I had the pleasure last Saturday to visit and pray at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. It is the largest Catholic Church in the USA and I have a great love for that place. When I was studying in DC in 1996 and 1997, I served as a tour guide in the Basilica. It is an amazing place and a beautiful architectural metaphor for the American Church. I hear some people complain that it is a mix-match of architectural styles and seems to be thrown together haphazardly. Those complaints are usually in contradistinction of the (Anglican) National Cathedral, a pristine and unified neo-Gothic building. I get that, and I too will not argue that the National Shrine is as aesthetically pleasing as the many medieval Cathedrals and Basilicas I enjoyed in Spain last year; but I will argue for its beauty and appropriateness as a National Shrine of the American Catholic experience. It is in this context that I am inspired to write about it today, the Feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, "Mother Cabrini," the first American Saint. Mother Cabrini's statue is front and center in the part of the Shrine crypt called "the Hall of American Saints." and like the Shrine, Mother Cabrini is a beautiful representation of the Church on these shores; and I cannot imagine a better 1st canonization in the young American Church.
The National Shrine is really a complex of chapels. Yes, it is a massive basilica style Church that can easily seat 2000 worshippers, and has an equally impressive crypt Church. But the Shrine's real glory is its impressive array of nearly 100 separate chapels housing a host of images of the Blessed Mother and other saints. These various chapels and their impressive art have been funded by and pay homage to 2 important realities of American Catholic history: immigrant populations and religious orders. There could be no greater representation of American Catholicism than this. The Church in the United States is an immigrant Church and many of its great institutions owe their existence and their thriving to the tireless work of Religious, especially Religious women. Wandering from chapel to chapel, from shrine to shrine throughout the Basilica, one wonders at images dedicated to various immigrant groups: Irish, Polish, German, Filipino, Chinese, African, French, German, Italian, Mexican... and many others. At the Center of most of these chapels are images of the Blessed Mother precious to that particular homeland: Black Madonna of Częstochowa for the Poles, Our Lady of Mariazell for the Austrians, Our Lady of Fatima for the Portuguese, Our Lady of Lourdes for the French, and so on...
But there is an equally impressive collection of chapels and images sponsored by and dedicated to many of the Religious Orders whose missionary brothers and sisters built the American Church from the ground up - staffing the parishes, running schools and colleges, providing hospitals and healthcare, running orphanages and other charitable institutions - the American Catholic Experience was constructed by the blood, sweat and tears of Sisters, nuns, friars, monks, and priests who left the relative security of their European cloisters to answer the missionary call to bring the Gospel to the New World and to provide the needs of the growing Church in a new nation.
Predictably, my favorite of the chapels dedicated to the honor of Religious Orders is that which commemorates the Order of Preachers. It is the first complex of chapels on the right side of the Nave (facing the altar) closest to the main doors of the Basilica. There are three chapels - the central has a simple image of Our Lady of the Rosary, to the left an altar dedicated to St. Dominic, and to the right, one dedicated to St. Catherine of Siena.
As I said above, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, whose Feastday we celebrate today, is honored with the Central Sculpture in the "Hall of American Saints" in the Basilica's crypt.
When she was canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XII, Mother Cabrini was the first American Citizen so honored. Our nation and our Church are so young that nearly every canonization is a "first something" (Seton, the first Saint born in North America; Kateri, the first Native American, Neumann, the first (and, so far only) American Bishop canonized...). But, we could not have had a better "First American Saint;" there is no one more representative of the American Catholic Experience than Mother Cabrini.
Even as a youngster, Francesca Cabrini, dreamed of being a missionary. Her choice of the religious name "Xavier" betrays her dream of following in the footsteps of that great Jesuit Missionary and Evangelizer of China. When ordered to by Pope Leo XIII, Mother Cabrini and her young Missionaries of the Sacred Heart gave up the dream of going to China and instead went to serve the needs of Italian Immigrants in New York. Because they had run an orphanage in Italy, the Sisters first established a similar ministry in their new home. But soon, they realized that the needs of immigrants demanded many other kinds of institutions. Rising to those needs, the sisters founded school and hospitals and worked to provide a solid religious education to children in the many Italian Parishes that grew up in the populations centers of the East Coast. Before her death in 1917, her sisters had spread their work from Coast to Coast wherever there was a need in an immigrant population. But Cabrini's heroic story and that of her missionary sisters is hardly unique. Change the names and geographic location and you could be telling the story of many remarkable sisters' congregations on whose backs the Church in America was built: the Ursulines in New Orleans, the Dominicans and Mercy Sisters in the Bay Area, the Franciscans in Chicago, the Daughters of Charity in Mobile, and the list goes on. Mother Cabrini is a great "First American Saint" precisely because her story is so representative of American Catholicism: a dedicated immigrant making a new home for herself and countless others by heroic works of charity and mercy.
On this Feast of the patron Saint of Immigrants, I could not help but enjoy the patchwork of faces that attended the Mass I celebrated this morning: Filipinos, Mexican and Central American, Native American, Indian, VietNamese, African, Portuguese, and various shades of "white people." We are truly a multi-cultural parish!
As I reflect on this first American Saint and the American Catholic Immigrant experience, I cannot but help reflect on the precept of the law of Ancient Israel regarding the treatment of immigrants: "When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34)
On the Feast of the Patronage of Immigrants I encourage my American Catholic brothers and sisters (indeed all my fellow Americans), even as we are cognizant of the complicated issues of national security, economic well-being, and the reality of borders on our map, that we remember and pay homage to our immigrant past. That as we formulate our own attitudes and policies about immigration and migrants, that we always do so remembering that once, whether we arrived yesterday or, like me, our family showed up before the US even existed, we too were strangers in a strange land.
