Our Pastor’s Corner, August 24, 2014, Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Death of Dominic

Death of Dominic

Continuing our St. Dominic’s Month festivities, last Saturday, we celebrated a Mass of Remembrance for the happy repose of the souls of those who have died this past year and the consolation of loved ones. As part of the liturgy, folks were invited to place a white carnation in a vase in front of the image of St. Dominic, as an expression of his intercessory power. This tradition of seeking St. Dominic’s prayer for our beloved departed flows from the treasured story of his last moments. Just four years after founding the Order of Preachers in 1221, St. Dominic’s health turned grave. Knowing that his time on earth was coming to an end, St. Dominic encouraged his followers to carry on his legacy. Inspiration was needed at that moment, for the friars surrounding St. Dominic’s bedside were filled with fear and anxiety for the future of their fledging mission. Without St. Dominic’s leadership, they wondered how the preaching mission would continue to thrive. Aware of these concerns, he made them a last promise, “I will be of more use to you after I am gone than I ever was in this life.” This pledge was both a reassurance that death would not sever his connection with them and a powerful statement that prayers for and to our deceased loved ones are powerful. As Dominicans, we credit the subsequent flourishing of the Order of Preachers to the ongoing intercession of St. Dominic himself. In a very real way, St. Dominic continues to lead and inspire our communities and enliven our preaching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis idea of praying for our beloved departed is one of the foundations of our faith. Christ’s Resurrection signals the victory of life over death and gives us the confidence to know that death is not the end, but the advent of eternal life. As Catholics we know that our prayers make a difference for those who have died. As they continue their journey towards their eternal destiny, our prayers can help them, just as they do in this life.

But sometimes the circumstances surrounding death leave us confused and bewildered. This past week, I have been asked many times about the Catholic view of suicide. In the wake of the death of Robin Williams, some wonder if and how we might pray for him. First, since God is the author of all life, the taking of life (even one’s one) is always a tragedy to be avoided. As we know, there are philosophies and cultural attitudes which encourage and even glorify suicide as an honorable or dignified response to painful or debilitating life circumstances. But our faith tells us that our life is not our own: we did not choose to be born, we cannot add one moment to it simply by force of will. Life is a gift to be treasured and protected. Second, though suicide is an evil, we do not personally condemn those who have taken their lives. God alone is the judge of our destiny and he who loves us is the only one who truly knows our heart. Especially for those who are burdened by depression and mental illness, our faith does not despair of their eternal salvation. Instead, we are called to be people of hope. Praying for those who have committed suicide is not foreign to our faith, but in fact, because of the circumstances, should stir our prayers all the more.

St. Dominic’s deathbed promise inspired the early Dominicans to pen a prayer of hope. The prayer which recalls St. Dominic’s promise and asks St. Dominic to give us the virtue of hope in the midst of life’s discouragements is called the O Spem Miram (O Wonderful Hope). It is perhaps my favorite Dominican chant, blending haunting melody with heartfelt prayer. I invite you to pray the O Spem in moments when hope seems lost. 

O Spem Miram

O Wonderful Hope
Which you gave to those who wept for you at the hour of your death,
Promising that after your decease
You would be helpful to your brethren.

Fulfill Father what you have said and help us by your prayers.
You shone on the bodies of the sick by so many miracles, bring us the help of Christ to heal our sick souls.
Fulfill Father what you have said and help us by your prayers.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.


Our Pastor’s Corner, August 24, 2014, Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time — 3 Comments

  1. It was nice to learn still another way St. Dominic expressed his quality of “encouraging” his followers. Thank you all for this remarkable month of celebration and learning.

  2. Fr. Michael!!

    Thank you for the prayer (O Spem Miram) in the bulitan today! It is a wonderful way of finding, reading, contemplating, and absorbing new and meaningful prayers. I, as many have been raised with the standard 6… (“Our Father…”, “I believe…”,”Hail Mary…”, “Glory Be…”, “Hail Holy Queen…”, “Angel of God…”) but it is wonderful to get to experience the death and breath of our prayer tradition in this way.

    Thank you again for all!


  3. He short lifei Fr Michael, thanks for thia beautiful prayer that is so appropriate for people with lots of problems, particulaly depression and olss of hope and also for letting us know the short life of St Dominic as the founder of the Order of Preachers. again, thanks so much. May God bless us all.zeny

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