Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy Christmas


We wish all our readers many graces and blessings during the Christmas season.
Here we share with you a Christmas reflection
 

Christmas Homily

At the Office of Readings during the coming week we read:

Behold God the Father has sent down to earth as it were a bag filled with His Mercy; a bag to be rent open in the Passion so that our ransom which it concealed might be poured out; a small bag indeed, but full.  It is indeed a small child who is given to us, but in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead.  (From a sermon by St Bernard).

 
We celebrate tonight God’s coming among us – not as a man of power but as a baby.  He could have chosen to come as a fully grown man but he comes as a vulnerable baby and what could be more helpless than a newborn baby? He could have chosen rich parents who would provide the maximum amount of comfort – but he chose Mary and Joseph, both poor in material things but with hearts wide open to receive all the love which this Baby wishes to bestow.  The Good News is first proclaimed to simple shepherds, the outcasts, those without status while “His own people did not receive Him” (John 1: )

In our yearly celebration of Christmas we remember his coming in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago and we look forward to his second coming and our going to him at the moment of death.  However there is a third coming which is as real and as important as the other two – the one for which we have prepared during the weeks of Advent - it is His coming to us in the grace of the Mystery which we celebrate.  Yes He comes to each of us personally and only desires an open heart ready to receive all that He wishes to give.  He was not ashamed to be born in a stable with the animals around – now He desires to come to the stable of our hearts, no matter how poor, sinful or miserable.  He stands at the door knocking, waiting for our ‘yes’ as he waited on Mary’s ‘yes’ - He needs our hearts to pray His prayer and radiate His love in our restless modern world.

Throughout the ages He is the One who takes the initiative in coming to us – He tells Moses that He is “well aware of the suffering of His people” and comes to rescue them.  He reveals Himself as “the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”  In his letter to Titus, St Paul reminds us that God our Father was not concerned with any righteous actions we ourselves might have done – it was for no reason except his own compassion that He saved us.  During this extraordinary Year of Mercy, no doubt, He “comes to assist us in our weakness” and (to quote Pope Francis) “His help consists in helping us to accept His presence and closeness to us.”  Day by day as we are touched by His compassion, He asks that we too become more generous and compassionate towards others.  We are called to be credible witnesses to the Mercy of our Father – professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ. The challenge for us is: “will we open our hearts to receive all He wants to give us this Christmas? 

May Mary, the Mother of Mercy, who accompanied her Son from His birth in Bethlehem to His death on Calvary, watch over us and teach us to “discover the joy of God’s tenderness” and to be faithful to our mission as Dominican Nuns of perpetuating Dominic’s prayer for sinners and all the down-trodden, the afflicted and all the poor suffering people of our world.  May our celebration of this Christmas be a source of light and joy for the whole Church and our world.

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

O Emmanuel - 23rd December 2015


 
Our 7th and final ‘O Antiphon’ tonight reads:

O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge,

                                       the one whom the peoples await and their Saviour.

                                       O come and save us, Lord our God.

 
The meaning of ‘Emmanuel’ is “God with us”. In a way it anticipates the nativity, the birth of our Lord, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, which we will celebrate, tomorrow night.

Knowing that God is with us gives us inner security, peace, joy, delight, hope – as St Paul says:

 “With God on our side, who can be against us” ( Rm 8 :31) and “ It is in him that we live and move and have our being” ( Acts 17:28).

Having been made in the image and likeness of God we have a natural capacity for God and the things of God. We experience a profound yearning for him, just as the prophets and people of the Old testament yearned, longed for and awaited the coming of the Messiah,  for the search for God and the desire to be in relationship with him is rooted in our human nature and the psalms testify to this so beautifully: 

“O God you are my God, for you I long

For you my soul is thirsting” (Psalm 62)

and 

“I say to the Lord, you are my God,

my happiness lies in you alone.”

and

“What else have I in Heaven but you,

apart from you I want nothing on earth”

It seems to me that this antiphon is prayed with great humility, teaching us about this great and difficult virtue. Humility is truth. In this antiphon the people recognise and acknowledge their inability to save themselves for they cry out for a Saviour. We, too, continue this cry for we also, are in constant need of the Lord’s grace to live the Christian life, -“cut off from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5)– the words of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel. This in fact is Good News for the Lord is more ready and willing to bestow on us this grace than we, in our innate pride, independence and individualism are prepared to ask for it.

