simon says :
“ that the early Dominicans were not particularly concerned either for themselves or for others with what has come to be called the “interior life”. Some of them, certainly, were great men of prayer, but their prayer was simple, devotional and largely petitionary. They retained the monastic practice of spending some time in private prayer after Compline and Matins, though this was not put into any constitutional text as an obligation. There is no hint at all of any methodical ‘mental prayer’, such as we find in later centuries, nor is there any sign of any theory of mystical progress attached to their simple prayers.”

Fr. Simon goes on to say:
“What we know of the prayer of St. Dominic shows that it was habitually intercessory and his meditations and contemplations are shown as resulting typically in preaching of one kind or another. This suggests that even the prayers and devotions of the Dominicans have an apostolic quality and this impression is reinforced by the discovery that Jordan of Saxony, Dominic’s immediate successor, who was regarded by his brethren, as a powerful man of prayer, says of himself, “I hardly ever pray”, a complaint echoed in other early Dominican writings. The all-absorbing ambition of the friars was “to be useful to the souls of others”. Their own spiritual exercises were designed to make them better preachers, and their own spiritual progress was not sought as a goal in its own right but rather as a kind of spin-off from their service of others. This service of others was determined by the needs of others. And in the thirteenth century what was needed most was catechesis, doctrinal and especially moral.”

I think this same spiritual need is the greatest in today’s world and I pray that through the intercession of St. Dominic and all our Dominican saints, that we, and all those already in the Order as well as those entering, will respond to this need, following the example of the early Dominicans, by being graced by God with that selfless all-absorbing ambition of being useful to the souls of others, according to each one’s particular vocation in the Order.
I conclude with Timothy Radcliffe’s definition of Dominican Spirituality, which has always impressed me and sums up the points I have been trying to make. He says :
“ Dominican Spirituality is about being alive in God and for others”.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Novena to St Dominic - Day 1

A Reflection on St Dominic and Prayer, given by one of our sisters, for first day of our Novena to St Dominic

Taken from The Life of St. Dominic (1170 – 1221) by Bede Jarrett O.P.

For St. Dominic, Prayer was a simple converse of the soul with God; and converse is easier and fuller when it is between two friends.
The more, then, the mind can realise friendship with God, which is the essence of religion, the more facile is the heart’s opening of itself, for the problem of prayer is always how to make God the friend not only accepted and believed in, but to form part of the familiar circumstance of life.

Everything that could help to produce this truth vividly was made use of: vocal prayer, gestures, beads; and, since he found that a dialogue of speech and silence, a chorus of praise, could be more easily secured by a devotion to the sacramental Presence, it was around the altar that St. Dominic grouped his interests. The Mass was the highest expression of it; the crucifix its homeliest representation. The gospels most wonderfully depict that perfect life and character, and show up against background of hill and lake and field and village and cobbled streets the moving figure of the true and loyal friend. Hence the Mass became his most particular devotion; the crucifix his daily companion, his “ever open book”; and the New Testament his favourite study, carried always, learnt by heart, made the textbook of life. “He spoke only of and to God,” said a follower of Dominic; and we feel that he did this naturally because God was the central object of his daily work and nightly watching. As Dante observingly notes of him, he was “the athlete” of Christ, “kindly to his friends, fierce to his foes”; he was the “torrential” preacher just because he was “fast knit to Christ,” and he was fast knit to Christ by means of his vivid and intensely personal prayer.

Is there any need to add that St. Dominic’s devotion to the maiden mother of God was particularly vivid? His friars were “her friars” needing and receiving her special help. Visions were seen, it was reported, of his sons preaching from books held before them by our Lady’s hands; she corrected them, protected them, blessed them sleeping; and was seen in Cambridge to send fire on them when they prayed; at death she comforted them. The spirit of the saint descended, then, on his children, says Gerard de Frachet, to sum up all his record of devotion, “so that studying and praying and sleeping they had her before their eyes and she turned her eyes of mercy ever towards them”.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ... before the world was made he chose us, chose us in Christ to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence." (Eph 1:3-14)

This doctrine of our faith inspired and sustained me during my first years of Religious Life - and still does. It fired me to learn more about Christ, to enter fully into the mystery of the person of Christ. Jesus says, "Father, this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent", and again, "no one can come to the Father except through me".

"God chose us" but first Jesus himself within the loving communion of the Blessed Trinity is chosen and sent by the Father, He who is so madly in love with His creatures, as St Catherine expresses it, to tell the world of this love, to redeem us even thoug we were/are sinners. The Incarnation cost Him dearly. He poured out every drop of blood for love of us and of His Father - in return rose gloriously from the dead.

The wonder of it all is that you and I are in this same Christ - we make one with Him in the Divine thought. Jesus reveals to St Catherine in her 'Dialogue', "I created souls in my image and likeness, even more, in taking human nature I made myself like one of you. Consequently, I do not cease working to make your souls like to me, as far as they are capable of it and I endeavor to renew in them, when they are tending towards heaven, all that took place in my Body". It is mind boggling but a reality - a divine reality. Faith alone can receive it as love alone has given it, Dom Marmion says.

Our life revolves around the Eucharist, the Liturgy and here we have the supreme reality of being in Christ. Fr. Barden OP, in his inspiring book "What happens at the Mass", says "in our movement to God, that we go to God in Christ is found only in the Mass and to a lesser extent in all the Sacraments. The Mass is a profession of faith, hope and charity, of that faith, hope and charity by which we move towards the Father through Christ and with Christ. But the special glory of the Mass is that by it we also move towards the Father in Christ, glorifying Him and propiating Him in Christ. O wonder of wonders, because of our baptism we can claim as our own the merit of that priestly act of oblation in Christ's mind and will by which he surrendered His living body and blood through death into the possession of His Father."

Let us answer the call of our whole being to bow down in loving surrender, adoration and awe.