Why RCIA can be for Catholics, too

A few weeks ago, I asked Jossie to share with us why she attended the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults last year.  Now, here is the thing…she’s already confirmed, yet, she attended RCIA more regularly than the candidates.  Thanks, Jossie, for offering your testimony!

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Even though I was already a confirmed Catholic, I had far too many questions about Catholicism before joining RCIA. I was interested in historical events, terminology, the orders, clarification of the beliefs the Church has on science, is Jesus really at the center of the Church, the Bible and its literary components and many more questions regarding tradition, family, and social issues.

I hesitated to register because of a couple of concerns 1) I thought RCIA was for non-Catholics CLP-2938stdominiclooking to join the Church and 2) I thought I would be driven away from the Church I always loved even if I didn’t know its teachings well. I finally decided I could no longer fake being a Catholic and needed answers.

My biggest surprise during the first couple of sessions was how well it was structured and how open the leaders seemed to be, but I still had my doubts. Each week I felt drawn to Catholicism and the people around me. It was a genuine environment where facts were presented; it didn’t feel fluffy to provide a feel good attitude. I noticed I couldn’t wait for Tuesday evenings where I knew I would learn more about the Lord and the Church. All questions were well received, even the difficult ones, and there were many of those.

The two concerns I had prior to joining were proven wrong right away. There were Confirmed Catholics looking to get answers and I fell back in love with Catholicism in my 30’s, which was completely unexpected. I still have questions, but now I have a plethora of resources to go to for answers.

If you have questions about our faith, no matter where you are in your journey, consider signing up for RCIA and you won’t regret it.

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Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults begins on September 9th, Tuesday, at 7:00pm.  For more information, go here.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Liturgy of the Hours, part VI – Compline with the Dominicans

Tomorrow night, the postulants will receive the habit of the Order. The Church will be closed after the 5:30 Mass.

Holy Father Dominic's Tomb, Bologna (credit - domid.blogspot.com)

Holy Father Dominic’s Tomb, Bologna
(credit – domid.blogspot.com)

The Dominican Order’s more notable houses are in Bologna and Paris.  There are many stories of how the Order founded certain customs from these two houses.  Bologna is where Holy Father Dominic’s remains are housed; Paris is where Thomas Aquinas had taught and gained much of his notoriety.

One such story tells how the Compline Salve procession began.

Every Sunday night at our House of Studies in Oakland, we participate in Compline (Night Prayer), ending with a procession to a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary while chanting the Salve Regina, and a procession to a statue of Holy Father Dominic while singing the O Lumen.  Second only to the Sunday Mass, Sunday Compline is, by every means, the prettiest liturgies at the Priory of St. Albert the Great.   (Here is Brother Cody’s thoughts on the topic.)

Vestition, a liturgy in which a person receives the Habit of the Order, takes place during Compline.  Here is the Compline Salve Procession from 2 years ago.

Vestition, a liturgy in which a person receives the Habit of the Order, takes place during Compline. Here is the Compline Salve Procession from 2 years ago.

Of course, St Dominic’s has Sunday Compline at 8:30 before the 9:00pm Mass. This liturgy is pretty as well, and not a bad substitute at all.

But how did the Compline procession come about?  It’s not the in the rubrics.  It’s something that the Order just started doing one day.  As appropriate as it is to serenade the Mother of Preachers, it is not necessary, as such….

According to the second Master of the Order, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the Master of Lies harassed the nascent band of Preachers in the priories of Bologna and Paris.  He writes, “As superiors bore witness, he threatened one with a burning furnace which seemed to about to fall upon him, he would suddenly embrace another under the guise of a woman, to this one he appeared like an ass with horns, to another he offered fiery serpents, others he abused with scurrilous words, so much so that at last some of the brethren had to keep guard while the rest slept: some lost their reason, others were horribly tormented.”  (Lives of the Brethren, Chapter VI)

SalveSo the superiors, begging for the prayers of the Mother of Mercy, instituted a Salve procession as one of the last acts of the day, with proper prayers attached.  Within a matter of time, so the testimonies state, the brothers regained their reason, sanity and balanced way of life.

In fact, as time went on, men and women who had befriended the friars would tell stories of their own experiences. Some had testified that they had seen a vision of the Mother of God bowing to the friars as they chanted “O sweet Virgin Mary”.  Another testifies that when the friars would chant, “Turn then, O gracious advocate”, she would prostrate in front of the Son of God on our behalf.

