Category Archives: Order of Preachers

Dominic option

Certainly English is not the only language that has plays on words and sounds. Latin for the Order of Preachers is Dominicanes, which sounds terribly like Domini canes, “Hounds of God!” And so, a dog with a lit torch in its mouth is a very Dominican symbol, running through the world setting it ablaze with the truth of the Gospel. -Lk 12:49.  In addition, Blessed Jane of Aza, Dominic’s mother, had a vision prior to Dominic’s conception of giving birth to a dog, and this dog would run through the world, lighting it on fire, with a torch in its mouth.  Indeed.


-by David Warren

“Hounds of the Lord” they used to call them (from the pun, Domini canes, in Latin), these Blackfriars who began strolling Europe eight centuries ago. They were mendicants of the Order of Preachers founded by Dominic of Caleruega in Spain, pledged to a life of strict poverty, prayer, study, and teaching; to a war with ignorance and heterodoxy. They proposed to resume the task of the Apostles.

They were an urban phenomenon, in the main. Though drawn from many obscure places, their focus was the new towns, growing around the cathedrals, and re-occupying abandoned ancient sites, in the early thirteenth century.

For centuries before, Western Europe had been an Arcadian landscape, utterly decentralized under the local governance of monasteries and castles, their abbots and lords – imperfectly unified by the Christian religion. There were small cities, or proto-cities, in Italy, but beyond the Alps, perhaps Paris was the largest urban agglomeration, with a population of a few thousand. All that was changing.

It was a revolutionary age, in the Church, and around her. Through strata of time, we still recognize Franciscans as well as Dominicans from that period, who broke with the monastic tradition of aloofness [Ed. the classical model of religious life up until then, started by the Desert Fathers in the Middle East, in the very early years of Christianity, was that of eremites, or going out alone into the desert, making your spiritual search your primary motive/pursuit in life. In the West, St Benedict formed communal groups of monks, who tended to build monasteries in remote places, they still do today, even in the US, and “ora et labora”, pray and work, providing for their own subsistence, but their spiritual efforts were and still are personal, not popular. The salvation of one’s own soul was paramount, not so much for the secular. In the post-Christian, modern era, some thinkers have proposed Christians replicate this monastic lifestyle of community, even among the lay persons for mutual support and to avoid the perpetual and unpleasant schizophrenia of having to live as a Christian in a secular culture.]; but many other orders were founded, which leave no trace today.

Monks and nuns had been meditatives, but also workers in their agricultural estates, whose innovations spread beyond monastic walls, and whose goods traveled. But they were no part of an integrated economy.

Great cities existed in the Islamic realms, and far beyond, appearing and also disappearing like mushrooms. Western Europe had been a place of extraordinary and enduring silence. Security of food, and against savage invaders, had molded the classic feudal system for which our environmentalists still pine. A hard life, dictated by the seasons; people for whom change could only be associated with destruction. Their arts, as their technologies, were directly to purpose, and nowhere “sophisticated” – except in monasteries where the heritage of past ages was jealously preserved.

Saint Dominic himself, high-born in a desert region of Old Castile, near the frontiers of the Christian Reconquest (Reconquista), was trained in the Augustinian, eremitical tradition, reaching back to classical North Africa, but itself looking forward to a thirteenth-century transformation.

Two dated books from my own shelves – Saint Dominic and His Work by Pierre Mandonnet (1944); Saint Dominic and His Times by M.-H. Vicaire (1964) – provide enthralling accounts of his age and mission, that penetrate beneath mere data. For these authors present a range, depth, and character missing in the scholarship of today.

In telling the life of the founder of their order, these authors are compelled to sketch this age of transformation, which Dominic came to serve. The famous struggle against the Albigensian heretics now covers our historical vision as a veil. The heroic labors of Dominic himself, and of his first cohort – debating the heretics on their own ground at risk of their lives – is itself an effective prelude to the story. But from the beginning the intention was more fundamental.

As the young migrated to the new universities of the towns – set up beyond the control of the older cathedral seminaries (Chartres was a magnet before Paris) – a new, profane intellectual order was emerging. To read of thirteenth-century student life in Paris, and elsewhere, is to encounter many features that have never changed, from youthful arrogance and rebellion, to the drinking and constant appeal for student loans. How often the hardworking of the towns hated and feared these young scholars, as dangerously smart delinquents.

The Dominicans set a standard for seriousness, and real intellectual zeal. They were commanded to exemplary lives under clear discipline. They were also commanded to the pursuit of truth, and in the legacies of Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas – Margaret of Hungary, Catherine of Sienawe find a fearless patience that embodies the order’s ideal. The light of Faith was everywhere mingled with the light of Reason, against forces potentially very dark.