This is portrayed by Pope Francis, in a recent address: he says:

“At Christmas God gives us all of Himself by giving his one and only Son, who is all his joy – Jesus – the gift of gifts – the undeserved gift that brings us salvation”

 
That final plea, “O come and save us, Lord our God”, sums up all the preceding petitions of the other O antiphons. It is a cry from the heart of the Church, and since the Church prays not only for herself but for the whole world, it is also a cry from the heart of all humanity. As we pray this antiphon in a few minutes we are called to pray it from the depths of our own hearts, in humility of spirit, in the name of all humanity and for all humanity- conscious as we are of the suffering in the world- in Syria, Iraq, Africa, the Holy Land, India, Pakistan and for the renewal of faith in our own country and in the home countries of all our sisters: England; Scotland; Malta; France; Belarus and Korea.

O come and save us, Lord our God.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

O Rex Gentium - 22nd December 2015


 

“O King and treasure of the nations,
the cornerstone that makes the two into one;
Come
and save man whom you fashioned from dust.”

 
We heard this morning from the Prophet Isaiah (during the Office of Readings) the following:

Thus says the LORD God:

“Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.

Kings shall be your foster-fathers and their queens your nursing mothers.

With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet.

Then you will know that I am the LORD: those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”

(Is 49:22-23)

It is difficult – never having shaken hands with one – to know what qualities one might expect a king to have – so that he might be approachable and command a certain allegiance and loyalty. 

Kindness, perhaps? … and Knowledge? 
Insight, maybe also Inspiration;
Nobility;
Graciousness.

We all come into the world in the same way, whether we be high or low; kings or paupers – and in only a very short while now, we will celebrate the great day of JESUS’ birth, and it won’t be immediately obvious what He is – a king or a pauper?  Or both?

Do we have eyes to see?


Our “O” antiphon this evening speaks of JESUS as “the cornerstone that makes the two into one,” and it was these particular words “makes the two into one” which made the more perplexing impression: what two? … and two what?

As with many of the “O” antiphons, it is very possible to give free reign to one’s imagination and set out on an adventure whose destination is unknown.  Mine took me rather mundanely to the second creation account in Genesis.

When, on waking from the sleep during which God fashioned Eve out of Adam, Adam beheld her and cried,

            “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh …”         (Gen 2:23)

Out of two … one.

And the very next verse re-unites them: God re-unites them:

            “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one …”                                                                        (Gen 2:24)

 
Our completion lies outside of ourselves: our wholeness and integrity is not something man can achieve independently of others, but we seem to be living through a period of what will eventually be history, where this truth makes little sense and is unwelcome.

Yet JESUS has come: born for us.

And we who have been blessed with faith and eyes to recognise – with Mary and Joseph; the angels and shepherds; and the kings who “with their faces to the ground .. bow down .. and lick the dust of [his] feet” – eyes to see that He is our King: we, even we now, all these years and ages later, we know the truth.

We are one in Him, Who unites men and women, kings and paupers.  He is utterly attractive, irresistible.  His words are powerful, challenging and hard, yet true. 

 

We must be the ears of the world: ears for those who are lost yet searching; ears for those who do not even know how lost they are; ears for ourselves that we may earnestly seek and long for Him, more and more.  He is our King; and He is our brother – approachable: Kind; Insightful; Noble; Gracious.  He knows our needs and so our prayer will lift us up to Him; by it He will transform us, make us alike even unto God our Father.

 

As on that day so long ago when the shepherds and kings beheld the helpless Child, and knew that He upon Whom they gazed was indeed the Saviour of the world, the King – yet must wait in patience for Him to grow in wisdom and strength – so let us, with Mary, wait … and know that we “shall not be put to shame” (Is 49:23).

 

“Come and save man whom you fashioned from dust.”

