Eucharistic Celebration at the Conclusion of the General Chapter
We gather to celebrate the solemnity of our Father St. Dominic, light of the Church and preacher of grace. We gather in thanksgiving to the Lord for the grace of the General Chapter here in Biên Hòa, Vietnam, and for the manifold graces we have received from Him.
In Bologna, the last General Chapter began with an encounter with the student brothers from all over the world who went on pilgrimage with Br. Bruno, Master of the Order. Here in Biên Hòa, the General Chapter ends with the solemn profession of twenty-two brothers, brothers who will vow to journey with us in following Christ-the-Preacher. They will dare to say “Yes” to a future that is not in their hands because they firmly believe that the future is in God’s loving and merciful hands. God is powerful and faithful because what he promises, he fulfills. And God’s power shines through us when we keep our word, when we remain true to our vows. Let us pray for their faithful perseverance.
Why do we promote vocations to the Order? Why do we invite men and women to join us in the Dominican Family? Do we recruit them because it is our duty to assure that the Dominican charism lives on to the next generation? Perhaps, it is because we need co-workers who will help us in preaching the Gospel? Or, is it because in our time, there are billions of people who have not yet heard of the Gospel, more than at any point in history, either because people are indifferent to the Gospel, or there are too “few workers for a large harvest”. I believe all these are good reasons for us to accept brothers and sisters into the Order. But I think another good reason, probably, the most important one, is we want to share with them the joy of preaching the Gospel, we want to share with them the treasure of the Dominican life. We know from experience that when we encounter something magnificent or breathtaking, the first thing that comes to our mind are the people we love: how we wish they are with us! When our brother- capitulars go home, I suppose their stories will be about the remarkable things they have seen, heard and tasted here in Vietnam! That is how I imagine the communion of saints — as they enjoy the beatific vision, the saints remember us, and perhaps they say: how we wish they are here! And from our side, we say: nos iunge beatis!
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that we are the salt of the earth and light of the world. It is the light of faith we received in baptism that gives us the power to give color and flavor to our world. Pope Francis reminds us in Lumen Fidei: “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey (LF # 57). Even with a very firm and unwavering faith, darkness persists in our world. Yet we have nothing to fear, for faith is a reliable lamp that will light our path.
Here in Vietnam, the name “Dominic” is translated as Đa Minh which means marvelous light! Dominic is lumen ecclesiae. As Christians, and specially as Dominicans, we are the light of the world. But as light, we are more like the moon rather than the sun. Jesus is the only real light of the world; we merely reflect his light. This is what the fathers of the Church call as lunar ministry, to reflect the light of Christ, as the moon reflects the light of the sun. And we know that the brightness of moonshine depends on the moon’s position in relation to the sun. The brightness of the light we bear as Dominicans depends largely on our relation with Christ. Some of us, shine like the full moon — when people look at us, they immediately feel the joy and peace that comes from radiating Christ. They say that one who is in love glows and sparkles. A Dominican who is in love with God and is at peace with oneself and others sparkles and glows in an eminent way! You can easily spot them even when they are in a dark corner of the room because they sparkle, they glow, even in the dark! Yet some of us are in a waning crescent moon-phase, barely shining, almost hidden from Christ. When you see a Dominican who is plunged in gloom, who is cranky and crabby, whose mere presence zaps out your energy, that brother or sister could be undergoing a lunar eclipse! They need our urgent fraternal care because the light that comes from Christ is totally blocked by something that comes between him and Christ. We are the light of the world, Jesus assures us. But what kind of light are we? Full moon, waning crescent or a lunar eclipse? To preach Christ by word and deed is a “lunar ministry”.
Dominic is light of the Church, very much like the light Jesus speaks about in the Gospel. Dominic did not keep to himself the spark of divine inspiration, he founded an Order of Preachers, an order of men and women dedicated to the study of truth and the preaching of grace, and the building of communities, especially the Church.
One of the questions that intrigued me since I was a novice was how come the founder of the Order of Preachers has no recorded sermon or homily? It was not for lack of writing materials because we can still read today the beautiful homilies of St. Augustine who lived centuries earlier. Yet all we have are three short letters Dominic wrote: one was addressed to the nuns, two are about converts from heresy.
I think there must be a good reason for the absence of any recorded homily of Dominic. I invite you to use your imagination and suppose that such absence is meant to highlight the mystery that for Dominic, the Order he founded is his enduring sermon. He called the first convents not as a house for preachers but Holy Preaching itself. We are all the homily of St. Dominic in our world today. We are part of the ever-expanding text of his sermon. The word text comes from the Latin texere, which means to weave. The text of Dominic’s sermon is a weaving together of the life and witness of those who are captivated by his spirit, by his passion for the truth and compassion for humanity. And if we could imagine that we are part of Dominic’s preaching, I invite you to consider where you are in the text1 of St. Dominic’s homily. Are you right in the middle of the text, in big bold letters? Are you a boring, insignificant footnote at the bottom of the page? Are you a footnote that nobody reads but they really should, because if they did, they would find out something interesting; that gives a whole new understanding of the text that sends you in new insightful directions? Are you a note on the margins, reflecting on, critiquing the text? Maybe you are at the margin, barely hanging onto the page, yet whose marginal existence marks the boundaries of the text and provides the world in which the text has its existence. And what does this text say? What do you, the text, have to say for yourself? We are the only but enduring preaching of Dominic in our world today. The decisions we took in our General Chapter, which are in themselves a weaving together of our collective dreams and determinations, are meant to make Dominic’s preaching more eloquent in our world today.
We have come from all parts of the world to celebrate our communion as Dominicans. We have walked together with the Lord for four weeks. After this gathering, we will journey back to our homes. Paradoxical as it may seem, even as we part ways and go to different directions, we continue to walk together, for we belong to the family of St. Dominic, lumen ecclesiae, and we have one goal: to radiate the light of Christ, the Word-Incarnate, to the world.
Gerard Timoner OP
St. Martin Shrine, Biên Hòa
1 Adapted from Karen Soos, “The Etymology of Hope” LOGOS Fall 2004 Vol. XVII No. 2