The Liturgy of the Hours, part IX – Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist

From the Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours:

Pope_Francis_celebrates_Mass_at_the_Basilica_of_St_John_Lateran_on_April_7_2013_Credit_Stephen_Driscoll_CNA_3_CNA_4_8_13“To the different hours of the day the liturgy of the hours extends the praise and thanksgiving, the memorial of the mysteries of salvation, the petitions and the foretaste of heavenly glory that are present in the Eucharistic mystery, ‘the center and high point in the whole life of the Christian community.’

“The liturgy of the hours is in turn an excellent preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist itself, for it inspires and deepens in a fitting way the dispositions necessary for the fruitful celebration of the Eucharist: faith, hope, love, devotion, and the spirit of self-denial.”

Okay, so the Second Vatican Council teaches that the Liturgy of the Eucharist is the “Source and Summit” of our faith.  There is no higher form of praise and prayer than re-presenting, and actively participating in, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Remembering and being part of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Son of Mary—there is nothing better we can do with our time.

Near Anchorage, AK (credit: Molano)

Near Anchorage, AK
(credit: Molano)

We spend one hour, more or less, on top of the mountain, but what about the rest of our day?

The Liturgies of the Hours and the Eucharist are intimately connected.  They remind us of each other.  They look back at each other.  They refer to each other.

In fact, during the Liturgical Seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter), oftentimes, there are special psalms and antiphons for the day.  Moreover, the antiphon for the Gospel Canticles (the Benedictus and Magnifcat) are taken from the Gospel of the day.  The short phrase that sets the tone for the Benedictus and Magnificat is further shaded by the Gospel of that day’s Mass.

The saints have always called us to keep Jesus in the forefront of our mind. The Liturgy of the Hours sets this tone by referring to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the high point of our day, week, and life.  When we step down from the Source and Summit of our faith, we do not necessarily have to leave the mountain.  Rather, when we leave the Source and Summit, we can rely on the Hours to keep our hearts, minds and souls to point us towards the mountaintop, towards the Risen Son.

So ends our series on the Liturgy of the Hours.  This is one of my favorite ways to connect with the Lord. I hope to see you in attendance at the hours one day.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner, September 21, 2014, Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend, Pastor Emeritus Fr. Martin Walsh, O.P., will preach about the current situation for Christians in Iraq. As the director of the Western Dominican Mission Foundation, he is uniquely connected with the work of our Dominican Sisters in the area. In anticipation of Fr. Martin’s preaching, I have included a recent letter from our Dominican Sisters, which brings color to their struggles and hopes under such dire circumstances.

~ Fr Michael

iraqsistersWe often hear the powerful words of Ecclesiastes that remind us of the inevitability of birth and death, that these realities come upon us regardless of whether we are prepared for them or not. No doubt we must accept and embrace them, but rarely, however, do we experience them both on the same day. Yesterday at Mass, though, we did just that.

We celebrated the birth of Our Lady and committed one of our elderly sisters into the hands of God. The sister, whom we buried yesterday, is among the elderly sisters whom we had promised to take to Karakosh after the construction of our general house. Unfortunately, our unforeseen displacement and journey to Ankawa/Erbil was a shock for them, for they were eager to return back to Karakosh. Although they were not able to help out in the camps and centres with the young sisters at Erbil, they were diligently following the news on TV. This doubled their heartache and worry over people’s suffering. So heavy was their burden that three of them passed away within ten days.

Despite the loss and pain our community is experiencing, we rejoice in the reality that our sisters have decisively chosen to live life, never letting despair extinguish the light within them, and in the midst of overwhelming hardship, two sisters renewed their vows yesterday evening and two postulants received the habit, becoming novices.

It was a day where the contradictions of life and death converged; we witnessed simultaneously death and resurrection. This was a sign of hope and God’s presence among us, and it gave us courage to continue our journey with our people who are still displaced, weakened, and impoverished.

We have entered the fifth week of displacement, and people are still living the same misery, which is only worsening, it seems, as our cries are ignored, and the world turns a blind eye to our sufferings. The challenges that threaten our people are now even greater as we face homelessness. The refugees taking shelter in schools are told to leave, as the school year starts soon. They do not know where to go, and there is a shortage of medicine, food, mattresses, blankets, and clothing. The dignity of the people has been utterly stripped away. Most painful of all is that we do not know when this ordeal will end. So far, neither the central government nor the Kurdish forces have made serious actions to reclaim all the Christian towns from the IS.