 

“O Rising Sun - 21st December 2015


“O Rising sun, You are the splendor of eternal light, and the sun of justice.
O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, come”
                
What can be a better metaphor or image to depict the reality of salvation given by God to human beings than light and darkness? Even without going deep into the metaphysics of light by Grosseteste, Or the reflections on light by St. Augustine, St. Bonaventure or other theologians and philosophers, or without further specific analysis of light as knowledge, truth, goodness, life, etc., we immediately grasp the meaning of this text. We are very familiar with the word and image of “light” throughout Old Testament and New Testament and numerous sacred religious arts to describe the saving power and act of God from our death, sin, and suffering. 

You are probably familiar with the famous painting of Caravaggio “the calling of St Matthew”. The beam of light from Jesus shone towards Matthew who was sitting at the table in the darkness when Jesus called him.  How about “The Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt? In this painting, Jesus is holding a lamp in one of his hands and knocks on the door with the other hand, but interestingly there is no doorknob on the door, which means that the door can be opened only by the person inside the door.  I interpret that the light, grace, and redemption are brought by Jesus Christi in person, but still our cooperation is necessary to receive them.   

During fall last year, about 18 secondary-school girls visited the monastery and had a conversation with the novitiate about Catholicism and our contemplative life. A lot of good questions were asked and one particular question seized my attention because it touches the fundamental aspect of our lives.  If I rephrase it, the question was, what is the sign that our religion can give in this suffering world?  If I read the meaning further, there are so many sufferings in the world, what are the signs that we can give to the world that God saved us and is with us?  What difference does Jesus make, like the title of the book by Sheed?  How do we bear witness as we are supposed to do?  

I could have given answers in many different directions, but I gave an answer like following that can be universally understood by everybody. Suffering is mystery. We still don’t know why. But then, I gave an example of one poignant prayer that was found beside the body of a dead child in the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. Some of you might remember it because I introduced it during office of reading on St. Edith Stein’s feast day. The prayer is like this:
“O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have bought thanks to this suffering; our comradeship, our loyalty, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness."
And I said to them that I believe that this is the supreme free human act of love and faith and hope which can be granted through grace by God. That is one of the signs that God has saved humanity and is with us. If one can pray with this highest human nobility, and with such faith, hope, and love, under the extremely cruel, miserable and inhuman condition of Auschwitz, I am sure that this is a victory of humanity due to grace given by God.
Today I want to add a little bit more related to the O antiphon and the girl’s question.  What I would like to share is my reflection on the light of Christ shed on suffering, which delivers us from the darkness, even though there are still sufferings in our everyday life and in our world.

But, before doing that, I would like to introduce some terms first. St. John Paul II gave his reflection on redemption and said that redemption is victory given as a task to man. He then described the 3 ways or stages- purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways- to follow Jesus.  I would like to adopt these 3 terms - purgative, illuminative, and unitive – to my reflection on suffering since I believe that these terms are also very adequate for what I try to say.
Jesus didn’t come simply to get rid of sufferings. He enlightens our attitude towards our sufferings. The sufferings can be caused by our individual sins or faults. In that case, we suffer in a purgative way, which purifies us. It is painful, but eventually it reminds us of where we are, can help us repent and turn toward God.  In the case of suffering that is caused by others’ faults and sins or by the events beyond our control such as unknown or terminal illnesses or death of our beloved, we suffer in an illuminative way which helps us develop our virtues and grow in holiness. We can offer them up for others in union with Christ. Actually, I know one prayer group of people with chronic illnesses in Chicago area, and their mission is to offer their sufferings for the world (they didn’t want to waste their sufferings). The sufferings that we decide to bear willingly and freely for others’ sake purely, that is unitive suffering like St Maximilian Kolbe since that is the purest act of love which is most closely united with God (even though we still offer illuminative suffering in union with God).

