Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Heart of the Gospel

 Once we Dominicans realize our distinct approach to preaching as contemplative, incarnational, communal, and sacramental, we can zero in on what is known as Kerigmatic preaching. This is the way we fuse these elements together: We gaze in wonder at this Word-in-our-flesh, in the humanity of the entire human family, as he daily transforms us, just as he transforms the bread into his living presence. This is the kerygma. The early Christians worded it simply by saying, “Jesus is Lord.”

Pope Francis describes the kerygma in this way: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” (The Joy of the Gospel, 164) How is it that throughout our catechesis no one ever proposed these most basic truths to us? Or if they did, the truths were ‘out there’ not ‘in here’ finding a home in my deepest heart? This is the basis for a personal relationship with Christ Jesus. Kerigmatic preaching leads the listener to this personal relationship with Jesus. Most of us in our religious instruction were taught about Jesus. There is a very great difference.

Kerigmatic preaching should give the hearers the impression that this Jesus is someone the preacher knows personally. This authentic type of relationship comes from immersion in the Word, scripturally and personally. It plunges the person into ongoing conversion, the daily transformation that is most explicitly experienced in Eucharistic transformation. We do not leave the Eucharistic Liturgy the same. We are different as we seek to influence the communities in which we move and live and have our being.

We proclaim the Word in our praise-prayer (laudare), in our presence (benedicere), and in our formal verbal preaching (predicare). We are a person in relationship with Christ Jesus. We are women and men of the Word. As such, we preach always from the pulpit of our lives, even when we are in a hospital bed. This is the heart of the Gospel.

Lifelong Formation

The liturgy has only one thing in mind…shaping us up as disciples. The Church has a ‘one track mind’…to bring her children closer and closer to her Bridegroom. So September continues the mystagogy. We are being instructed on how to deepen the relationship begun in our baptism.

As we enter the first signs of autumn, we are first reminded that it’s all about choices. No, not wishful thinking…like “I wish I could lose ten pounds…” It’s about a firm act of the will. No ‘if’s’ or ‘buts.’ This is what I choose, even if I mess up now and then. I choose to follow Jesus.

Then we are reminded of the greatest challenge of all…not to wound love. By the way I think, by the way I speak, by the way I’m silent. Love is that fragile little flower…not to bruise it. Then our texts remind us that this pilgrim walk is not all about ‘me.’ Growing up is all about getting out of the ‘me’ bubble, and prayer extends me to the most important ‘Other.’

Then there is this ‘flesh’ thing. Keep in mind that the Greek word is sarx, the word for human limitations, not soma, the word for body. When Paul says he is still in the ‘flesh,’ he means he has to put up with all the time/space limitations we all have to put up with. When Jesus says we have to eat his flesh, he meant we have to deal with him in the limits of our brothers and sisters. There’s the crunch…yes, it is life-long formation. We are never quite ‘done.’

We are halfway through Ordinary Time.

Wise Mother Church does not waste it…

Week by week she gathers us around

and tells us how to keep our eyes on her Beloved.

We are to intentionally choose Him day after day…

We are to guard against wounding love…

We are to think always beyond our little selves…

And we will need to ‘stomach’ the faults and quibbles, and the limits

of our sisters and brothers, just as we hope they daily will put up with me.

Companions in life-long learning.


Dominicans USA 2

In August, we asked a question, and offered the beginning of an answer: What is distinctive about the Dominican approach to preaching? We identified four characteristics, all of which apply to praising-proclamation, blessing- proclamation, and preaching- proclamation:

·       It flows from a contemplative gaze at the Word–made-flesh in our historic times.

·       It is incarnational rather than abstract.

·       It is communal rather than individualistic.

·       It is liturgical-sacramental rather than merely humanistic.

This month, we will tease out a bit more meaning to each of these characteristics. First, we will set the pattern: Experience-the Word-Experience. From what is happening, to the Word, and back to what is happening, in light of the Word. We begin with loving wonder, with awe.

 The Contemplative Gaze: We begin with a long, loving look at what is going on around us. We bring this to the Word…both in person, and in scripture. We listen. This must not be rushed…we wait…we hold back the questioning. Flannery O’Conner said it well: “If the Church doesn’t listen, no one will listen to the Church.”

 The Incarnational Questioning: What is going on here for real flesh-and-blood people? Enfleshed people? What are they seeing? Hearing? Feeling? Rejecting? Receiving? Avoiding? What about me? The word for flesh is sarx. It means ‘limited, imperfect, wounded, abused…’

 The Communal Questioning: What difference does this make for all of us, for setting a new tone, for fostering compassion, care, and justice? What needs to be different?

