"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come and follow me!" Mt. 19:21

"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come and follow me!" Mt. 19:21

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turkey Bowl 2012 at Dominican House of Studies

Each year the friars of the Dominican House of Studies organize a flag football tournament on Thanksgiving. 

(click photos to enlarge) 

This year's tournament had 4 teams participate (all Dominicans). Fun was had by all as we gave thanks to God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ!

Not everyone can play because there is a team in the kitchen preparing the feast! This year they cooked 5 turkeys and everything else!  

Below are a few of the highlights with some photos.  If you look closely you will see one "older" friar also playing.

"Aquinas on the Priest"

The following article by Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P., appeared in the English Edition of Nova et Vetera (Vol. 8, No. 1 [2010]: 1-15).

Aquinas on the Priest: Sacramental Realism and the Indispensable and Irreplaceable Vocation of the Priest

St. John's Seminary
Brighton, Massachusetts

The Priest as Head, Shepherd, and Bridegroom

THE CHURCH today uses biblical language to describe the unique identity of the Catholic priest. Aquinas uses another biblical term to define the priest: mediator. He finds warrant for this usage in the New Testament book that offers the most explicit instruction on the priest and on which Aquinas was one of the few medieval theologians to comment--the Letter to the Hebrews. Aquinas explores the grace to be a priest through the prism of the place that the priest occupies within the ecclesial community: Christ brings divine gifts to men, and he reconciles the human race to God.1 Aquinas identifies mediation with the special character that the sacrament of Holy Orders confers on the priest.2 Thus the subtitle for this essay: Sacramental Realism. To understand what is real about the sacraments, we first need to recall why we need sacraments. "Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause." More than 35 years ago, these words were written by the American author, Flannery O'Connor. Were she alive today, Miss O'Connor no doubt would have dropped the qualifier "secular." For she would have discovered that not a few Catholic theologians spread the belief that there is no cause "in the actual life we live" for Redemption.  (...)

Read the rest of the article on our provincial website.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

St. Thomas recommends the Dominican life - Part I

See also: St. Thomas recommends Dominican life - Part II

When I was considering the religious life, I always thought that it would be a particularly good way to give my life to God. But reading in the novitiate what St. Thomas Aquinas has to say about the religious life in his Summa Theologiae really helped me to see why that is the case. I thought it would be fitting, then, for us to take a brief but multi-post adventure into the thought of the Angelic Doctor.

When delving into a small part of a larger work, it is always good to look first at the bigger picture in order to make more sense of our reading. It also helps us to see the author's deeper motivation. Why is he writing this? How does this part fit into his project? From where is this part coming and to where is it going?

In this post we will cover the “big picture” of the Summa and find out how the religious life fits into it.

After devoting the first question of the Prima Pars (First Part) to investigating the nature and extent of sacred doctrine, St. Thomas says the following by way of introduction to the rest of the Summa: "Because the chief aim of sacred doctrine is to teach the knowledge of God, not only as He is in Himself, but also as He is the beginning of things and their last end, and especially of rational creatures, as is clear from what has been already said, therefore, in our endeavor to expound this science, we shall treat: (1) Of God; (2) Of the rational creature's advance towards God; (3) Of Christ, Who as man, is our way to God."

We see in these three points the bumper sticker version of what St. Thomas himself wants to cover in the three parts of the Summa. We note here that the religious life is treated in the Secunda Pars (Second Part), which is about "the rational creature's advance towards God."

For the sake of completeness, this is how St. Thomas introduces the Prima Pars: "In treating of God there will be a threefold division: For we shall consider (1) Whatever concerns the Divine Essence; (2) Whatever concerns the distinctions of Persons; (3) Whatever concerns the procession of creatures from Him." So, we have (1) God as One (Essence), then (2) God as Three (Persons), and finally (3) creation's procession from God. I must say that, in my years of theological study here at the Dominican House of Studies, I have rather enjoyed my study of the Prima Pars - I would highly recommend it - but this is all we have time to say about it for now.

