Monday, August 27, 2018

Does God expect more from your life? (Vocation Discernment)



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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Novena to St Dominic - Day 7: St Dominic, a man of encouragement

On this 7th day of our Novena in honour of St. Dominic, I would like to share just a few thoughts on St. Dominic as a man of Encouragement.

“When your words came, I devoured them, your Word was my delight and the joy of my heart” (Jr.15:16).
How aptly this Scripture text from the prophet Jeremiah can be applied to Our Holy Father Dominic – we can just see him in our mind’s eye, contemplating from the depth of his heart with great joy and exultation, this Scripture jewel,  overwhelmed as he always was, with an immense love of Holy Scripture.
‘Dominic showed himself a man of the Gospel in word and deed’, we are told by those who knew him.
With his deep spirit of unceasing prayer and with the Gospel as his weapon, he  was fired with zeal to be an apostle of encouragement among his Nuns, his Friars and all those among whom he laboured.

Among his numerous virtues spoken of again and again by those who knew him and by those who bore witness to his life under oath at his canonisation process, his virtue as a man of encouragement, in one form or another,  shines especially brightly – ‘Dominic was compassionate and consoled people in time of temptation, he was a source of strength (or we can say a source of encouragement) to all’.

 In this day and age the need for encouragement for every person at one time or another, is more needful than ever before, St. Paul himself reminds us in his letter to the Colossians (col.3:16)) – ‘Let the Word of Christ in all its richness dwell in you ……. encourage each other’.
By abiding in God’s encouraging Word speaking in our hearts  we will truly be aware of his Presence in our lives and the lives of others and thus amid misunderstandings, disappointments, hurts, and frustrations, as well as times of happiness, love and friendship, we will have many golden opportunities to be apostles of  this great virtue –

‘Do not be afraid’ God tells us ‘I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine’ – What greater encouragement could we ask for than these stupendous words from God, our Father, himself?


Let us ponder this great virtue in the company of Our Lady and St Dominic, Let us recall Mary’s words to the servants at the wedding of Cana – ‘do whatever  he tells you’ and that is exactly what St. Dominic did ALWAYS.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Novena to St Dominic - Day 6: Exploring an Icon of St Dominic

Every one of us is a living icon of God. He created us in his likeness and in his own image.
As you can see, this Icon of St. Dominic is not yet finished. At first I was disappointed not to have completed it in time for his Feast. Then it occurred to me that there was a message for me in this. Like this icon each one of us is not quite finished. We are still on a journey from darkness into the light. It is my hope that the image of St Dominic portrayed or perhaps more accurately, revealed to us through this icon may help us to enter the hidden, inner sanctuary of his heart and there discover more deeply the depths of our Dominican vocation---WHAT WE SHOULD LOOK LIKE.
The first portrait of St. Dominic was a word picture given to us by St. Cecilia, one of the first nuns of the Order, who knew him personally. For a long time historians did not give much credence to St. Cecilia’s description. Then, after World War 2, a scientific examination was done by anthropologists on St. Dominic’s remains and the results confirmed the authenticity of her description. Cecilia had said that he was of medium height- the measurements taken of his relics show that he was five feet six inches tall. She noted that, “His figure was supple; his face handsome and somewhat ruddy; his hair and beard had a reddish tinge. He was not a bit bald; his hair had a touch of grey.” At the bottom of the reliquary the examiners found some shreds of Dominic’s hair. It was exactly as Cecelia had said it was. “From his brow and his eyes” she continued, “there came a radiant splendor which won the respect and admiration of all; his eyes were large and beautiful. His hands were long and handsome and his voice was powerful and sonorous. He was always joyous and smiling except when moved with compassion at the affliction of his neighbours.” There are very few saints of so long ago whose personal appearance is so well documented.
The face is the mirror of the heart.  Those who are pure in heart, have faces that are transparent, unprotected. In them we see the nakedness and vulnerability of Christ. They have his freedom and spontaneity. Joseph Pieper has a lovely insight about this. He says “Only he who has a pure heart can laugh in a freedom that creates freedom in others.”
During the process of his canonization another very beautiful word picture of Dominic is given. It was said of him that ‘he spoke only with God or about God’. It is this particular depiction of Dominic that is the inspiration for my icon.
If you look at the icon you will notice that only the left hand of Dominic is visible. In his right hand he carries the Gospel of Matthew and the letters of St.  Paul. These were his most loved books.  We know from Bl. Jordan of Saxony, that they were his constant companions and he knew them by heart.  We do not see his hand.  It is not important that he carries the book in his hand but that he carries the Word in his heart. And it is from his encounter with the Word of God in his heart that he goes forth to bring that knowledge of God in Jesus to others.
His left hand is stretching up towards heaven. In this is revealed his deep closeness to God. “He spoke always with God”. “O Lord, have mercy on your people, what will become of sinners?” was his constant cry. His soul, writes Jordan, “was a sanctuary of compassion where he offers God all human misery.” Christ is the answer to the brokenness in each of our lives. Dominic’s whole life and mission was given over to preaching THIS truth.
The centrality of Christ our Saviour, in his saving mystery made sacramentally present in the Church, lies at the heart of Dominic’s spirituality.
It is important to note that while stretching up to God, Dominic’s left hand is also breaking through the frame of the picture. I was not happy with this at first and kept attempting to change it- to keep his hand within the contours of the outline. But it just wouldn’t work. Finally it dawned on me. I wasn’t meant to change Dominic but rather to hear what he was saying to me through what I considered to be a flaw in my icon writing. And there it was. Because Dominic’s hand is stretched out towards God it is automatically also stretching out beyond the boundaries of his comfort zone to reach out to the peoples on the margins, just as Jesus did. This is the change contemplation works in us. We become the icon of Jesus, acting as Jesus did or allowing him to live through us. Last year Pope Francis wrote a letter to the priests and consecrated persons and invited them not to sit comfortably in their houses and churches but to go out to the fringes of society, to the uncomfortable places and bring the evangelical message to the broken and distant. Do we do that? Dominic did. He left his cloister in Osma, Spain when he discovered that the people of southern France did not know the truth about Christ. And when he heard about the pagan people of Prussia, Lithuania and Esthonia, the Baltic countries, he had a huge desire to bring them the Good News, the Word of Truth. Brothers called it “a dream of St. Dominic.” He never in fact got that far in person but his desire and prayer went beyond all boundaries, to even the most distant lands. I can say that my own vocation speaks to the reality of this holy dream of Dominic. I am one of those Baltic peoples that he so longed to bring Jesus to.
Now we come to Dominic’s halo. His halo like his prayer and zeal for souls is as large as his heart. It too goes beyond the frame designed to contain it and encourages us to dream our dreams, big dreams.
But that is not all, Dominic has also feet, beautiful feet! Feet with a fire in them! On Wednesday as we celebrate his Feast, we will hear in the first reading at Mass. “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring the Good News of Salvation”