Yes, I have heard the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception referred to as an architectural hodge-podge, a disastrous mixture of styles, colors and motifs, that seems to be cobbled together with no regard for any sense of unity. I even agree (a little). But that's what makes it, along with the First American Saint, a PERFECT representation of the Church in the United States of America. HAPPY FEAST OF MOTHER CABRINI!
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sept 5-6, 2015 Holy Rosary Parish
St. Mark uses a literary convention in his Gospel that has come to be known as “the Messianic Secret.” In the earliest days of his ministry, Jesus tells those he heals not to tell anyone. He even tells demons that he casts out to be quiet as they proclaim him the “Holy one of God.” He wants them to keep it secret. This may seem counter-productive when the purpose of his ministry is to proclaim the Kingdom that he himself has come to initiate. But, this is St. Mark’s way of telling us that it is not yet time to reveal to the World that Jesus is the Messiah. Even after Peter’s famous profession of faith, in which he proclaims plainly that he believes that Jesus IS the Messiah, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone else. It will only be after the revelation of his Glory in the Transfiguration that Jesus no longer issues the warning of silence. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus reveals his own messianic identity gradually and the full revelation will come only on the Cross and with the post-resurrection appearances.
What is remarkable in all of the stories from these first 7 chapters of Mark’s Gospel is the common response of those who encounter Jesus. With the exception of the religious leaders, who respond in jealousy and fear of the loss of status, those who encounter Jesus, those who encounter his teaching, those who encounter his healing, those who encounter his charismatic presence, respond in a common way: they become DISCIPLES, that is, FOLLOWERS OF JESUS and PROCLAIMERS OF HIS GOOD WORK.
But it goes deeper than that. It’s not that they simply become disciples and proclaimers. They are compelled by their experience of the Lord Jesus to speak. Like the man healed of leprosy in Chapter 1, even when directed by Jesus to say nothing, this man healed of deafness and a speech impediment cannot keep his mouth shut! And I believe that this is the primary lesson of Discipleship in this story from Saint Mark’s Gospel: The Disciple of Jesus – the one who has had a meaningful encounter with Jesus, or the one who has been healed by Jesus; the one who has been converted by Jesus CANNOT KEEP HIS MOUTH SHUT about it.
I am reminded of the Prophet Jeremiah, who during one of his more spiteful moments, after he had encountered difficulty as a Prophet, decided he would not prophesy any more: “I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name. But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding back, I cannot!” (Jeremiah 20:9). Having encountered the remarkable power of God, having accepted the call to be a Prophet, even when faced with the murderous murmurings of his enemies, Jeremiah cannot keep the Word of God inside. HE MUST SPEAK. HE cannot keep his mouth shut
And think about the man in today’s story. He was deaf and had a severe speech impediment. He could not hear the Word before, he could not speak it easily. Now with his ears open and his tongue loosed, he will not be constrained! You cannot give the a man a new faculty of hearing or speech and expect them not to use them. Of course he would not keep his mouth shut. It had been shut for too long. Now He must speak.
Think of St. Paul and his marvelous conversion. Having encountered the Lord Jesus, Paul was compelled to tell everyone about it even to the ends of the earth. Think of the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus. After an exhausting weekend, after a long walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, having encounters the Lord Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread, they RAN all the way back to Jerusalem to share the good news! They could not keep it inside, they could not keep their mouth shut.
Like the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus, we come here to this Church, to this table week after week to encounter the Lord. We say that we believe that he makes himself known to us in the Scriptures and in the Breaking of the Bread. We celebrate with him and gives us himself as food, as strength for the journey. We come because he calls us. He himself invites us to receive his Body and Blood, the food of disciples. Have you ever left the Eucharist so convinced of the presence of Jesus that you would have been compelled to run 13 miles (that’s how far Emmaus was from Jerusalem) – that you would run 13 miles to tell someone about it?
Forget mass for a minute. Have you ever had ANY meaningful encounter with Jesus that was so powerful that you HAD to tell someone?
Have you EVER shared your faith with anyone? Do your colleagues at work KNOW that you are a believer? Would your friends be surprised to find out that you have a relationship with Jesus. Parents – do your children know that Jesus is an important part of your life? Have you ever felt the need to share your faith with ANYONE else?
When Jesus invites us to Follow Him, he equips us through the Holy Spirit to proclaim him to the world. He calls every disciple to be willing to talk about him. And it is not enough that we proclaim the good news of salvation here. That is literally “preaching to the choir.” It is the world out there that needs the Good News and if we are hiding it here in the walls of the Church and only professing it in formulaic creeds, we are doing one of the primary works of the Disciple. Like the man in today’s story, are tongues are bound and we are in need of healing by the messiah.
In the first reading today, we have part of the Messianic promises of the Prophet Isaiah. He speaks of the messianic age when the Lord will appear to bring vindication to his people, The appearance of the Messiah will be accompanied by great signs: The blind will see, the ears of the deaf will be opened, the mute tongue will sing for joy and the lame will leap like a stag. The Evangelists offer the stories of healing to show us that, in Jesus, the Messianic age has come. Our scriptures are filled with stories of those who encounter the Lord, the Messiah. Some are dramatic stories of miraculous healings, others are profound conversions, real turning from evil to good, and yet others are simple acceptances of the invitation to follow the one who came to give life. But no matter how the disciple became a disciple, disciples share a willingness, even a compulsion to tell others about Jesus and to invite others to follow with them. The Disciple cannot keep his mouth shut.
If you are like me, you find this difficult outside of a specifically “churchy” context. Maybe you have been bullied by a person from another Church and felt it was too invasive and you would not want to be that guy, to force your faith on someone else. And that’s not what I am talking about. I am not saying that every disciple of Jesus has to an obnoxious proselytizer. I am saying that as followers of Jesus our lives and our words need to reflect Jesus. It should be apparent to everyone that we are disciples of the Lord.