Also, we would like to inform you that we have started setting up temporary housing for our sisters in the back yard of our convent, but the needs are great. We hope that the work will be completed within two weeks. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Your help can make huge difference.

~ Dominican Sisters of Catherine of Siena–Iraq

 

Father’s been keeping a secret…part two

Ever since this post, many parishioners have been asking for an update regarding the Tuscany Prize.  When is the book going to be released?  When will you do a dramatic reading?  Or my personal favorite, “Can I please have a free, signed copy of the book?”

ancient letter and ink feathI was told early on that I will receive word if I had made the finals mid-August, and the winners will be released around Labor Day.  Well, last week, I received an e-mail from the editors of the Tuscany Prize.  There has been increase of over 40% of entries into the prize, so the main reason that I haven’t heard until a few days ago was because of sheer volume of entries.

Anyhow.  After a well written, elegant email, I was told that I did not make the top ten in my category.  I did not make the finals.

I feel at a little bit of a loss.  Yes, I will undergo my mourning period and sad phase about not making the top ten.  But where do I go from here?

As of this writing, I really don’t know.  (Eventually, I need to contact Tuscany and see if there is any feedback that they would like to warrant.  But that ain’t happenin’ now.) The reason that I’m bummed about this is not only because I didn’t make the top ten, though that, in itself, is a pretty good reason. The reason for my bummyness (I’m pretty sure that I just created a word) is that the book’s essence cuts to the heart of one of things I am most passionate about.

I love being with people in their struggle towards sainthood.  How do we find God while walking in Union Square?  Where is God in BART accidents?  Who am I?  What am I doing with my life?  How do I pray?  How do I discern my vocation?

Wandering in the Moonlight is about a young guy who has these questions, and is about his beloved girlfriend as she is trying to piece her life back together.  Existential God questions, as I like to say.  All of my thoughts, insights, and theology about these kinds of questions have been poured into this work.  I was blessed over a year ago with a a substantial amount of time to systematize these thoughts into a fictional form.

Further, writing the work was a profound spiritual exercise for me, experiencing my own faults and gifts, and my God, in the process of writing.  I thank God for His gift of Wandering in the Moonlight to me.  The only reason Praedicare exists is because I had rediscovered his gift of writing.

bow in prayer 2I need to remind myself, daily, to be thankful.  I am thankful that I didn’t get my cowardice get in the way.  I was brave enough to complete the manuscript, get Provincial permission to publish, re-title the novel, pay my shekels and submit the script for consideration.  I screwed up the courage to present the opening scene at Coffeehouse.  Over the past three weeks, I found myself in the Friar’s Chapel praying for a spirit of detachment and praying that the Lord’s will be done with my manuscript.  I need to see this as a victory in itself.

Now I have to find someone crazy enough to call himself or herself my publisher….

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

The Liturgy of the Hours, part VIII – Progressive Solemnity

When I was in hospital ministry, there was a Catholic seminarian on my team, and another woman who was studying to be a Lutheran pastor.  The seminarian and I were debating over whether or not a particular saint was celebrated as an optional or an obligatory memorial.  Our Protestant friend looked at us, rolled her eyes, and continued to eat her cupcake.

"Saints in Paradise," Fra Angelico. Progressive Solemnity is a concept in which we try to celebrate certain saints and blesseds within our tradition in an ordered manner.  Simply, there are people in our Church’s life that are more important than others.  The Mother of God is more important than, say, Sts Perpetua and Felicity.  So within our Church history, we try to honor saints accordingly, keeping in mind history, culture and context.

So here are the categories, from highest to lowest:

Resurrection of Our Lord by Fra Angelico.  Easter is a Solemnity

Resurrection of Our Lord by Fra Angelico. Easter is a Solemnity

Solemnity – The highest of feasts.  Most solemnities begin their celebration the evening before (at sundown—in honor to our Jewish roots).  Two Solemnities, Easter and Christmas, are eight days long.  (This, consequently, is why we have a Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday evening—we begin our celebration of the Rising of the Son of God at the first sundown.)  In terms of the Divine Office, we celebrate a Solemnity with a first Vespers on the evening before.  On the day itself, a proper antiphon for the invitatory rite, the Office of Readings have particular psalms—sometimes selected proper for the day—proper readings that commemorate the saint and his or her life, a Te Deum, the Sunday I psalms from Morning Prayer, and perhaps proper psalms and antiphons on Evening Prayer.  Night prayer looks like a Sunday on both days, where are we asked to chant the psalms of Sunday.

