In his letter marking the 800th anniversary of the ‘birth of St. Dominic into eternal life,’ Pope Francis gave our Order a fantastic summary of the Dominican vocation and charism. Grace and unity are two words that I ponder as I receive this letter as a gift which renews my own enthusiasm for the Dominican life. As an apostolic Sister, together with my brothers and sisters in the Order of Preachers, I share in the grace of Dominic’s vocation and I stand as a witness to the grace he preached ‘verbis et exemplo’.

The grace of Christ poured into the Church, which we proclaim, is received and experienced daily in our prayer and liturgical celebrations, study and preaching. This grace is manifested most of all in our common life of fraternal charity, a life of mercy given and received daily by all, a life of reciprocal trust, the life of free men and women striving for obedience. This grace is the foundation of our unity of minds and hearts, in each community and within the whole Order. With St. Dominic, we are preachers of grace insofar as we are fully open recipients of grace.

 Being a preacher of grace in a post-Christian society is challenging. Classic Christian concepts such as gratuity, obedience, freedom, salvation, personhood, charity, mercy, forgiveness or communion are mostly alien as notions and as realities to the people we encounter in our apostolic work. To preach grace means inseparably to share our own experience of grace, and to invite others to experience the grace of Jesus Christ. Our words are not enough and are empty of meaning when they cannot be visibly verified in transformed lives and transformative experiences of divine love. Our Dominican life itself can make this experience of grace visible and available to all. Like matchmakers, as we preach Christ, we invite others to an encounter with Christ.

Sharing in St. Dominic’s vocation and family, we are visible signs of grace received, lived, manifested and communicated in unity, as Pope Francis reminds us so powerfully: unity of words and deeds in preaching, unity of contemplation and action in life, unity of minds and hearts in the Lord, culminating in the unity of truth and charity.

Preserving and fostering this unity of truth and charity stands out as the challenge Pope Francis gives me in his letter, in every aspect of my life as an apostolic Dominican Sister called by grace to follow in the steps of our Holy Father Dominic.

Sr. Hyacinthe Defos du Rau, O.P.
Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph
Lymington, England