We see this on our campuses today, except, the forces of darkness now prevail. Faith is despised, and as the early Dominicans often were, shouted down with slogans. The Dominicans persisted. Far from retreating where they met hostility, they listened and confuted. Men can be animals, especially the young, but they may also be called to conversion, and a striking feature of the thirteenth century is the scale and speed of the Dominican expansion. [Ed. “Zeal must be met with zeal!” -St Dominic]

It answered to a spiritual hunger. It confronted doubt in new and potent forms, as Europe began to recover pagan learning through Arabic philosophers and Byzantine refugees. All that was good in Aristotle and the ancients was, by Dominicans and others they inspired, assimilated and Christianized, as they found that the “perennial philosophy” was in its own nature compatible with Catholic teaching, and helped us better understand it.

The Dominican approach was to muck in. It was a positive force of intellectual engagement. Christ sent his Apostles on the open road; did not tell them to hole up and wait. He made teachers, to the death. The world needs to be told the joy of Our Savior. It needs to be saved, from the Devil and from itself. It needs to know Who is its Maker. It needs to test all things. [Ed. Dominicans “smelled like the sheep”, before smelling like sheep was cool. -cf Pope Francis]

Saint Dominic himself was a man of broad learning. His way was not narrow. The scholastic methods Dominicans pioneered took questions whole, found answers methodically.

I hardly reject the Desert Fathers, or all that followed in the Benedictine traditions; all that they have accomplished and preserved. As thanks to Rod Dreher, the “Benedict Option” has become a thing, let me add that I applaud and accept it.

Yet I would juxtapose a “Dominic Option,” in resplendent contrast. We may never, as Christians, turn our backs on our neighbors, in their need. And Truth is something that is needed. There will always be obstacles to delivery; we must analyze them, and get through.”

Love, truth, & zeal to meet zeal,
Matthew

Lacordaire, OP, (1802-1861) – a model for the New Evangelization (terminer)

“So what happened to Lacordaire? His conferences at Notre Dame were well received despite thinly veiled threats against his life by the King, and his fame steadily grew throughout France. After the revolution of 1848, without his campaigning, he was even elected to the French parliament. However, in his attempt to rise above political parties, and, in his words, “preach the great truths of the Gospel to all factions,” he was rather unsuccessful. He resigned two weeks after taking office. Furthermore, his efforts in the Dominican Order encountered numerous setbacks, both from within and without. Yet, by the time of his death the Catholic Church and the Dominican Order in France were flourishing again.

I think Lacordaire’s example here is of great value in two ways. First, no matter how bad we think things may be, Christ still comes to redeem us. Lacordaire was given the grace to help bring the Faith back to a country that had been massacring nuns in the streets. It can be tempting to view one’s own era as being unique, but just look to history. The Church has always been persecuted, (Ed. and Christians have always frustrated, annoyed, and betrayed other Christians and Jesus, just like Judas. ‘Put no trust in princes, [or princesses, for that matter.]’ cf Ps 146:3) but rather the faithful Christian is called to proclaim that the world has an authority greater than any human government (Ed. or human leaders, even Church leaders). And that authority became man 2,000 years ago in order that we might have true life and freedom in His saving power. (Kyrie Eleison)

Second, Lacordaire gives us an example of what the New Evangelization should look like. His talks are not heavily theological, but more inviting and apologetic. With regard to his conferences at Notre Dame he stated: “It seemed to me that we should not go to metaphysics, nor history, but set foot on the soil of the living reality and seek traces of God.” He re-presented a good that had been rejected. People could see all around them how efforts to organize society without God always end with dissatisfaction and craziness. Lacordaire was able to show them, on their own terms, how to find what they were truly after.

On a personal note, I first became interested in Lacordaire when I was in France several years ago. In the Louvre, in the wing containing many of the most famous pieces from the time of the Revolution, is a portrait of Lacordaire. He was placed at the end, at the far side of the hall. He is portrayed standing upright, arms folded, wearing his outlawed Dominican habit, and looking out confidently. It is almost as if he is placed to watch over the rest of the excesses of the revolutionary age. He came calling his people back to the truth of the Gospel and faith in Christ Jesus. It seems fitting to give him the last word:

‘Let us all stand together, whoever we may be, believers and unbelievers. Let us stand up, believers, with feelings of respect, admiration, faith, love, for a God who has revealed Himself to us with so much evidence, and Who has chosen us among men to be the depositaries of that splendid manifestation of His truth! And you who do not believe, stand up also, but with fear and trembling, as men who are but as nothing with their power and their reasoning, before facts which fill all ages, and which are in themselves so full of the power and majesty of God!’“(1)


-postal commemoratives of Pere Lacordaire’s centenary of his death

Faith, Hope, Love,
Matthew

(1) Br Constantius Sanders, OP

Lacordaire, OP, (1802-1861) – revert & apologist (partie trois)

“In Book 1 of the Summa contra Gentiles, St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the mode of inquiry taken up in theological study. He distinguishes two types of truth which the theologian seeks to understand. The first is that which unaided reason can know on its own. These arguments have demonstrable proof, and demand assent from all who understand them. Arguments like these, such as the (Ed. cosmological, if you subscribe to that type) proofs for the existence of God, or that 2+2=4, can be carried out without the light of faith. The second type of truth is that which surpasses reason and is only known by faith. These truths are above our natural capacities of understanding and we rely upon God’s revelation to know them.

