My Dear Ones,
May the Grace of Our Lord remain always with us!
Saint Dominic’s foundation of the Dominican Order was a voyage into a radically new way of religious life. While maintaining the classical structures of liturgical prayer and common life, the wearing of the habit and the need for cloister, Saint Dominic replaced the traditional emphasis of religious life upon labor with the need for assiduous study. This change was not to exempt his Brethren from the necessity of manual labor, but to emphasize the necessity for his Friars to know the Word of God and the interrelation between faith and reason, and to be equipped to communicate to the people of his day how God longed to be part of their lives. For Saint Dominic, study was never a means unto its own end, but a door opening into the heart of God. For any Dominican, and for a Dominican Parish, the role of study and learning is as essential for us now as it was in the founding of the Order.
Saint Dominic often referred to working at one’s desk as being at “the altar of the cross.” The solitude that study and learning requires is a form of suffering. Yet, if one does not give himself to this share in the Cross, the role of God and the lessons of hope learned from this penitential act are truncated.
In our day, there is so much we need to study, learn and know. There is great confusion about what the Church does and does not teach. For instance, if you are divorced, are you excommunicated or banned from the sacramental life of the Church? What does the Church teach about the need for the Sacrament of Penance? Is there still a Eucharistic fast? Are we excused from attending Mass on Sunday because “we just can’t get there”? Why isn’t it good to leave Mass before Mass is completely finished? What do Catholics believe about the role of the Scriptures in our daily lives? Is every word of the Bible to be absolutely obeyed? In our day, how do Catholics form their conscience? What is the role of the Church regarding politics, and does this role violate the separation of Church and state? How do Catholics understand in vitro fertilization, and why? What does the Church teach about “end-of-life” issues, and why?
For the Dominican, the answer to thesequestions is not simply “yes” or “no.” There are reasons behind every answer that deserve discussion and study, so that we may better understand the answer and live the answer more fully. In brief, the plumbing of these answers assists us in responding to the great Gospel mandate, “Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect”.1 As is always the case for the Dominican, the call to be perfect is not a command to be painfully endured, but rather this call is given that we might respond in love to the God who has first loved us. Study—that we might come to greater understanding—is one way of responding in love to the God who loves us.
Since becoming your Pastor, we have worked very hard to create a culture of learning.2 How have we done this? Let’s look and see:
- We have begun the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd religious education program. Going into its third year, this program continues to grow as our young children (and many of their parents!) learn the ways of faith.
- The RCIA continues to grow. Each year people present themselves to become Catholic, to complete the Sacraments of Initiation, or to be renewed in their faith. I have a great concern that the Easter Vigil is likened to a “graduation,” with the newly initiated suddenly drawn away from the Sunday Assembly and back to life as usual. We are working on that.
- Three years ago I began a Lenten Bible Study that continues until today. We have had growing and fluctuating numbers in the Bible Study, but I am happy to see that it continues. Saint Jerome tells us, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” I pray that this cannot be said of our parishioners! I would be delighted to see more parishioners taking part in this study. Is there a better time? Would you like to see another format? Please let me know. I can’t address what I don’t know.
- Through the Siena Forum for Faith and Culture we seek to educate and address pressing and interesting issues of our times. As the Church begins the “Year of Faith” this fall, the Siena Forum is preparing a series of events called “Faith is….” I hope you will take advantage of as many of these events as is possible. The Siena Forum is among the boldest of our initiatives to create a culture of learning at the Parish—do you know about it?
Learning and education invite people to a new and deeper understanding; learning and education invite people to leave behind attitudes and behaviors that no longer serve them well. In short, learning and education invite us to embrace attitudes and behaviors that help us attain the fullness of our human potential. THAT is truly Dominican Learning!
I pray that you desire to be part of such a culture of learning in order that we may be agents of Christ who Set the World Ablaze. In so doing, may we fully embrace the God-given reality that we are meant for GREATNESS!
Come and learn with us!!
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!
In the Lord,
1 Saint Matthew 5:48.
2 Please remember, that culture assists us in creating patterns and rituals to help us achieve the fullness of our human potential.