Our Dominican Corner, SEPTEMBER 6, 2015, TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:31-37)

 

In preparation for his visit to the United States, Pope Francis held a virtual audience for high school students in Chicago, homeless in Los Angeles, and immigrants in a small border town in Texas. During the course of the hour, Pope Francis exuded the joyful mercy which has formed the heart of his preaching. In turns he praised a single mom for her sacrifice in seeking a better life for her child, supported the vocation and ministry of religious nuns, and encouraged immigrants who face daunting challenges. Perhaps the most memorable and moving moment came when 17-year-old Valerie Herrera wept as she recalled the bullying she faced because of her affliction with a rare skin condition. When she described how she sought refuge and comfort in music, the Pope asked her to sing something for him. Shocked by this impromptu request, she hesitated, frozen in bundle of emotion. With a wide smile, Pope Francis gently rallied her, “Be courageous.” As she began to sing the sweet tune, “By you, Mary,” her fears and nerves dissipated into resonate calm. It was a moment of healing. In this encounter, God’s presence came alive and all gathered witnessed the hope of our faith.

 

In our Gospel this Sunday, Jesus heals a deaf man with a speech impediment. This miracle is not simply a physical cure, but a healing which transforms the man’s relationship with God and others. Cut off from the community by illness, Jesus’ word Ephphatha, “Be opened,” restores the whole of the man’s senses and enables him to interact with the world afresh. For this reason, our tradition interprets this encounter in baptismal terms. In the baptismal ritual, the clergy imitates Christ’s gestures of touching ears, eyes and mouth, invoking God’s healing presence to restore and vivify His creation through grace. Through our baptism, we are called to be open and to witness to the joyful presence of God in our midst.

 

2014 Novices Close webLast weekend, the eight novices who lived here at St. Dominic’s last year, made simple vows at St. Albert’s Priory in Oakland. Their vows to live the Dominican life witness to all of us both God’s generous blessing and the need for the healing preaching of the Gospel. Join me in keeping these young Dominicans in your prayers as they continue in their formation. From my own experience, the prayers of this community supported me in my own formation for which I am grateful. Inspired by Jesus’ Gospel example, encouraged by Pope Francis and edified by our novices, this week we renew our own commitment and resolve to bring Christ’s healing presence alive through our joyful witness to God’s love in our lives.

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Hunger Banquet – Guest Blogger Deacon Dan Rosen

From Deacon Dan:

 

Hunger banquet? I have been to New Year’s banquets, wedding banquets, retirement banquets, but never a Hanger Banquet. Last week I attend the one at St. Dominic’s.  There was a wonderfully “Special” table in the center of the hall; other sparse tables and two rows of chairs in the back. We entered and drew a small ticket from a box.  Mine was green, my wife’s was white.

As the evening began I was invited to the small beautiful table in the center of the room, my wife left behind, at least for a while. Other lucky green ticket holder joined me.  One said she felt guilty, I didn’t.

Lucky for my wife, she was invited to join me. A simple reminder of the “feminization of poverty” where too many women find themselves denied access the “Special” table.

Before the meal began we learned that few people in the world eat at the “Special” table, many eat simply and some struggle for food.  And even in SF the number of people who struggle to eat properly is higher than anyone thinks. Many school children receive good meals as part of their education.

As we at the “Special” table ate a wonderfully cooked meal, those at the sparse table received rice and beans, while those on the chairs waited, and waited. They finally lined up soup kitchen like and received their “cup of noodles”.

The hunger banquet pointed out quite graphically the inequality of food distribution that occurs in our world. We who shop at supermarkets with aisles filled with food often forget this fact as we “struggle” to decide which brand to buy.

Those who attended the Hunger Banquet have a better idea of why we have organizations like Bread for the World and the World Food Program.  Pause as you say your grace before meals to remember those who aren’t as blessed as we are with our daily bread.