There can be a temptation then to believe that truth is somehow divided and separate: that there is a truth of reason and a truth of faith. These two truths propose different ideas and are accepted variously. Faith becomes opposed to reason, and thus becomes the enemy of a supposedly rational people. Only a generation before Lacordaire, the Cathedral of Notre Dame had been desecrated by the revolutionaries and turned into the “Temple of Reason.” The scene must have been striking. It represented the supposed fall of religion, having been overcome by pure and unfettered reason.

Yet, for St. Thomas, this presents us with a false dichotomy. Faith and reason are not fundamentally opposed, but rather two sources to gain true knowledge. Both come from one source, God. Truth is twofold only for us, by our manner of coming to know it. Yet truth is fundamentally one, for it has one source, God. God is the source for all truth, whether we come to know it by natural abilities or as inspired by Faith. As truth has one source, no two truths can ever contradict each other. A truth of faith can never be contradicted by a truth gained through reason, nor vice versa.

Thus, Voltaire’s critique of the unreasonableness of Christians is itself against truth. Faith elevates what we can know. St. Thomas argues further in the Summa contra Gentiles that it is most unreasonable to assert that we cannot assent to truths which are above reason. We are not the arbiters of Faith, but trust in the inner coherence of the unity of the created world. While some Christians have certainly been guilty of denying rational truths, the real task remains to show the compatibility between Faith and reason. Lacordaire presents us with an example of how this should be done.

In an age not unlike ours, where men seek first to be free, Lacordaire came proclaiming that it was only in God that one could achieve real freedom. This is attained in being released from real bondage. The world was, and remains, captive to sin. What the Incarnation brought was redemption, merited by the blood of Christ. In order to have true freedom, the dream of the Enlightened world, one first needs salvation. Lacordaire showed that only in Christ would the modern ideals, correctly understood and moderated, ever be achieved.

While apologetics as a subject might not be particularly popular today, it still has a place in Catholic theology. Lacordaire provides us an example of how this can be carried out. There are some foundational principles which we can learn from him.

First, good apologetics address the questions that people are really asking in a mode that they understand. In an age like ours, where men seek first to be free, Lacordaire came proclaiming that it was only in God that one found true freedom. It was not “a law of bondage” that some had claimed. He also used numerous external references to history, psychology, philosophy, poetry, and literature to illustrate his points to his own particular audience. A good apologist has to meet people where they are, speaking in a way they can understand, answering the questions people are asking. Dominicans seem uniquely qualified to respond to such questions. A life lived both in prayer and study, as well as in an apostolate, allowed Lacordaire to best confront the issues of his time.

Next, apologetics done rightly show that answers to life’s deepest questions can only be found in the Catholic Church. This is what we preach to a world looking for redemption. Lacordaire gave his orations with expressiveness and enthusiasm, emphasizing that values familiar to his own day and age: liberty, equality, fraternity, patriotism, self-giving, and a sense of sacrifice, could only be truly achieved within the Catholic Church. As he argued, “The Church had the words reason and liberty on her lips when the inalienable rights of the human race were threatened with shipwreck.” Finally, perform apologetics from a position of charity and humility. Nothing is more off-putting to modern man than a position of assumed authority. Again, Lacordaire: “Real excellence and humility are not incompatible one with the other, on the contrary they are twin sisters.” We have to show that we too are pursuing truth, like all people, and that we want to find it with them. The Catholic Church has provided us with answers, and we merely want to share them.”(1)

Faith, Hope, Love,
Matthew

(1) Br Constantius Sanders, OP

Lacordaire, OP, (1802-1861): a great idea extinct? (deuxième partie)


-Lacordaire preaching his Lenten Conferences from the elevated pulpit at Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, 1845.

“In Advent of 1843, Lacordaire ascended the winding steps of the pulpit at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. About eight years earlier, he had given a series of conferences there which, by all accounts, were a roaring success—reports state that they averaged over 6,000 attendees per conference. The conferences were aimed at teaching the Faith again to a country that had lost it in the Revolution. But this time was different. In 1836 Lacordaire had left France in order to further his education in Rome. While there, he had met the Dominican Order and joined their number. After formation, he returned to France with the expressed aim of restoring the Order in his home country. And did the Dominicans ever need restoring—they had gone from over 20,000 friars in 1789 to less than 5,000 a generation later. Around this time, one John Henry Newman became interested in religious life. Finding the Order much diminished in Europe, he wondered if it was not “a great idea extinct.”


