Lay Dominicans of Dallas & Fort Worth | Southern Province ~ St. Martin de Porres

Month: February 2022

Lenten Reflection – 2022

A 6 part series

BY: Mr. Mark Connolly, OP

I am writing this on Fat Tuesday. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and so I decided to do a personal Lenten reflection by doing a deep dive into the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. Since Lent is focused on Christ’s Passion, and the Sorrowful Mysteries are about Christ’s Passion, it just seemed to make sense. (Well, actually the Triduum is focused on the Passion and Lent leads into it. So, in preparation for the Triduum…)

I plan on an introduction (this post) and the 5 mysteries as subsequent posts, The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and finally the Death of Our Lord.

Have you ever wondered why the mysteries of the Rosary are called mysteries? What do we think of when we hear the word mystery? Usually, it depends on the context. In a mystery novel, we know that something has happened but the explanation is hidden. The hero/detective, a very observant and rational person, slowly figures out what is hidden through research and careful consideration of clues. In the best mystery novels, the clues are there for us as well as the detective in the novel, and when he or she figures it out, we think, “Ah hah!” and it all makes sense. Mystery solved. The key point is this: We know there is an answer, we know that the mystery can be solved. And, we enjoy the search and discovery. I think in the most successful mysteries, we figure it out at the same time as the protagonist, and when all the pieces fit together we feel satisfied and think, “That was a good mystery.”

When we think of mystery in the context of religion, we generally have a different experience. We hear or read something that we don’t understand, and when we ask about it, all too often we are told, “Well, it’s a mystery.” By this is meant, “I don’t know either, we can’t figure it out, we shouldn’t try to figure it out, so just accept it on faith.”

But, isn’t this dissatisfying? Why can’t we get answers to our religious questions? Why can’t they be solved? Are we really supposed to just turn off our brains and accept things on faith? This seems dangerous to me, but mostly it just seems wrong. If there is Truth with a capital T, shouldn’t we strive for understanding?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a hiddenness to reality. Let’s face it. Reality is mysterious. We probe reality—this is a defining human characteristic, and this is what drives all discovery—the desire to know, and equally, to understand.

And what do we want to know, what do we want to understand? While our minds and hearts are young, the answer to that question is “Everything.” But as we get older, we begin to suspect something troubling, something maybe even a bit scary.

Reality is too big.

Some are defeated by the fact that all of reality is beyond their grasp and stop questing. Losing their child-like wonder at the world, they live with a vague sense of loss and a certain weariness. Jaded and cynical, they dissipate themselves with idle diversions and ask, “What is the point?”

So, what is the point?

The point is just this: There is a point.

While we will never have complete grasp of the mystery that is life, we can always know and understand more. We can read the mystery book of life, and begin to see the clues. Rather, we can intentionally participate in this mystery. And while we may not figure it all out until the end of the story, we can always know more tomorrow than we do today.

Some recognize that this desire to know everything is simply the desire to know God. They understand that while reality is what we must work with, reality isn’t the goal.

Reality is the clue.

Mystery is the subject of knowledge. Mystery, the kind of religious mystery that we are talking about here, is not so different from that of a mystery novel. The clues are there, they need to be studied. Rather, they need to be lived. For in this particular mystery, we are not reading about characters. We are the characters.

As is always the case with mystery, the fact of mystery is the first clue. What do I mean by that? Oddly, mystery is in some ways self-revealing. It announces its presence, it says,

We will never be aware of all the mysteries, we will never see all the clues, but that’s OK. We can work with the clues we have, the ones we see in a sunset and find in the spring thaw, and the ones we have been given through Revelation. We can pursue these clues, study them, and hope to have those “Aha!” moments when we suddenly understand some piece of the grand and glorious Mystery of our lives. And what is this mystery? It is the Mystery of who we are in relation to God—it is the Mystery of Salvation. And it is this Mystery that is the subject of the Rosary.

The Rosary offers several mysteries for our consideration. Think of them as clues, insights into Revelation, insights into reality. Traditionally there have been 15 mysteries, three sets of five, known as the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries. These mysteries date back at least 400 years. In brief, they in turn focus our attention on the Incarnation, the Passion, and The Resurrection of our Lord. In 2002, Pope St. John Paul II offered a fourth set, the Luminous mysteries. These mysteries focus on Christ’s public ministry, aka the Gospel.