Sometimes we, even those of us who have been a part of the Church for many years, discover that we have never made that commitment to be a disciple of the Lord. We are comfortable coming here week after week, even receiving communion, exchanging the sign of peace with a few people around us and dropping a few dollars in the collection plate. We will make sure our kids get their sacraments and we might even drop by the confessional a couple of times a year. But often we find ourselves unwilling to take the next steps in the following of Jesus. We don’t want a church that makes too many demands of us and we certainly don’t want to talk to anyone else about Jesus.
But why? What stands in our way? Maybe we are like the man in today’s Gospel - in need of the messianic healing of Jesus. Maybe we have been deaf to the Word of God by which Jesus calls us to deeper relationship with him. Relationship with Jesus demands that we hear him from the scriptures, in the teachings of the Church, in the sacraments. But it is not enough to simply show up. We have to be engaged, actively listening, allowing our hearts to be shaped in the Image of God. Maybe we need to ask the messiah to remove our deafness to his Word so that we can grow in his grace.
Maybe like the Man in the Gospel, we need to ask the messiah to unbind our tongues to speak his word to others – For us Catholics it is often a fear that keeps us from speaking, or worse yet, pride. We don’t want to appear too pious, too religious, too fanatical, so it is better to keep it to ourselves. To grow as disciples, we need to ask the Lord to heal us of the fear and pride that binds our tongues, so that, like the man in today’s Gospel, we can speak plainly to others about What Jesus has done for us.
Brothers and sisters, This is not about being a member of the Church. To paraphrase John the Baptist “God can raise up Church members from these stones.” It is all about Discipleship. The Lord calls. The Lord invites, the Lord beckons. We have the choice. Will we follow a little bit, offering the minimum and holding on to as much as we can. Or will we offer everything? Letting go of all, allowing the Lord to heal us, and following more closely, growing more profoundly in love with him and truly becoming his disciple? The disciple must talk about Jesus. The disciple is anxious for others to experience the good thing they have found. They want to share the Lord. The disciple cannot keep his mouth shut!
Our world still needs to hear the Word of God. One needs only look at the newspaper or listen to the news any day to see how much the world needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul says: "But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach if they are not sent?" The Preachers have been sent! Jesus has entrusted His Word to his disciples and sent us to bring the Good News to a world in need. Woe to us if we do not preach. For the sake of the World, we cannot keep our mouths shut...
Mientras viajaba en España en junio con amigos dominicos, visité Caleruega, la ciudad de la niñez de Santo Domingo. Allí celebramos la misa en la capilla que se ha construido sobre la casa de la infancia del Santo Domingo. Oramos en la iglesia medieval donde el Santo fue bautizado y oramos ante las reliquias de su madre y otros miembros de su familia muy santa. bebimos del pozo de la que Santo Domingo sacó el agua como era niño, y visitamos la Catedral de Burgos de Osma en que Santo Domingo comenzó su ministerio sacerdotal y de la que empezó la Orden de Predicadores.
Cuando visité Caleruega, ya había recibido mi asignación a Antioquía y ya acordado con el P. Roberto que yo predicaría este fin de semana. Así traje esta parroquia de Santo Rosario y sus intenciones en la oración a nuestro Padre Santo Domingo en su lugar de nacimiento. También le pedí a nuestro Santo Padre para que me ayude como predicador (especialmente en Espanol), y para inspirarme con un mensaje para predicar a ustedes en este día de fiesta este fin de semana.
Desde mi visita a la casa natal de Santo Domingo, he tenido muchas oportunidades para reflexionar sobre la fundación de la Orden a la luz de nuestra celebración del 800 aniversario que viene. Hay muchos aspectos notables de la misión de la predicación de Santo Domingo y los primeros trabajos de la Orden que puede inspirar nuestro ministerio de predicación hoy. Uno de los desafíos que enfrenta la Orden en el siglo 21 es ayudar a todos los cristianos a entender y participar en su propio llamado a ser predicadores. Ustedes todos estan llamados a predicar el Evangelio! Todos cristianos estan llamados a difundir la Buena noticia! En virtud de su bautismo, estan llamados a proclamar la salvación y llegar a aquellos que nunca han escuchado el Evangelio salvifico de Jesucristo. Muchas de las innovaciones introducidas por Santo Domingo pueden ayudarnos a comprender mejor nuestro llamado a predicar el Evangelio en nuestro tiempo.
1. Por ejemplo, S. Domingo penso que la predicación del Evangelio debe ser siempre informado por el estudio
Desde el principio, Santo Domingo insistió en que sus seguidores se formaran bien en la teología y la Escritura. Los envió a los mejores centros de estudio en Europa y participó personalmente en el establecimiento de comunidades de estudio en las nuevas universidades que fue fundadas en París, Oxford, Bolonia y Salamanca. El Estudio fue establecido como una parte importante de la vida dominicana, pero no estudia por el bien de estudio - estudio al servicio de la predicación de la Verdad.
Si vamos a ser predicadores eficaces de la Palabra de hoy, nosotros también debemos ser formados intelectualmente por el estudio de las Escrituras y las enseñanzas de la Iglesia. Los enemigos del Evangelio son bien educados y armados con argumentos bien formados en contra de nuestra fe; Nosotros debemos estar preparados para contrarrestar sus argumentos con nuestro propio entendimiento informado y argumentos bien afinados por la Verdad de la Fe.
2. Tambien, S. Domingo entendio que la predicación del Evangelio no puede ser restringido con las paredes de las Instituciones de la Iglesia
Una de las innovaciones más importantes que Santo Domingo introdujo en el establecimiento de su nueva Orden era la idea de carácter itinerante. Monjes y monjas medievales vivieron toda su vida tras los muros de los monasterios. Ellos estaban bien educados y vivieron una hermosa espiritualidad; pero su testimonio se limitaba a los que visitaban sus monasterios. Santo Domingo entendido que los que profesaban los votos religiosos y vivian las estructuras de la vida religiosa tenían un testigo importante que ofrecer al mundo. Así que fundó un nuevo modelo de la vida religiosa. Sus seguidores no serían monjes que vivieron detrás de las paredes del claustro. En cambio, serían FRAILES itinerantes cuyo trabajo principal sería en el mundo.
