On September 14th the Lay Dominicans of DFW held their 2019 Retreat. The theme was Lord, open my lips. The inspiration for the retreat came from the readings for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary time, specifically from the responsorial psalm, Psalm 51. The contributions from the members of our group were tremendous. With council contributions such as artwork contributed by Jana Sullinger, music contributed by Jeremy Childress, general event organization by Roy Johnston, liturgical and sacramental assistance by Jenny Norton, general oversight by Natasha Childress and breakfast provided by numerous members of the laity, a memorable experience was had by all.
After a brief ritual calling to mind our baptismal promises, Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP worked with the retreatants giving a brief introduction to the lectionary. Our retreat was dynamic and communal experience. We talked and shared at length, sharing our experience with sacred scripture and the impact it has had on our lives.
As we moved forward, we began to pray deeply with Psalm 51. Each reading of the psalm brought the retreatants closer together with heartfelt sharing. A time of reflective silence and meditation was offered with simple instructions – Each of us were asked to write our own psalm. These instructions were intentionally excluded from the workbook. The only individuals aware of this exercise were those involved in the planning of the retreat. Dwelling on inadequacy being a favorite human pastime, it was decided to omit mentioning this so that individuals could approach the idea whole heartedly. Though many had trepidations about such a task, each individual ‘retreated’ to the quite places in the priory to write their personal psalm.
All of the Psalm writing leading to a deep sense of trust in the Lord, and quite the appetite. Individuals brought their own lunch, snacked on leftover breakfast and got to know each other in the Priory day room. With 34 retreats, 5 of which were novices and 12 of which were not lay members, one of our favorites of Dominican spirituality was embraced – Community.
Our retreat finished out after lunch with more discussion on Psalm 51, more singing, and a love offering for the priory. During our closing ceremony of the retreat, individuals were given the opportunity to share their psalm with the group. Going into this part of the retreat in prayerful and sacred silence, retreatants shared their hearts with each other. Some psalms paraphrased Psalm 51. Others embraced rhyme and meter. Some were penitential and others lifted hope and praise. Collectively, our chapel was consecrated with the hearts and prayers of all in attendance. After prayer and an anointing for the journey, the retreatants went out to the world with a renewed heart and opened lips.
2019 Retreat photos
After the retreat, we invited individuals to share their psalm for this post. Below are a few to enjoy.
Psalm 51 – 5~7~5, by Mr. Mark Connolly, OP
know I am a sinner.
you love me still.
soul is shattered,
helpless in my sin,
out to you.
me your mercy,
not all my sins,
me this day.
made me, make me again.
to love you.
want me as a preacher?
no, not hardly.
You wish, here I am.
need your grace.
set the world on fire,
And bring Truth to all.
Psalm by- Dr. Jana Sullinger OP, MD
O’ merciful God,
Forgive my sins against you.
Cleanse what I defiled.
My sins I know well…
Ever present before me,
Against you alone.
Right is your judgement!
Before my birth-a sinner,
Seen and known by you.
Those in truth-you love.
Your hidden wisdom-teach me.
That I shine-wash me.
With joyful music
You fill my broken spirit-
Blinded to my sin.
Create a new heart…
For me, a right, new spirit.
Cast me not aside.
Lord, renew my joy.
Do guide and strengthen my will,
So that I may preach.
Remove my sorrows.
Open my lips to proclaim
Your praise and goodness.
My gift, does not please.
A shattered spirit, I give.
A new heart, welcomed.
In love, renew us.
Recreate and reshape us.
Lord, open our lips!
A psalm to my Lord by ~ Roy Johnston
Eye me with compassion, Lord. That which I withhold from others.
Those transgressions against them, against you – done without shame, those sins suffocate me. My guilt robs me of the breathe freely given by you.
With perfect clarity you know, see and understand my selfishness; born of pain, pride and arrogance – wrought with guilt and shame.
Redirect my passions; align my compass, my orientation to you alone.
I know that the river of your grace flows into an ocean of mercy that must drown me if I am to every breathe freely.
May my lungs burst from your compassion. Let my consumption overflow like a song, reaching all that would hear your praise.
My offering is my poverty, the broken pieces I have remaining of my misdirected will.
Turn not away from me.
Transform those things.
Let not my offense keep us separated, but your grace bind me to you and all that lives in you.
This space is for the members of our chapter to express some of their ‘Dominican-ness’. Some people would call that ‘preaching’. After some gentle nudging people are providing me their thoughts and on different topics. In this way, you will get to some of who we are and how we think, grow and experience Dominican Spirituality.
