This jubilee year on the occasion of the eighth centenary of the death of St Dominic is a grace for us all. Holiness always helps holiness. I want to thank the whole Dominican Family, the Master of the Order of Preachers, who wanted to share this joy with the Church, and specifically with the Church and City of Bologna. Father Dominic mysteriously and your presence for hundreds of years have generously sown the seed of the Word , bearing fruits of faith, charity, intelligence, devotion. Thank you.
A Jubilee is a fitting time for joy and renewal. In exchange we give thanks and remunerate the gifts we have, and the gifts we represent for others. It will last a whole year, because the jubilee is not, has digital man would have us believe, a rapid succession of meetings, but above all a spiritual itinerary. And that takes time. It helps us to rediscover what the angel of the Church of Ephesus defined as “Love for a time”, “the first love”, to elude the bitter consideration of old Nicodemus and the danger of lukewarmness. In fact, not to feel emotions, or to moderate them all may make us think we are balanced and guarantee our tranquillity, but it simply means that we are neither cold nor hot, as happens when we think we are rich and need nothing. St Dominic helps us to feel the cold of a world marked by so many pandemics and the heat of the passion that the love of Christ may reach so many people’s hearts, warm them and enlighten them.
We are helped by the moving image of the Mascarella, which you have chosen as the icon of this Jubilee and which takes us back to the first generation of Dominicans. It is the oldest painting of St Dominic (a few years after his death) but is also – and this is typical of St Dominic – the picture of the whole community together with him. The humble person is always in a communion, fruit of the Spirit, which values our charism, generates us and makes us a single thing: from this we come and in this we are united. In a world of solitude and of so much individualism, how necessary are tables of friendship and profound intimacy, not efficient self service or anonymous company canteens! The brethren are shown together but they are not all the same, so each friar’s face has different features, as though to indicate their various origins. A universal yet local table, with many identities: all brethren, not all the same! We are at one and the same time called and sent forth, brothers among ourselves and universal brothers, missionaries but not monads. This image will help us to contemplate our tables today, to discover with our own features the charism that bears many fruits and to choose to prepare many tables at which to experience the sacrament of mutual love, the feast of humble service that protects us from all arrogance, from an elevated idea of the self that makes us bend others to our will and not vice versa. And the little Door, which is actually small because it is humble but is great in charity towards the poor, is a practical continuation of this table of communion.
St Dominic teaches us to wear our best clothes, because this table is joy and fullness. “Everybody was enfolded in the wide embrace of Dominic’s charity, and since he loved everyone, everyone loved him.” It was his personal law to be happy with other people. “Without difficulty as soon as they met him, everyone began to love him”. “His figure shone with a sweet, amiable splendour; he was no less respected for that, on the contrary, everyone’s heart was very easily captivated by him, and you need only look at him to feel attracted towards him. Whether travelling with his companions or in others’ homes, whether with the great, with princes, with prelates, everywhere he happened to be he abounded in talks and examples that led souls to despise the world and love God; always a man of the Gospel in words and deeds.” This is how to lay the table and how to be able to enjoy it and make it attractive!
Today St Dominic communicates to us the passion of taking the Lord’s Gospel everywhere, to everyone, those far away, the poor, students, the little and the intelligent. He wanted the fire of the love of Christ to be kindled in people’s minds and hearts. This, I believe, is the kairos we are experiencing, so the decisiveness of the moment that will not admit delays and frees us from a sense of time expanded and outside time. It is a kairos both because of the insistence of Pope Francis, hence of the Magisterium, that drives the whole Church to become a missionary and because of the pandemic, an opportunity to show light in this “darkness that covers the earth”, in the “thick darkness that covers the peoples”. At a time when we are led to withdraw in fear, to be reduced to minorities – no matter whether aggressive or intelligent – we are urged to establish relations with everyone, in order to communicate the truth that is Christ. St Dominic preached the Gospel, making it attractive and understandable, not condemning, as often happens in the ever crowded posts of the prophets of doom, those who do not learn from history and can see only enemies, ruins and disasters and not opportunities, challenges, huge fields already ripening. “Arm yourself with prayer, not with the sword! Wear humility, not elegant clothes!” St Dominic counselled.
And he went to the crucial places, and lived there, where intellectual and theological research was going on, where many people gathered because they were centres of dialogue and research, such as the university. He urges us to go there again, to understand what they are today, not to cut ourselves off with screens and protections, not to think we can safeguard the truth by building monasteries defended by walls of fear and ignorance, defending a treasure that, if disembodied, has no value, a yeast that proves useless because it is not mixed with the dough, a salt that becomes insipid precisely because it is not dissolved to give flavour to all the rest.
This Jubilee year appropriately begins on the Feast of the Epiphany of Jesus, strong, shining presence to be recognised and communicated, a feast regarded in the Order as the feast of preachers. It is the scene in the centre of the altar of St Dominic’s tomb, and in the centre of the Basilica in the ancona of the main altar. We come together with many seekers of heaven, men of science and research of all origins because we have no borders and we speak that language that proves most familiar to all who listen. How many “pilgrims of heaven” to be able to recognise! How many “shipwrecked always in this infinity” to accompany! St Dominic points to the magi as an example of humility, because they set forth, worship and teach us to do likewise, they make no compromise with Herod, which is to say with the pervasive, captivating logic of the world, subjugated to those powers and thoughts that empty consciences and dominate people.
May the alluring light, which makes us tremble, accompany this Jubilee year. It is reflected by St Dominic, it is humble but not for that reason does it cease to shine, it is the star that helps us find our direction in the night and leads to the light all those who come from afar, those many seekers of truth, to Him who is the way, the truth and the life.
To all of you, and to us, are repeated the very words of Dominic’s valediction: “Beloved brethren, this is the heritage I leave you as my children: have charity for one another, to guard humility, and to make a treasure of voluntary poverty”. These are the three gifts that we undertake to carry this year, so that St Dominic may help us to prepare tables of communion in order to break the always abundant bread, full of the Word, of the Eucharist, of brotherly love.