Of course, we don’t purposefully seek the sufferings to suffer. Actually we try to minimize and prevent the sufferings as much as possible.  What I would like to say is that we don’t just sit and suffer in the darkness helplessly anymore, like people without hope. Due to Christ, suffering became an active tool that we can use for purification, sanctification for us and for others, when the sufferings occur.  We Catholics share the merits of others-communion of saints, but also share the sufferings of others as we are one body. The light of Christ makes us to look at sufferings in our daily lives and in the world differently now with new perspective, therefore bear and embrace them with hope, faith, and love, and courage, and therefore are capable to pray like one that I read previously.

Before Edith Stein was converted to Catholicism, she had experience of the strength of the Christian faith which influenced her much. One of them was his friend’s death and she was surprised by the acceptance of this death by his wife with faith. That was the moment to receive the light of Christ for her. She wrote later. "This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross."  I believe that this is the one of the lights that Christ brought us and one of the lights that we Catholics must hold for the world.

The following famous quote in the book “The little prince” by Antoine de St Exupery, echoes this reality. “What makes the desert beautiful is that it hides, somewhere, a well.”  We can say that too. What makes our life, even though full of sufferings, beautiful is that we live the reality that there is our God who entered into human history in the midst of our sufferings and death in order to bring us back to life with Him, and His light shine on us to make it possible to realize and discover this reality in our daily lives, and grow in this reality.  This reality is our well. Jesus Christ is our light and our hope.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

O key of David - 20th December 2015



O key of David and sceptre of Israel, what you open no else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Jesus in his own body has opened the door to salvation. He is the door. He is the way into the Kingdom, into the very heart of the Trinity. “I am the door ; if anyone enters through Me , he will be saved.”
It would be difficult to reflect upon this antiphon this advent, without making a connection to the Jubilee Year and the significance of the Holy Door of Mercy being opened in every diocese in the world. Pope Francis in various homilies has this to say: “As Christians we are called to cross the threshold of the door of mercy. We are asked to welcome and experience God’s love which recreates, transforms and renews life. From this experience we must go out and be instruments of mercy. God is anxious to be merciful and to welcome everyone into the tender embrace of reconciliation and forgiveness. “
A major aspect of the Holy Year throughout history has been that of a pilgrimage to Rome to make reparation for sin and to renew the conversion of one’s life. As in today’s antiphon the prayer of the pilgrim, and each of us are pilgrims, could be ‘ O come to lead the captive from prison, free those who live in darkness and the shadow of death.’  Show us your mercy O lord, remember your Holy Covenant sealed in the blood of your Son on the Cross .

A very important symbolic act performed by each pilgrim has been to pass through the Holy Door.  Pope St. John Paul 11 said,  at the opening of the last jubilee that the “Holy Door evokes the passage from sin to grace which every Christian is called to accomplish.” He continues, “Jesus said   ‘I am the door’, in order to make it clear that no one can come to the father except through him. He alone is the saviour sent by the Father. He alone is the way, the only way that opens wide the entrance into life of communion with God. To Him alone can the words of the psalm be applied in full truth: “this is the door of the Lord where the just may enter”
So the symbolism of passing through the holy Door into the basilica or Church is to pass from this world into the presence of God. It is to freely decide to cross the threshold, leaving behind the kingdom of this world and all that holds us captive so as to enter into the new life of grace of the kingdom of God.
Our hearts are made for God. Within each one of us there is a sense of incompleteness and only God can make us whole.   Especially in our times, people do not realise that God is the answer to the extraordinary restlessness they feel. They are aware thar nothing satisfies them. The more they have the more they realise that this is not what they are looking for. Their hearts ache for they know not what. But we know, we know that our restless longings are genuine, our sense of incompleteness is real and that only God can satisfy our deepest longings. In this year of Mercy, this time of overflowing grace, let us get excited about bringing others to the fount that God may quench their thirst. Let us unite with Jesus longing ,his hope, his thirst, his welcome.  It was said of Dominic that his desire for the salvation of others was such that it kept him awake nights. The brethren could hear him in the quiet, crying out in anguish ‘Lord have mercy on your people , what will become of sinners’. Let us join him. Let us become so captivated by Jesus that we are willing to make a hole in the roof to bring those in need of forgiveness into Jesus presence. Let us be like Mary whose intercession in the upper room caused Jesus to come in, even through locked doors.
 God wishes to show mercy to the world. His servants are the answer. God wishes to show mercy through us, to free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.  ‘To love and forgive are the concrete visible signs that faith has transformed our hearts and they enable us to express in our selves the very life of God’( Pope Francis). It is in and through us that God now enters our world. We are the face of his mercy. Let us enter into the heart of Jesus that He might enter into the heart of our world.