 The Liturgical-Sacramental Questioning: The liturgical is a gathering of all the above into worship, and the sacramental transforms…so the holiness shines through, for the Word permeates and changes. Real presence results…and I return to the experience where both it and I are different.

 The Dominican difference is that all the dimensions above are dynamically present.

Proclamation is not a lecture. It differs from teaching in its goal. It is more than informative, for some information is but its tool. This is about conversion. It is about transformation. Whether it is praise-proclamation in prayer, blessing-proclamation in a hospital room, or pulpit-preaching, it calls for both the proclaimer and the hearer to become different in our time and place. It is about real presence that flows from the Word who is Real Presence.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Formation for Discipleship

August in Ordinary Time brings four clear points in the formation of a disciple…so we listen up…! First, during this month, our Mother-Church puts puts before us a man and a woman who show us where it is all heading: Transfiguration of our humble humanness in Jesus, and its glorification when we set eyes on God. We will shine as does the assumed Mother of God.

 This is what the Word tells us. It is no abstract pie-in-the-sky.  It is God’s promise and our hope. With this before us, the other three Sundays of the month have clear pointers to keep us maturing in our baptismal discipleship identity. The second Sunday instructs us where to keep our eyes. If we take our eyes off the Word, we sink into the troubles of our time. Next, we are reminded that our mission, like that of Jesus, is two-fold: to proclaim the Word, and to heal…always and everywhere, and to anyone and everyone. Finally, we are faced with our constant tendency to sin and be selfish in Peter. We are reminded that despite this denial, neither Peter’s brokenness nor ours will destroy the Church. The texts might be familiar…but we are coming to know ourselves anew. We are not the same. We are slowly being transfigured….


You shine on Tabor

and I am almost blinded.

Me? Me, too?

Is this what you are doing

in the Eucharistic kiss?

Help me to keep my eyes on You…

when I need to walk on water.

Help me to proclaim and heal…

until I have no voice left.

And when I find in me

the denial of Peter,

help me to remember

that no one, nothing,

will destroy the Church that is You…

the Church that is us…

although all hell tries.




USA Dominicans

The Racine Dominicans have spearheaded a revival of the Preaching Contact Persons (sisters, associates, priests, and laity) of the United States Dominican Women’s Congregations and the four Provinces of the Dominican Men. This group of nearly 30 sisters, associates, priests and laity, has met two times: in March and May, and will meet again on August 25, 2023.

 We have begun by listening deeply to one another, learning what we are each doing, and how this group, which will meet four times yearly (August, November, February, and May), can be of help to all of us. One of the helps suggested was to clarify for all of us just what is distinctive about the Dominican approach to preaching. We will discuss this in August.

 I’m going to propose a few ideas below, and invite you to send me any of yours, if you like, and I will include these thoughts when the group meets on August 25. Your thoughts are welcome…!

 Our title, Order of Preachers, really comes from a specific form of proclamation needed back in 1216. Southern France was infected with the Cathar or Albigensian heresy, named from the city of Albi, the Cathar center. A word of truth was needed to counter a word of falsehood. The Cathars were a new form of Manacheism, a heresy that taught that matter was evil. Because this false word was being publicly spoken, a truthful word needed to be publicly spoken to counter it. Because only men could speak publicly in those days, this public word of truth fell to men who could publicly preach. Even in those early days, the Dominicans knew there were three forms of proclamation: to praise, to bless, and to preach publicly (Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare). What were they going to praise, bless, and preach? The truth of the Word of God.

 Flash forward 800+ years. Women can speak publicly. There is new awareness of the truth that does justice. Our cloistered Dominicans praise; our active sisters, associates, priests, brothers, and laity, bless by their presence in various ministries;  at present our Dominican men in Orders and some of our women preach. All of us are proclaimers of the truth by our praise-prayer, our blessing-presence, and when appropriate, by our public preaching. So what is distinctive about a Dominican approach to proclamation in any of its forms (even if you are not Dominican)?

·       It flows from a contemplative gaze at the Word-made-flesh in our historic times.

·       It is incarnational rather than abstract.

·       It is communal rather than individualistic.

·       It is liturgical-sacramental rather than merely humanistic.

