Friday, February 26, 2010

Dominican Family Vocations Day - March 20th 2010

There are a small number of places available for our annual Dominican Family Vocations Day which will be held in Saint Saviour's Dominican Priory, Dorset Street, Dublin 1 on Saturday, March 20th. The event begins at 9.30 am and concludes at approximately 5.30 pm

Bookings have been brisk and there has been a great deal of interest from men and women who would like to know more about the life of a Domincan friar, contemplative nun, sister and lay Dominican.
The purpose of the Vocations Day is to introduce those interested into the lives of the four branches of the Dominican family in Ireland and to get an opportunity to meet with the Dominican friars, nuns, sisters and lay Dominicans - who will give an insight and some presentations on their life, work and ministry.

As part of the reflections for the day we are very pleased once again to welcome back Dr. Andrew O' Connell (Communications Director for the Presentation Brothers in Ireland, journalist and commentator) who will give an input on the day. We are also very pleased to welcome Joseph Merrick (Communications Director for the St Joseph's Young Priests Society) who will also give a presentation.

As spaces are now very limited for this event, please indicate as soon as possible your interest in this event by contacting me at my email address

Thursday, February 25, 2010

'What to do about vocations to the Priesthood?'

A letter to The Furrow in the current edition (February 2010) caught my attention recently. For international readers of this blog, The Furrow is a long established and highly regarded religious journal in Ireland with a wide readership and produced at St. Partick's College, Maynooth. The letter entitled 'What to do about vocations to the Priesthood' is written by Fr Chris Fox, a Mill Hill missionary priest. Fr. Fox was for a number of years the National Director for Vocations in Ireland (1972-1981).

The letter is interesting and wide-ranging and Fr Fox quotes the 'latest statistics' which show that due to the deaths of serving priests in Ireland over the last few years, only one in twenty is being replaced. He goes on to give a social analysis of trends in Ireland and Irish culture over the past number of decades ending up with a description of Ireland as 'part of post-modern Europe dominated by secular values' but suggests that this may cause a renewed hunger for spiritual meaning which is a ready framework in which the challenge of vocation to the priesthood can be presented.

Fr Chris goes on to make a number of suggestions. (1) Direct the 'message'of vocation to a more senior level. He makes the point that there are many men of an older age (40+) who can be attracted to priesthood as is evidenced by the number of such men in seminaries in the United States. (2) The question of married priests will have to be raised. The shortage of priests is threatening the eucharistic life of the church. (3) Celibacy. He says it is a great charism and a meaningful vocation but that there is now little cultural support for celibacy. (4) Promote the married diaconate but also encourage a more active role for the laity.

Fr Fox is to be thanked for the letter and the stimulation of a debate on the vocations question in Ireland. However, it is a pity that the suggestions put forward don't put any new ideas on the table. The question of directing the message of vocation to more mature (in age) individuals has some merit and it is clear that the average age of entrants to seminaries and religious houses of formation is on the increase. The other suggestions and ideas are tired and over used at this stage - as if married priests and relaxing the law on celibacy would somehow bring to an end the dearth of vocations. It would have been more helpful to look at the causes of the drop in vocations and try to remedy those instead. For example, why did dioceses and religious orders (in Ireland) almost completely neglect the promotion of vocations for almost two decades? Why was priestly formation not taken seriously for so long? Why was it that those (being formed) who were trying to live authentic holy and spiritual lives seen as 'conservative' and 'traditional'? Answers to these and similar questions might be more useful in pointing a way forward.

Monday, February 22, 2010

47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations - Witness Awakens Vocations

To mark the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Benedict has issued a message to help all who are concerned with vocations. In the message, the Pope highlights the need for credible witnesses to attract men and women to follow Christ through the medium of religious life and priesthood. The notion of 'witness awakening vocations' is dealt with in the Holy Father's message by drawing on the rich tradition of being called in sacred scripture from the call to witness of the prophets to the witness of John the Baptist.