-“Henri Lacordaire At Sorreze” by Anne-Francois-Louis Janmot, oil on canvas, 1847, Chateau de Versailles, Paris, France.

Yet, Lacordaire did not seek to resurrect a nearly extinct religious order simply for the novelty of it. Nor was he against the liberal egalitarian ideals of the revolutionaries. He too was a self-avowed proponent of liberté, égalité, et fraternité. It is reported that shortly before his death he told a confrere: “I die a repentant religious, but an unrepentant liberal.” Lacordaire believed that the desires for true freedom were fundamentally good, but that they could only be fulfilled in Christ. Figures like Voltaire were not the enemy, but misguided and a source for confusion. Faith did not destroy the rational capacities of the believer, but could be a source for greater insight into reality. He sought to show the modern world that Christianity was both true and in accord with what they sought.”(1)

In January 1834, at the encouragement of the young Frédéric Ozanam, the founder the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (a charitable organization,) Father Lacordaire started a series of lectures at the Collège Stanislas. This met with great success, even beyond his students. His thematic emphasis on freedom provoked his critics, who charged him with perverting the youth. Lacordaire was reputed to be the greatest pulpit orator of the nineteenth century. Lacordaire’s preaching was not so much penitential as an exercise in apologetics. He demonstrated that one could be a French citizen and a Catholic. The lectures were a great success.

Monseigneur de Quélen, the Archbishop of Paris, asked Lacordaire to preach a Lenten series in 1835 at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, as part of the Notre-Dame Lectures specially aimed at the catechesis of Christian youth, which had been inaugurated at the behest of his friend Ozanam. Lacordaire’s first lecture took place on 8 March 1835, and was met with wide acclaim. The social event of its day, 6,000 attended. Because of this immediate success, he was asked to preach again the following year. According to Thomas Bokenkotter, Lacordaire’s Notre Dame Conferences, “…proved to be one of the most dramatic events of nineteenth century church history.” Today the Lacordaire Notre-Dame Lectures, which mixed theology, philosophy and poetry, are still acclaimed as a sublime modern re-invigoration of traditional homiletics.

Among those who attended his Lenten sermons in 1836 was Marie-Eugénie de Jésus de Milleret. The encounter with Lacordaire marked a turning point in her life and the beginning of a spiritual journey that would eventually lead her to found the Religious of the Assumption. In a letter written to Lacordaire years later, she recalled, “Your words gave me a faith which henceforth nothing could shake.”

But in 1836 after such considerable success, he was still the object of mounting attacks on his theological stance. Suddenly his mother died. Lacordaire, aware of the need to continue his theological studies, retreated to Rome to study with the Jesuits. There, he published his “Letter on the Holy See” in which he reaffirmed with vigor his ultramontane positions, insisting on the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, “the one and permanent trustee, supreme organ of the Gospel, and the sacred source of the universal communion.” This text ran afoul of the Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur Quélen, who was a sincere Gallican.

Faith, Hope, Love,
Matthew

(1)  Br Constantius Sanders, OP

Lacordaire, OP (1802-1861) – losing the faith (partie un)


-Henri-Dominique Lacordaire at the convent of Sainte-Sabine in Rome, by Théodore Chassériau (1840), Musée du Louvre

“If the Catholic Church, and the Dominican Order, ever looked dead, it was at the turn of the 19th Century. In the wake of the French Revolution, the Church had been banned in many parts of Western Europe, thousands of Catholics had been martyred for their faith, religious orders had been outlawed, and the Pope had recently died in captivity under Napoleon. Swept up with the ideals of the Enlightenment, the Western world had declared herself to have progressed beyond the supposed naïveté and superstition of Christianity. Nowhere was this more dominantly witnessed than in France, where only a generation before Voltaire had stated, “The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.”(1)

The son of a doctor in the French navy, Henri Lacordaire was born on 12 May 1802 at Recey-sur-Ource (Côte-d’Or) and raised in Dijon by his mother, Anne Dugied, the daughter of a lawyer at the Parliament of Bourgogne who was widowed at an early age, when her husband died in 1806. Henri had three brothers, one of whom was the entomologist Jean Théodore Lacordaire. Although raised a Catholic, his faith lapsed during his studies at the Dijon Lycée.

He went on to study law. He distinguished himself in oratory at the Society of Studies in Dijon, a political and literary circle of the town’s royalist youth. There he discovered the ultramontane theories of Bonald, de Maistre, and Félicité de Lamennais. Under their influence he slowly lost his enthusiasm for the encyclopedists and Rousseau, though he maintained an attachment to Classical Liberalism and the revolutionary ideals of 1789.

In 1822 he left for Paris to complete his legal training. Although legally too young to plead cases, he was allowed to do so and he successfully argued several in the Court of Assizes, attracting the interest of the great liberal lawyer Berryer. However, he became bored and felt isolated in Paris and in 1824 he re-embraced Catholicism and soon decided to become a priest.