Hoy en día, nosotros también debemos entender la importancia de llevar el Evangelio al mundo. Muchos católicos viven prácticamente nuestra fe como una realidad de clausura, un secreto que se mantiene desde el resto del mundo. Creemos el mensaje de la modernidad y la secularidad que la fe es profundamente personal y que no debemos molestar a otras personas con nuestra fe. Así que estamos bien con expresiones de la fe en nuestras iglesias o en la intimidad de nuestros propios armarios de oración (después de todo, pertenece allí). Pero estaríamos incómodos de expresar nuestra fe en público.
En el Evangelio, Jesús nos advirtió en contra de esto. Él nos dijo que no ocultaramos nuestras luces bajo el canasto. Como Santo Domingo, que liberó a la predicación del Evangelio de palacios episcopales y claustros de los monasterios, también nosotros estamos llamados a llevar el Evangelio afuera de nuestras Iglesias. Domingo comprendió que su mundo del siglo 13 necesitaba ser fijado en el fuego con la luz del Evangelio. Nosotros también debemos estar dispuestos a dejar que otros vean nuestras antorchas para que puedan llegar a creer en la verdad y la bondad del Evangelio.
3. Santo Domingo penso que la predicación del Evangelio no se confió exclusivamente a los funcionarios de la iglesia
En la Edad Media, la predicación era vista como el trabajo de los Obispos. Había dos problemas con esto: 1) Los obispos fueron agobiados con la administración de los asuntos temporales de la Iglesia y habían comenzado a descuidar el trabajo de la predicación. Y 2) este nunca fue el modelo que Jesús tenía la intención de la Iglesia /. La obra de difundir el Evangelio es el trabajo de todos los bautizados. Domingo pidió permiso para que su nueva Orden fuera una comunidad de Frailes Predicadores. A pesar de las objeciones de quienes les gustaban las cosas como estaban, se le dio este permiso.
Muy a menudo hoy, los católicos creen que la predicación del Evangelio es únicamente el trabajo de los obispos, sacerdotes y diáconos. Sí, dentro de la liturgia, tenemos la responsabilidad de predicación en particular. Pero la difusión de la Buena Nueva de Jesús no puede limitarse a mí, cuyo trabajo principal es dentro de las paredes de la Iglesia. El Evangelio debe ser llevado al mercado por aquellos cuyas vidas están allí. Todo bautizado, cada discípulo de Jesús está llamado a llevar el Evangelio a su casa, a sus amigos y familiares, a su oficina y sus colegas, sus salónes de clases, las tiendas donde se practica el comercio, a los campos de deporte. No hay suficientes obispos, sacerdotes y diáconos para este trabajo. Este trabajo es demasiado importante para que sea limitado a unos pocos funcionarios, debe ser la misión de cada cristiano.
4. S. Domingo supo que la predicación del evangelio debe ser apoyado en comunidad con la oración, especialmente la Eucaristía
A pesar de que Santo Domingo envió a sus hermanos a predicar en el mundo, que consideraba las casas de su Nuevo Orden ser muy importantes. Ellos no serían "monasterios", sino más bien "Conventos". La palabra latina "Convento" significa "venir juntos." Los Conventos serían los lugares donde los frailes predicadores “vendrian juntos" para la oración, el estudio y el descanso. En el convento, serían refrescados por la fraternidad y la oración común de los Frailes, estarían equipados para hacer la obra de la predicación. El centro de esta vida de oración sería la Eucaristía, alimento para el viaje y alimento para el camino.
El predicador moderno tiene que ver también la importancia de la vida común de la comunidad cristiana, especialmente en la reunión de esa comunidad a la Eucaristía dominical. Para muchos de nosotros, la misa del domingo es la totalidad de nuestra vida de fe. Vamos a la iglesia para estar con Dios, pero no queremos molestarlo, o más importante, ser molestados por él, el resto de la semana. Pero al igual que el convento medieval, la Asamblea de Domingo debe ser una parte importante, pero no la totalidad de nuestra vida cristiana. Aquí venemos al encuentro con el Señor resucitado en la Palabra, Sacramento y en la Comunidad, para que podamos estar bien equipados para predicar el Evangelio en el mundo.
5. S. Domingo mostro que la predicación del Evangelio deben ser acompañados por vidas Evangelicas - vidas que se parace más a Jesús y sus apóstoles.
Cuando Santo Domingo se encontró con los albigenses, se inspiró en la vida de la pobreza apostólica. Comprendió que habían rechazado sus funcionarios locales de la iglesia porque vivían como príncipes feudales y estaban más preocupados con la administración de sus tierras y la riqueza de lo que estaban predicando el Evangelio y atendiendo a las necesidades de sus rebaños. Los líderes de los herejes abrazaron la pobreza para parecerse más a Jesús y sus discípulos. Santo Domingo abrazó ese mismo modelo para sus frailes. La sencillez de su vida sería una predicación importante.
La lección para nosotros - cuando estamos de acuerdo en seguir el camino del discipulado; cuando tomamos en la tarea de difundir el Evangelio, debemos hacerlo con nuestras vidas. No es suficiente decir las palabras; también hay que vivirlas. Los enemigos del Evangelio quieren que nos tropezemos y buscemos cualquier paso en falso. Nosotros no podemos darles municiones. La predicación del Evangelio comienza con la reforma de nuestra propia vida y la decisión de vivir el Evangelio para que nuestras propias vidas predican más fuerte que nuestras palabras.