We celebrate the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas in January.  Image by Fra Angelico

We celebrate the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas in January. Image by Fra Angelico

Feast – We begin our celebration with the Office of Readings of the day.  There are sometimes proper psalms and antiphons on the day that are predetermined, with Office of Reading concluding with the Te Deum.  Then for Lauds, Sunday I psalms with proper antiphons and special intercessions and blessings.  For Evening Prayer, there are oftentimes psalms chanted for the feast, with special antiphons, along with a proper blessing.

Obligatory Memorial – Sometimes a proper invitatory antiphon.  Almost always a special reading from the saint of the day in the Office of Readings. And almost always a proper closing prayer.

Optional Memorial – Rarely a proper invitatory antiphon.  Oftentimes a special reading from the saint of the day in the Office of Readings.  And almost always a proper closing prayer.  And this presumes that you celebrate the day in the first place.

Commemoration – You rarely see these because they occur are times of the year in which it is inappropriate to focus on anything other than the Sacred Mysteries.  Like, in Lent, all memorials minus Annunciation, St Joseph and, for our Archdiocese, St Patrick, are suppressed.  In other words, you don’t celebrate them.  (Two of my favorite saints are never celebrated because their feast day is in early March, which is always in Lent.)  So this is what happens: If there are readings provided, you read them after the closing prayer of Office of Readings.  So they are, technically, not even part of the day.

headache How’s that headache?

After you take your Advil, please stop by and partake of the Hours.  And just in case you haven’t seen the schedule, it’s right here.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner, September 14, 2014, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross. Historically, this feast commemorates the moment when St. Helena discovered the True Cross on which Christ died. After the death and resurrection of Christ, authorities in Jerusalem made efforts to obscure the Holy Sepulcher, i.e., the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Earth was mounded upon the place, and a pagan temple erected on top of it. When Christianity gained cultural acceptance under Emperor Constantine in 325, his mother, St. Helena traveled to Jerusalem on a quest to find the True Cross. According to tradition, excavation unearthed three crosses grouped together. Assuming that one was the True Cross and the other two belonged to the thieves crucified alongside Christ, an experiment was devised to determine authenticity. In one version of the story, the three crosses were taken to a woman who was near death; when she touched the True Cross, she was healed. In celebration of this discovery of the Holy Cross, Constantine build the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, a place in which I had the great privilege to celebrate Mass two weeks after my ordination in 2007!

The legacy of the True Cross continues today. Through generous benefaction, we have a sliver of a fragment in our own St. Dominic’s. Displayed under glass at the foot of the Pieta statue in the south transept, this relic is a treasured place of prayer that has brought consolation to those who are weighed down by the crosses of their lives. The well-worn kneeler, which was recently refurbished, stands as a testament to the intercessory power of the True Cross.

St Helen in Rome

St Helen in Rome

Though the cross is a familiar symbol of our faith, to the earliest Christians it was a sign of shame and death. The Romans used crucifixion as the most cruel and humiliating way of exacting the death penalty. For the contemporaries of Christ, the cross would be akin to the electric chair or the noose of our present age. To exult in the Cross would be unthinkable for those who witnessed it firsthand. And yet, in the light of the Resurrection, the power and significance of the Cross is illumined. Our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians reveals that the power of the cross flows from Christ’s loving gift of self, Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. The True Cross reminds us of Christ’s love and the sacrifice he made for us. The Gospel famously echoes the nature of His sacrifice on the cross, For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. This is the paradox of the cross. Jesus chose to enter into the darkest, most shameful place of humanit,y in order to redeem it. Through the cross, love conquers death.

We all carry crosses of burden. In fact, we can spend an inordinate amount of energy avoiding and complaining about the trials of daily sufferings. The Exaltation of the Cross invites us to consider that it is precisely through the bearing of our crosses faithfully that God’s love comes to life in us. The traditional practice of “offering up” our suffering as a token of our love for God connects us with the paradoxical but powerful sign of the cross. Just as the cross was transformed from a sign of shame and death into the symbol of God’s love, so too, our burdens and suffering can be the very means by which we experience God’s grace in our lives. This week, I invite you to bring your own burdens and crosses to the foot of the True Cross, that you might discover the comfort and consolation of God’s love.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

What do you seek? A convert’s story

If I hadn’t met a few special people at Stanford three years ago, I probably wouldn’t be Catholic now. I had great appreciation for choral liturgy drawn from many years in a boychoir, and I had a deep respect for Scripture and small-group fellowship, inspired by a number of Evangelical friends. But, it wasn’t until I made it to Stanford and met a few awesome Catholic friends that I discovered the rich soil in which such fruits have their true root: the Church and Sacred Tradition.