Our Pastor’s Corner, AUGUST 30, 2015, TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

FRmPeopleDearest brothers and sisters: All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:17-27)

dom crucifix 2For many, it’s back-to-school week. This is the season to sharpen pencils, sort fresh syllabus and lay out new school attire. The languor of summer is over; the full force of fall is upon us. Here at the parish, we conclude our St Dominic’s month of celebrations. One of the primary highlights of the past month was the completion of the seismic strengthening of the Church building that was initiated 25 years ago after the devastation of the Loma Prieta earthquake. With the scaffolding removed from the inside of the Church, the Christ in Glory window once again warms with radiant light. In recognition of this historic moment, our docents led a Grand Tour of the Church windows and statuary that was a wonderful success (we anticipate our next tour at 10:00 a.m. on Sept. 19). Also thanks to Zanna de Sant’Anna & Scott Moyer, the Photo Gallery on our website shines with the vibrant color of past events. In addition, I am grateful to all who made the celebrations of this past month come to life. The musical concerts, the lecture series and the festive culmination at our parish picnic: there was something for everyone as we honored our founder and patron.

Entering into fall, we look forward to new beginnings. RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) begins again this Tuesday. If you or someone you know is interested in entering more fully into the Church or this particular community, know that you are most welcome. Even if you have received all the sacraments, but simply want to renew your faith, join us at 7:00 p.m. in the Parish Hall. Our Wednesday Women’s Bible Study resumes, along with a parallel group on Tuesday evening open to all in the parish as we study the prophet Isaiah. Our religious education for children and families resumes as well, with a pancake breakfast this Sunday morning!

Dom headFinally, this year will be the 800th Jubilee of the Dominican Order. St. Dominic established the Order of Preachers in 1216 to proclaim the Gospel for the salvation of souls, and for the past 800 years, his Order has endeavored to radiate the joy of the Gospel around the world. As a parish, we will celebrate with events both local and international. The launch of this Jubilee involves two dates which I invite you to save on your calendar. First, on Saturday, Oct. 31, Fr. Bruno Cadoré, O.P., the Master of the Dominican Order, will be here to celebrate the opening Mass for the Jubilee year. Worldwide, there are many options which would be an appropriate venue for such an event: Rome, Paris, London, or Bologna. Yet, he has chosen to come to San Francisco in order to usher in the 800th anniversary. All are invited to join Dominicans from far and wide to celebrate with us. The next Saturday, November 1, the former president of our Dominican School, Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P., will be the keynote speaker for a powerful day of prayer, conferences and commissioning as we launch this jubilee as a parish. I will keep you informed of the details of each of these historic days as the plans continue to take shape. St. Paul reminds us this weekend that in the midst of new beginnings, we are called to be doers of the word and not hearers only. May this Jubilee Year be a moment of renewal as we radiate the joy of the Gospel from the heart of the City.

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Our Pastor’s Corner, AUGUST 23, 2015, TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Brothers and Sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. (Ephesians 5: 21-32)

 

katy-lance-fr-michael cropWhen faced with these words of St. Paul, the preacher’s initial instinct can be to either avoid or omit (by choosing an optional, abbreviated version). When the lector proclaims the verse, “Wives be subordinate to your husbands,” there is often a moment of awkwardness that leads the preacher to page quickly to the Gospel, hoping that Christ’s words will quickly dissipate any discomfort. The general attitude towards this passage is that, at best, even if St. Paul himself is not sexist, he is expressing a cultural misogyny which was normative of his time.

The first time I encountered this Gospel as preacher, this was my general reaction. So I was surprised when circumstances forced me to engage this reading and discover the power and beauty of St. Paul’s words. In the course of preparing a couple for marriage, I asked them to choose their Mass Scripture readings that best expressed the meaning of their wedding vows. Because Scripture is filled with spousal imagery and rich love language in both the Old and New Testaments, discussing their choices helps both to encourage the couple to think about the virtue and values of their relationship and to personalize the homily. So when the couple chose this passage from Ephesians, I thought that they were joking. “You really want the words “wives be subordinate to your husbands” to ring out on your wedding day…or maybe you want me to wear a flak jacket at the ambo to avoid any projectiles of opprobrium.” But they were serious. Not only did they want this passage to be read, they wanted me to make it the central focus of the homily and the “theme” of the Mass. So I naturally asked them what this passage meant to them and why they felt so strongly about having it shape their wedding readings. Their response made me appreciate this passage and see it from a fresh perspective.

