"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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012 with Archbishop DiNoia OP

Here you will find the homily for Christmas Mass, 2012 (including audio) by His Excellency, Most Reverend J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., vice president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” at the Priory of the Immaculate Conception (Dominican House of Studies) in Washington DC.

As Archbishop DiNoia explained, it forms a kind of homiletic “diptych” with his homily from the Fourth Sunday of Advent given at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

He was with us when some of our friars went Christmas caroling in downtown DC, which he refers to in his homily.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holy Time Holy Preaching to Hasten our Lord's Birth

The holy season of Advent brings things both spiritual and evangelical for our 80 friars of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC. While professors are still marking exams & papers the brothers have been busy.

The +Dominican Friars Vocations Office (Eastern) is preparing for our next vocation weekend. If you would like to attend, contact the Director of Vocations now. 

Tonight our student friars started a silent overnight Advent retreat led by the prior of St. Dominic's (Washington DC), Fr. Joseph Barranger OP. Please say a prayer for them.

Earlier this week the brothers have been working in the kitchen.  Here is the latest trademark (it seems to change annually!) for their latest brew. No it is not for sale, but if you come on a vocation weekend you might be able to taste it (if you are 21).

And perhaps what has been most extraordinary, in an effort to respond to the call of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for this Year of Faith, different groups of our friars went Christmas caroling three days in DC's Metro system!  Archbishop Augustine DiNoia OP, back from the Eternal City to celebrate Christmas with us (he is celebrant and preacher for our Midnight Mass), also joined us to go caroling for one of the nights. Below are a few of the highlights:    PHOTOS w/Archbishop &  the rest of PHOTOS

Check out what happened when the brothers were caroling the first night in Chinatown! (read about it here)

The second night Archbishop DiNoia OP joined us:

The third night the brothers voices seemed to have been warmed up and ready to go!

In these difficult times in which we live, how important it is for all of us to engage our culture and to invite others to know Jesus Christ our Savior.  COME LORD JESUS!

The holy cards passed out to passersby had an amazing little scene of the Nativity of our Lord and on the back this prayer which the brothers wrote:

Come Thou Redeemer of the earth,
And manifest Thy virgin birth:

Let every age adoring fall;
Such birth befits the God of all.

Merry Christmas from the Dominican Friars

Lord God, we praise you for creating us and for restoring us in Christ.
Thank you for the life he shares with us
and for the gift of our salvation.
May the power of his divinity
keep us from temptation, 
provide for our needs,
(include your personal request)
lead us to forgiveness,
and bring us to everlasting life.

Finally here are some recent preparations of our Dominican Schola for Christmas liturgies:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Phenomenology of the Vows: Poverty

*see also:
Introduction to the Phenomenology of the Vows
Phenomenology of the Vows: Chastity
Phenomenology of the Vows: Obedience

"Why do you hate money and possessions?" I think this is the first thing that many people, especially non-Christians think when they hear about the vow of poverty - the voluntary acceptance to live a materially simple life, with all things held in common. "That sounds like communism!" This is not an unreasonable reaction to the religious vow, yet I think it is mistaken in what it sees as the meaning of the vow. As we discussed in the introduction to this series, Edmund Husserl's phenomenological method can be helpful in understanding what the vows are all about, and what they are not about. In particular we noted that phenomenology has two key notions: intentionality and givenness.
"Christ of the Breadlines" by Fritz Eichenberg

Intentionality means that we never just think, we always think about something. Givenness means that our perception of reality, of any individual reality, is shaped by the mode it is given to us - we don't impose terms on the world but receive the world according to its own terms of presentation. We made this specific in relation to the religious vows by saying that vows are always for something, not just acts of the will without purpose. And the vows are always about being open to something given to us, in the case of the vows, the person of Jesus Christ as poor, chaste, and obedient. Phenomenological analysis can help us correct our thinking on the vows and help us to appreciate them more as well as the person we receive through them. Let us now turn to the vow of poverty under these two notions: intentionality and givenness.