Pope Benedict singles out three important elements in vocations (1) friendship with Christ, (2) the complete gift of oneself to God and (3) a life of communion. The Holy Father highlights the importance of all who are called to serve as priests and religious to radiate the joy of serving Christ. Of particular importance to the vocation of religious he writes: 'The very life of men and women religious proclaims the love of Christ whenever they follow him in complete fidelity to the Gospel and joyfully make their own its criteria for judgement and conduct. They become "signs of contradiction" for the world, whose thinking is often inspired by materialism, self-centredness and individualism. By letting themselves be won over by God through self-renunciation, their fidelity and the power of their witness constantly awaken in the hearts of many young people the desire to follow Christ in their turn, in a way that is generous and complete. To imitate Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, and to identify with him: this is the ideal of the consecrated life, a witness to the absolute primacy of God in human life and history.

The Pope's message for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations is quite inspiring and deserves to be read and acted upon. The full text of the letter can be found by clicking this link. Vocations Sunday is celebrated on April 25th, 2010.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Note from Sligo

I am currently taking a break from the normal routine of work to be in our Dominican community in Sligo to preach the novena in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes. The novena started on Saturday last (February 6th) and concludes on Sunday next (February 14th). It is very heartening to see the large crowds attending the nine days of prayer - both young and old. I suspect this has much to do with the great devotion to Our Lady that exists but also to the service that the friars give to the people of the town and beyond.

It is interesting to note that the Dominican friars first arrived in Sligo in 1252 - over 750 years ago and have had well over thirty genrations of service to the people of the North West. Also worth noting is the fact that two of our brothers currently in formation are from the Sligo area.

It is encouraging that the people associated with the friary here regularly pray for vocations. Evidently their prayers are not going unnoticed - as I have a number of people from the area who are making enquiries about the Order in the Mayo/Sligo/Donegal region. I look forward to meeting with them in the coming days.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dominican Events for Young Adults

As part of the ongoing commitment of the Irish Dominican friars to evangelise younger people and young adults, the Dominicans at Saint Saviour's, Dorset Street, Dublin 1 are hosting a series of Lenten talks aimed at informing participants of specific aspects of Dominican spirituality. The aim of the series of these talks is to explain how Dominican spirituality has a continuing relevance in our time and in our world. It is hoped that after the Lenten lecture series is over that some of the participants will take the opportunity to further deepen their understanding of the Dominican charism.

The series of talks is open to those aged 20 to 40 years and are held in Saint Catherine's chapel (entrance at Dorset Street) at the priory. The lectures begin at 8.00 pm on the dates below and the themes of the lectures are as follows:

Tuesday February 23rd: Saint Dominic: A Man for Today

Tuesday March 2nd: 'To Praise, To Bless': Dominican Prayer

Tuesday March 9th: Intelligent Faith: Our Faith deserves to be understood

Tuesday March 16th: 'Sacra Predicanda' (Holy Preaching): Giving to others the fruits of our contemplation

Tuesday March 23rd: Living Dominican Spirituality as a lay person in the modern world.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pope Benedict on Saint Dominic and the Dominicans

During yesterday's (February 3rd, 2010)General Audience in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI continued his ongoing exposition of medieval Christian culture by remembering the life and witness of our Holy Father Dominic. He celebrated fact that, early in the thirteenth century, St. Dominic brought authentic renewal and reform to the Church by uniting in the life of his friar preacher-theologian (that's the Pope's term) the evangelical thirst for the salvation of souls and the assiduous study of sacred doctrine. As a result, the Holy Father observed, Dominican preaching, rooted as it is in contemplative study and prayer, offers the world a presentation of Gospel truth that is fully conscious of its power to turn minds, convert hearts, and hence build among members of the human family a Christian culture centered on the Word of God. Below is the full text of the Holy Father's catechesis. It is quite long, but very interesting, especially for those who are interested in the Order.

Dear brothers and sisters,
Last week I presented the luminous figure of Francis of Assisi; today I would like to speak to you of another saint who, in the same period, made an essential contribution to the renewal of the Church of his time. It is St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, known also as the Dominican Friars.