Succinctly, these four sets of mysteries offer us opportunities for meditations and contemplations on the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. As Jesus is God made Man, they also offer us an opportunity to reflect on our own birth, our own life, our own death and our own resurrection. And in solidarity with our fellow man, we can enter into the births, lives, deaths, and yes, the resurrections of our family and friends. One more thought on mystery and knowledge: there is no theoretical limit to how much we can know. And, if to know someone is to love someone, then there is no theoretical limit to how much we can love God. Yet the question remains, “How can we know God?” The answer is obvious when you understand it—we can know God because he has revealed Himself to us.

He has revealed Himself to us.

Join me, if you will, and over the next 5 weeks we will dig into the Passion of Our Lord, beginning with next week’s post: The Agony In The Garden.

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As Dominicans we contemplate and bring the fruits of our contemplation to those we know. I don’t know about you, but my contemplation is helped by the thoughts of others. Please share your thoughts in the Comments.

To Praise, To Bless, To Preach

Dominican Life is Liturgical (First and Foremost!)

By Mr. Pedro A. Moreno, O.P.

This is Part 4 of a Series on what it means to be a Lay Dominican. Part 3 is here.

Dominican Spirituality: Principles and Practice by Fr. William A. Hinnebusch, O.P., chapter V, Dominican Life is Liturgical, begins with these words:

“We have examined the ends of the Order — contemplation and the apostolate, the first fructifying in the second. These are the noble goals that the Order sets before the Dominican. However, it is not enough to have marvelous ideals. It is necessary to have suitable means to achieve them.”

He reminds us that:

  • Contemplation and Apostolate are the ends of the Order.
  • Liturgy can lead us to contemplation, and is distinct from it.
  • Liturgy is a prerequisite to our apostolate of preaching because it feeds our ministry with life.
  • Liturgy, how we Praise and Bless God, is our most important, foundational and essential act.

This chapter presents Liturgy as the means to achieve the ends of the Order, contemplata aliis tradere. It presents us with basic principles on the liturgy in Dominican Life that will always stand the test of time and councils.

Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, written before the final 1965 adaption of Fr. Hinnebusch’s 1962 Lenten Conferences to the Dominican Sisters in Amityville, NY, states in paragraph 10 something similar for the whole church:

“… the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper… the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.”

Liturgy, primarily the celebration of the Eucharist, and then the praying of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, is how we, on a regular basis, worship. It is how we give God his just due and affirm the primacy of God in our lives.

God’s love for us and our love for Him, through the re-presentation of the Paschal Mystery, is ritualized, proclaimed and celebrated. Liturgy is our reaffirmation, and personal reminder, that God is the most important, and most loved, being in our lives.

He’s #1, and we are totally dependent on Him. Liturgy is our communal thanksgiving of being saved by the God that loves us more than we can ever understand. Liturgy is life and this life is not optional!

The primacy of God in the life of every member of the Dominican Family is a principle reaffirmed by St. John Paul II in a letter he wrote to the Order back in March of 1983,

“The Church continues to propose these principles as the foundations of Christian wisdom and as the axis of apostolate… The first of these principles is that which affirms the absolute primacy of God in the intelligence, in the heart, in the life of man. You know well how Saint Dominic responded to this requirement of faith in his religious life: “He spoke only with God or of God.” You also know how, on the level of doctrine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, beginning with the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church, envisioned this primacy of God and how he supported it with the force and consistency of his metaphysical and theological thought, using the analogy of being which permits the recognition of the worth of the creature, but as dependent on the creative love of God.”

Liturgy is receiving the oxygen we need to be able to speak the Word! Liturgy is communing with Veritas so as to be able to share Veritas with others. Liturgy is when we Praise and Bless so we are then able to Preach. Liturgy is our community’s lifeblood. Liturgy is what keeps the Dominican Family united as one with Christ first and then, through Christ, unity with each other.