Do we want to follow in his footsteps.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Novena to St Dominic - Day 5: St Dominic and Body Language



My reflection is on the significance and importance of bodily posture in St Dominic’s prayer. As we know from the ‘Nine Ways of Prayer,’ St Dominic used his whole body when he prayed: bowing, prostration, reaching up to heaven.

It struck me as odd that in our time, when there is so great an awareness of the importance of body language in interpersonal communication and of how much of what is communicated is through bodily posture etc., that there should be such a widespread dismissal of any significance of our bodily posture when we pray. It is said that bodily posture doesn’t matter because God looks at the heart.

I think that this ignoring of bodily posture gives rise to a number of problems, largely because it fails to consider the impact that my body language has on my own perception of, and response to, the person that I am talking or listening to. To give an example, if at a lecture I am slouched and looking off out the window my body is telling my mind not to pay attention. If, on the other hand, I sit up straight, keep eye contact and watch expectantly, my body is telling my mind to pay attention.

Our bodily prayer postures act in a similar way: blessing ourselves as we enter a Church reminds us that we are entering a holy place and is also a sort of trigger (as is kneeling) that we are about to pray (like the way insomniacs are advised to develop a ‘pre-bed’ physical routine that will trigger the mind to prepare to sleep). Similarly, genuflecting before the tabernacle is the bodily expression that Jesus (God) is truly present here. Kneeling and prostration likewise remind us of God’s greatness and our littleness.

This means that ignoring or removing bodily posture from our prayer-life actually makes it harder for us to pray and also makes it harder for us to relate to God as a real person, since by removing body language from our communication with him we are no longer communicating as we would with a real person but only with a thought in our head.


May we continue to follow St Dominic’s example and pray with our whole selves (body & mind).

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Novena to St Dominic - Day 3: Dominic a man of prayer

As we continue the novena to our Father St Dominic, I’d like to read an extract from the book “15 Days of Prayer with Saint Dominic” by Alain Quilici O.P.

All of those who knew Dominic, either from near or far, as close friends of just acquaintances, attested to the intensity of his prayers. Dominic prayed like he breathed. He was not one of those who had time to write books, not even books on prayer, he just prayed. He spent the majority of his time in prayer. He entered into a state of prayer as naturally and rapidly as others fell asleep. To spontaneously fall asleep is a childhood grace. Dominic was a child according to the gospel, a child who dove into prayer whenever he had a moment, most especially during the night. For him, the night was made for prayer.
Even when he was just a young religious, he already appeared to be a man specially gifted for prayer:
Night and day, like the olive tree that produces fruit or the cypress that reaches to the heavens, he used the floor of the church, devoting his time to contemplation, never appearing to leave the monastery. God had given him the special grace of prayer for sinners, the poor, the afflicted: he carried their maladies in the intimate sanctuary of his compassion; and the tears that came boiling from his eyes manifested the ardour of the feelings that burned within him. It was his habit to spend his nights in prayer. With the door closed, he prayed to his Father. During and at the end of his prayers, he uttered moans which came from his heart. He couldn’t hold back, and these cries, coming spontaneously, could clearly be heard up above in heaven (Libellus, 12).
Dominic, like a beacon of light that burns in the night, realized the Lord’s precept: “Be alert at all times, praying …” (Lk 21:36).