 Our challenge is to know what this means for us today. First, we contemplate, and then give to others the fruits of our contemplation. We cannot give what we do not have. The Dominican woman or man is in relationship with the Word. Next, that Word is found in the presence of the risen humanness of Christ Jesus. It is incarnate. It is in touch with human struggle in all its forms. Then, this human struggle is not just my personal business, it is communal, all around me; it is not just me, it is we. Finally, it is not just our human struggle but mercy meeting us there and transforming us. It is liturgical-sacramental. There is Something other than my human effort at work, and we are kept in mind of this by the transformation in the Eucharist.

 These are some beginning ideas…I welcome yours…!

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Synod Next Steps

We’ve come to the end of the Working Document for the Continental Stage of the Synod. Our last reflection closed with a challenge to explore diversity in worship. Now the working team lays out concrete steps forward.

 The first step forward is conversion and reform. Ouch! We will have to change…again…and we flinch at hearing it. We prefer to settle down…we prefer a little do-nothing-normalcy. But no. The People of God have spoken, and they express a desire to be less a Church of maintenance and conservation. They want to be a Church that goes out in mission. They believe that synod communion must lead to a permanent state of mission. (Spanish Report) Because we are a learning church, we need continuous discernment to help us read the Word of God and the signs of the times together, to move forward in the direction the Spirit is pointing us. This sounds like it was taken right out of our Dominican documents. It calls for continual conversion, both personal and communal. As a listening Dominican congregation, we’ve been walking the talk.

 What we have been attempting in the past years as a community is now being asked of the entire global Church. How do we proclaim the Gospel today…and listen deeply to where the Spirit might be pointing? What are we to do?

We are to enter a discernment process, and prepare a ‘Final Document’ that describes it and its results. The Final Documents of the seven Continental Assemblies will be the basis for what is called the Instrumentum Laboris or ‘Working Instrument’ to be completed by June of 2023. In this final part of the Continental Stage, all Assemblies are asked to be eccesial rather than episcopal. This means all the People of God are to be represented: bishops, presbyters, deacons, consecrated persons, and laymen and women, and young people. It includes people living in poverty or marginalization, those who work with them, people from other Christian denomination, those of other religions, and those with no religious affiliation. The bishops are then asked to meet, reread the responses from all these voices, and make sure these voices are present in the Final Document. By March 31, 2023, the Final Document of each of the seven Continental Assembles are due, and the Instrumentum Laboris is prepared by June to be ready for the 1st  Rome Session. The 1st XVI General Ordinary Assembly of Bishops takes place in October of 2023 in Rome. A 2nd Session takes place in October of 2024. Then global Implementation begins! So that is the big picture. The smaller steps are amazing too!

 Each of the seven continental groups prepares a Document for the Continental Stage (DCS). Then these little steps take place back at home base: (for us, the US/Canada DCS)

·       The DCS goes to every diocesan bishop, who arranges a discernment process on 3 questions: “Which experiences resonate with your people, are new or illuminating?” “What tensions or questions emerge?” What emerges as a call to action you can share with other Churches globally?”

·       These responses are shared with the US/Canada Continental Assembly by a process.

·       The sharing process favored is that of the ‘spiritual conversation’ (similar to our ‘contemplative dialogue.’)

·       The Final Document (about 20 pages) is drafted from this process on the three questions.

·       The seven Continental Final Documents are submitted by March 31, 2023, to be woven into the Instrumentum Laboris.

·       This one document is the document the bishops will work with in the 2023 and 2024 October Rome sessions, woven from the seven DCS Final Documents.

 Fasten your seat belts…! We are in for quite a ride…! The Spirit may be pictured as a Dove, but it is also Wind, Fire, Water, Oil, Wine, and Blood. We may be looking at the ‘something new’ we have been praying for, unfold before our very eyes.


Living into the Mystery

 The Paschal Mystery and the big Feasts are now behind us. We have entered the ‘green’ season. What does the wise Church want to teach us? Where does she want to lead us? This is called ‘Ordinary Time’ because now we will be entering deeply into the Mysteries we have celebrated. We will be ‘unpacking’ them, and making wonderful discoveries. But you say, “I’ve read these readings before!” Ah…but the ‘you’ reading them now is a different you. You have journeyed further, and the journey has been teaching you.

 There are five Sundays in July of 2023. The first Sunday will remind you of your Calling. The second Sunday will face you with a choice for your daily living: the Spirit’s breath or the letter of the law? Then in the next three Sundays, we will be challenged to go deeper into the seed of suffering, the way good and evil are so mixed together, and how little things really count. Finally, we will be reminded to keep our focus: keep your eyes on the pearl. He is the Mystery!

Your love is wide and deep and all around me.

Help me to see wider and deeper and what surrounds me.

No, I haven’t been this way before –

Because the me that is new has not been here before.