Thanks to the support of Monseigneur de Quélen, the Archbishop of Paris, who granted him a scholarship, he began studying at the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Issy in 1824 over the objections of his mother and friends. In 1826, he continued this education in Paris, which was generally mediocre. He wrote later that: “Those who remember having observed me at the seminary know that they have several times had the temptation of calling me mad.” His seminary experience inspired Sainte-Beuve’s novel Volupté.

At Saint-Sulpice, he met with Cardinal Rohan-Chabot, later archbishop of Besançon, who advised him to join the Society of Jesus. Nevertheless, after long hesitations by his superiors, he succeeded in being ordained a priest of the archdiocese of Paris on 22 September 1827. He was appointed to a modest position as chaplain of a convent of nuns of the Order of the Visitation. In the following year, he was named second chaplain of the Lycée Henri-IV. This experience convinced him of the inevitable de-Christianization of French youth educated in public institutions.

“Yet, within another generation, the French people had begun to return en masse to the Catholic Faith. So what changed? While the short answer would be “grace,” the details are varied and complex. Yet one figure who possibly best represents the reconversion of France is the Dominican preacher, Père Henri-Dominique Lacordaire. Lacordaire sought to reintroduce to France the Faith that had been dismissed in revolutionary fervor. In a society that claimed it wanted to be based on reason and freedom, Lacordaire preached that not only was the Christian Faith eminently reasonable, it was the only way to find the true freedom that man longs for in every age.

He was born Jean-Baptiste Lacordaire in 1802, two years before Napoleon became “Emperor of the French” and was formed in the liberal ideals of his age. As a child he was noted for his aptitude in studies and eventually became a lawyer. Disillusioned with some aspects of his contemporary society, however, he reconverted to the Catholic Faith in 1824 which he had abandoned as a youth. Shortly thereafter he entered seminary and was ordained a priest in 1827. While he longed to go to America to serve the rapidly expanding immigrant Catholic population, Providence had other plans for him. Introduced to different Catholic intellectual movements which had sprung up in the wake of the Revolution, he began to associate himself with some of the brightest Catholic luminaries of his time. Eventually, Lacordaire became a famed preacher and writer in his own right, destined to become the most widely regarded orator of his generation.

In 1830, he became a writer for the French Catholic periodical, L’Avenir, which advocated for a place for Catholicism within the post-Revolutionary world. They argued for universal freedom of religion and the freedom of Catholic presses to distribute their material. Yet these ideals did not have the grand success many hoped they would. French bishops eventually became suspicious of some aspects of their work–including asserting the strong primacy of the Roman Pontiff over the French Church—and recommended their condemnation. Pope Gregory XVI himself eventually condemned some of their more innovative positions. While some of Lacordaire’s associates refused to submit and eventually left the Church, he was quick to acknowledge his error. After this, his stature continued to grow throughout France as an example of the possible return of Catholic vibrancy after a generation of oppression.”(2)

Faith, Hope, Love,
Matthew

(1) Br. Constantius Sanders, OP
(2) Br. Constantius Sanders, OP

Becoming a Lay Dominican

In August 1988, the 14th, to be exact, I entered the Province of St Joseph, (Eastern Province USA), of the Order of Preachers, aka the Dominicans, and received my habit. I had graduated from college almost exactly two months earlier. I know that date exactly since it is written in the front of my physical Bible, which was a gift of a religious sister, Sr. Yvonne, who had taught my siblings in Catholic school, and had remained friendly and close to the family even as I grew up. That Bible was my graduation gift from her. I treasure it. It is thoroughly highlighted and underlined in red. Those instruments are immediately in the front pocket of the cover, for easy, and constant access.

After nine months as a novice, and never a day off, I suppose that was part of the “test”, since one who professes “obedience”, and that is the only vow Dominicans take, everything else follows, there are no “days off”, literally, or poetically. Rational, since The People of God need to be buried nearly every day; life, faith, and relational crises won’t/don’t wait well; Catholics marry, and need to be baptized, have their sins forgiven, etc., on weekends, and then, there’s Sunday. Whew! And, then it’s back to classes and the daily grind, Monday. Repeat. Any Dominicans I know ARE busy people!

The only vow that “freaked” me out was obedience, the biggy. It still does. I guess I’m not docile, just so. I haven’t grown any more comfortable with the idea either, quite worse, in fact, in the last thirty-two years, having seen human leadership, or rather, it’s failure, imho; granted not necessarily inspired by the Gospel, but even when supposedly so, still.

I went to bed Holy Thursday night 1989, God’s timing has a sense of the dramatic, no? I had on my mind the same question I had since my very first consideration of priesthood, “Am I supposed to be here?”

