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"

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."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Novena to St Dominic 2015 - Day 3

In the Fundamental Constitution of the Order we find the phase “following in the footsteps of the Saviour, speaking among themselves or their neighbours, either with God or about God.”  In the Process of Canonisation the Brethren indicated that this was wholly characteristic of Dominic their founder – frequently repeating that he “only spoke to God or about God.”

Yet this formula is not a creation of Dominic – he borrowed it from the founder of the Order of Grandmont, St Stephen of Thiers: The virtuous man should always speak of God or with God; for in his prayer he speaks with God and with his neighbour of God”

This sentence makes clear how the synthesis of the two aspects of Dominican life operate together, and transcend all dualism.  Our life will have all the more unity, when our activity is rooted and flows from our union with God.

St Dominic was a person who was undivided in himself, because he was open to all.  He was open to all because the one love that is the source of all - the form of all and the end of all - is one in him and in all.  He was capable of experiencing the truth that we are completely rooted and grounded in God’s love.

The following quotation from Love and Living by Thomas Merton is relevant here: “Christianity is a religion of the Word.  The Word is Love, but we sometimes forget that the Word emerges first of all from silence.  When there is no silence, then the one Word which God speaks, is not truly heard as Love. Then only ‘words’ are heard. ‘Words’ are not Love, for they are many and Love is One.  The one Word which God speaks is Himself.”

This silence of St Dominic which he proposes that we should imitate, is like that of the Virgin Mary: silence of the heart allows us to unceasingly hold in our minds and in our hearts the mystery of salvation.