Most likely, there are similar stories from the Carmelites, Franciscans or other Orders.  But no matter.

Fra AngelicoThe point is that there is a Dominican mode of how we participate in the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Compline procession is one of many.  (In fact, the nuns at Corpus Christi process every night, but that is mostly because the nuns are holier than the friars.  Obviously.)  One of these days, I guess, we ought to investigate others.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

 

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.

Coffeehouse 2014

Now, you would think that an event entitled “Coffeehouse” involves…coffee.  (Insight #1.)  Being the coffee-fanatic that I have been called, I thought that there would be a nice cappuccino machine, a few baristas, someone with a really creepy French accent (I oftentimes associate coffee with the French…not exactly sure why)…but no.  When I entered the hall, I saw a lot of really big tables and a stage.

Of course, I’m lying to you.  I knew that Coffeehouse is closer to America’s Got Talent than My Dinner with Andre.   But it makes a relative newcomer like myself ask why things are named the things they are.

Paul and Andy in the final act of the night.

Paul and Andy in the final act of the night.

Anyway, on August 15th and 16th, the Young Adults Group hosted the 24th Annual Coffeehouse.  Tim on guitar and Tessa with a heartbreaking percussion performance, David with the St Dominic’s update—Long Live Father Neo and the Literal-Hole-In-The-Wall!—complete with insisting on the Cal/Stanford rivalry (yawn).  The amazing Keith singing about a beautiful world.  The unpredictable Matt…did his nephew really say that?  Father Emmanuel leading the crowds with Safe and Sound.  A duo from the Contemporary Choir—Paul and Andy—wowed the crowds, both nights demanding a number of encores.  Personally, I think they got off stage on the high chord, ending with Happy.

I had read from Wandering in the Moonlight.  Two different passages for two different nights.  It went okay, I guess.  Consequently, it is funny what people hear and do not hear.  Three times, on both nights, people had asked if they can get a free copy of the book. (1) It’s not published yet and (2) proceeds go to help the elderly friars and the house in general, so the answer is no.

...um....

…um….

Anyway, there were so many highlights of the night.  The performances.  The drawings by Michael.  The flawless production work by Luisa, Henry, Jerick and all of the background. The marvelous food by Bobbycookies (I am convinced that these guys have not slept since the Chargers won the Superbowl).  Waldo, the bunny head, the cumbersome bund, the surgeon general’s announcement that no cats were harmed in the making of Coffeehouse (which is a lie).

However…by far, the one highlight that I would like the entire world to appreciate is the great and wonderful Father Felix.  I don’t know how in the world Father Emmanuel convinced the man to do it, but he shocked us all by playing ragtime piano on the keys.

There are people that used their smart phones to tape this piece of history.  Naturally.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to see Father Felix joyfully play the ivory?  However, as shy as Father Felix is, it was suggested that I not provide you with that link.  You would have to find that for yourselves.

Thanks be to God for that moment, though.  For those of us privileged to be there on Saturday Night, heaven and earth kissed and we saw a youthful old man.  I wondered if this is what life felt like 60 years ago when Father Felix was still a youngster on the Merchant Marines.  Perhaps.  Just perhaps.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

The Liturgy of the Hours, part V – Hours and the Rosary

Now, according to my history professors, this is how it would work in many Medieval villages in Europe.  The monks or nuns at the monasteries would toll the bell, telling their communities that was time for Office.  The community would gather in the choir, and some lay people would gather in the main nave at various times of the day.

The religious who knew how to read would take the lead on chanting the psalms. Those who did not would recite other prayers along with the laity.

credit - St Albert Priory

credit – St Albert Priory

The story goes is that these other prayers would be repetitive and would not last very long—around 10-15 minutes–in order to coincide with Office.  They would be snippets from Scripture that were easy to memorize.

Eventually, this is the origin of the rosary.  While the monks and nuns would chant the psalms, the illiterati would pray the mysteries of the rosary in the nave.

One hundred and fifty psalms.  One hundred and fifty Hail Marys.  Everyone mediating on the life of Christ.

And I know what you might be thinking.  So what about when St. John Paul II instituted the Luminous Mysteries?  Yeah, I know.  The whole 150/150 thing is kinda jettisoned.  But he’s a saint, now, what are you going to do?