Catholics use the word vocation in a very literal sense, much more so, intentionally, than any other aspect of life I have encountered. And, that night, I didn’t dream especially, but awoke with my answer: calm, confident, serene, not reasoned out, but still present in my heart and in my mind. I call it, even now, and it could have been just my subconscious finally poking through, but “God spoke to me.” The organ for speaking and listening to God is always the heart. “in the heart are the highways to Zion (Heaven)” (Ps 84: 5).

After A LOT OF PROCESSING!!!!!, this Spring, I will request/have requested to make my temporary promises for a three year period:

“To the honour of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of Saint Dominic, I, Matthew McCormick, promise before you ___ ___, the President of this Fraternity/Chapter, and ___ ___, the Religious Assistant, in place of the Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, that I will live according to the Rule of the Laity of Saint Dominic [for three years] or [for my entire life].”

Becoming a Lay Dominican

Pray for me, please.

Love,
Matthew

2nd miracle: Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati, OP, (1901-1925), Lay Dominican

blessed-pier-giorgio-frassati

-by Will Duquette, Aleteia

“In 2011, Kevin Becker fell from the second floor of a house he shared with a couple of college roommates, fracturing his skull in five places and damaging every lobe of his brain. After an emergency operation he lay stable but unresponsive for nine days. The doctors thought he wouldn’t live; and if he did he would suffer from gross cognitive deficits.

Less than three weeks after his injury he was wheeled to the door of the hospital, where he stood up, slung his bag over his shoulder, and walked to the car … tossing a football with his brother.

This is not the usual way.

A week after his injury, the doctors were talking of putting him into a medically induced coma, a last-ditch effort. Days later he opened his eyes, and was soon speaking, standing, and walking normally.

After Kevin left the hospital he went to physical rehab, and found that he was five steps ahead of the others there, including those who had been in recovery for six months to a year. On October 11th he took a battery of cognitive tests, and completed them in just two hours rather than the usual six. A month later, his doctor asked him how he thought he’d done. He answered, as he says he would have answered about any test he took, “I think I did OK.” The doctor told him he’d done “not just OK,” but as though he’d never been injured. He was cleared to return to college where he finished his degree; he now works making loans to small businesses.

Again, this is not the usual way.

I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin Becker speak about his experiences on October 29th of this year, at a celebration of the 800-Year Jubilee of the Dominican Order. During his coma, he remembers waking up in the house he shared with his friends, and hearing someone downstairs. That was odd; he says he’s always the first one up. He investigated, and in the living room he found a young man he didn’t know.

“Who are you?”

“I’m George, your new roommate.”

“That can’t be. I already have two roommates.”

“They aren’t around anymore.”

“Oh.”

He then spent a long timeless day with George. An ardent soccer player who hates staying indoors, Kevin kept trying to leave the house but George wouldn’t let him go. They fought about it, as if they were brothers, but George was adamant. He encouraged him to be patient. Kevin remembers passing the time by doing schoolwork—which he says would surprise anyone who knew him before his accident—and sitting on the couch with George playing a soccer video game called “FIFA.”

Eventually he awoke in the hospital.

Later, Kevin mentioned his new roommate to his mother, calling him a “good spirit.” After he described him his mother showed him a picture of a man he immediately recognized as George. It was a picture of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that had been sent to his mother by a cousin, who suggested she ask for Frassati’s intercession. (Frassati, a Lay Dominican, died of polio in 1925 at the age of 24, after a life in which his family knew him mostly for his love of mountain climbing, and the poor of Turin knew him as their beloved friend and benefactor.) Becker’s mother did so, and placed the picture at his side. He woke the next day.

Pier Giorgio Frassati, was a model of charity, who annoyed his father by constantly “losing” pieces of his fine wardrobe, including shoes and coats. Kevin had never heard Pier Giorgio Frassati’s name before his accident.

They say that an encounter with a saint can change your life; it changed Kevin’s. Not only was he completely healed, he says that he’s better than he was before his injury. In school he’d always been the clown sitting in the back row making smart-aleck remarks and not paying attention to his schoolwork. From the moment he woke, his studies became important to him, and his grades improved remarkably.

The records of Kevin’s case have been sent to the Vatican; and his recovery may well be the miracle that leads to Frassati’s canonization. Kevin says he doesn’t care about that. He doesn’t know why God healed him as he did, but he’s determined that God’s work won’t be wasted. And he remains confident of George’s presence nearby, and sometimes hears his whispered voice in his ear.”

Love,
Matthew

St Thomas Aquinas on Islam

Taj Mahal Agra India

“[Muhammad] seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men.

As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity.

He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.

What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning. Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms.

Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law.

It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.” –Summa Contra Gentiles (SCG) 1, 6, 4.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 9 – Bl Adrian Fortescue, OP, (1476-1539) – Soldier, Patriot, Husband, Father, Martyr, Lay Dominican – like me!!

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-please note the collar brooch Bl Adrian wears in this image. It’s design is of the Dominican shield, in black & white. It is a classic design, widely recognized by those familiar. I have similar lapel pins, worn on appropriate occasions!! Can I hope, too, for the blessing of martyrdom? Bl Adrian pray to our Father it may be so!!! Ultimately, His will be done!!! Viva Cristo Rey!!!!!