In a paragraph dedicated to all Lay Dominicans Fr Hinnebusch states…

“Tertiaries follow a rule which, in accord with their life in the world, parallels that of the fathers and sisters. They promise to live according to the Order’s spirit, attend Mass every day, if possible, and recite either the Office of the Blessed Mother or the fifteen mysteries of the rosary. They hold their monthly chapter meeting and endeavor to achieve a deeper understanding of the truths of the faith. In all branches of the Dominican family the same goals are pursued, fundamentally the same means are employed, and the same spirit is engendered and maintained. In this chapter we shall discuss only the prayer life of the Dominican.”

What follows in the chapter are clear recommendations for those living a conventual life. References are made to the vowed life, leaving the cloister and how the liturgy is a key part of life in these houses. Recommendations that are clearly not with the Lay Dominican in mind. Here is an example that clearly does not apply in my home:

“… an atmosphere of prayer in its houses, enjoining silence as the essential environment in which Dominicans shall lead their lives.”

It is clear that the late Fr. Hinnebusch never visited my house between 1990 and 2010 when my three daughters were teenagers! This reminds me of a favorite family meme, “We’re not loud, We’re Puertorrican!”. Silence in our house back then meant that we were either traveling, or, it was 3:00AM and we are finally all asleep.

As a Lay Dominican it is my responsibility to find or create moments and places for my personal prayer. While never equaling the silence of conventual life spaces for prayer are available if you take the time to look around. I sometimes lock myself in the bedroom, or even the bathroom. (Thank God we have more than one!) After finding a place I then, if possible, set up some classical or instrumental music, open a Bible or the Liturgy of the Hours and spend some quality time with the Lord.

Sometimes I just stay in the car, or just stay at the office, after 5:00PM when everything calms down a bit. If I didn’t get to Mass yet then I would search for an evening Mass or an opportunity for quiet adoration. All of this is essential for the preaching life. We all need to Praise, Bless and then, after some serious study, Preach.

Regarding the Divine Office, a.k.a. the Liturgy of the Hours, it is more common for today’s laity to participate in this liturgical prayer. Here is a quote from Laudis Canticum, the Apostolic Constitution promulgating the revised book of the Liturgy of the Hours, from 1970:

“The Office has been drawn up and arranged in such a way that not only clergy but also religious and indeed laity may participate in it, since it is the prayer of the whole people of God. People of different callings and circumstances, with their individual needs, were kept in mind and a variety of ways of celebrating the office has been provided, by means of which the prayer can be adapted to suit the way of life and vocation of different groups dedicated to the Liturgy of the Hours.”

Chapter V once again speaks specifically to Lay Dominicans, or Tertiaries, and they are mentioned in reference to the “Little Office”:

“The spirituality of Dominican sisters and tertiaries, shared with a priestly and apostolic Order, is also liturgical. The little Office of the Blessed Mother which they recite fashions and molds them in the spirit of Mary, teaching them how to do everything in her, through her, by her, and for her. They contemplate the Mother of God, who, “kept in mind all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke, 2:19). They love souls because Mary, the mother of souls, loves then. They are anxious to save souls because she, the Mother of the Savior, wants to save them.”

The “Little Office of the Blessed Mother” also known as “Hours of the Virgin”, is a simplified version of Liturgy of the Hours and has a cycle of psalms, hymns, scripture and other readings highlighting and promoting the devotion to our Blessed Mother.

I thank Fr. Hinnebusch for the examples of saints and their prayer lives, beginning with St. Dominic. He ends that section with a clear warning: 

“If a Dominican is not devoted to prayer and praise, he cannot contemplate; he cannot even hope to contemplate. Without prayer, he will never penetrate the truths of faith. Speaking of Our Lord’s mysteries, St. Thomas writes:

If anyone would diligently and piously consider the mysteries of the Incarnation, he would find such a profundity of wisdom that it would exceed all human knowledge… the wonderful meaning of this mystery is manifested more and more to him who piously ponders it.”

To contemplate, piously ponder or lovingly gaze, is a special supernatural grace given freely by God to many of those that Praise and Bless so they may Preach. No liturgy means no true contemplation and no contemplation means no preaching that is consonant to our call. May God grant us the gift of perseverance in our prayer life, both liturgical and private.