I don’t dislike the Luminous.  Actually, I have always thought that they fill in a necessary gap in contemplating Jesus’ life (his earthly ministry).  But still, there is a part of me that is sad because of this split between these two devotions that are paramount in a Dominican’s spirituality.  Eh.

Anyhow, you are invited to be part of the parish’s deep liturgical life.  See here for our schedule.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

OUR PASTOR’S CORNER – August 17, 2014, Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the course of the many tributes for Robin Williams this week, I was reminded of a powerful scene from the film Good Will Hunting. Matt Damon stars as Will Hunting, a young, troubled genius who in the course of the story is professionally counseled by Williams’ character, Dr. Sean.

good_will_hunting_1Unlike the other therapists, Dr. Sean actually confronts Will’s initial smart aleck defense mechanisms, and after a few unproductive sessions, Will begins to open up. One of these breakthrough moments happens when Dr. Sean acknowledges Will’s brilliance and yet challenges him to be open to the experience of life. As they sit on a park bench together Williams says, “If I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him: life’s work, political aspirations, him and the Pope, sexual orientation, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. I’ve seen that….And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends.’ But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, and watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you, who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes that the terms ‘visiting hours’ don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause that only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.”

Moved by the poignancy and pathos of this soliloquy, Will begins to confide in Dr. Sean and eventually opens up to experiencing life.

jesus-canaanite-womanIn our Gospel this week, Jesus challenges us to move beyond simply knowing about Him to actually knowing Him. At first glance, Jesus’ actions seem out of character. We might be surprised when Jesus ignores the Canaanite woman’s plea to heal her daughter. His responses, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and “it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” seem both dismissive and insensitive. But the woman’s response reveals His true intention. Undaunted she perseveres, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their
masters.”

Jesus’ rebuffs actually elicit one of the Gospel’s great acts of faith and determination: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Faith comes alive through perseverance and determination. Just as Jesus ignores the woman’s initial request, there are
times when our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears.

As a priest, I am often asked, “Father, when I pray, God doesn’t answer me. I don’t always get what I ask for. Why doesn’t my prayer seem to work?”

While there are many possible ways to respond, in this Gospel Jesus implies that we can fail at prayer because we become easily discouraged when divine response is not obvious and immediate. Prayer is not magic or simply knowing the right words to say according to a correct order, rather prayer “works” when it establishes a relationship. It is not enough simply to know about God, but prayer opens us up to experience Him, even when we don’t have all the answers.

imagesOften we have a “vending machine” sort of image of prayer. We insert the currency of petition, punch in our desired flavor of grace and out plops our request.

But St. Theresa tells us that prayer is “talking to God like a friend.” Prayer establishes a relationship that makes us vulnerable to God’s will for us. It puts us in contact with the one who knows not just what we want, but what we need. And there’s need all around us.

We continue to pray for those Christians in Iraq who are trapped in the violence and barbarity of cruelty. We pray for those who have lost a loved one, especially for those whose deaths are unexpected. We pray for those who struggle with depression and addiction in all its forms. As we strive to be people of faith, let us never give up hope that our prayers are heard by our merciful and compassionate Father, who will always give us what we need to remain in his love.
~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

A Preacher’s Life – Around the Dinner Table

Being in a community of fourteen people, of all ages and tastes, it won’t surprise you that the Priory has a cook.  Five days a week, we have a cook for the main meal, and then we have a weekend guy who, for the most part, gives us a sampling from his latest catering gig.

Anyway, this particular week, for five days, we didn’t have a cook.  For some reason, he found it necessary, in the middle of the summer, to take a week off to be with this wife.  How rude, ha!

I was delegated to take care of dinner that day.  When I woke up that morning, I began to think of a menu and cook for the community myself.  You see, at Stanford, we oftentimes cooked ourselves, and I felt that I could tap into my past and think of something magnificent to tickle our tastebuds.  Then I had my second cup of coffee.

Interior of Lime Tree on Clement Street

Interior of Lime Tree on Clement Street

So this is what I did.  A few weeks back, I blessed a restaurant.  It’s called Lime Tree, on Clement Street.  The chef and owner is a parishioner.  Anyway, after I finished my second cup of coffee, I texted him.  “I know that this is last minute, but I was wondering if you can make dinner for 7.  I can pick up if that is easier for you.”  After we had negotiated on the details, I progressed through my day.