His successor in the leadership of the order, Blessed Giordano di Saxony, gives a complete portrait of St. Dominic in the text of a famous prayer: "Inflamed by zeal for God and supernatural ardor, by your limitless charity and the fervor of a vehement spirit, you consecrated yourself wholly with the vow of perpetual poverty to apostolic observance and to evangelical preaching." It is in fact this essential feature of Dominic's witness that is underlined: He always spoke with God and about God. In the life of saints, love of the Lord and of neighbor, the seeking of God's glory and the salvation of souls always go together.
Dominic was born in Spain, in Caleruega, around 1170. He belonged to a noble family of Old Castille and, supported by an uncle priest, he was educated in a famous school of Palencia. He was distinguished immediately for his interest in the study of sacred Scripture and for his love of the poor, to the point of selling books, which in his time constituted a good of great value, to help victims of famine with what he collected. Ordained a priest, he was elected canon of the chapter of the cathedral in his native diocese, Osma. Although this appointment could represent for him some motive of prestige in the Church and in society, he did not interpret it as a personal privilege, or as the beginning of a brilliant ecclesiastical career, but as a service to render with dedication and humility. Is not perhaps the temptation to a career, to power, a temptation to which not even those who have a role of leadership and governance in the Church are immune? I recalled this a few months ago, during the consecration of some bishops: "We do not seek power, prestige or esteem for ourselves. [...] We know how in civil society and often also in the Church things suffer because many people on whom responsibility has been conferred work for themselves rather than for the community" (Homily, Cappella Papale per l'Ordinazione episcopale di cinque Ecc. mi Presuli, Sept. 12, 2009).

The bishop of Osma, who was named Diego, a true and zealous pastor, very soon noticed the spiritual quality of Dominic, and wished to make use of his collaboration. Together they went to Northern Europe to carry out diplomatic missions entrusted to them by the king of Castille.
While traveling, Dominic became aware of two great challenges for the Church of his time: the existence of people who were not yet evangelized, in the northern limits of the European continent, and the religious scourge that weakened Christian life in southern France, where the action of some heretical groups created disturbance and a falling away from the truth of the faith. Missionary work on behalf of those who do not know the light of the Gospel and the work of re-evangelization of the Christian community thus became the apostolic goals that Dominic intended to pursue. It was the Pope, to whom Bishop Diego and Dominic went to ask advice, who requested the latter to dedicate himself to preaching to the Albigensians, a heretical group which held a dualistic concept of reality, that is, of two equally powerful creative principles, Good and Evil. This group, consequently, had contempt for matter as coming from the principle of evil, even rejecting marriage, and reaching the point of denying the incarnation of Christ, the sacraments in which the Lord "touches" us through matter, and the resurrection of bodies. The Albigensians esteemed a poor and austere life -- in this sense they were even exemplary -- and they criticized the wealth of the clergy of that time.
Dominic accepted this mission enthusiastically, which he carried out precisely with the example of his poor and austere existence, with the preaching of the Gospel and with public debates. He dedicated the rest of his life to this mission of preaching the Good News. His sons would fulfill St. Dominic's other dreams: the mission ad gentes, that is, to those who did not yet know Jesus, and the mission to those who lived in the city, especially in the universities, where new intellectual tendencies were a challenge for the faith of the well-educated.