En esta fiesta de Santo Domingo, pidamos el patron de Predicadores que interceda por nosotros, para que podamos ser dado el espíritu y el deseo de los predicadores. El mismo espíritu que inspiró a los antiguos profetas, los apóstoles y discípulos de Jesús, San Pablo y San Timoteo, y de Santo Domingo y sus primeros seguidores, que, hace 800 años, fundaron un nuevo método y nuevo momento en la predicación del Evangelio.
Oremos por el coraje de permitir que nuestras luces brillen ante los demás, que, en nuestras palabras y vidas, pueden ver el buen trabajo de Nuestro Padre y darle alabanza!
"¡Qué hermosa sobre la montaña", dijo el profeta Isaías: "¡Qué hermosos sobre las montañas son los pies del que trae buenas noticias!"
Esta es mi lectura favorita de la Fiesta de Santo Domingo. Cada año cuando oigo ese texto, pienso en los hermosos pies del Salvador caminando los caminos del desierto de la antigua Israel, anunciando la venida del Reino, curando a los enfermos y echando fuera demonios. Pienso en los pies incansables de Santo Domingo caminando el largo y ancho de Europa, fundando de la Orden, predicando el Evangelio e inspirando a sus hermanos. ¡Qué hermosos los pies deben haber sido - esos pies que traen buenas noticias, que anuncia la paz, que proclama la salvación. Y ruego: "Señor, danos los pies de Santo Domingo. Por favor, danos los hermosos pies de un predicador ".
While traveling in Spain in June with Dominican friends, I visited Caleruega, the childhood town of Saint Dominic. There we celebrated Mass in the chapel that has been built over Saint Dominic’s boyhood home. We prayed in the medieval church where he was baptized and before the relics of his mother and other members of his very holy family. We drank from the well from which Saint Dominic drew water as a child, and visited the Cathedral in Burgos de Osma where St. Dominic began his priestly ministry and from which he started the Order of Preachers.
When I visited Caleruega, I had already received my assignment to Antioch and already agreed with Fr. Roberto that I would preach this weekend. So I brought you – Holy Rosary Parish - and your intentions in prayer to our Holy Father Dominic in his birthplace. I also asked our Holy Father to assist me as a preacher, to inspire me with a message to preach to you on this feast day this weekend.
Since my visit to St. Dominic’s birthplace, I have had many opportunities to reflect on the foundation of the Order in light of our coming 800th anniversary celebration. There are many remarkable aspects of St. Dominic’s preaching mission and the early work of the Order that can inspire our ministry of Preaching today. One of the challenges facing the Order in the 21st Century is helping all Christians to understand and participate in their own call to be preachers. YOU are called to Preach the Gospel! Every Christian is called to spread the Good news! By virtue of your baptism, YOU are called to proclaim salvation and reach out to those who have never heard the Saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of the innovations introduced by St. Dominic can help us understand better our call to preach the Gospel in our own time.
1. For Example, St. Dominic believed that The preaching of the Gospel must always be informed by study
From the beginning, St. Dominic insisted that his followers be formed well in theology and scripture. He sent them to the best centers of study in Europe and was personally involved in the establishment of Study Communities at the new universities that were established at Paris, Oxford, Bologna, and Salamanca. Study was established as an important part of Dominican life but not study for the sake of study - study at the service of preaching the Truth.
If we are to be effective preachers of the Word today, we too must be formed intellectually by the study of Scripture and the teachings of the Church. The enemies of the Gospel are well educated and armed with well-formed arguments against our Faith, we must be prepared to counter their arguments with our own informed understanding and well-honed arguments for the Truth of the Faith.
2. Also, St. Dominic thought that The preaching of the Gospel was not entrusted solely to certain church officials
In the Middle Ages, preaching was seen as the work of Bishops. There were a couple of problems with this: 1) Bishops were burdened with the administration of the temporal affairs of the Church and had begun to neglect the work of preaching. And 2) this was never the model that Jesus intended for the Church/. The work of spreading the Gospel is the work of all the Baptized. Dominic sought permission for his new Order to be a community of Preaching Friars. Despite the objections of those who liked the way things were, this permission was given.
Too often today, Catholics think that preaching the Gospel is solely the work of bishops, priests, and deacons. Yes, within the liturgy, we have a particular preaching responsibility. But the spreading of the Good News of Jesus cannot be limited to me whose primary work is within the walls of the Church. The Gospel must be taken to the marketplace by those whose lives are there. Every baptized person, every disciple of Jesus is called to take the Gospel to his home, to his friends and family, to his office and his colleagues, his classroom, the shops where he practices commerce, to the fields of sport. There are not enough Bishops, priests, and deacons for this work. This work is too important for it to be limited to a few officials, it must be the mission of every Christian.
3. Saint Dominic also believed that The preaching of the Gospel could not be constrained with the walls of Church Institutions
One of the most important innovations that St. Dominic introduced in the establishment of his new Order was the idea of itineracy. Medieval monks and nuns lived their entire lives behind the walls of monasteries. They were well-educated and lived a beautiful spirituality; but their witness was limited to those who visited their monasteries. St. Dominic understood that those who professed the religious vows and lived the structure of religious life had an important witness to offer to the world. So he founded a new model of religious life. His followers would not be monks living behind the walls of the cloister. Instead, they would be itinerant FRIARS whose primary work would be out in the world.
Today, we too must understand the importance of taking the Gospel to the world. Many Catholics practically live our faith as a cloistered reality, a secret to be kept from the rest of the world. We believe the message of modernity and secularity that faith is deeply personal and that we should not bother other people with our faith. So we are okay with expressions of faith in our churches (after all, it belongs there) or in the privacy of our own prayer closets. But we would be uncomfortable to express our faith in public.