In introducing the Secunda Pars, St. Thomas says this: "Since, as Damascene states, man is said to be made to God's image, in so far as the image implies an intelligent being endowed with free-will and self-movement: now that we have treated of the exemplar, i.e., God, and of those things which came forth from the power of God in accordance with His will; it remains for us to treat of His image, i.e., man, inasmuch as he too is the principle of his actions, as having free-will and control of his actions."

In the Secunda Pars, then, St. Thomas will focus on man, who, because he is in God's image insofar as he shares in the faculties of intellect and will, is also (i.e., along with God) the principle of his actions. The religious life is treated by St. Thomas as something that assists in the realization of God's image in us, something by which man as a rational creature advances toward God.

St. Thomas goes on to introduce his division of the Secunda Pars: "In this matter we shall consider first the last end of human life; and secondly, those things by means of which man may advance towards this end, or stray from the path: for the end is the rule of whatever is ordained to the end." It is interesting here to note that, while St. Thomas later divides the Secunda Pars into the Prima Secundae (First Part of the Second Part) and the Secunda Secundae (Second Part of the Second Part), that is not the division he uses here. The division he gives in this introduction has as its first part only the first five questions of the Prima Secundae, which are called the "Treatise on the Last End." The second part of the division he gives in this introduction, then, encompasses the other 109 questions of the Prima Secundae as well as all 189 questions of the Secunda Secundae. So, we note that these first five questions on the last end are quite important as providing the context for the other 298 questions of the Secunda Pars. We also note that St. Thomas has much to say about "those things by means of which man may advance towards this end or stray from the path." His treatment of the religious life is found at the very end of these “other 298 questions.” Is he is saving the best for last?

The answer to that question and more will be found in the next installment, in which we will take the grand tour through the first five questions of the Prima Secundae as well as the other 291 questions of the Secunda Pars that precede St. Thomas’s discussion of the religious life. Then we will be ready to settle down for the main course: the meat and potatoes of the religious life according to the Angelic Doctor.

See also: St. Thomas recommends Dominican life - Part II

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fr. Paul Murray OP on Vatican Radio: THE TASK OF HAPPINESS

Fr. Paul Murray OP, of the Irish Dominican Province, teaches at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.  His series called:  "The Task of Happiness" is being featured on Vatican Radio.  Here you will find the programs that have aired thus far.  Fr. Murray taught me at the Angelicum and is a great professor.

The Task of Happiness:
Part I: Of Human Suffering & Joy   (audio)
Part II: "Singing He parted from us"  (audio)
Part III: The Experience of Prayer  (audio)

See also:
1. Fr. Murray's excellent book: The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality: A Drink Called Happiness
2. Fr. Murray speaking on Joy & Humor in Writings of Aquinas

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dominican Vocations Jumpstart Two Years Ago

Two years ago when I started work in our Office of Vocations for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph (Eastern), Fr. Nicanor Austriaco OP and I were invited to interview with Fr. Mitch Pacwa SJ on EWTN.  We were very grateful for the opportunity to talk about the big numbers of men entering the Order of Preachers.  God is good and He is generous!

Right now there are 63 men in formation just for our province. We have 80 friars at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC. This is the largest our studentate community has been for many years.

Guess what? ...it appears the Lord has more plans...from what I can tell, there is a wave of many more men coming to consecrate their lives to Christ for the sake of the Gospel - please keep our financial challenges in your prayers in a particular way that our province might find the means to receive so many He is sending to us.

Fr. Nicanor Austriaco OP teaches Biology and Theology at Providence College
Fr. Nicanor OP & Fr. Benedict OP interviewing on EWTN
with Fr. Mitch Pacwa SJ on EWTN in November 2010


Saturday, November 17, 2012

It is good to be a dead Dominican!

Praying for our deceased brothers on Dominican All Soul's Day
In his book The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker observes: "The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity – activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man." Apparently Ernest Becker did not known many Dominicans.