Mark is a temporarily promised member of our Chapter. Here is a blurb from his blog, truthvsreality.com
Mr. Mark Connolly, OP, MTS, is a Catholic blogger and podcaster who blogs here at Truth vs Reality, and as a guest blogger at Joe Catholic. He is a co-host of the podcast My Stogie Mystagogy.
Mark has been a featured speaker at Catholic men’s conferences giving talks on what it means to be a Catholic man engaged in the world, and has served as part of the team presenting the monthly Positively Catholic formation talks at his local parish. He is a regular speaker for Joe Catholic, a men’s apostolate, giving talks on topics from Saints to Sacraments, the Documents of Vatican II, and Catholic Social Doctrine. He is a 3rd Degree Knight of Columbus and is enrolled in the Angelic Warfare Confraternity. Mark is also a lay Dominican.
Professionally, Mark is Director of Human Resources for a privately held company in the DFW Metroplex. Mark is a Lay Dominican and holds a Master of Theological Studies in Pastoral Theology conferred by Ave Maria University in Florida and also holds the SHRM-SCP HR certification. Mark lives in Carrollton, TX with his wife Rosie Connolly and their dogs Yeti and Ghost. And Lanier.
How does a good Catholic gain knowledge? What, in that case, is knowledge. There is a lot of data. Is having lots of data the same as having lots of knowledge? Am I going to answer any of these questions?
Let’s play with koans. Koans are a Zen Buddhist thing. No, I am not Thomas Merton blending and confusing mysticisms. Koans are a tool used by Zen monks to test their apprentices. They are designed to challenge the status quo, to instill a doubt, to possibly confuse. We don’t like confusion. Our natural inclination is to seek a resolution,and sometimes this creates the environment for a breakthrough.
Probably the one everyone has heard is, “What is the sound of
one hand clapping?”
Not all koans are questions. One koan goes something like this:
“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”
I seem to gravitate to the statement version. I made some up. You should try it, it’s fun!
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to think and he will always be hungry. (At least, I think I made that up. When I google searched it, it came back with me.)
Give a man a book of zen koans with answers if you hate him.
Data is data, not knowledge. If you just give someone the answers, you specifically teach them not to think. But we have rational souls, and the best teachers teach you to think. And why should we think? To know truth.
of a zen koan consists in the relationship between the master and the student.
It’s not a test, per se. It is a challenge to one’s mind. The right challenge
at the right time is the genius of the master. One may never be asked if they
can describe the sound of one hand clapping because the master may not find that
particular koan useful for this particular student. That a book exists with the
“answers” is both funny and sad.
In some traditions, a student is given one thought to ponder for the rest of his life. It makes sense, if everything is in fact interrelated. So, what does he do for the rest of his life if he finds the answer one day in the stacks at a library?
I will wager that some of the best and most productive koans
have been lost to history because they were developed on the spot by the master
for a specific student, and then were set aside.
And probably many glimpses of truth simply go unrecognized or
are just ignored.
Here is a koan: “I am to be crucified. Follow me.”
*All posts are the thoughts and expressions of the original author. Please do not cite, copy, or share without their express permission. The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone.*
What is a Lay Dominican? Many of us are asked
this question when people see us wearing a white scapular or pin of the
Dominican shield or cross. To quote one of the members of our Chapter, “It
isn’t a social club or bible study.
People come here to discern joining a religious order.” Then comes the
next question, “If you want to join a religious order, why don’t you become a
priest (or brother, monk, nun, or sister)?
Answering that question is a little more complicated. However, people
who discern joining the Dominican Laity are not called to religious life.
Rather, we have been called to live the life of Dominican Spirituality in our
secular lives. As our welcome to you
stated, we come from all walks of life and backgrounds. We belong to our parish and we live in the
world. We answer Christ’s call to
ongoing renewal and conversion by living our Catholic lives in the spirit of
how St. Dominic lived. We have suffrages
that we are obligated to perform, we meet regularly, study, pray, and serve the
Lord in a multitude of ways. In the ways we serve the Lord, we call this
preaching. Lectoring, leading a bible study, feeding the hungry, speaking out
for the unborn, the unloved, the unknown and being the head of our families are
all ways of preaching. There are enough
examples of how to preach to fill volumes. Living out Dominican spirituality
allows us to be better preachers and more importantly, faithful
Lay Dominicans are also governed by
the Fundamental Constitution of the Dominican Laity, and our provinces provide
a General Directory and Statutes. According to the Fundamental Constitution of
the Dominican Laity, sec. 4, “They have a distinctive character in both
their spirituality and their service to God and neighbor. As members of the Order,
they share in its apostolic mission through prayer, study and preaching
according to the state of the laity.”
