November 12, 2017
I have been reporting on discussions at a meeting of Western Dominican friars who work in parishes last month concerning the characteristics of a parish staffed by Dominicans. The “O.P.” after our names signifies we are members of the “Order of Friars Preachers,” the formal name of the Dominican Order. Everything else in our life is intended to flow from and assist that mission of preaching given to us.
Our communal life together as friars shapes our preaching, and it is for this reason that our Province has been examining the quality of our life together, even closing some of our smaller houses to provide more opportunities for us to live in priories (communities of six or more solemnly professed friars). Our larger communities mean we have more than one friar on a parish staff, for example. Our community life, rather than the life of the parish, Newman Center, or other ministries, is intended to be the “center of gravity” of our lives. You are likely not aware of the common activities that we have, like our communal study and lectio divina, days of prayer, common meals, meetings and times of recreation together.
Our life together is intended to help us witness to each other of the need for spiritual change and conversion, and this is a great personal challenge for me, as the superior of the community, as I need to witness to this change first of all in myself. A part of our life as friars is reflected in the small community of Dominican laity who have formed here at St. Dominic’s. They are an important part of the Dominican family who, sadly, don’t receive as much attention from their religious advisor (me, again) as they should.
Finally, some of the finest moments in Dominican preaching have occurred when the community was “of one heart and mind” and spoke a “difficult word” to society through fine preaching. A great example of this was a homily given on the fourth Sunday of Advent in 1511 in Santo Domingo cathedral on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Fr. Antonio de Montesinos delivered a powerful preaching against the exploitation of the indigenous peoples by the Spaniards. His sermon included these words:
“…you are in mortal sin, and live and die therein by reason of the cruelty and tyranny that you practice on these innocent people. Tell me, by what right or justice do you hold these Indians in such cruel and horrible slavery?... Are they not men? Do they not have rational souls? Are you not bound to love them as you love yourselves?”
We are preachers of the truth, and a strong community life enables us the courage to speak the truth.