Why ought a person, who believes in Christ Jesus, consider being Catholic?  They are already Christian–he has everything that he needs for salvation…right?

A few weeks ago, I had asked the newly received Connor to give his testimony of why he decided to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.  Thanks, Connor, for your time, you energy, your questions and your words.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

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How I ended up on the path to the Church is one story; how I ended up riding my bicycle and the Caltrain to St. Dominic’s every Tuesday night during my senior year at Stanford is another. I considered being received outside of RCIA, but discerned that I would benefit from a comprehensive treatment of the faith of the Church—I didn’t quite trust myself to know all of the important questions to ask, so I decided a more formal program would be best. Plus, I had been introduced to the Church in community, so having some fellow travelers on the road to Rome seemed like a good idea. Coming up on the end of my fifth month as a Catholic, I’m so thankful for the RCIA community and would not have done this any other way. It was breathtakingly awesome to be received and confirmed with so many wonderful people who I’ve come to know and love.

If you’re anywhere on the path to the Church, even—especially—if there are still some things you can’t quite wrap your head around yet, drop by an RCIA meeting on Tuesday night. You’ll find a community ready to share to the true joy of faith with you, wherever you’re coming from. Chances are, you’ll make a habit of coming back.

The Liturgy of the Hours, part VII – Unity and Universality

bow in prayer 2It is perfectly conceivable that there is someone, somewhere, at prayer right now.  But what if at, around five o’clock in the evening in every timezone, people are praying the same exact psalms?

This is another reason why I find the Divine Office so fascinating.  Just like in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the same readings and prayers are said all around the world, in the Liturgy of the Hours, the same psalms and antiphons are recited throughout the world.

Now, of course, this is not exactly true.  Some days, people would celebrate an optional memorial.  There are some days in which we celebrate important times and people within the Dominican Order that will not be celebrated at another parish.  But pretty much, the same psalms and antiphons heard in the main Church would be said here and in New York, London and Nairobi.

Open-HandsThe Church is praying constantly to her God, thanking God for being God.  Not because the Church was saved, or that we got what we wanted, or God did what we had ordered God to do.  No.  What the Liturgy of the Hours teaches me is that prayer has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Him. God ought to be loved and praised and adored for God’s sake, not because I get nothing out of it.

And this type of praise, this unconditional love that the Church tries to act out, is given throughout the Church’s day.

10388390_10152511232195962_1462370136_nPonder this: within the 150 psalms, virtually every human emotion is emitted.  Joy, hatred, sadness, humility, humiliation, thoughts about betrayal, loss and wonder.  There is even a pericope about God waking as though getting over a hangover. And despite this, or because of this—God is praised.  Through our drunken stupors or our joys of new life or the sadness of losing a member of our family, God is praised.  And He is praised throughout the day.

The unity of the hours throughout the Church, the Universality of the human experience to praise and wonder about our God.

I invite you to partake of our universal prayer.  Please refer here to the Church’s schedule.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

What do you seek? – A Convert’s Question

The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults begins on September 9, at 7:00 in the parish hall.  Last year, when the process began, I saw upwards to 80 people present, with Scott and Fr. Michael at the helm of this impressive program.
I myself would attend on Tuesday nights simply to get a refresher course–the content is that good.
But anyway, why would a person want to go through RCIA?  People travel over bridges and beyond to be received at St Dominic’s.  As you know, over 50 people were received at the last Easter Vigil.  Why would you go?
I asked this to Harper, one of the latest ‘alums’.  Here is what she had to say.
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!
shield_prov474h
Why are you going?  “I heard all the “hype” about the Catholic Church, I wanted to know the truth from their perspective. What are you seeking?  To be complete.  I’d tried everything else, and nothing gave my life meaning.  What did you hope to find?  The real reason why we are here and what we should be doing on earth.  Why should anyone attend?  To get a better understanding of yourself, as well as the Catholic religion.
1525527_572561909493724_337606688_nWhat did I find?  The truth is that Catholicism is a living, breathing and growing religion.  It takes all kinds of people from all walks of life to make up this church.  Catholics accepted me as I was, and didn’t judge me based on my past.  They gave me the tools to succeed in life in a real way that I could measure; and in some ways that I can’t.   (I am forever grateful)
 
The reason we are on this earth is so we can grow in spirit, and ultimately prepare ourselves to commune with God.  This is why everyone should attend; Your current circumstance is irrelevant.  Who you were doesn’t matter, it’s who you become with God.
 
