The English Province holds Jubilee Vespers at Westminster Cathedral

Jubilee Vespers in the English Province

The Order of Preachers celebrated Dominican Vespers at Westminster Cathedral on Friday, officiated by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols as the key event in their 800th Jubilee year. The celebration appropriately coincided with the Feast of the great Dominican mystic, St Catherine of Sienna, Co-Patron of Europe and Doctor of the Church.

Fifty five Dominican friars and the present and former Masters of the Order, joined two cardinals, two archbishops, four bishops and three abbots on the sanctuary. Seventy Dominican sisters, Lay Dominicans and pupils from sixteen schools associated with the Order swelled the congregation. Special guests included the Earl and Countess of St Andrews, cousins of the Queen, Francis Campbell, Chancellor of St Mary's University and former Ambassador to the Holy See, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten with Lady Patten and Dame Helen Ghosh, first female Permanent Secretary to the Home Office.

The Rt Reverend Malcolm MacMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool, gave the Homily saying that St Dominic had founded a community of equals searching for truth throughout the centuries in academic life, nursing the sick and working alongside the dispossessed. By sending his friars into the university towns they became pivotal at the heart of intellectual life in Europe.

Dominican saints, who included married men and women, martyrs, teachers and artists alongside the great philosopher theologian Thomas Aquinas, were, he said, at the forefront of prophetic action. He spoke of Catherine as a fearless lay woman working for peace amongst warring Italian states and of her tough stance with Cardinals and Popes - telling them in today's jargon to "man up", persuading the Avignon Papacy to return to Rome.

Offering her life for the service of the Church, she considered prayer as "mother" - nourishing, teaching, protecting and guiding. In this Year of Mercy her words have a particular resonance,... " no matter where I look I find only mercy."

Sir James Macmillan, present for the occasion, had specially composed music for the Magnificat antiphon that poignantly intoned a mystical Middle Eastern resonance. Sopranos complemented the Cathedral choir in a beautiful rendition of his inspirational music.

The Master of the Order, Fra Bruno Cadore OP gave an address highlighting St Dominic's radical evangelising renewal in times not unlike our own. He said that one Dominican group had given the Jubilee the motto: 'Dominicans, eight hundred years of new evangelisation!'

There were so many guests that receptions were held in four different venues to accommodate them all.


(30 April 2016)