Intentionality - the vow of poverty is not the rejection of something, it is not against money, possessions, or wealth; it is for something first and foremost. The intentionality of the vow is to be for Christ in a particular way. The Second Vatican Council notes this aspect in its reason for taking vows:
"First, in order to be set free from hindrances that could hold him back from fervent charity and perfect worship of God, and secondly, in order to consecrate himself in a more thoroughgoing way to the service of God (LG 44)."
Religious taking the vow of poverty are not running away from the world or some part of it, but running towards the world as free men and women in Christ. And this running towards may entail letting some things go. Think of it this way: when you go swimming you generally remove your winter coats and snow shoes - but you would not say that swimming is an act that rejects winter coats and snow shoes; rather to swim you must unburden yourself of these things. The vow of poverty is similar; the vow is not about rejecting material things but about unburdening oneself of material goods in order to be closer to Christ. For as the Catechism teaches:
"In the consecrated life, Christ's faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come (CCC 916)."
For Dominicans the vow of poverty is undertaken in imitation of the first apostles, the ones sent by Christ to preach the Gospel: "Saint Dominic and his brothers imitated the apostles who, without gold, silver or money, proclaimed the kingdom of God (LCO 30)." This notion of poverty was immediately implemented in the Church, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles: "Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common (Acts 4:32)." 
Holy Father Dominic meets Holy Father Francis
Evangelical poverty is about freeing ourselves for a mission of preaching and for a deeper union with Christ. The Dominican Constitutions put it this way:
"This spirit of poverty urges us to put our treasure in the kingdom of God's justice, with a lively trust in the Lord. That spirit offers release from servitude and indeed from solicitude about earthly matters, enabling us to move closer to God, to be more readily available to him, freer to speak about him fearlessly (LCO 31)."
It is all too easy to think that poverty is about practicality, about being "freer" in the sense of more able to respond to current situations, moves, crises, etc. But the freedom given in poverty is deeper than this practical freedom; as these quotations make clear poverty is about being free for Christ and union with God first; all practical benefits are secondary or accidental to this evangelical freedom.

Givenness - Poverty is not just about giving something up, it is most importantly about receiving something, or rather receiving someone - the poor Christ. For in becoming poor ourselves, we strive to know Christ as poor. There are many ways to know any object. I can know a football as brown, or as soft or hard, or as leading to a friendly and enjoyable game. We can know Christ in many different ways, but his poverty seems to be a particularly important way. St. Paul speaks of the poor Christ in II Corinthians 8.9: "For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich." The Catechism highlights Christ's birth as an example of this poverty, a wonderful theme to think about this Advent and Christmas: "Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven's glory was made manifest (CCC 525)." The Lord makes his poverty known to a would-be disciple: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Matt. 8.20)." And St. Paul sings of Christ's poverty in his marvelous hymn:
"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name
that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)." 
The vow of poverty allows us to experience, to meet the poor Christ, the suffering Christ. Of course we take this vow because we have had some experience of Christ in his poverty that draws us to seek him more. Here the dynamic relationship between intentionality and givenness stands out. Christ gives himself to us as poor, under the aspect of his poverty. We may have met him in the Gospels, in an image of the cross, in humble service to others. We respond to this encounter by taking a vow, not just any vow, but a vow of poverty. We want to know poverty more intimately so that we can know him more intimately. Our intentionality in the vow of poverty gives us more of Christ, who first gave himself to us.

*see also:
Introduction to the Phenomenology of the Vows
Phenomenology of the Vows: Chastity
Phenomenology of the Vows: Obedience

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Caroling Dominican Friars Meet Bananas in Nation's Capital - The New Evangelization!

During this holy season of Advent and the Year of Faith, our student friars went caroling in Chinatown near the Gallery Place Metro in Washington DC.

Caroling friars and bananas met "with some festive cheer," some dancing, and a little of the New Evangelization was accomplished!

Bro. Timothy starts it out around 2:20 saying, "We're going to sing and you then...dance!"

The friars will be caroling again later this week as we await Our Savior's Birth. The video ends with the people shouting: "ONE MORE! ONE MORE!"

Holy cards were distributed to passersby and they had some great conversations with DC'ers - thanks be to God.  Come Lord Jesus!

Consider becoming a Dominican Friar by coming on our next vocation weekend.

Join us for Christmas at the Dominican House of Studies and hear these same friars sing again!
Monday, December 24, 2012 – Christmas Eve
11:00 pm Christmas Hymns by Dominican Schola with Martyrology
11:30 pm Christmas Mass at Night
Tuesday, December 25, 2012 – Christmas Day
11:15 am Mass of Christmas Day

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Introduction to a Phenomenology of the Vows

Prof. Edmund Husserl (1859 - 1938)
*see also:
Phenomenology of the Vows: Poverty
Phenomenology of the Vows: Chastity
Phenomenology of the Vows: Obedience

What does Edmund Husserl have to do with the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience? Quite a lot, actually.