That evening, I picked up the food for the brothers, and had one of them set up the room for eating.  I had other things in which I had to attend. By the time I arrived, dinner was in full swing.

And the boys were loud.

On one end, some of the older brothers were talking about Cookie Lavagetto and the latest baseball trades.  On the other, brothers talking about defunct Christian cartoon shows.  Soon, the conversation turned to the Eastern Church in the Ukraine.  Then obscure Old Testament stories like Dinah and Japheth.  Then The Lord of the Rings and the art of film adaptation.  Then I figured that I wasn’t Facebook friends with one our visiting friars—that was soon remedied.

The conversation was scattered, loud, but together.  We laughed.  We teased.  We were brothers, doing the brother-thing.

It was so nice to be together, to eat and talk, without the weight of homilies or emergency calls or spiritual direction laying upon our hearts.  The on-call phone was mercifully silent.  There weren’t any crises that could be, or needed to be, solved that very instant.  It was a time to be home to be with a bunch of yahoos who are striving for the same mission you were called to forward.

What would happen if I were in charge of cooking....

What would happen if I were in charge of cooking….

But you know, not sound like a commercial, a large reason for it is because of the food that we were blessed with.  The chef at Lime Tree is way too generous with us, almost criminally so.  Because really, the service he blessed us with was not simply really good food—though it was more than excellent.  The food was an impetus to allow us to sit down, enjoy the food, and be a community.  If we were having a stack of overtoasted Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, we would not have stayed in that room very long.  However, we were given the gift of really, really, good food.  And that made us have more food, have more time to be together, have more time to bond and revel in the gifts of God.

bow in prayer 2So thanks, Lime Tree.  Your service to St. Dominic’s Priory is astounding and well appreciated.  The poor ones of the Priory can only offer you our prayers and support.  May we pray for each other and strive to be the saints that we are all called to be.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Of Jubilees and Young Adult Groups

This past weekend, the 5:30 Sunday Mass was a special celebration.  The Young Adults Group has their Silver Jubilee this year.  Fr. Michael gave a rousing homily about being an activator and encourager of God’s Word and work in our world.  Mark Lizama helped lead the congregation in music ministry, and (past YAG Chaplain) Fr. Steve and (current Chaplain) myself concelebrated the Mass.

credit -Coffey

credit -Coffey

Mark was the primary engineer in designing the parish hall.  It was a compilation of ideas and worker that designed the décor of the  hall, of course.  There on the walls hung a variety of letters from dignitaries who congratulated the Group’s longevity.  Mark drew up the plans for the bar, the tables and the where the food ought to go.  Anyway, the hall looked amazing.

By the time I had made it to the hall, the appetizers were out and there was a line longer than the Golden Gate Bridge.  One of the Priory West men, Lance, took out his square and registered people via credit card, while the rest paid cash.  Ah, the marvels of modern technology.  (Jennifer, the founder of the group in 1989, boasted that the most techie she got was using the ruler and photocopying machines.)

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credit – Bobbycookies

I mean, really, the Silver Jubilee had to be a hit, right?  Bobbycookies cooking, long-time friends gathering after a long time away, wine, wine and more wine…I mean, really, the Jubilee could not fail.

My highlight is a small one.  It wasn’t blessing the food.  Nor was it standing on stage seeing 200 plus people staring up at me and Jennifer. It wasn’t even the reception of the new Young Adults Group banner gifted by Jennifer herself. It was something fairly small.

I stood between circles of friends, between the bar and the stage.  No one was talking to me, or asking me about the program schedule or anything like that.  I fell to silence.  Listening to the roaring chatter, the laughter. Seeing the smiling faces.  Seeing young moms preventing their sons from eating all of the La Boulange.  Seeing a physical manifestation of joy embedded within the people of God.  Seeing these people, effected by this ministry, seeing how this group—with God’s blessings and the Dominicans’ guidance—overflowing with joy and laughter, tears and assurance.

Beauty doesn’t have to be a sunset or a smile…it comes in a variety of ways.

Founder Jennifer with Mark

Founder Jennifer with Mark  credit – Bobbycookies

Throughout the event, I would overhear how the Group had changed lives.  People found their spouses.  Some found their religious vocations.  Some found their vocations within their vocations.  The fruits of Priory West and East.

From the Western Dominican Province point of view, the Young Adults Group is a phenomenon.  By far, ours is the largest, longest-standing, and most fruitful group of its kind. I am privileged to be their chaplain.  This group has changed lives and has done amazing things.