 

O Radix Jesse - 19th December 2015


 

“O Root of Jesse

who stand for a sign for the people;

before whom kings are silent;

whom the nations bessech:

Come to deliver us, no longer delay.”
 

Jesse was the father of David and JESUS is the Son of David.

When Jesus was on His missionary travels and one day came to Jericho, a blind man – who heard that is was Jesus, the great healer – called out,

“Son of David, have pity on me!” (cf Mk 10:46ff)

Jesus called him, and restored his sight immediately.

There are a few other Gospel passages where people looking for healing call out to Him as “Son of David.”

God’s promise to David was that his descendants would occupy the throne till the Promised One would come.  The angel Gabriel said to Mary,

“The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor, David.”

(Lk 1:32)    

In the antiphon we hear: “… before whom kings are silent and the nations beseesch.”

He was not recognised by the ‘kings,’ by the people in authority: but the poor and needy people came to Him.  Those in authority should have known Him, for they knew their Scripture better than the common folk: Isaiah says (11:2):

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” 

The miracles He worked should have pointed Him out as the Promised Messiah.


There is a beautiful passage at the end of the Apocalypse, where Jesus identifies Himself thus:

“I am the root and the offspring of David,

the bright morning star.” (22:16)

He doesn’t say, “I am the Son of God,” or “I am the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.”  No.  Let us ponder the humility of the Eternal Word of God who identifies Himself as one of us, a man: “I am the offspring of David.”


Come, O LORD, to deliver us: no longer delay.

 

 

Friday, December 18, 2015

O Adonai - 18th December 2015


 

O Adonai, Ruler of the house of Israel, who gave the Law to Moses on Sinai
come to save us with out-stretched arm, Alleluia.

 
This is a prayer made from a truly humble and trusting heart, that knows its need of our heavenly Father to save us.

The theme of God’s out stretched arm to help his people is found frequently in Scripture and must surely touch us deeply.  For example in Psalm 97 ‘His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation’.

There is something so comforting in arms outstretched towards us, we feel needed and loved and this gives us an inner security.  One often sees a loving mother or father stretch out their arms to save their child from some danger or simply to swoop the child up in a loving hug.

When returning home after a long absence, it’s a wonderful experience to be met by a loved one with outstretched arms.   It cannot be less so with our heavenly father, he is always and everywhere stretching out his arms to welcome us, no matter how we may have strayed,

We have only to reflect on the parable of the Prodigal son in St. Luke’s Gospel (Ch.15).  Who could fail to be touched, as in our mind’s eye we watch that loving father run with outstretched arms to welcome and embrace his wayward son?  The Gospels are full of occasions where Jesus stretches out his arms and hands to bring healing and salvation by his divine touch.

During this Advent Season as we prepare to celebrate once again, the birth of Christ among us, and as we immerse ourselves in this very special Year of Mercy given to the Church  so magnanimously by Pope Francis ,  we are surely filled anew with wonder at the depth of love and mercy that led our heavenly father, with his outstretched arms to send his only Son as our Redeemer – that Son who some 30 years later, stretched out his arms on the Cross in an immense act of love and mercy, and died for our salvation.

Such unconditional love and mercy means God is summoning us forth with the loudest of calls, stirring up our hidden being, pleading with us to return love for love, mercy for mercy.  ‘I have loved you’ he tells us,  ‘with an everlasting love, therefore I have drawn you to myself’.  This is surely the great desire of Pope Francis, that deep in our hearts we would entrust ourselves one hundred per cent into the loving outstretched arms of God’s unfathomable love and mercy.

O Ruler of the house of Israel, come and save us with outstretched arm.

