November 5, 2017
At a meeting held in Danville, CA, October 17-20 attended by Western Dominican friars who work in parishes, we discussed what should be the characteristics of a Dominican parish. We concluded that they should reflect the pillars of Dominican life: prayer, study, community and apostolate. For Dominicans, our apostolate – the work Jesus sends us to do – is preaching. Everything else in our life is ordered to that work. Our prayer is about our preaching and for those to whom we are sent to preach. Our communal life is for the sake of our preaching, as is our communal and personal study.
Since preaching is the heart of Dominican life, I’ll start with a report on what the friars said about preaching in a Dominican parish. Some of what we said reflects realities that already exist, and some expressed our hopes. First, we said that our preaching should speak both to the heart and the mind. Reason and Faith are not opposed to one another, and that should be reflected in our preaching. We also said that individually and as a community, our lives should be “Word-centered”, i.e., focused on the scriptures. As a consequence, our community here at St. Dominic’s meets every Wednesday afternoon before evening prayer for 45 minutes of common lectio divina – a prayerful reflection on the Sunday’s Gospel.
We also said that each parish should support a community of lay Dominicans, and, thanks be to God, we have a strong community of Dominican laity here at St. Dominic’s. Our preaching apostolate extends beyond the pulpit to programs that allow people to hear the kerygma – the basic Gospel call to conversion and life in Jesus. For this reason, we will be implementing the Alpha Course in the new year. Alpha is an 11 week introduction to the basic Gospel message aimed at the unchurched and spiritually curious. The friars said we should have multiple “entry points” to faith – that is, a variety programs or events aimed at helping people hear the Gospel in a powerful way that invites a response of faith. These would include the use of media, the internet, Mercy Nights, retreats, and providing tools to parishioners to help them evangelize others.
A sure sign that our preaching is effective would be an increase in our RCIA and Adult Confirmation programs and a culture of vocations; i.e., a climate in which people are asking, “What does God want of my life?” The most powerful sign of effective preaching is transformed lives.