"It is good to be a dead Dominican." This phrase seems unnecessarily morbid but I think it is good to reflect on now for two reasons: (1) November is one of the times Catholics are called to think about death, particularly with All Saints and All Souls celebrated early in the month; and (2) it is absolutely true!

Why is it "good to be a dead Dominican?" Because Dominicans pray for the dead, especially their brothers. The Constitutions and Ordinations of the Order of Preachers concludes its section on the Common Life with the following:

"Let the brothers cherish the memory of those in the family of St Dominic who have gone before them, leaving them 'the example of their way of life, a sharing in their communion and the help of their intercession.' Let the brothers reflect on and make known their teaching and achievements, while not forgetting to pray for them." (LCO 16)

Dominicans are to constantly remember their brothers in the Order who have gone before them, from the great saints like Thomas Aquinas and Vincent Ferrer to the brothers who they lived with and have recently passed away. All are part of one family, made up of those Dominicans living now and all those Dominicans who have gone before, known and unknown by us.

This exhortation to remember our deceased brothers is made concrete in the lives of Dominicans daily. The Constitutions and Ordinations has an entire section on all the suffrages we are to offer for the dead. Specifically this includes:
         1. Masses for the Dead celebrated for fathers and mothers (February 7), benefactors and familiars (September 5) and brothers and sisters (October 8).
         2. Weekly Masses in each convent for the deceased brothers, sisters, benefactors and familiars of the Order.
         3. Five decades of the Rosary offered each week for the deceased.
         4. The Psalm De Profundis (Psalm 130: "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord...") is recited at least once daily in the community for the deceased brothers and benefactors.
         5. In the case of a death of one of our brothers a Mass is offered in every convent for that brother. (LCO 70-75)

In my experience the daily communal recitation of the De Profundis is one of the most powerful witnesses of our love of our dead; before the main meal of the day we all gather in the cloister and listen to the names of the brothers who have died that day in our Province. It is particularly moving to hear the various low sighs or affirmations from the older fathers in the community who lived with and knew the brothers whose names I am only hearing about. It is a real reminder of the continuity of the Dominican life: we pass on only what we have received and treasure the gift of the Order from our Founder St. Dominic all the way to our recently deceased brothers.

Holy Father St. Dominic with his brothers at his death
For all these reasons and more it is truly "good to be a dead Dominican;" but it is also good to be a living Dominican! This is so especially because of the promise of our Holy Father St. Dominic, made on his deathbed surrounded by his brothers singing the Salve Regina. Blessed Jordan of Saxony recounts how at his death St. Dominic "assured his brethren that he would be of more benefit to them after death than in life, for he knew the one to whom he had entrusted the treasure of his labors and fruitful life." We remember this each time we sing the O Spem:

O wonderful hope
which you gave to those who wept for you
at the hour of your death,
promising that after your decease
you would be helpful to your brethren.
Fulfill Father what you have said and help us by your prayers.
You shone on the bodies of the sick by so many miracles,
bring us the help of Christ to heal our sick souls.
Fulfill Father what you have said and help us by your prayers.

Death for a Dominican is not a one way street; we pray for our deceased brothers and they have promised to assist us by their prayers. It is truly good to be a dead Dominican, but because of our deceased brothers, it is good to be a living one as well!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Next Vocation Weekend: February 1-3, 2013 (few spots left)

The next vocation weekend at the Dominican House of Studies will be February 1-3, 2013.  Reserve your space by contacting the Director of Vocations.

We recently finished our 2nd vocation weekend for this academic year.  A number of men have already begun the application process to enter our novitiate for summer 2013.  For the formation process for the Eastern Province Dominicans, click here.
Cloister garden at the Dominican House of Studies
Current Class of Dominican Novices
"What can I do to prepare now to possibly enter religious life?"