O Antiphons - O Wisdom - 17th December 2105


Today we start our traditional Novena before Christmas with the’ Great O Antiphons’. May this prayer help us to enter into the wide opened Door of God’s Mercy, and to be real witnesses of God’s presence among us, not only by the preaching of the glad things of His coming but above all by revealing Him in our lives.


                                 O SAPIENTIA

O Wisdom you come fort from the mouth of the Most High, You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O comes to teach us the way of truth. Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus come.

O Wisdom


My previous relation with Wisdom was always cold and very weak. It mostly meant for me something very high, big, and far away - not useful for ordinary daily life or prayer. But preparing this reflection she placed her arms on me, and I heard her strong yet gentle heartbeat.

There was once a Jewish boy, who resisted learning the Torah. To his parents, nothing could have been more distressing .When the Chief Rabbi came to visit their home, the parents expressed to him their concern about their son. The Rabbi asked permission to place his arms around the boy. The parents agreed, moving aside. They watched and waited, expecting to hear some of advice from the Rabbi to the boy. But the only word they heard was silence, as they watched their son rest close to the Rabbi’s heart.

The next day the boy began to study the Torah. His passion for God’s word grew. Years later he himself became a wise and loving Rabbi. Many asked him whence his knowledge came. He simply said, ’’I put my ear close to the Chief Rabbi’s heart and in that moment I heard the heartbeat of God’’.

Wisdom revealed to us the depths of God’s heart. The ‘Wisdom’ to whom we cry is Jesus himself as St. Paul declared in his letter to the Corinthians ’’Christ…the wisdom of God.’’(1 Cor 1,24)He is our hearts desire, the one we long for and ask him to come to us and teach us the way of truth and life.

‘The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, a Spirit of wisdom and understanding a Spirit of counsel and power a Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord’ (Is11,2)

‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. (Proverbs 9.10)That fearing of the Lord means fearing to run away from Him. It means fearing to seek refuge and joy and hope anywhere other than in God.

Others had pointed the way to life - He is the way and the life (J14.6)
Others had given promises, but ‘’all the promises of God find their yes in him (2Cor 1.20)

Others had offered God’s forgiveness, Jesus bought it by his death.

Therefore in him are "hid all the treasuries of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2.3). To be near to his heart is the treasure of ultimate and eternal happiness.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Novena to St Dominic 2015 - Day 8

Since today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, it seems appropriate to focus in this reflection on the importance that the Word of God has in St Dominic’s life and preaching. It can be said that St Dominic truly lived and was granted the grace asked for in today’s opening prayer: “grant, we pray, to you servants, that, listening to the voice of your beloved Son, we may merit to become coheirs with Him.” 

We know that he always carried with him on his journeys one of the Gospels and the letters of St Paul and it is said that he knew them by heart. The study of Scripture is, of course, an important part of the life of the Order so that the “seeds of the Word of God” may be given to others through preaching. But, of even more significance is the example Dominic left us of his use of Scripture in his prayer. In the little booklet “The Nine Ways of Prayer of St Dominic,” which dates from the 13th century, a number of those Ways of Prayer involve Scripture. 
Most of the Ways of Prayer (e.g. the Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth and Seventh Ways) included the frequent repetition of short phrases from Scripture (e.g. Lk 18:13 “God be merciful to me a sinner”, Mt 8:2, the Psalms etc).
In the Fifth Way of Prayer “he held himself, standing with great respect and devotion, as if he were reading in the presence of God. Deep in prayer, he seemed to meditate on the words of God, and as it were to repeat them over and over to himself with delight.” A practice that he would also adopt while on his journeys.
The Eight Way of Prayer, is much like what we now speak of as Lectio Divina: Dominic “in the spirit of devotion roused in him by the divine words chanted in choir or in the refectory, would go speedily to some solitary place, in his cell or elsewhere, to read and pray by himself and in the presence of God. … then he felt his soul gently moved, as if he heard the Lord speaking.” This image of Dominic prayerfully contemplating the Gospels is particularly familiar thanks to Fra Angelico’s presentation of the Crowning with Thorns. 
The Ninth Way of Prayer, involved this type of prayerful mediation on the Word of God, as he walked on his journeys, indicating how well he knew the Scriptures.