In the Gospel, Jesus warned us against this. He told us not to hide our lights under a bushel basket. Like Dominic, who liberated the preaching of the Gospel from Episcopal palaces and monastery cloisters, we too are called to take the Gospel from our Churches. Dominic understood that his 13th Century world needed to be set on fire with the light of the Gospel. We too must be willing to let others see our torches so that they can come to believe in the truth and goodness of the Gospel.
4. St. Dominic understood that the preaching of the Gospel must be supported in community with prayer, especially the Eucharist
Even though St. Dominic sent his Friars to preach in the world, he considered the houses of his New Order to be very important. They would not be “monasteries,” but rather “Convents.” The Latin word “Convent” means “to come together.” Convents would be the places where the preaching friars would “come together” for prayer, study, and rest. In the convent, they would be refreshed by fraternity and the common prayer of the Friars, they would be equipped to do the work of preaching. The center of this life of prayer would be the Eucharist, food for the journey and nourishment for road.
The modern preacher must also see the importance of the common life of the Christian Community, especially in the gathering of that community for the Sunday Eucharist. For so many of us, Sunday Mass IS our faith life. We go to church to be with God, but do not want to bother him, or more importantly, to BE bothered BY Him, the rest of the week. But like the medieval Convent, the Sunday Assembly should be an important part, but not the unique part of our Christian lives. Here we come to encounter the Risen Lord in Word, Sacrament, and Community so that we can be well-equipped to preach the Gospel in the World.
5. And St. Dominic knew that The preaching of the Gospel must be accompanied by Gospel lives – lives that look more like Jesus and his apostles.
When St. Dominic encountered the Albigensian heretics, he was actually inspired by their lives of apostolic poverty. He understood that they had rejected their local church officials because those officials lived like feudal princes and were more concerned with the administration of their lands and wealth than they were about preaching the Gospel and tending to the needs of their flocks. The leaders of the heretics embraced poverty to look more like Jesus and his disciples. St. Dominic embraced that same model for his friars. The simplicity of their lives would be an important preaching.
The lesson for us - when we agree to follow the path of discipleship; when we take on the task of spreading the Gospel, we must do so with our lives. It is not enough to say the words; we must also live the words. The enemies of the Gospel want us to stumble and will look for any misstep of ours. We cannot give them ammunition. The preaching of the Gospel begins with the reform of our own lives and the decision to live the Gospel so that our very lives preach louder than our words.
On this feast of Saint Dominic, let us implore the patron saint of Preachers to intercede for us, that we might be given the spirit and desire of preachers. The same spirit that inspired the ancient prophets, the Apostles and disciples of Jesus, Saint Paul and Saint Timothy, and Saint Dominic and his first followers, who, 800 years ago, founded a new method and new moment in the preaching of the Gospel.
Let us pray for the courage to allow our lights to shine before others, that, in our words and lives, they may see the Good work of Our Father and give him praise!
“How beautiful on the mountain,” the Prophet Isaiah said, “How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him who brings Good news!”
This is my favorite reading from the Feast of Saint Dominic. Each year when I hear that text, I think of the beautiful feet of the Savior walking the desert roads of Ancient Israel, proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom, healing the sick and casting out demons. I think of the tireless feet of Saint Dominic walking the width and breadth of Europe, founding the Order, preaching the Gospel and Inspiring his brothers. How beautiful those feet must have been – those feet that bring good news, announcing peace, proclaiming salvation. And I pray, “Lord, give me the feet of St. Dominic. Please, give me the beautiful feet of a preacher.”
August 34, 2015
Feast of St. John Vianney
Gospel: Matthew 14: 22-36 Jesus Walks on Water
The details of this well-known story has much to teach us about our relationship to the Mission to which Jesus sends us - To transform the world with the Gospel.
1. He never sends us on a Journey that he is not himself interceding for us with his Father and is very close behind us.
2. There will be storms on the journey, but they are opportunities to encounter him and have faith in his power over the storm.
3. He WILL invite us beyond our comfort zones and even beyond our capabilities.
4. As long as we stay focused on HIM and the Mission, we will be able to do supernatural things be his power.
5. As soon as we take our eyes off him (remembering the storms, the wind, the wave and what we cannot do, we WILL begin to sink.
6. As long as we can cry out to him, he will save us and get us back on track.
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Historically this day was celebrated as "Our Lady of Victory," commemorating the victory of Christian forces over a superior Muslim army at Lepanto in 1571. Victory in that battle was credited by Pope Pius V (a Dominican) to the praying of the Rosary by Christians. For Dominicans, this has always been a feast day to celebrate the connection of our Order to the spread of this devotion. Pious legend (here depicted) tells us that Our Lady gave the Rosary to St. Dominic as a weapon to be used in battle (hence, Dominicans wear our Rosary proudly in the place a medieval warrior would have worn his sword). The actual development and use of the Rosary has a much more complicated history than that; but what is clear is that Dominicans are responsible for the systematizing of the prayers and the use of the Rosary as a popular devotional reflection on the life of Jesus and his Blessed Mother. No other accomplishment of the 800 year-old Dominican Order compares with that of the dissemination of the Rosary. While not everyone who prays the Rosary will immediately reflect on its connection to the Order of Preachers (anymore than those who pray the Way of the Cross or gaze upon a Creche will think of the Franciscans), the fact that it is the most popular form of personal piety in the Church is the directly descended from Dominican use of the Rosary as a medium of the Gospel and a great source of preaching beginning in the Middle Ages. We Dominicans are immensely grateful for the gift of the Rosary and celebrate this day as a perpetual thanksgiving for its continued meaning in our religious life. As always, we encourage the use of the Rosary as a powerful intercessory prayer, a potent weapon against evil, and a useful devotional reflection on the life of our Savior and his Blessed Mother, the first to receive and believe the Gospel. Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us that we may be made worthy of the Promises of Christ.