Latest Vocation Video: Five Paths to the Priesthood

Our Popular Vocation Video: Leaving All Things Behind

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Neither Blue nor Gray - Dominican Chaplains in the Civil War

Two soldiers at a 50th Gettysburg reunion - Smithsonian
The Province of St. Joseph has been blessed with many military chaplains in its history, most recently Fr. Edward Gorman, OP and Fr. Joseph Scordo, OP both having served in Iraq. But the tradition goes back to the earliest times of the Province in the time of the Civil War. Of course at the time the Province was split between Ohio (Union), Kentucky (neutral), and Tennessee (Confederate). One could imagine that this would cause serious divisions and tensions within the Province between the different loyalties — but that appears not to have happened. As Fr. John Vidmar, OP says in his history of the Province*: "Priests ministered on both sides of the divide, and sometimes ministered to soldiers of both armies." Frs. Luigi Orengo, OP and John Nealis, OP were known for ministering to troops within their parish boundaries as they passed through.

Fr. Joseph Jarboe, OP
Two fathers did serve alongside the Armies, one for the Confederate forces and the other for the Union army. Fr. Joseph Thomas Jarboe, OP was ordered to leave his parish in Zanesville, Ohio and report to Memphis, Tennesse for assignment "entirely without his looking for it." Although we do not know much about his service, there is a wonderful story of his battlefield courage. At the battle of Shiloh while Fr. Jarboe was cutting the shoes off a Confederate solider's feet to anoint him a bullet knocked the knife out from his hands! This did not disturb him, for he continued with the anointing, finishing the job with the solider's own knife, which he carried with him for the rest of his life to remember the man and their exchange. He was later arrested on the battlefield while helping other wounded soliders and barely escaped execution for being a spy (!) when he was recognized by a convert named John G. Keys. He was sent back to Ohio and did not return to the war.

Fr. Constantine Louis Egan, OP had a more sustained involvement with the war; he was one of only two full-time chaplains in the Union Army, working with the Ninth Massachusetts Volunteers. He saw plenty of action, including the bloody Battle of the Wilderness where 150 men of his unit were killed or wounded in a ten-minute period. One can only imagine the spiritual service he was able to render to these men in their final moments. One of the soldiers reflected:
"Father Egan was a true priest and chaplain and a noble-hearted Christian gentleman, greatly beloved by all the regiment and highly respected throughout the Fifth Corps and the Army... wherever his priestly duties called him in the army, there he was to be found: in the camps, hospitals and on the battlefield... His presence and priestly service was, indeed, a blessing at times to the wounded, the dying and the distressed."
Fr. Constantine Egan, OP
After his Massachusetts unit was disbanded he was commissioned by President Lincoln to serve in the Fifth and Ninth Corps until the end of the war. As a fitting end to his service and a sign of his impartiality towards all men from whichever side of the fighting, he was able to minister to a fallen Confederate soldier, shot by his own officer, on the final day of the war. We have his own description of the event:
"I alighted from my horse and went over to him to aid him spiritually if he wished, and if not, at least to render him all the temporal aid I could in consequence of his great suffering... Examining the wound, I found it was fatal, and from his agony and suffering I concluded that the poor fellow had not long to live; I told him so and entreated him now to fight the last battle for Heaven. I asked him if he had been baptized, he replied in the negative. I told him that baptism was necessary in order to go to heaven, and he seemed willing to be baptized after the instructions I gave him. Then, laying hold of a canteen of water, I baptized him 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'"
Fr. Egan had no concern for which temporal side the soldiers were on; he was worried about the eternal side they were choosing, even in the midst of battle. This impartiality and charity won him the highest commendation a chaplain can receive in his obituary:
"In the thickest of the raging battle, amid the hail of shot and shell and charge of horse and bayonet he was to be seen wherever there was a wounded or dying soldier. He never cared for himself. To him Blue and Gray were alike and to them alike did he administer the sacraments of God."
St. Paul said in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." May God continue to call chaplains like Frs. Jarboe and Egan, who saw no distinction between Blue and Gray.

*Most of this material is found in Fr. John Vidmar's excellent history of the Province: Fr. Fenwick's "Little American Province"