Sincerely,
 
Harper

A Preacher’s Life – Fourfor Saturday

To my dearest and gentle, loving and compassionate readers.  You often ask me to write about what it is like during a day in the life of an ordinary urban priest.  I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is no such thing as an ordinary day, especially in a parish like St. Dominic’s.  Every day is an adventure.

stock-footage-film-reel-religiousThe amazing thing about priesthood is that a priest’s life is a highlight reel.  A priest is invited to be present during seminal moments in a person’s life—his or her birth, major life-changing moments, car accidents, times in the hospital, even death—are all part of a normal day for me.  We are men called to live on the breach of life and death.  Our normality is change.  “Oh God, what a life!” Lacordaire once wrote, “and it is yours, O priest of Jesus Christ!”

A couple of Saturdays ago, I had a “four-for”.  A baptism in the morning, a Nuptial Mass that afternoon, and confessions that evening.  Four Sacraments in one day.  Baptism, Eucharist, witnessed a Marriage and Reconciliation.  To end my “four-for” day (just for the heck of it) I performed a dramatic reading at Coffeehouse.

Of the Seven Sacraments, priests have the authority to dispense five: Baptism, Confession, Eucharist, witness a Marriage and Anointing.  Four of five in one day.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.  These moments are grace-filled and beautiful, yet are often filled with evidence of human foibles and fumblings, sometimes on the part of people approaching the priest for the sacrament, sometimes on the part of me the priest.  Power and grace, humility and humor.  Here’s how that “four-for” day went:

photo 2 (2)Baptism (Sacrament #1.):  Since our baptism had a smaller party, it took place in the baptistery near the vestibule of the Church. The extended family arrived thirty minutes before the star of the show did.  I was surrounded by grandparents and infants.  The entire time, I was asking for the star of the show.  “She’s not here yet!” was the answer I was given.

The Baptismal Liturgy was normal enough.  Readings from scripture, a homily, the naming and accepting of the child.  Then came time to bless the water and make the formal preparations for baptism.

I love the prayer over the baptismal water.  It is the same prayer that the Presider would use over the water during the Easter Vigil.  This long, involved, intricate prayer recalling the Creation, the Flood, the Red Sea, the Baptism of Jesus, the Great Commission, all reminding us of the elongated and dramatic history of men and women who have been splashed with the same waters that we have been.  In the latter part of the prayer, the Presider is instructed to touch his hand the water.
Now, I had the interesting thought of dipping my hand a few times, making the water splash a little bit.  For dramatic effect, and to keep the kids’ attention, you know.  I thought it would have added. You know.  Stuff.

Then I knocked over the plug.JesusFacepalmAndThusTheLord

Within seconds, the font was drier than a field of bones.

I must have had an entertaining look on my face, because the family is still laughing outside my office door. The baby is pointing at me.
Anyway, what do you do?  Well, the only a person can do is refill the font and them bless the new water.

Past that, it was a rather normal morning.

 

shield_prov474hNuptial Mass (Sacrament #2 & #3).  I mean, what can you say about weddings?  The clothing, the music, the energy, the joy and frivolity.

This Nuptial Mass went really well.  This was one of my first couples I had met when I had arrived last September.  I wanted the best possible moment for them.  I’m kinda testy when it comes to weddings.  I so desperately want the moment to go so well for my couple. I think we all do.  Liturgy is amazing here, but for my couples, I don’t want amazing, I want unforgettable.

imagesI remember looking at the groom.  It was ten minutes before we line up to meet the bridesmaids in the procession.  The groom looked ready, but there was something in his eyes.  Nerves?  Maybe.  Worry?  Perhaps. Certainly, we forget that these are heavy moments, overflowing emotion and stress.

“Can we pray?” I asked the groom.

His popped his head up and looked into my eyes.  Yes was all over his face. The groom gathered his men, his brothers, around a circle.  A videographer busted into the sacristy and grimaced the moment he saw me place my hand on the groom’s shoulder.

I forget what I prayed for exactly.  I know I recalled that this was a day long in coming.  A day in which he and his fiancé had been waiting.  But did I know that he needed a prayer?  That all of my training as a priest and my four years of practicing the art of priesthood just taught me to do this before every Nuptial Mass?

The fact is, this is only the second time I had asked the men to pray with me before a Nuptial Mass.  And the first time wasn’t even my idea.  I blame instinct…actually, better than that, I blame the Spirit of Wisdom.