I saw a statistic on the Internet this morning: 40% of American births are to unmarried women (which means that 40% of births are to unmarried men too -it is just not always so readily apparent.) I have not done the work to determine the accuracy of that statistic, but I have no trouble believing it. About ten years ago my family had a reunion of the descendents of my grandparents. At that time, there were 6 children in the 4th generation from my grandparents (the grandchildren of my siblings and 1st cousins). Of the 6, not one had married parents. And that situation has hardly changed in the inter intervening decade.
There is a lot of ink being spilled (it's actually not "ink," because it is mostly on the googlenets; but "spilled ink" sounds better than "spilled electrons." We need a new metaphor.) about Pope Francis' celebrating a wedding ceremony at which he witnessed the vows of some couples who already had children and/or who were cohabiting (the churchified word for "living together before marriage." I kinda like the old expression "without the benefit of clergy..."). People are scandalized that such open defiance of church teaching was given quarter in no less a place than St. Peter's Basilica. Oh, the horror!
When I first read about this, I had an immediate double reaction: First, I thought "The press is making a mountain out of a molehill." The secular press, in their desparate attempt to make it look like the Pope is going to overturn several millennia of Judeo-Christian sexual morality, are attempting to turn a "dog bites man" story into a "man bites dog" story. What do I mean by that? For every priest in the Western World that does weddings, this is a non-story. It is simply the norm. We are sometimes (relatively often) asked to celebrate weddings for cohabiting couples and couples who already have children. My literal immediate response was "the Pope's wedding ministry looks a lot like mine."
To read the secular press (and the knee-jerk Catholic reaction), you would think that the Pope put an ad in the local Catholic paper asking for couples in "irregular relationships" to come have them publicly "regularized." I have no idea how the couples were chosen or who prepared them for marriage; but, in a sense, it doesn't matter. Would it be any less scandalous were the Pope to have advertised for "chaste virgins who go to confession every day, have never had an impure thought and will promise to have a child a year for their naturally fertile life?" The fact is that the Holy Father only has one option: to witness the vows of sinners marrying other sinners. Sorry commentor. Sinners are the only ones getting married these days. So if the Holy Father wants to highlight the importance of the sacrament of matrimony by hosting a mass wedding Mass at St. Peter's, the only option he has is to invite couples who are sinners (hopefully sinners who understand that God has called them to the vocation of marriage as a means of helping each other get to heaven.) Period.
My second reaction was: "the Holy Father just made my job harder because there are going to be those who will see this as permission to live together before marriage." I have repented of that reaction, not because it is not true (in fact, I have already heard it cited as a justification for cohabitation this week), but because it is not the Holy Father who did this; it is the secular press. My resonse: GROW UP! One of the hallmarks of Catholic marriage preparation is that we only prepare ADULTS for marriage - if they want to use such a childish argument as "he did it first!" then we have the obligation to help them see how childish their argument is, and to move on from there. But, again, the press wants this to be so much more significant than it actually is. Papal blessings are offered to newly married Catholic couples on a regular basis at public audiences at St. Peter's. Sometimes those couples have cohabited, have children, are in second marriages - in other words, they look like the Church. Pope Franics is in on the secret: sometime - lots of times - people who are not married to each other have sex. It seems this is not a new reality. It has always been thus. And sometimes the people who are not married to each other who are having sex decide to get maried. Good for them. That's what we want, right? Like me, the Pope's first question for a couple who approaches him about being married is not their sex life (or lack thereof) - Marriage is so much more than that. We will get around to discussing those things during preparation. But now let's celebrate that you want to enter into this important sacrament. That is what the Pope celebrated with the couples last week - the Sacrament - not, as has been accused - the fact that siome of them were in am "irregular relationship."
Pope Francis is, above all, a priest. He, even as Pope, wants to stay connected to his priestly life and to be an example of that priestly life. I LOVE THIS! As a priest, I am so happy to have a Pope whose ministry looks like my own. And I am so happy to have a Pope whose ministry might remind us of Jesus, who, after all, was criticized by religious people for spending too much time with sinners. When challenged about his not hanging out with holy people (or religious people who thought themselves holy), but choosing rather to be with social outcasts, Jesus told us that healthy people were not in need of his healing. It is a "because that's where the money is" response. Why did Jesus hang out with sinners? Because THEY needed him. Why does the Pope invite sinful couples to experience the blessing of a Vatican wedding (aside from the obvious point that I made above that sinners is all there are)? Because they are the ones who need it. I am sure that there were some people in that ceremony who "did everything right." And good for them! But the Church's sacraments are not just for those who "do things right."
Some principles that I learned about marriage and weddings during my priestly formation:
Marriage is about so much more than sex. Marriage is about so much more than the selfish desires of a man and woman. It is the sacrament of family. It is an integral part of God's plan for the salvation of the human race. It is about the care and nurturing of children. It is essential to life of the Church and the world. To reduce it to questions about who's having sex and who's not having sex (which is really what all the press - secular and Catholic - is about) is to denigrate one of the most important realities of Christian life. Jesus taught us that marriage was an important spiritual reality (Mt 19); those of us involved in helping couples prepare to marry each other (from parish marriage teams right up to the Pope)need to keep our eye on the ball.
Some interesting things about Pope Pius X:
He was the first Pope elected in the 20th Century, having ascended to the Papacy I 1903.
He codified the Church's law into a single book.
He moved the age of receiving 1st Communion to childhood.
He established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) as a means of combating religious illiteracy - and not just for kids, it was for adults too!
When he was canonized in 1954, there had not been a pope canonized for more than 200 years. And the last one canonized was Pope St. Pius V (a Dominican) who was a Renaissance Pope who died 331 years before Pius X became Pope.
Until last spring, the 1st Pope elected the 20th Century was the only one to have been canonized (not surprising given the length of the process involved.
Of the 32 men who served as Pope between Pius V and Pius X - only 3 have even had the beatification process begun for them (and 2 of those were so recent that the process was begun by Benedict XVI. I guess the modern era can hardly be considered a golden age for the papacy.
