Br. Louis Joseph Lebret, O.P. (1897-1966). Mascarella Table (c.1240), Bologna. “Dies Natalis” Sancti Dominici (1221-2021).

The Order of Preachers is celebrating the Eighth Centenary of the Dies Natalis of St Dominic, that is to say, the anniversary of his death in the course of the year from 6 January 2021 to 6 January 2022.

The theme for the jubilee celebration is At Table with St. Dominicwhich is inspired by the Mascarella table, the table on which the first portrait of St. Dominic was painted shortly after his canonisation. Thus, we will celebrate St. Dominic not as a saint alone on a pedestal, but a saint enjoying fellowship at table with his brothers, gathered by the same vocation to preach God’s Word and sharing God’s gift of food and drink.

Our jubilee celebration invites us to reflect on these questions: What does it mean for us to be at table with St. Dominic here and now (hic et nunc)? How does his life and work inspire and encourage us to share our life, our faith, hope and love, our spiritual and material goods so that others too may be nourished at this same table? How does this table become a table for the breaking of the Word and the Bread of Life? (Timoner, 2020)

One of the questions posed by the current Master of the Order of Preachers, Br Gerard Francisco Timoner III, is “How do his life and work inspire us to share our lives, our faith, hope and love, our spiritual and material goods, so that others may be nourished at this same table?

Beyond doubt, part of the reflection on and answer to this question about the lay, religious and committed vocation in following Jesus is to think of the figure of Br Louis Joseph Lebret, a French Dominican who, through his contributions, shared – at table – his research and work on human economy.

Remembering Lebret on the occasion of his Dies Natalis Jubilee (1966-2021), this is a time of grace that allows us to reflect on Master Gerard’s question.

Lebret’s life, vocation and work have inspired a number of research studies and contributions on human development in various parts of the world, especially in Latin America. His contributions on the progress of peoples, starting from real, concrete experiences, are a mark of the preaching of the Gospel in accordance with the charisma and spirituality of the Order of Preachers. There is a harmony in the bringing together of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, with fraternal life, study, prayer and preaching. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, it is a matter of Contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere – contemplating and giving to others the fruits of contemplation (cf. Summa Theologiae, II-II, 188, a.6).

It is being Facientes Humanitatem – Makers of Humanity – in order to contemplate reality and thus seek a way of dignifying the human being, allowing her/his human ascension or, as Pope Francis reminds us in his recent letter Prædicator Gratiæ, on the occasion of the Dies Natalis of St Dominic:

The Gospel message of our inalienable human dignity as children of God and members of the one human family challenges the Church in our own day to strengthen the bonds of social friendship, to overcome unjust economic and political structures, and to work for the integral development of every individual and people. (Francis, 2021)

Today as in the past, Lebret’s legacy has permeated human economy, and continues his study – intellectual apostolate – and development in various educational centres and institutions that contribute with Dominican humanism to the Magisterium of the Church, in that Integral Human Development is a mark of an economy that promotes the common good, which means promoting the values and rights of every individual to live with dignity (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 107).

Br. Juan Ubaldo López Salamanca, OP[1]

20 July 2021

On the 55th anniversary of the Dies Natalis of Fr Lebret

References

Francis (2021), Letter of the Holy Father Francis on the 8th centenary of the death of St Dominic de Guzman. Accessed on https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters

Francis (2020), Fratelli Tutti, Encyclical letter on Fraternity and Social Friendship, accessed on https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/

Timoner, G. (2020).  To the Dominican Family on the preparation of the 2021 Jubilee, accessed on op.org/31 January 2020, to-the-dominican-family-on-the-preparation-of-the-2021-jubilee/

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, accessed on https://www.newadvent.org/summa/ 


[1] Juan Ubaldo López Salamanca, Dominican friar. Promoter General of the Laity of the Order of Preachers (2019- present, Rome, Italy), Rector General of the Santo Tomás University of Columbia (2015-2019). Email: ubaldolop8@gmail.com