The last section in chapter V is a reflection on, The Prayer of the Dominican Family. It begins with these words:

“As the Church is a family, the Mystical Body of Christ, so also the Order of Preachers is a mystical family. Its members, numbered in thousands, are joined to their holy father, St. Dominic, and to one another by the bonds of profession. By birth men are related to their parents, brothers, and sisters by ties of blood. Religious profession joins the Dominican in a spiritual relationship with his Founder and all his children on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven. This union is closer than the bond of blood linking earthly parents and children because it is supernatural.”

Paragraph 3 of The Rule of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic reminds us that all Lay Dominicans are united in communities and constitute, with other groups of the Order, one Family. And, as Father Patrick Peyton use to say, “The Family that prays together, stays together.”.

I end with a slight variation on the ending of chapter V.

When the Dominican Family prays, we all benefit. Our prayers make us fervent, intimate friends of God. We also help the other members of the Dominican Family, and all their neighbors everywhere. Prayerful Dominican save more souls by prayer and contemplation than by words and action. When we participate at Mass or pray the Liturgy of the Hours, St. Dominic stands in spirit with us as he did 800 years ago in Bologna. He encourages us to put our whole heart into it. When we listen to him, we place our prayers in his hands. In turn, he bows toward the Holy Trinity, offering the combined homage and adoration of the entire mystical body of the Dominican Family.

Thank you Fr. William A. Hinnebusch, O.P., for this book that stills gives fruit after almost 60 years.

VERITAS

Next up: Dominican Life is Doctrinal

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I thought it might be interesting for everyone to understand the concept of liturgy from a practical mundane standpoint. I found this definition of the word separated from the usual religious trappings; I think it applies to us as Lay Dominicans and is something to keep in mind when we engage in public worship:

In ancient Greece, particularly at Athens, a form of personal service to the state which citizens possessing property to a certain amount were bound, when called upon, to perform at their own cost. These liturgies were ordinary, including the presentation of dramatic performances, musical and poetic contests, etc., the celebration of some festivals, and other public functions entailing expense upon the incumbent; or extraordinary, as the fitting out of a trireme in case of war. [Century Dictionary]

Liturgy is a form of personal service. (Mr. Mark Connolly, OP)

Dominican Life is Apostolic

This is Part 3 of a series. Part 2 is HERE

Dominican Spirituality can be summarized into prayer, study, community, and the apostolate (aka preaching) which we call the four pillars.  Debra explored with you in the previous article how the Dominican Life is Contemplative which is located in the Prayer pillar.  In this article, we’re going to explore the Apostolate pillar through the chapter called “Dominican Life is Apostolic” in the book “Dominican Spirituality, Principles and Practice” by Fr. William A. Hinnebusch, O.P..  Here we are presented with some of the most straightforward yet perplexing elements of Dominican life.

Before we get too far, it is important that we discuss what is “apostolic.”  The root word of “apostolic” is the Greek verb for “to send.”  Those that are sent are apostles.  Since Jesus was sent into the world first and by the Father, Jesus is the prime and prototypical apostle.  Just as He was sent, He sends the disciples into the world, John 17:18, making them apostles.  By our baptism and confirmation we are called to participate in Christ and in His mission.  Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. speaks of sanctification in this way:

The measure of the perfection or holiness of the spiritual life is the degree of participation by the individual Christian in the sanctity and perfection of God. 

OP Fr. Jordan Aumann, Spiritual Theology, n.d.

When most people think of religious orders they usually think of “monks,” who are sequestered off in their monasteries living a private and an interior life seeking holiness, and “friars,” who are out on the streets living a life with the people and an exterior life serving others.  As the conversation continues we end up discussing examples like Benedictine monks and Franciscan friars each with their own participation in Christ’s life.  This always makes me chuckle when I am explaining that I am a permanently professed member of a religious order because I am clearly neither of these, and yet I am called to both of these activities.

Mark, in a previous article, references a quote from Dominican Spirituality that I really enjoy. Let me paraphrase it, a person can be saved outside of the Order of Preachers but once they enter the Order they must save their soul through the spirituality of the Order.  The spirituality of the Order follows in the spirituality of its founder, Dominic, who was a cloistered monk then later sent into the world.  Like Christ, Dominic sent his brothers into the world.  The Rule for Lay Dominicans, which we promise to follow and live by, aligns us to the Order’s mission by stating as “Members of the Order, [the Dominican Laity] share in it’s apostolic mission through prayer, study, and preaching according to the state of the laity.” This is followed by three more paragraphs describing the apostolic mission where the Order describes how our apostolic activity has its source in contemplation, attending to the particular goals of the contemporary Church, and how we are to be attentive to the needs of the people of their time.