Today is the Feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, the co-founder (with St. Francis de Sales) of the Visitation Sisters. The oldest Monastery of cloistered Visitation nuns in America is right here in Mobile, Alabama. It is right down the street from where I lived when I was in high school and Imust have passed it a million times. But last Saturday morning was the first time I passed thru the gates. I celebrated Mass for the Men of St. Joseph Retreat that took place at the Monastery's retreat house last weekend. The community of nuns also attended that Mass and I could not help but be struck by the fact that there were nearly as many white veils as black veils among the 14 or 15 nuns - for the uninitiated - that means they hava lot of novices. Tonight I had the pleasure of meeting Carol, a young woman who will be entering the postulancy of that monastery on Friday. She will be the 7th Sister in initial formation and 2 more are going to be entering soon. God is clearly doing great things among those nuns! God be praised. I was happy on the Feast of St. Jane Frances to offer a blessing to this young woman who is soon to become one of Jane Frances' daughters!
The Gospel for Mass today is from Matthew 18. Jesus demonstrated the "greatest in the Kingdom" by showing his disciples a child and assuring them that if they did not become like that child, they would not enter the Kingdom. Since Jesus used a child as a visual aid for his teaching, I thought it okay to show everyone the perfect little one in my life too and I showed them this picture of me with my newborn niece (born yesterday at 7:02 am). I was so moved by her near perfection as I stared into her beautiful little face yesterday. I love that she is the example of what we are to become if we are to part of the kingdom: no earthly economic value, completely dependent, easily pleased, and a blank slate morally and intellectually. Jesus calls us to that kind of dependent innocence to claim our place in his kingdom.
As I was dressing this morning to celebrate Mass for the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, I was listening to the news. There was a report about the 69th anniversary of the first detonation of an atomic bomb in warfare. Ican never remember reflecting on the coincidence of these two observances in the past. Ihad already prepared my homily for the Mass and I didn't really have time to mention the Hiroshima anniversary in any reflected way, so I simply chose to ignore it in the Mass and move on with my planned celebration and preaching (largely about the Glory of God not being contained in one place, but rather in the person of Jesus. We, as his disciples are called to experience and receive that Glory and make it available to others), but throughout the day, I have come back time and time to the obvious connection between Hiroshima and the Mount of Transfiguration: LIGHT. Mark's Gospel tells us that when Jesus was transfigured, "his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach the.." (Mk 9:3). In other words, imagine the whitest you could imagine and multiply it. Every photographic or filmed image I have ever seen of a nuclear explosion might be described in the same way: dazling. Eyewitnesses to the Hiroshima explosion speak of the brillance of the light that preceded the boom. Colonel Tibbets, who piloted the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the Hiroshima Bomb, said that the "whole sky was lit up with prettiest blues and pinks" he had ever seen.
The light of Mt. Tabor was the same light that "sun-burned" Moses' face on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34); the light of the Burning Bush; the same light that guided the people of Israel through their 40 year wilderness trek, the light that entered the Temple of God: the Shekinah - The Glorious indwelling presence of God. Perhaps it is the light that created the photo-negative effect on the Shroud of Turin. That light was a powerful sign of God's presence and could be destructive to God's enemies, but in the Transfiguration, it becomes a powerful sign of the power of God's Word at work in Jesus of Nazareth, the fulfilment of the Law and the Profits. It is ultimately the most constructive force in creation.
For me, the dazzling light of Hiroshima is the utter antithesis of the light of the Transfiguration. The harnessing of that kind of power would necessarily lead to its use in war. The development of atomic weapons would be our reaching for the power of God, himself. Steven Spielberg touched on these themes in the "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The Nazis in that movie wanted the most powerful light on earth in order to destroy their enemies. They sought out the power of God's Glory, knowing that it would be the most potentially destructive. As a movie goer, I am to be offended by that kind of arrogance. These destroyers of the Jews will harness the power of the Jews to do their bidding. Oh those silly, silly Nazi's: that arrogance would lead to their own destruction. But Steven Spielberg's fantasy got one thing wrong: it was not the Nazis that opened the Ark. It was us. The United States remains the only government on the planet who has ever unleashed the power of a split atom anywhere other than in a laboratory. We remain the only people who have ever used the "dazzling light" as a weapon against an actual human population. More than 100K people died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki the days the bombs were dropped, the destructive power of atomic weaponry continued to wreak havoc of years. As a child of the Cold War era, I am also keenly aware of the utter fear created in a whole generation by the awareness of the destructive power of these weapons (no longer merely a theory after the Feast of the Transfiguration 1945). Even today, how much of our foreign policy resources go into making sure no one else gets access to that power?
Self preservation has prevented us from ever reaching for that kind of power again. The madness of "mutually assured destruction" has kept the lid on the Ark since 1945. But one wonders how long this will be true. The call of the Transfiguration is for us to listen to Jesus. Jesus calls us to forsake power in favor of humilty; To seek union and build connections; to passively endure injury instead of seeking to overwhelm with power. Wee who profess to be sons and daughters of the light are called by Jesus to find of blessedness in Peacemaking, to harness the power of God's light to bring light to the world. We are called to be that City on a Hill (in a Jesus sort of way- not a Reagan sort of way). We are called by the Word of God to let that light shine before others that they can see our good works and give praise to our heavenly Father who makes those works possible.
On this Transfiguration day, let us pray for the grace to harness the light of Christ, so that the only dazzling white lights in our future will be our works inspired by Jesus.
Fr. Bart Hutcherson, OP
Fr. Bart Hutcherson, OP is a Roman Catholic Priest & a Friar of the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus-USA. He is on the Pastoral Staff at Most Holy Rosary Parish in Antioch, California, and uses this page to post Homilies and Scripture reflections.