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To the Young Adults Group current Leadership Team, I say this to you: What have you learned?

The Group is where your peers find encouragement about being Catholic in the San Francisco.  It is a safe place where we can respectfully and charitably ponder the mysteries of God and our Catholic beliefs.  A place where you can find your life transformed—if a young person is brave enough to accept the Christian Challenge.

the-forerunners-of-christ-with-saints-and-martyrs-fra-angelico

Fra Angelico, OP

Hikes?  Happy Hours?  Coffeehouse?  All of these activities can foster an encounter with Christ and His Church.  Will you find joy in these little things?  Indispensable relationships? A place where you can discern your flourishing?  Yes—this and much, much more. YAG is that place where young adults from all over the Bay are challenged to grapple with your faith on your own terms in order to become the saints in which you are called to be.

Sure, we get 50 on an average Wednesday, or 20 at a happy hour.  Fine, fine, fine.  But Leadership Team, are you doing the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5)?  Are you being a catalyst for deeper devotion?   Are you daring these people that show up every week to be apostles?

I affirm that it takes much energy and thought in order to make this group vibrant.  However, are you content with keeping the boat afloat—or would you rather look up and see where the boat is headed?

LT, there is the challenge, as it has been flying in the Group’s face for these 25 long years.  Will you accept the challenge and make the Group a Pressure Cooker of Sainthood?  Or is this simply a group of cliquey Catholic friends who so happen to see each other on Sundays and Wednesdays?  Are you women and men striving for sainthood in a city as crazy as Corinth? Are you people chasing after the Mysterious God, and inspiring others to do the same?

Who are you?  Who do you chose to be?  How will you lead your brothers and sisters in Christ to be saints? May we not be complacent in our struggle for sainthood.  Let us propel ourselves to become saints, and urge others to do the same.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Dominican Corner – August 10, 2014

St Dominic at Study, as depicted by Fr Angelico, OP

St Dominic at Study, as depicted by Fr Angelico, OP

This week we celebrate the Feast of St. Dominic! As our patron, we look to St. Dominic to lead us in our relationship with Christ. One of the remarkable virtues of St. Dominic was his gift of encouragement. Though we have no examples of his specific preaching, he inspired a community to boldly share the Gospel in places torn by political and social conflict. Though those early Dominicans preached in the face of opposition and ridicule, their perseverance soon brought the light and healing of Christ alive to embattled regions. This Dominican legacy continues. This week, we received a letter from our Dominican sisters living in Iraq. Please pray for them and be inspired to share in your faith in your daily life.

 ~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

 

Thank you for journeying with us through prayers and support in the past few months. It really is a time of peril and we are hoping that a miracle from God will end all that. So far, 510 families have been displaced from Mosul. Some were fortunate to leave before the deadline ISIS set and they were able to take their belongings with them. However, 160 families left Mosul with only their clothes on; everything they had was taken away from them. These families are in so much need of help and support. People in Christian towns that received these refugees opened their homes to provide shelters and food for them, as much as they could. People are strongly willing to help, but the fact that they did not have their salaries for two months (June-July) makes it extremely difficult for them to offer more as the salaries of government employees in areas under ISIS control are being suspended.

This is the Arabic equivalent for "N", short for Nazirite or Nazarene, the word for Christians.  All Christian building are to have this "N" painted on their doors.

This is the Arabic equivalent for “N”, short for Nazirite or Nazarene, the word for Christians. All Christian building are to have this “N” painted on their doors.

Additionally, because of the present situation in Mosul and the whole province (of Nineveh) the economy of the state is suffering, which naturally affects everyone. Since the tension started in Mosul, many people lost their jobs as 99% of jobs stopped, which means there is hardly any money to be used let alone loaning to those who are in need. This is not only in the province of Nineveh, but also in Erbil. Moreover, all Christians in the plain of Nineveh have not received their food supplement, which the government used to provide via the smart ration card. This is causing a crisis not only for the refugees, but also for the residents in the area.