The Mass was elegant.  I love how a bride enters our Church.  She looked amazing.  The liturgy had a couple of bumps, as most do.  But it was a beautiful moment in these people’s lives, and I am privileged to be part of it.

 

shield_prov474hAfter Vespers and Confessions (Sacrament #4), I had a curtain call for Coffeehouse.  Because of some things going on with the Young Adults Group, I had decided to change the reading.  I still read from Wandering in the Moonlight.  However, on Friday, I read excerpts from the opening chapter; on Saturday, I read from a very different section, deeper into the plotline.  I think the emotion and energy of that chapter spoke well to the situation of what had happened to this particular young adult, and I hope he accepts it as a tribute to him.  (Yes, I’m being vague—purposely—for the sake of this person’s privacy.)

I didn’t go to bed until the night was middle-aged.  The producers had invited me to a post-production cocktail.  As touching as the invitation was, I had Sunday to think about.  The big ol’ family get together we call the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Four Sacraments in eight hours.  “O God, what a life!  And it is your, O priest of Jesus Christ!”

Earlier that day, between events, I caught up with Fr. Michael.  When I told him my schedule, he smiled, saying, “You need an anointing for a complete day.”

“Y’know, captain,” I responded, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

 

 

 

Our Pastor’s Corner, August 31, 2014, Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hurley 083114 bAs we conclude this month honoring our patron St. Dominic, I am reminded of one of the stories of his youth. By nature, St. Dominic was a curious lad. He enjoyed reading and the delights of thoughtful conversation. As a young man, he studied at the University of Palencia and his prized possessions were his books. In an age before the printing press, manuscripts were laborious to produce and the vellum(sheepskin) that formed the pages was particularly expensive. St. Dominic would spend long nights in study, filling pages with annotated notes and insightful gloss. In the course of his studies, a devastating famine ravished the countryside and left many starving and destitute. When the response from the local authorities and the wealthy was notably indifferent, Dominic responded passionately. Against the counsel of his classmates, Dominic sold all of his personal books for a tidy sum and gave the money to local charity. His explanation for this generosity was as delightful as the act itself, “I could not bear to prize dead skins (vellum), when living ones were starving and in want.” In fact, St. Dominic attempted several times to indenture himself and use the money to help those in need, but was impeded by his professors and friends. St. Dominic’s passion for preaching which founded his Order was fueled by his compassionate generosity.

Open-HandsIt was in this spirit of generosity that we held our St. Dominic’s clothing drive last week. When some folks from our Friends in Christ group asked about sponsoring a parish clothing drive with the St. Vincent DePaul Society, I thought it was a fitting initiative for St. Dominic’s month. Since this was a new enterprise, the expectation was that we might fill a few bins that could be easily stored and transported. This expectation was wonderfully shortsighted: The response to the drive was astonishing. When I helped transport a few bags from the Church to the Aquinas Room after the 9:00 p.m. Mass on Sunday, I was met with a room full of clothing-stuffed satchels. A quick count tallied almost 200 bags filled with socks, shoes, blankets and other articles of clothing. The generosity of the parish was on full display. Many thanks to all who coordinated this effort and for those who contributed clothing. St. Dominic comes alive through such generosity.

And yet, there are times in our life when generosity is not easy or spontaneous. In our Gospel this weekend, Jesus rebukes Peter when Peter suggests that Jesus avoid Jerusalem and the cross which awaits. Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For the Son of Man will come and repay all according to his conduct.” (Matt 16:24-27) Following Christ is not simply a matter of being kind when it suits us or giving when we have abundance, but also entails cultivating the habit of kindness and generosity. We grow in virtue precisely when we are called upon to be kind in the midst of unpleasantness and to give even when it is difficult. In a particular way, I think of the response of those who came to the aid of those in need in the aftermath of the Napa earthquake. Moments of emergency and crisis calls forth nothing less than the whole of our efforts and energies.

St. Paul summarizes this attitude of giving in the 2nd reading, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) Being a disciple calls us to a way of life. We are not Christians only when we are in Church or are involved in some charitable project, but at all moments of our lives. God wants the entirety of our minds and hearts, that He might come alive in and through us. The ways in which we let go our ego and selfishness contributes to forming an attitude of love. May the end of St. Dominic’s Month be the beginning of a rejuvenated sense of God’s manifold grace. When we face the crosses and trials of life with a generous heart, God’s love flows through us and renews our lives.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.