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-by Br Samuel Clarke, OP, English Province

“After a remarkable life, Bl. Adrian Fortescue died a martyr at the strike of an executioner’s blade at Tower Hill in 1539. A husband and father, a Justice of the Peace, a Knight of the Realm, a Knight of Malta, and a Dominican Tertiary (Lay Dominican); he was at once a loyal servant of the Crown so far as he could be, but still more, he was a man of unshakeable faith.

The House of Fortescue into which Adrian was born is said to date from the Battle of Hastings where Richard le Fort saved William the Conqueror’s Life by the shelter of his “strong shield”, and thereafter was called “Fort – Escu”. His family had a history of service to the Crown although this was later complicated by the dynastic battles of The Wars of the Roses. Vicissitudes notwithstanding, his great uncle, Sir John Fortescue (d.1479) became Chief Justice of the King’s Bench (1442-61). Sir John’s writings on the law and politics of England were arguably the most significant contribution of the fifteenth century, and are still studied by lawyers and political theorists today. Adrian’s father, also named Sir John, fought for the victorious Lancastrians at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 when Adrian was but a young boy. And later in his life, Adrian’s first cousin, Anne Boleyn, became King Henry VIII’s second wife (before her eventual beheading in 1536). We can say with some justification then that the Fortescues occupied a privileged position at the Rroyal court.

The first mention of Adrian Fortescue is in 1499, by which time, aged about 23, he was already married to Anne Stonor. He lived at his wife’s family seat at Stonor Park in Oxfordshire. This estate would later become the subject of an acrimonious legal dispute between him and his relative. In 1503, on Prince Henry becoming Prince of Wales (after Prince Arthur’s death) Adrian was made a Knight of the Order of Bath. Sir Adrian took the motto Loyalle Pensée; his loyalty was indeed to be tested.  By his first wife, Fortescue had two daughters: Margaret and Frances. By his second wife, Anne Rede, he had three sons and two daughters: John, Thomas, Anthony, Elizabeth, and Mary.

Like his forebears, Adrian served King Henry VIII in his ambitious military campaigns. He helped to rout the French the Battle of Spurs in 1513, and fought again in 1523. King Henry rewarded his support and in 1520 invited him to the splendorous Field of the Cloth of Gold where Henry famously wrestled with the King of France. Closer to home, Sir Adrian was made a Justice of the Peace of the county of Oxfordshire. In this period of history, royal favour could also take more peculiar forms. Sir Adrian had the dubious honour of being made a Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber, forerunner to the august body now known as the Privy Council.

In addition to being an assiduous servant of the Crown, Sir Adrian was evidently also a man of strong religious conviction and charity. His accounts reveal a number of benefactions to clergy and religious foundations. In 1532, he became a Knight of Devotion in the Order of Malta. The following year in July of 1533, he was admitted as a Dominican Tertiary at Blackfriars, Oxford, which he would visit from Stonor. But he also had a strong association with the Dominican Priory in London. His lodgings in the capital were in the precincts of the Blackfriars, close to the present eponymous tube station.

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-Collegio di San Paolo in Rabato in Malta

Not long after becoming a Lay Dominican began what Adrian called his “trobilles”. At the start of Summer 1533, he assisted in the Coronation of his cousin, Anne Boleyn – then six months pregnant – as Queen of England. He must have realised that the marriage was not valid but perhaps thought, at that stage at least, that in the words of Sir Thomas More, it was not his business “to murmur at it or dispute upon it”. This narrow compromise was to prove short-lived.

The King’s infidelity and presumption were rebuked when the Pope refused to grant an annulment declaring Henry’s marriage to Catherine as valid on 23rd March 1534. The following month on 13th April, Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More refused to take the Oath of Succession. Sir Adrian was similarly arrested that same year but he was released without explanation, probably in the Spring of 1535. Fisher and More were afforded no such clemency, and the two Saints were executed in Summer 1535.

The Act of Supremacy was also passed in 1535, making Henry supreme Head of the Church “immediately under God”. As a matter of law, Henry expressly denied the Pope’s authority. A writ affirming this and dated the following year can be found in Sir Adrian’s extant Missal. Tellingly, perhaps, it has with a line struck through it: apparent evidence of his disapproval. The die, it seems, was cast.

In February 1539, Sir Adrian was again arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. In the sitting of Parliament that Spring, a number of laws were passed in what has been described as the most servile Parliamentary session in history. Among the draconian laws enacted was a novel provision whereby a sentence of death might be passed without any trial of the accused. Under this procedure, no evidence was needed, neither could a defence be heard. Ironically, the architect of the law, Thomas Cromwell (then Lord Chancellor) was himself condemned by the same measure a year later leading to his own execution. This device was put to use on 11th May 1535 when a Bill of Attainder was passed condemning fifty people of High Treason who opposed Henry’s ecclesiastical policies. The names included Sir Adrian, Reginald Cardinal Pole, and the Countess of Salisbury.