Lay Dominicans come from every background, joining the Dominican charism to their state of life in the world. In this unique Dominican way, they live out their special vocation “to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.”
Lumen Gentium 31
The Family of St. Dominic is large. There
are 5,742 Dominican friars, including 4,302 priests. There are 25,000 sisters
and nearly 3000 nuns. There is no general registry of Lay Dominicans. These are managed and governed by Province,
area and chapter.
The best way to introduce you to the
Dominican Family is to introduce you to us; to show you who we are, what we do,
and how we live the spirit of St. Dominic in our lives. Considering this, I could not think of any
individual better to introduce you to than Silvia T. She is the newest
perpetually promised Lay Dominican in our Chapter. I had the privilege of attending Silvia’s
Rite in October of 2018. It made a
lasting impression on me to see the joy emanating from her.
I met Silvia at the first general
meeting I attended in 2015. She has a
joy that naturally fills a room. I was
impressed by an inner peace that she exuded and was generously welcomed by her
with an enormous hug. I later had the
opportunity to sit with Silvia as I was discerning to move from inquiry to
candidacy. She mentored me in a very
special way…by sharing of herself humbly. She was a bit flummoxed when I asked
her to sit with me and chat again. After
a bit of prayer, she agreed to a conversation. I’ve outlined it here and hope
that her example of how she lives out her vocation as a Lay Dominican will help
you in your discernment of vocation and Christian life.
Well…here we are…
ST:Laughs. Yea, what are we doing again?
RJ: I don’t know. Let’s just talk and see what
happens. I’ve been scouring the internet
looking at different Dominican websites.
They are all beautiful and have a lot of historical content, information
about our Order, the Saints, the pillars of Dominican spirituality and
more. I think that is great. Somehow
though, I want people who come to our website to encounter us. I want to show what it means to be a Lay
Dominican and a member of our religious order.
ST: laughs again And you want to start with me? Why on earth…
Yes. I have never seen a more joyous
occasion then when you made your perpetual promises to live by the spirituality
of St. Dominic.
was. I spent 5 years as a temporarily
promised Lay Dominican. The Rite of
Perpetual Promise was one of the happiest days ever. I am very grateful to our Lord for leading me
to the Dominican Laity.
I always like to ask the question if someone is a cradle, convert, or reverted
Catholic. It seems like when I asked you
that question when we sat down a couple of years ago, you said something along
the lines of “I am being continuously converted.” Is that correct?
Yes, it is. The Lord has always been
patient and loving with me. There are
things that He led me to that impacted me years later in ways I would not have
anticipated. I experienced renewal during a Marriage Encounter weekend. I like to call myself a retreat junkie.
(laughs) It wasn’t always like that. I
used to be scared that I wasn’t worthy, and I was quite pushy as a person. The Lord, however, was calling me to a life
of obedience. The retreats helped with all of that. I learned that I was worthy. That the Lord, was calling me…ME, to serve
Him, with the gifts that He gave me. In
order to better use those gifts, I had to seek His will, and be willing to be patient.
I remember I was working in San
Antonio, and I was up for a possible promotion.
A coworker was also a candidate for this. We both had to give a presentation in order
to be considered for the promotion. She
had been given materials and an outline, I was not. I was going to have to wing
it. I was very nervous and worried that
I wasn’t worthy of this promotion. Prior
to giving our presentations I offered to pray with my coworker, she was nervous
too. She declined saying she didn’t want to. I persisted and said let’s just
say the Lord’s Prayer together. She still wouldn’t. I prayed alone and just asked God for the gift
to be able to speak. My coworker
stumbled a lot during her presentation. My
presentation showed them my potential. Not only was she offered the promotion;
but, I was too! I had done a good job
and though I wasn’t considered an optimal candidate at the beginning, I got the
promotion. It was the Lord’s help that
got me that promotion. It also prepared
me later for preaching! That was more than a decade before I encountered the
Order of Preachers of St. Dominic. God
is so patient.
Amen to that. You mentioned you are a retreat junkie?
Oh, yes. I attended the Marriage Encounter
weekend and that led to another type of retreat that I was able to not only
attend but help facilitate. It is called Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP). That
also led me to ACTS retreats and others as well. It eventually led me to the idea of joining a
Have you discerned with other religious orders?
Yes, I discerned with the Carmelites for a while. Their spirituality is
beautiful and it focuses a lot on contemplation. I didn’t feel called to the
Carmelite Spirituality though. There
were Lay Dominicans in my parish in Atlanta that invited me to come and
see. I should have known that this would
have been a good fit. My confirmation
saint is Catherine of Siena. I also
claim St. Thomas Aquinas as one of my patron saints. Hindsight is always 20/20. There was an immediate feeling of peace when
I encountered the Lay Dominicans in Atlanta.