This great saint reminds us that a missionary fire must always burn in the heart of the Church, which drives incessantly to take the first proclamation of the Gospel and, where necessary, to a new evangelization: Christ is, in fact, the most precious good that men and women of all times and all places have the right to know and to love! And it is consoling to see how also in the Church of today there are so many -- pastors and lay faithful, members of old religious orders and of new ecclesial movements -- that with joy spend their life for this supreme ideal: to proclaim and witness the Gospel! Other men associated themselves to Dominic Guzmán, attracted by the same aspiration. Thus, gradually, from the first foundation of Tolosa, was born the Order of Preachers. Dominic, in fact, in full obedience to the directives of the Popes of his time, Innocent III and Honorius III, adopted the ancient Rule of St. Augustine, adapting it to the needs of apostolic life, which led him and his companions to preach, moving from one post to another, but returning, later, to their own monasteries, places of study, prayer and community life. In a particular way, Dominic wished to highlight two values considered indispensable for the success of the evangelizing mission: community life in poverty and study. First of all, Dominic and the Friars Preachers presented themselves as mendicants, that is, without vast properties of land to administer. This element rendered them more available for study and itinerant preaching and constituted a concrete witness for the people. The internal government of the Dominican monasteries and provinces was structured on the system of chapters, which elected their own superiors, confirmed later by major superiors; hence, an organization that stimulated fraternal life and the responsibility of all the members of the community, exacting strong personal convictions. The choice of this system stemmed precisely from the fact that the Dominicans, as preachers of the truth of God, had to be consistent with what they proclaimed. Truth studied and shared in charity with brothers is the most profound foundation of joy. Blessed Giordano of Saxony said of St. Dominic: "He received every man in the great bosom of charity and, because he loved everyone, everyone loved him. He made a personal law for himself of being joyful with happy persons and of weeping with those who wept" (Libellus de principiis Ordinis Praedicatorum autore Iordano de Saxonia, ed. H.C. Scheeben, [Monumenta Historica Sancti Patris Nostri Dominici, Romae, 1935])

In the second place, with a courageous gesture Dominic wished that his followers acquire a solid theological formation, and he did not hesitate to send them to the universities of the time, even though not a few ecclesiastics regarded with diffidence these cultural institutions. The Constitutions of the Order of Preachers give great importance to study as preparation for the apostolate. Dominic wanted his friars to dedicate themselves to study, sparing no effort, with diligence and compassion -- to study founded on the soul of all theological learning, that is, on sacred Scripture, and respectful of the questions posed by reason. The development of culture imposes on those who carry out the ministry of the Word, at various levels, to be well prepared. Hence I exhort all, pastors and laity, to cultivate this "cultural dimension" of faith, so that the beauty of the Christian truth can be better understood and faith can be truly nourished, reinforced and also defended. In this Year for Priests, I invite seminarians and priests to appreciate the spiritual value of study. The quality of the priestly ministry depends also on the generosity with which one applies oneself to the study of revealed truths.
Dominic, who wished to found a religious Order of Preachers-Theologians, reminds us that theology has a spiritual and pastoral dimension, which enriches the spirit and life. Priests, consecrated persons and also all the faithful can find a profound "interior joy" in contemplating the beauty of the truth that comes from God, truth that is always up-to-date and always living. Hence, the motto of the Friars Preachers -- contemplata aliis tradere -- helps us to discover a pastoral yearning in the contemplative study of such truth, by the need to communicate to others the fruit of one's contemplation.

When Dominic died in 1221 in Bologna, the city that declared him its patron, his work had already had great success. The Order of Preachers, with the support of the Holy See, had spread to many countries of Europe to the benefit of the whole Church. Dominic was canonized in 1234, and it is he himself, with his sanctity, who indicates to us two indispensable means for apostolic action to be incisive. First of all, Marian devotion, which he cultivated with tenderness and which he left as precious legacy to his spiritual children, who in the history of the Church have had the great merit of spreading the prayer of the holy rosary, so dear to the Christian people and so rich in evangelical values, a true school of faith and piety. In the second place, Dominic, who took care of some women's convents in France and in Rome, believed profoundly in the value of intercessory prayer for the success of apostolic work. Only in Paradise will we understand how much the prayer of the cloistered effectively supports apostolic action! To each one of them I direct my grateful and affectionate thoughts.
Dear brothers and sisters, may Dominic Guzmán's life spur all of us to be fervent in prayer, courageous in living the faith, profoundly in love with Jesus Christ. Through his intercession, we ask God to enrich the Church always with genuine preachers of the Gospel.