Sunday, 8 November 2015


"O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I proclaim your wonders still.”
(Ps.71. 17)
For me the words of Psalm 71 sum up what we are celebrating today, on the feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers. For us Dominicans this is a very special day. We are beginning our celebration of the 800th Birthday of the Dominican Order. There will be further celebrations throughout the year.
It may –or may not –come as a surprise that the Dominican Order was conceived in a pub! There, St. Dominic got into a long conversation with the inn-keeper. As a result, he realised that the poor inn-keeper, like so many others, was being led astray by people, who believed that the physical world was evil. Instinctively Dominic saw that the Church needed well-informed preachers who could refute that heresy by proclaiming the wonder of God’s creation. What is more, Dominic had the imagination and courage to think up a new approach to tackling the problem of wide-spread ignorance of the faith.
  St. Dominic realised that the Church needed a band of community based well-educated wandering preachers. Their sermons and all their teaching should draw strength and inspiration from a shared life of praying together, from eating together, bouncing ideas off each other, giving each other moral support. From such a solid base they would venture forth to share the Good News of salvation through the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Dominic also founded a convent of women, converted from that heresy. They formed a power-house of prayer; this would support the friars’ preaching mission. Later lay men and women would embrace St. Dominic’s insights, and would give an important witness to them in their secular lives. Together we form the Dominican Family. We welcome you, our congregation, as members of our extended Dominican Family.
 We members of the Order of Preachers feel especially called to follow Jesus, the poor wandering preacher. Our way of life gives us the mobility to be sent wherever the Church needs us. In our preaching we stress the wonder of the Word of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Sharing our human vulnerability, He could be embraced with love, or nailed to the cross. As one of us He could die on the cross to save all of us from the power of evil. But as God-made-man He had the power to rise bodily from the grave –the power to raise us bodily from the grave, to share in His glorious resurrection.
  Born of a woman -Mary -Jesus has become forever a member of the family of man, forever committed to the human race. Reverence for the humanity of Jesus is the corner of our Dominican spirituality. Our love for Jesus instinctively flows into love for His mother, Mary. She has given us her Son as our saviour. She is the model of redeemed humanity; she is her Son’s perfect disciple. No wonder we Dominican s have such a devotion to Mary, mother of the Word-made-flesh, mother of the Church! Pope Francis called Mary the Mother of Evangelisation. Naturally we Dominicans rejoice in claiming her as the mother of the Order of Preachers.
 Like Jesus, we Dominicans have been called to proclaim repentance as a necessary condition, for anyone to enter the Kingdom of God. This, of course, is the theme of the third Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary. And it’s very appropriate that our celebration of the 800 anniversary of our foundation should coincide with the Church’s Year of Mercy. We have been called to be Preachers of Mercy, or in St. Paul’s words, “ministers and ambassadors of reconciliation.’

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I proclaim your wonders still.” The need to proclaim the wonder, the goodness of God’s creation –that was the God-given inspiration for the foundation of the Dominican Order. There is still that need, and always will be.
 In St. Dominic’s day denial of the goodness of the physical world had dire consequences. It struck at the very foundation of our Christian faith –that the Word of God became flesh and dwelt amongst us; through His physical death and bodily resurrection He saved us from the power of sin and death. If everything physical were evil the Church’s whole sacramental life, and especial marriage would be condemned. Take all that away, and there would be no hope for any of us. Such teaching is an insult to the creator of heaven and earth, the saviour of the world.
So, with the Psalmist we Dominicans have always preached “the heavens –and earth –proclaim the glory of God.” This world is God’s world. It’s so good to be human that the Son of God became one of us. He could not have paid us people a greater compliment! With wonder we echo the words of the Psalmist, “What is man that you –God –are mindful of him…”
 Respect for the goodness of the physical world still needs to be proclaimed. Now that message takes on new dimensions. Today, people are too easily exploited as sex objects, the lives of unborn children and of the elderly are threatened. Their dignity as persons, made in God’s image needs constantly to be stressed.
 In a recent Encyclical Pope Francis stressed our need to respect the very environment in which we live. This, God saw to be good. He has made us people its custodians. But we are destroying it; we are wasting its resources. Some of the glorious multitude of life-forms are endangered or driven to extinction. God’s creation is being violated. The resources which God has given to the whole human race are being grabbed by the greedy nations of the developed world, while countless people are driven to destitution and starvation. Such exploitation is an injustice crying out to heaven!
 There is a greater need than ever for us Dominicans to share our founder’s insight into the glory of God’s creation, and to refute those who despise and abuse it. To fulfil this task we must be life-long students, willing to learn from the world in which we live, from the people who inhabit it. Above all, we must listen to the Word of God speaking to us through the Scriptures and to each of us to us in our prayers, the Spirit guiding and protecting the Church in its teaching mission. May we never lose a child-like sense of wonder!
Before we Dominicans can presume to preach we must become good listeners and learners. That is expressed in our motto, “to contemplate and hand to others the fruits of our contemplation.” Our life can be summed up, first, by the simple act of breathing in God’s saving truth, which in many different ways, He has taught us from our youth. Only then can we breath out what we’ve learnt. Only then can we proclaim the wonder of His creative and saving work. Constantly we need to pray echo the Psalm, “with a spirit of fervour sustain me.” May we never lose our enthusiasm, our sense of wonder! We must never allow our taste for the things of God to become jaded.
The Holy Spirit has certainly sustained the Dominican Order during the past 800 years. Otherwise we would have given up. From the foundation of the Order of Preachers the Lord has taught us; we still proclaim His wonders.
 Please God, we will always listen as He teaches His wonders. Please God we will continue to proclaim His wonders! We pray that He will continue to support us in our preaching mission. As we celebrate the foundation of the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the Dominican Order, we thank God for calling us to serve Him in the Order of Preachers. Certainly in this jubilee year we look back with gratitude to a glorious past. That should inspire our Order to look forward to continue proclaiming the wonderful deeds of the Lord.
 But for that to be possible we do need young men and women to replace old codgers like me. May be some of you feel called to proclaim the wonders of the Lord.” You won’t regret saying “Yes” to God’s call. I haven’t, after 65 years wearing the Dominican habit!

 Isidore O.P.

1 comment:

  1. "our life can be summed up, first, by the simple act of breathing in God's truth ---only then can we breathe out what we've learnt."
    Such a simple idea bur most of us can't do it! We have little time or inclination to contemplate and learn from Scripture let alone pass any of that discovered insight on to others. Shame on us!
    Thank God for scholars and priests who are willing to dirty their hands and to walk alongside the people of God inspiring us with their love, faith and creativity.
    Dominicans are very down to earth and both loving and creative!