Sir Adrian’s Book of Hours contains a Rule of Life written in his own hand, and giving an insight into the interior life of a man who exemplified holiness and virtue in his conduct. He led a life of asceticism and honour, trying to follow God’s will in all things and daily seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. His pursuit of God’s truth brought him to a martyr’s death on 8th July 1539 (but possibly 9th or 10th) when he was beheaded at Tower Hill. His servants were also killed for treason on the same day but were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. As one later account neatly puts it, “Sir Adrian Fortescue died for his faith in Him whose acts Parliament was not competent to repeal”.

Pope Leo XII declared Adrian Fortescue blessed on 13th May 1895 and as a layman, he ranks among the great Dominicans as an outstanding example to all Christians.”

Prayer:

O God, since all things are within your power, grant through the prayers of blessed Adrian, your martyr, that we who keep his feast today may become stronger in the love of your name and hold to your holy Church even at the cost of our lives. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.(-from: The Missal with readings of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes, & of Malta, London 1997) The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, aka Knights Hospitaller, has advocated devotion to Blessed Adrian as a martyr since the 17th century.

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-Breast star of Knight of Grace of the Order of St John

Love,
Matthew, OP

Aug 8 – St Dominic’s Nine Ways of Prayer

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St Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, to which I belong now joyfully as a layperson, having been a novice after college, but called by God to my current state, to serve Him in His plan, “left no writings on prayer, but the Dominican tradition has collected and handed down his living experience in a work called: ‘The Nine Ways of Prayer of St Dominic’… and each one — always before Jesus Crucified — expresses a deeply penetrating physical and spiritual approach that fosters recollection and zeal. The first seven ways follow an ascending order, like the steps on a path, toward intimate communion with God, with the Trinity…the last two positions… correspond to two of the Saint’s customary devotional practices. First, personal meditation…Then come his prayers while traveling from one convent to another. He would recite Lauds, Midday Prayer and Vespers with his companions, and, passing through the valleys and across the hills he would contemplate the beauty of creation. A hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for his many gifts would well up from his heart, and above all for the greatest wonder: the redemptive work of Christ…St Dominic reminds us that prayer, personal contact with God is at the root of the witness to faith which every Christian must bear at home, at work, in social commitments and even in moments of relaxation; only this real relationship with God gives us the strength to live through every event with intensity, especially the moments of greatest anguish. This Saint also reminds us of the importance of physical positions in our prayer. Kneeling, standing before the Lord, fixing our gaze on the Crucifix, silent recollection — these are not of secondary importance but help us to put our whole selves inwardly in touch with God…the need, for our spiritual life, to find time everyday for quiet prayer; we must make this time for ourselves…to have a little time to talk with God. It will also be a way to help those who are close to us enter into the radiant light of God’s presence which brings the peace and love we all need.”Pope Benedict XVI, August 8, 2012

These ways of prayer were written by an anonymous author, possibly a Dominican friar, who had most probably received this information from a Sister Cecelia of the Monastery of St. Agnes at Bologna (who had personally received the habit from Saint Dominic) and other people who had known him personally.

The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic presume a connection between the body and the soul, devotion and prayer. Each of the ways speaks to the importance of what is called “vocal” prayer. Such prayer goes beyond words that are said out loud. Bodily though it is, such prayer reaches for that true and total spiritual worship advocated by St. Paul in Romans 12:1-2. It takes up gestures of the body which move the soul with devotion so that the grace-filled and Holy Spirit imbued soul might move the body in true worship to make Christ-like sacrifices of love:

1. The bowing of one’s head and heart with humility at the beginning of prayer before the crucifix, at the altar, in the Name of the Trinity;
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2. The throwing down and prostrating of one’s whole body with tears of compunction for the sins of others when one can find no more tears for his own;
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3. The welcoming of all the physical difficulties and the patient endurance of all kinds of bodily discomforts during prayer as part of prayer itself, as a way of offering one’s body to God in praise;
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4. The fixating of one’s gaze on Christ crucified while kneeling and standing with bold petitions filled with confidence in the indescribable goodness of God and sober acceptance of one’s own weakness;
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5. The raising of one’s hands to heaven with eyes wide open in the ancient orans of the first Christians;
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6. The stretching out of one’s arms cruciform with a cry for help in heartbreaking situations;
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7. The standing strong with hands folded in prayer like an arrow shot into the heart of God;
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8. The sitting in holy reading and contemplation – that ancient practice of lectio divina; and
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9. The frequent quest for solitude in which one resists fantasies and evil thoughts like flies and prepares for spiritual battle against diabolical malice by the sign of the Cross.
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Love & prayer,
Matthew