When I titled this blog, I turned to a group of women, and two saints, who have been most influential on my own spiritual growth as an adult. I became an Associate to the Dominican community of religious women, in Racine, WI, in 2004.
The Dominican charism, “Committed to Truth; compelled to Justice,” has informed my teaching, studies, writing, professional work, and how I encounter challenges and possibilities in my life. Today is the Feast Day of St. Dominic. Before he was born, his mother dreamed of a black and white dog, carrying a torch in his mouth– this would be her son, carrying Truth and God’s message to help bring light to this world.
Today I received by e-mail a sermon by one of the sisters, a powerful theologian and preacher. I share her words below. I am struck by her call to “enter into what it means to be human.” I am challenged by examining how I might live out my calling in everyday life, in all of my work, and not keep it for Sundays or “holy” occasions or settings.
“Proclaim the word; fulfill your ministry. And remember I will be with you at all times.
It is a phenomenon of life that as we get older, time seems to speed up. Has it really been that long since we last saw each other? It is hard to believe my youngest grandchild is graduating. Is my hair turning that gray? Am I now on the list to receive Medicare and social security? Time is fleeting. Where have the years gone? The sense of life moving on can haunt us.
But the more important question is how have we spent those years? How are we willing to spend our lives, so more life may evolve? Suddenly we could arrive at our last day not believing that that was it. And so we strain to find a way of living and being to harvest the short time of our life on Earth.
We know that our brother Dominic demonstrated a focused way of life. The words of scripture heard today: Proclaim the word; fulfill your ministry. And remember I will be with you at all times, unmistakably reflect Dominic whose feast we celebrate this week. Dominic, the preeminent disciple and itinerant preacher left us an incredible legacy, using his time on Earth announcing peace and bringing good news.
Dominic set himself to preaching and attracting others to preach. Heretical teachings dangerous to the faithful, led him to see a great need for educated, zealous preachers who would enlighten hearers and lead them to the truth. He proposed an order dedicated to preaching at a time when no one but bishops regularly preached. Designated by the Pope, he was to be the preacher to the world. Dominic was concerned that preachers should know their faith thoroughly and be able to expound it competently.
Biographers tell of how cheerful and companionable Dominic was. His intense devotion to prayer and preaching led him to demonstrate that both should be full time occupations. You may recall from any studies about Dominic that he exhorted his brethren to ‘talk always about God or to God’. Dominic spent five years as head of the Order. Five years of his charismatic presence was enough to gather an Order that in its first hundred years would count nearly 30,000 members from the European countries.
Catherine of Siena is to have said: ‘The voice of Dominic’s preaching is still heard today and will continue to be heard’ in the preaching of his followers.” It is quite in accordance with his own temperament that Dominic should live on in the church, not as a striking individual, but in the work of preaching the gospel. Indeed that is why he gathered the brethren.
We have inherited this profound Dominican legacy, so in the same way, today’s scripture should speak to us. Proclaim the word; fulfill your ministry. And remember I will be with you at all times. As Christians we have been called. The call comes from a voice inviting us to be the persons we were born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given us at birth by God. Vocation is the place where my deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. Every journey honestly taken stands a chance of moving us toward the place where we make a mark in the world.
The nature of the call can change over time, taking a person down pathways never anticipated. Friends, guests celebrating with us today you have each answered a call. Those of you who were more formally connected with the Racine Dominicans as aspirant, postulant, novice or professed, we express gratitude for the gifts you shared with us, gifts that are immeasurable and lasting. We hope that what you received during those years of special connecting have been valuable and have enhanced your life and outreach for whatever path you have taken. We hope your Dominican connection has made you a better person. Many of you have testified to a deepened spirituality, a stronger faith, and gifts of lasting relationships when sharing your thoughts for the Booklet of Memories.
As you have grown and moved on so have we. In 150 years Racine Dominicans have never remained stagnant. Change has been a mantra. It happens to be quite visible today with the claws and jack hammers seen on the property.
Mother Benedicta began our community and we have always been a little chaotic as time unfolded, as social conditions changed, and the church changed with Vatican II. While we changed our wardrobe, more significantly we changed our classrooms. The world has become our classroom. We strive to think through the questions of faith in dialogue with the world; attentive to the signs of the times, listening to the call of the Spirit, seeking the bigger picture, knowing God is at the heart of it all. In the Jubilee ad booklet you received today, we invite you to read the two pages listing the Corporate Statements we have adopted. We encourage you to endorse them with us.
And so to proclaim, to fulfill our ministry, to be a follower of Jesus is to reach out, to enter into what it means to be human. It starts with loving a people so much we work to change the structures that violate human dignity and hold people in bondage.
As the Albigensian teachings challenged Dominic, as this week we remember the atomic bomb attacks in 1945, as immigration laws cause division, as trafficking enslaves, as Earth cries out for respect, as power is abused, we must strive to restore just relationships and bring peace to our messy world. With Dominic as our motivator and mentor, we are companions on this journey, remembering we have a greater opportunity to make a path if we do it together. Time is fleeting. There is an urgency to proclaim the word, to fulfill our ministry with the assurance that Jesus is always with us.
Jesus came to teach us that God’s presence is as close as our next act of kindness, our decision to go the extra mile, our willingness to be inconvenienced, and our attentiveness to real needs, keeping in mind that the most powerful influences are often the invisible ones.
As we prepare to be nourished at the Eucharistic table, let us continue to be faithful followers of the disciple and itinerant preacher Dominic. And let us carry on this celebration in a spirit of joy and heartfelt gratitude for all of us who have answered and continue to answer the call.
May the God in you meet the God in me with each encounter?” (by Sharon Simon, OP)
Image from “Telling the Stories that Matter.”