“In the opinion of the Brethren, it was by praying thus that the Saint attained that fullness of knowledge of the Holy Scripture, penetrated into the very marrow of the sacred words, acquired the holy daring of his ardent preaching, and lived in that intimate familiarity with the Holy Spirit from which he drew the knowledge of hidden things.”


May our holy Father Dominic intercede for us, that we may have the same ardent love for the Word of God and may imitate him and our Lady in treasuring the Word of God and pondering it in our hearts (Lk 2:19). 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Novena to St Dominic 2015 - Day 7

Pope Francis has announced that the coming year-2016 will be a year dedicated to the Mercy of God for the whole Church, and by a happy coincidance our Order is celebrating the 800th Jubilee of its foundation.

 Reading through the Libellus and other documents of these early days I find that one of the most frequently mentioned characteristics of St. Dominic is his compassion, again and again we read of his long night vigils as he struggles with God to have Mercy on all His children, especially his most wayward ones.   Mercy Mercy, he cried, Lord have mercy on your children. What will become of sinners ?

Dominic could resonate with the beautiful lines from the poet on mercy and this was surely his way of thinking and his way of seeing life.

               "The quality of mercy is not strained----
it droppeth like the gentle dew from heaven
Upon the place beneath:  it is twice blest;-------
it blesseth him that gives and him that takes"
                                                                                                                        Shakespeare

St Lukes' Gospel on the Proddigal Son would have been especially dear to Dominic. It is said that he pondered with Mary the Word of God and St Paul's letters that he always carried with him, knowing them almost by heart.    We can see him pleading with and sharing the full depth of this story with the man in the inn as they talked and argued all night  long, and also with the sinners who were drawn to him, as they sensed that here was a man who would listen to their story and understand their problems, and sinfullness.---I will arise and go to mt Father---I have sinned and gone astray.  He would encourage these poor  children even the heretics, telling them of God's boundless love and mercy for them, and the welcome they would find in Jesus just as the prodigal son experienced it.

He would remind them too of the last Supper, the moment when John rested his head on the breast of Jesus in complete trust, sure of Jesus' love for him and his acceptance of this "son of thunder."   

 Where did St. Dominic our Father find the strength to sustain those long nights of intercession  and days of walking, teaching and arguing while at the same time bringing to birth his young Order of Friars Preachers?  He would tell them of God's constaint pursuit of them  each one individually and personally.

                        "All which I took from thee I did but take,-----not for thy harm's sake

                 but just that thou migh'st seek it in my arms.----all which thy child's mistake

Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home;   Rise clasp my hand an come.
                                                                                                                              the hound of heaven

 It was Our Lady, Queen of Heaven herself who walked with Dominic along the dusty roads and came with him into the inns, wherever a wayward son and daughter could be found.

 Maybe his prayer went like this - universal and personal as always

          Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners,   Hail holy Queen  mother of Mercy,----turn then most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy towards us/

 Our Father Dominic has not changed and he accompanies his children as they travel along the dusty roads of life sometimes getting muddied and messed up, but always with our Father and Mary our Mother - sure that after this our exile he will be there waiting to show us the blessed fruit of Mary's womb---Jesus         Dominic we thank you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Icon Course - July 2105

We share with you some pictures from the icon course last week which Mihai Cucu conducted in our monastery - five of our sisters participated but all of us who 'kept the house going' were enriched by the beauty of the work.  These pictures tell their own story - so no need of comment - but you will see how hard the iconographers worked.

































On the final morning we had a special ceremony during Mass to the blessings of the icons which were completed and of course took some photos afterwards with Mihai and the happy iconographers with their work

















































































Sunday, August 2, 2015

Novena to St Dominic 2015 - Day 4


St Dominic and the Rosary

Today we reflect on our Dominican tradition of devotion to the Holy Rosary and we quote from a letter (September 1985) by Fr Damian Byrne OP when he was Master of the Order.

The Dominican legend of the Rosary - "The barren land"

The order was born into a barren land: dichotomized humanity, with flesh warring against the spirit, with woman downgraded and life itself despised, was unable to accept the reality of the Word made flesh, dwelling in the midst of us. There was only one answer, and it was summed up in the simple words: "Hail... the Lord is with you... you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son..." (Luke 1: 28-31).