I knew I was at home. I am so
grateful to the Lord for loving me and calling me to live the spirituality of
St. Dominic. It isn’t always easy. Serving the Lord is rewarding though.
So, let me back track a little bit. You
attended CRHP in 2007. You are almost 70.
Most of the time, when someone is approaching 60 they know what they
want to be when they grow up….
loudest laughing known to man. Yea, I’m
a little slow. But that is ok. Roy, I was always so afraid. I masked it by always having to be
right. The Lord slowly removed that from
me. The retreats helped. When I first talked at a retreat, I was so
afraid that I wouldn’t have anything in common with people. I was a short Hispanic from the barrio in San
Antonio. How would all these white women relate to me? (laughs). I was in adoration, shaking and crying. I
prayed again for the Lord to give me the gift to speak. And you know, what- He
did! The relationships that I made with
those women was important. When I was
sick I had a community of friends, sisters we call each other, to help take
care of me. When I had cancer, they
removed my kidney. These women helped me
in every way imaginable. One of those
white ladies came and cleaned out my cabinets.
It was humbling for me. I knew
she was very successful. Heck… She had a
walk-in refrigerator. Yet here she was,
cleaning my cabinets. God is so good,
Roy. I am so grateful for Him.
You mentioned that you had cancer…
I have cancer now. I had a kidney
removed about 12 years ago. Later I had a lumpectomy because I had breast
cancer. I had my adrenal gland removed a few years later because it was
cancerous. These were all different types of cancer. None were related to each
other. My breast cancer returned, and I had
to have my right breast removed. Soon
after, I learned that the cancer I had, had spread to the bone. I take medicine now to keep the cancer from
spreading. It works but has side
effects. We don’t know how long it will
work for, but I am happy that it works today.
I am not sure I could muster a tenth of the gratitude and joy you have, if I
had cancer five times.
The bouts of cancer have taught me to always to trust in the Lord. My life is in His hands. I am here because
there are things, he still wants me to do.
I am still called to live my faith. The cancer doesn’t allow me an
excuse to stop. I have cancer, and you
know what? God still calls me to step
outside my comfort zone. He leads me in
His own gentle way to do the things that He wills.
I know your mobility is a bit more limited, and you use a scooter to get
around. Can you share a little bit about
how you live out Dominican spirituality now?
My children don’t currently practice our faith.
I don’t preach at them. I don’t stop being Catholic though. When my kids were younger, we would go to a
Posada at Christmas. My daughter
expressed interest in going this last year and she took my granddaughter. I must remember to be patient. I like to be
pushy, remember. I must trust the Lord
and be obedient that His will shall be worked in the lives of my children and
grandchildren. I gave my daughter a
crucifix. She asked why, and I told her that she knows what the crucifix is and
what it means. I heard her explain it to
my granddaughter. I pray for them every
You mentioned that your praying for the gift to be able to speak is connected
to your preaching today and Dominican Spirituality…
Yes! Here in our retirement community, I
help deliver communion to those who cannot get out. We also have a spirituality group that meets
once a month. I lead that group. There is always a topic for discussion. We also pray with the Gospel reading for the following
Sunday. I often go to The Preacher Exchange and use Fr. Jude
Siciliano’s First Impressions as a guide to the
Our group also put together a food
drive for Lent. We donated food to the
N. Texas area Food Bank. We were so
successful that the management for our retirement community was shocked that we
filled the space to overflowing for the food drive. We had to end it early because we ran out of
I continually focus on what the Lord
is calling me to do. That is my focus every day.
RJ: I think that your actions and how you live
the Spirit of St. Dominic is a powerful witness to the power of God in your
life. What do you want to do next?
Even though my mobility is limited some. I would still love to go on 1 last
pilgrimage to Rome. It is the getting there that is difficult. The long plane rides are not good for
I would also like to see my children come
back to the faith. I love them so
much. To see them embrace our faith,
would bring me great joy. I want them to
know the faith and know what it has done for me, and what being a lay Dominican
has done for me. I must let go and let
God handle the details of that. The Lord
has been so merciful, kind, patient and gentle with me. I also believe that He is with my children as
well. I think that is what St. Faustina
meant when she said, “Jesus, I trust in You!”
One last question/comment. You talk
about gratitude a lot. What are you grateful for?
I am grateful that the Lord has heard my prayers and blessed me with gifts that
I get to share with others. I am grateful for St. Dominic, Dominican
Spirituality, and the Order that welcomes the laity to a place within the
Order. I am grateful for the life affirming purpose that He has given me to
preach the Good News.