However, the church is calling people to open their homes for refugees as there are some families staying in the church’s halls with limited space and public services in Nineveh plain. But in Karakosh, residents and churches are collaborating. Residents are welcoming refugees in their homes and churches are providing for them; therefore, refugees prefer to come to Karakosh. Additionally, the church, with the help of Christian endowment, is planning to provide caravans as kind of accommodations for the time being. This project, however, seems to take a longer time than expected.

iraq-churchAs you perhaps know, concerning the situation in Mosul, the Islamic State has a policy in governing the city. After displacing the Christians, they started their policy that angered people concerning the holy places. So far, the churches are under their control; crosses have been taken off. But we are not sure about the extent of the damage done in them. In addition to that, a few mosques have been affected, too. The ISIS destroyed two mosques with their shrines last week: the mosque of Prophet Sheeth (Seth) and the mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, said to be the burial place of Jonah. The militants claim that such mosques have become places for apostasy, not prayer. This was really too painful for all people as Jonah’s shrine was considered a monument. Also, it was a historical place as it was built on an old church. Destroying such places is a destruction of our heritage and legacy.

Besides, ISIS is setting some rules that even Mosul residents cannot tolerate, like forcing young people to join them, preventing women to go out, and enforcing the strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Christians-in-IraqPeople in towns around Mosul are afraid that ISIS would extend their control after the Muslim Feast holidays. This period of Muslim feast was a kind of intermission, but no one knows what to expect next. In fact, they have already started. The ISIS are extending their controlled zone. Yesterday (Aug 3) there were encounters between ISIS and Pashmerga outside of Mosul to the north. Meanwhile, the central government is attacking the ISIS in Mosul. Most of Christians in towns of Batnaya and Telkaif have left their homes because they are very close to Mosul. The situation in Karkush in the present time is calm. But this causes fear and horror among Christians and that’s why some families from Karkush are leaving to Kurdistan, some have plans to leave the country, and some are staying. This in any case weakens Christians feeling of belonging to the country.

We are surprised that some countries of the world are silent about what is happening. We hoped that there would be stronger international approach toward Iraq, and Christians in Iraq in general.

As for us as a community, our sisters in Batnaya and Telkaif had to leave the town with 99% of people who left because of violence outside the town. We have had our annual retreat on the 20th of July. That gave us opportunity to pray for Iraq and our Christian community during this time of peril.

~ Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena – Iraq

 

For more, Fr. Isaiah Mary preached on this a few weeks ago. His homily may be found here.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

A preview for the Solemn Mass on the Solemnity of Holy Father Dominic, August 10, 2014, 11:30 am

Guest Post: Simon C Berry

simonberryI’m writing today about The English composer Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986), whose Mass setting we are performing at Solemn Masses in the month of St. Dominic.  This music is different from really any other Mass setting that we sing and has a unique quality of cohesion.  The style of Rubbra’s work has been summed up as, “In an age of fragmentation, Rubbra stands as a composer of a music of oneness”. And: “He…has never made any effort to popularize anything he has done, but he goes on creating masterpieces”.

Rubbra wrote his Mass setting Missa in honorem sancti Dominici on the occasion of his conversion to Catholicism on August 4, 1948 – the Feast of St. Dominic on the old liturgical calendar (in the modern calendar the feast day is August 8); hence its dedication in honor of St. Dominic.  The first performance was at The Royal Academy of Music , Oct 26, 1949 in the presence of the Queen.

Dominic MSJ Rubbra’s artistic and sensitive nature were apparent from early on. He remembered waking one winter’s morning when he was about three or four years old, and noticing something different about the light in his bedroom; there was light where there was usually shadow, and vice versa. When his father came into the room, Edmund asked him why this was. His father explained that there had been a fall of snow during the night, and so the sunlight was reflecting off the snow and entering Edmund’s bedroom from below, instead of above, thus reversing the patterns of light and shade. When Rubbra was much older he came to realize that this ‘topsy-turveydom’, as he called it, had caused him to often use short pieces of melodywhich would sound good, both in their original form and when inverted (so that when the original melody goes up a certain amount, the inverted one goes down the same amount).

 The first half of his life was a mystical and musical quest, culminating in conversion to Roman Catholicism. He worked for the railways when he left school, but later won scholarships that allowed him to study music with Gustav Holst. After earlier activity as a pianist in a distinguished piano trio, for some twenty years he was a lecturer in music at Oxford University. As a composer his individual voice is heard in his eleven symphonies, while his moving Cello Sonata echoes his interest in counterpoint and in the earlier traditions of vocal music. His choral music is finely crafted and full of interesting key shifts.

Simon Berry, August 2014