To be Dominic – Interview to the New Master of the Order Gerard Timoner, O.P.
“To be Dominic”
Gerard TIMONER, O.P.
Master of the Order
On which lines of the Order you would like to work in these 9 years of your mission as Master of the Order?
Frère Bruno told me that to be Master of the Order is for me to remain as who I am i.e., “Br. Gerard” but whose ministry is to be “Dominic” for the Order in the next nine years. “To be Dominic” means to lead the brothers in serving the mission of the Order i.e., to help build the communion of the Church, the Body of Christ, as St. Francis and St. Dominic did when the Church was in dire need for a “new” evangelization in the 13th century.
How do we help build the Church, the Body of Christ?
First, it is important to realize that we are only “helpers” or “assistants”. The primary “builder” is the Triune God, the model and source of communion. We know that the simplest yet deepest theology of communion is the prayer of Jesus for unity, which reveals his will and mission: I pray… that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you… that the world may believe that you sent me (John 17). We recall that our fundamental constitution states: “The Order’s nature as a religious society derives from its mission and its fraternal communion” (LCO VI). Our mission and fraternal communion together constitute our nature, we are friars-preachers. Dominic’s vision for the Order is clearly manifested when he asked Pope Honorius III to make a small but meaningful change in the Bull of 21 January 1217 i.e., to have the original word praedicantes (persons who are preaching) changed to the substantive praedicatores. Thus, we can say that our mission is not primarily what we do i.e., to preach but who we are, i.e., preachers. We serve the mission of helping build the Church through the charism given to Dominic and the Order. To be a bit more concrete, this means that a Dominican parish is one in which the communion of brothers shepherds the communion of the parish; a Dominican academic institution is one in which the communion of brothers lead the academic community in study, instruction and research; a center that seeks to implement the social teachings of the Church, that seek to promote the peace of Christ through just relations is a communion of brothers who seek to help people live according to their dignity as God’s children. To be realistic, diversity and differences among the brothers could sometimes weaken communion. But this, too, can become part of our prophetic service to the Church and society: it is possible to have differences and remain brothers, that it is possible to disagree without breaking communion.
I hope and pray that in the coming years, the re-structuring of the Order we have begun years ago will move towards a more intentional and deeper sense of communion. Frère Bruno told us that we have 800 brothers in formation — how do we provide these brothers the same quality of formation, because they are not just sons of provinces but they are our brothers. I once heard a beautiful saying from an African brother: it takes an entire tribe to raise a child. Perhaps it is good to ask this chapter and the entire Order, how big is this “tribe”? Our Constitutions remind us: the Order is a communion, not a federation, of provinces. It is important to note that this communion has two inseparable dimensions: affectus communionis (affective communion) and effectiva communio, an effective or concrete communion.
How could we deepen this sense of communion so that we all become conscious that the work of the Order in Amazonia, for instance is ours as well; that the success of the institutions under the Master like the Angelicum, the Albertinum and the École Biblique is our success as well?
Br. Timothy told the brothers in his inspiring homily, “the role of the Master is to support the Provinces and the brethren to whom the Spirit calls to some courageous mission.” That is an important advice I need to remember in the next 9 years.
Which fears you had to overcome personally in order to say “yes” to the decision of The Elective General Chapter that had place in Biên Hòa 2019?
I told the capitulars that I believe the Master must have the capacity “to listen” to all the brothers. The brothers promise obedience to the successors of St. Dominic. But the Master does not only receive the profession of the brothers, he must also lead the brothers in obedience i.e., in obeying or listening to the Word of God, to the needs of the Church, to the decisions of the general chapters, etc. To do these, he must also listen to the brothers, as individuals or as communities; but I have big linguistic handicap because I speak just one of the three official languages of the Order. I am not as talented as my predecessors, and I know that there are many qualified brothers present in this general chapter who speak all three, or at least two of the languages. I also lack the skills to solve the problems of the Order. I am neither the brightest nor the bravest brother in the chapter. Thus, I would perfectly understand if someone thinks that I was foolish to say “yes” and accept the election. Yet, it was not foolhardiness that made me say “yes”; rather it was the brothers of S. Sabina, specifically Br. Vivian, who talked sense into my confused head: “we all sincerely prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and the brothers decided in good conscience… unless your house is burning… you have to go down, meet the capitulars and accept…” (probably not his exact words, but those are the words I remembered). Br. Orlando hugged me and told me “you are not alone, we are here”. After these brothers accompanied me in prayer at the chapel, I knew I had to accept the decision of the brothers.
What gives you happiness in these days? Br.Timothy Radcliffe asked to Holy Spirit for a “cheerful master”?
Br. Timothy ended his preaching during the Mass of the Holy Spirit for the election of the new master with the words: “The gospels said that disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. All of our preaching springs from that joy. Without joy, we are wasting our time. May the Lord give us a joyful Master.” I think Br. Timothy refers to a gift that all Dominicans must have: a capacity to preach evangelii gaudium, the joy of the Gospel. Thanks to God’s grace, I have experienced that joy in seeing the Lord, manifested through the fraternal embrace, support and love of the brothers present here in Vietnam; the prayers and kind words of support of the brothers and sisters from all over the world, including my family. They have been, for me, concrete manifestations of the Emmanuel, the Lord who is with us.