Whatever critical historians may have to say about the Legend of the Rosary, it bears witness to the charismatic gift entrusted by the Church to the Order of Preachers, a gift which we must exercise by reason of profession, by our legislation and by the constant exhortation of the See of Rome.

The Legend, as such, is worth recalling in these days of renewed insistence on our preaching ministry: After much fruitless labour, tradition has it that the Mother of God appeared to Dominic in the forest of Bouconne near Toulouse: "Wonder not that until now you have had such little fruit from your labours. You have spent them on a barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the earth he began by sending down the fertilizing dew of the Angelic Salutation. Preach my Rosary composed of one hundred and fifty Aves, and you will obtain an abundant harvest."

True devotion to Mary

It places Mary in her true ecclesial context - waiting herself in the barren land with the broken, the wounded and the little people of God. The heavenly Ave comes first on her, for in truth the Hail Mary is not so much an ascending prayer as a downward divine blessing poured out on all flesh. Mary stands in the desert on behalf of all humanity, so that it may blossom once more like the rose. The word addressed to Mary is addressed to all: "Rejoice, the Lord is with you." Here, we all draw waters from the springs of salvation, as the fertilizing rain of the Ave renews our land.

A school of prayer

There is a healthy plurality about the Prayer of the Rosary, for its long and varied history has produced many approaches: it has its rich Marian tradition, as witnessed at thousands of Marian shrines, in processions and in rituals where Mary is crowned as Queen. It has too, its Christological orientation as a "compendium of the Scriptures;" it is a powerful vocal prayer and it is a many levelled way of contemplative prayer. It can be prayed in a group or alone. In a word, the Rosary is a School of prayer, providing for body, soul and spirit.

A method of preaching

St. Dominic is above all the "Man of the Book." Art may show him without the beads, but never without the Scriptures. The well known fresco of "Christ mocked" in San Marco is a classic illustration. It contains the main elements of Rosary preaching:

1.The Central theme of the Lordship of Jesus, the subject of our contemplation and of our preaching. This is the suffering, yet triumphant Jesus of "now", with power still going out from his glorious wounds to heal his people.

2. Mary, the first and supreme contemplative who is already exquisitely occupied in pondering these things in her heart and at the same time inviting Dominic to keep her company.

3. St. Dominic, standing for ourselves, pondering the word in the Scriptures and preparing to preach it to others. Fra Angelico portrays him exactly as Our Lady requested five hundred years later at Fatima when she said: "Keep me company meditating on these mysteries of the Rosary."

An instrument of healing

Early preachers of the Rosary were concerned not merely with preaching a devotional

exercise. They were mindful of the Acts of the Apostles: "Grant to your servants to speak your word with boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4: 29, 30). Among the classic texts of their preaching was the story of the woman with the issue of blood. She touched the Lord and experienced power go out from him. Healing was a very real part of the Rosary apostolate of former times. The Preacher would hold up the beads, and invite his hearers to touch the Lord in faith, as they reverently called on the name of Jesus in each Ave. "The beads", they would say, "are like the tassel of his robe. Reach out and clutch them in faith and you will be made well."

The Spanish apostle of New Granada, St. Louis Bertrand, gives a graphic account of the miracles performed through his own use of the beads which he was accustomed to place around the neck of the sick person. After his return to Valencia he gave a Rosary to a friend and told him to preserve it with reverence, "because in the Indies, this Rosary cured the sick, converted sinners, and I think, also raised the dead to life."

In these days of the new flourishing of the ministry of healing, it would be remiss of us Dominicans to fail in the healing dimension of the Rosary which is an integral part of our tradition.

It may be timely to recall a remarkable letter addressed to a former Master of the Order by Pope Pius XI. On 7th March, 1934, he wrote: "It may justly be said that the Rosary of Mary is, as it were, the principle and foundation on which the very Order of St. Dominic rests for the perfecting of the lives of its members, and obtaining the salvation of others."