Hinnebusch takes this theme and starts off the chapter on the apostolate by establishing the eschatology of the Order:

The general end of the Dominican Order is the sanctification of its members through contemplation; its special end is the salvation of souls through preaching. These two ends are not contradictory; in fact, they are one. The second implies the first.

The Rule #I.4

This is a really striking statement.  It asserts two things about the lay members of the Order; that we practice contemplation and that we serve others through the apostolate. This is for a number of reasons.  One of which is that that love which draws the Dominican into such a union with God is the same love that draws him out to encounter others.  There is an inseparable link between our sanctity and our apostolic efforts.

There are a number of things that contribute to our sanctity.  First, we must want it.  We must desire to become holy.  Then we need to have a sacramental life, namely that we confess our sins in Confession and reception of the Holy Eucharist.  We are also called to a regular prayer life.  We join our voices with the rest of the Order of Preachers, other religious orders, Clergy, Lay persons, including the Holy Father by praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  We also pray privately through conversation with God and contemplation. Which can be done as simply as by picking up the rosary and praying it.  Both the liturgical and the private prayer form a minimum goal.  Both have such an important role in our lives that Hinnebusch devoted a chapter to each of these to dive into those areas in more detail with the articles on how a Dominican life is liturgical and contemplative.  We should never run out of things to tell our Lord.  There is a phrase that we use around the chapter, that we take our studies into our prayer life and then share the fruits from our prayer life with others.  As we continue to study and grow in our knowledge of the Truth, we should be taking what we learned to the Holy Trinity then sharing with others the gifts we receive from that exchange.

There is a saying that we preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.  Like the prophets of old, we are called to engage with the situations of the times we find ourselves in.  This was not new to the Second Vatican Council where church fathers said the following:

[The laity] exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.

Catholic Church, “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: Apostolicam Actuositatem,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011), 2.

The “temporal order” phrase refers to the time and place that we are in.  We are called to go into the world, the world that we were born into, and seek to perfect it through the Gospel.  We are to be God’s agents in the world bringing about change.  This is not work that is unique and special to us, the laity.  We strive to labor in our homes, families, work places, grocery stores, our social groups, our government offices, etc.  It is in these places that we bring about change.  Not only speaking out like prophets of old against injustice but actually making change like Jesus did.  Some might say that we preach from the everyday pulpits we find ourselves at, yes, and I say that we are to be craftsman laboring in the perfection that which God has set before us.  Like the prophets, we were born at a chosen time and place.  We have to look around us to see the needs of our times. One of the largest questions faced by Lay Dominicans is what to do in their apostolate.  Like our forefathers in the Order, we are called to attend to the particular goals of the contemporary church specifically toward the suffering, defending freedom, and promoting peace and justice.  Here we begin to see the first hints of what kind of apostolic activities we are called to.  But this should not be a surprise to us just look at what the prophets said and what Jesus did.  There is a common activity that people assume we do because we are members of the Order of Preachers that is, well, preaching.  The most visible form of preaching is that of the Priests and Deacons during liturgical celebrations.  As lay persons, we don’t have the permissions to do that.  But we are sent to preach into places where they can’t go like our workplaces, sports teams, families, etc.  Our service to those in need and the particular church we abide within starts with praying for the intentions of our Bishop and our Pastor and ends with us clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and protecting the stranger.  There are a lot of opportunities between prayer and Works of Mercy.  Could be volunteering at the local homeless shelter or helping at the food pantry.  We can not sit around waiting for those opportunities to present themselves like the next netflix episode.  Be in the world to seek those opportunities or as craftsmen, we sometimes need to create opportunities to help others.  Think of it like building the pulpit that we preach from.  As Lay Dominicans we are in the world sharing God’s mercy through our attitudes, words, and actions.

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Next up: Dominican Life is Liturgical


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