Very soon, the parish will see a number of young men don the white robes of the Dominican Order. They will spend a year discerning their vocation with us, as friars will aid them along the way. Fr Anthony, the current Novice Master, has graciously agreed to write this little passage about the Novitiate Program.
Fr Anthony writes:
The Novitiate year is a time dedicated to introducing men to the Dominican life and letting them live it, deepening their discernment as to whether this is truly their call. This year allows the Dominican community to know them on a deeper level and discern with them if they would fit into our life and ministry. It is something of a “retreat” year; an enculturation into what it means to be a part of the 800 year old Dominican Family; a “rite of initiation” opening them more deeply to the interior life and helping them to more clearly hear the call of God and his Church. St. Dominic Priory in San Francisco is the site of the Novitiate for the Western Dominican Province. The province provides the necessary resources to support the novice brothers while they reside at St. Dominic’s. The novitiate program, therefore, is not a financial burden on the parish community. The novice master’s full time apostolate is his work with the novices. He at times participates in the various Masses and ministry of St. Dominic’s parish and elsewhere, but is not one of the parochial vicars, but primarily occupied with this internal ministry of the Western Dominican Province.
While the novices have classes in the History of the Order, the Vows, The Constitutions of the Order, Dominican Spirituality, Liturgy and Spanish, these are “nonacademic” classes in that they don’t require papers, testing or grades. They are more informative aides toward understanding the background and present day reality of the Order of Preachers.
One day a week is set aside for ministry. The novices participate in the regular prayer life of the Priory (Office of Readings and Morning Prayer 7:15 A.M., Rosary and Midday Prayer at 11:45, Vespers or Evening Prayer at 5 P.M., Community Mass at 5:30 P.M. and Compline or Night Prayer at 9 P.M.) In addition to this the novices have an hour of silent adoration before the Eucharist each evening. Their lunch meal is eaten in silence with reading from the rule or from some book of spiritual reading.
During the novitiate year, in January and February, the novices and their novice master travel for a month to all the ministries in the southern part of our province. The novices have an opportunity to see the Dominican life as it is lived in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Tucson Arizona, Mexicali, Baja, Mexico, San Diego, Riverside and Los Angeles. They participate in the ministry at each of these sites. The month of July finds them journeying to our ministries in the Northwest, ( Seattle, Washington, Eugene, Portland and McKenzie Bridge, Oregon) In the Bay area we visit our five ministries; The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Mary Magdalene parish in Berkeley, St. Dominic’s in Benicia, Holy Rosary in Antioch and our Catholic Campus Ministry at Stanford.
Early in the novitiate year the brothers begin to practice preaching, preparing homilies on scripture that they deliver to their classmates. These are digitally recorded and critiqued. They have a greater opportunity to speak to a congregation when we visit our various ministries. There they share their vocation stories at the conclusion of the Sunday Masses.
Each day during the month of June is spent in daily ministry at a site in San Francisco.
Although this is a more contemplative year, one can see that it is rather busy. Hopefully it provides the new vocations who come to us a clear and comprehensive view of Dominican life and ministry and gives them time in solitude to reflect on their experiences and listen for God’s voice, deepening their love for Him and His people.
Pope Pius XI said, “ Let the novices never forget that what they are in the novitiate, that will they be for the rest of their lives. If they spend this time with little or no fruit, it will be a hopeless delusion to attempt later on by an awakening of fervor to make good the omissions of their novice days.” In the Novitiate the men who enter our Order begin their life as preachers, living the apostolic way of life. Through prayer, study and community they develop their ability to, like St. Dominic before them, generously spend their lives speaking with or about God, hopefully drawing many others into a profound friendship with His Son Jesus.
We were founded as mendicant friars in the Middle Ages. This meant that we were dependent on benefactors to assist us in the preaching apostolate. They are co-workers with us in our ministry of helping people understand the Faith and live it with vitality. Our benefactors have a very special place in our daily prayers and Masses. Know that you are included in this intercession and your generosity will reach out through our brothers to many souls. May God Bless you and those you love.
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!