In the late 19th century Edmund Husserl was developing a way of doing philosophy that would get us "back to the things themselves!" Previous to him European philosophy had become either idealist/relativistic (in its Hegelian and romantic versions) or empiricist/reductionistic (in its British scientific and skeptical versions). Husserl wanted to reclaim "the things themselves," to allow philosophy again to deal with reality, not just our projections (idealism) or our sense data (empiricism). To do this he founded (although not without help from his mentor, Franz Brentano) the way of phenomenology. If phenomenology can be expressed in two words they would be: intentionality and givenness.

Intentionality is the most well known part of phenomenology — it is the fact that "consciousness is always consciousness of something." 
"If we imagine a consciousness prior to all experience, it may very well have the same sensations as we have. But it will intuit [think] no things, and no events pertaining to things, it will perceive no trees and no houses, no flight of birds nor any barking of dogs (Logical Investigations I, section 23)."
Husserl argues that there is no plain old consciousness, there is no "blank slate" as it were of the mind, but that we are always conscious of things, conscious of something as something. All our thoughts have intentional content — these lights as a stop signal; those sounds as a fire alarm; that person as my wife. Things are not perceived neutrally but as things, and what these things are perceived as depends on my experience, background, traditions, etc. All thoughts are intentional — they are thoughts of something as something.

The second watchword for Husserl is givenness. Against the subjectivist notion of philosophy that says we project or create the meaning of the world, that we produce reality from our minds, Husserl maintains that it is the world that gives itself in intuition (thought as experienced). This notion of givenness is most famously put forth in Husserl's "principle of principles:"
"Enough now of absurd theories. No conceivable theory can make us err with respect to the principle of all principles: that ever originally preventive intuition is a legitimizing source of cognition, that everything originally offered to us in 'intuition' is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being, but also only within the limits in which it is presented there (Ideas I, section 24)."
What Husserl maintains here is that "the things themselves" are what dictate their terms to us; we do not impose meaning on the world but receive the terms of meaning from the things as they are given to us.  We have different modes of knowledge and experience not because of our own subjective temperaments but because different things give themselves in different ways. A cube of salt gives itself to me differently than a advancing lion. In phenomenology I must pay attention to how something gives itself to me to find out what the thing is.

Okay, what does this have to do with religious vows? I think all three vows (poverty, chastity, and obedience) can be helpfully understood in terms of these two Husserlian notions: intentionality and givenness. For each vow this means paying attention to what the vow is referring to: just as thoughts are always thoughts of something, so too vows are not just vows but vows for something. And just as the things of the world are given to us in intuition, so too each of the vows gives to us something, presents something as given and only as given in a mode appropriate to the vow itself. Of course the ultimate given of each vow is Jesus Christ, and each vow allows Jesus to give himself to us in a particular way, as the poor Christ, the chaste Christ, the obedient Christ. We will in turn look at the phenomenology of each vow and the presentation of Christ in them.

But why is this important? Why is this not just another exercise in ivory tower academics? I think Husserl is helpful because when people ask me about the vows they almost always conceive of them as (1) an act of giving something up; and (2) an act that I choose to do. While it is good (or bad!) for my ego to have people lauding me for my "discipline," "commitment," and "sacrifice;" and while these aspects of the vows are true, I don't think they are the primary reason for taking (or living) the vows. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, bears witness to the true reason for the vows:
"The Church continually keeps before it the warning of the Apostle which moved the faithful to charity, exhorting them to experience personally what Christ Jesus had known within Himself. This was the same Christ Jesus, who "emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave . . . becoming obedient to death", and because of us "being rich, he became poor". Because the disciples must always offer an imitation of and a testimony to the charity and humility of Christ, Mother Church rejoices at finding within her bosom men and women who very closely follow their Saviour who debased Himself to our comprehension. There are some who, in their freedom as sons of God, renounce their own wills and take upon themselves the state of poverty. Still further, some become subject of their own accord to another man, in the matter of perfection for love of God. This is beyond the measure of the commandments, but is done in order to become more fully like the obedient Christ (LG 42)."
The vows are not so much about giving up something as about opening up our lives to the reception of a gift given to us: Jesus Christ. The vows are not a negative act but the positive act of conforming ourselves more and more to Christ who has offered himself for us and seeks to abide in us more perfectly. In order to better understand how the vows conform us to Jesus Christ, I think Edmund Husserl and his thought can be a valuable companion, just as he was a valuable teacher to both St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand, and a major philosophical influence on Blessed John Paul II. So, let us get "back to the vows themselves!" Or perhaps better, to the One we know and love in them.

*see also:
Phenomenology of the Vows: Poverty
Phenomenology of the Vows: Chastity
Phenomenology of the Vows: Obedience