ringsThis is what they told me: Love is the gift of self. In saying, “I do” to one another, they wanted to entrust themselves to each other completely. Their sorrow and joys, hopes and dreams, the destiny of their lives were now intrinsically and intimately entwined together. So when St. Paul says, “Wives be subordinate to your husbands,” this is merely one side his general challenge to, “Be subordinate to one another.” This is why St Paul continues, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.” As the couple explained, love can only exist when we make ourselves utterly vulnerable to the other person. They did not see their relationship as a means of self fulfillment or a way to meet their needs, but an intimate commitment whereby they could mutually “subordinate” their own desires for the sake of the other. In other words, real love is sacrificial. It imitates Christ’s own loving sacrifice for us. This is at the heart of St. Paul’s vision for marriage and my couple wanted to celebrate the shocking beauty of this profound, if oft misunderstood, Scripture.

dom crucifix 2Faced with such insight and passion, I couldn’t refuse their request. In fact, it inspired me to delve deeper into the context and commentary of St. Paul’s words and I discovered that, even in his own time, his words were shocking. Not to women, but to men, insofar as he challenges them to lay their life on the line for their wives. In the ancient world, this was not a normative attitude. Further, St. Paul’s vision for marriage is sacramental. The relationship of husband and wife is both a reflection of Christ’s love for his Church, but the very means by which God’s love comes into the world in a new way. Sacraments create. They bring the presence of God alive in the world in a new way. This week, St. Paul’s shocking words ought not to embarrass us, or force us to turn the page. They are a challenge to inspire us to live the love that is the gift of self. For when we see our relationships not as a means to personal fulfillment, but as the opportunity for sacrifice, God’s creative love is born anew.

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

A Life of Faith

The Charism of Faith is crazy.

Taking a page from the Called and Gifted Workshop of the Catherine of Siena Institute, I am speaking of the charism of faith, not the virtue of faith.  

Faith, as a theological virtue, is “by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity”.” (CCC 1814).  

The virtue of faith is the virtue of belief; at the core of our being, we know that Jesus is the Incarnate Son of God—that the entire revelation of God’s Truth and Love is perfectly found in Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  The virtue of faith informs us that Jesus is God.

The Called and Gifted Workshop teach that the Charism of Faith is a Lifestyle Charism, which informs all other charisms.

The Called and Gifted Workshop teaches that the Charism of Faith is a Lifestyle Charism, which informs all other charisms.

By contrast, the charism of faith is…well, crazy. Nicknamed the Crazy Charism, faith is the rare gift that resonates at the core of a person’s being that God, who is the Grand Provider and Protector, will conquer any sort of adversity for the sake of His beloved.  It is the belief that, knowing that there is an insurmountable adversity, God will allow His Will to be done.

For instance, when Saint Dominic’s band of preachers was approved by the Church, he charged them to go out into the world and preach the Gospel everywhere–just like the Twelve–especially where the Universities were just starting to grow.  

It was reckless and impractical, but his charism of faith informed him that this was the best way to develop the new band of preachers into what it is today.  

Dominican Shield

To have this kind of faith–to purposely put yourself out there and fall into providence in such a way that looks unwise and idiotic.  And the thing is, Saint Dominic did this often–so many times he would throw his hands into prayer and beg for God’s providence  For most, we think that this kind of thing does not happen anymore.  As though these kinds of things are legends of fancy.

Funny enough, I see something this crazy, and this admirable, on a regular basis. I think this is one the reasons why I keep my seat with Tricia Bǿlle and her St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionaries

From the May trip to Hong Kong

From the May trip to Hong Kong

Just recently, the Society had acquired Tricia a number two.  This Assistant will be in charge of a number of things within the Society’s structure, on the front and back end.  She will be assisting Tricia on a number of aspects of XLMS’ life, from databases to Bible Studies.  Yet, after the deal was signed, there was still one detail to be determined: the Assistant’s housing.   

You see, the Assistant just graduated from college and her family lives on the other side of the world.  So yeah…she kinda needed a place to stay.

Tricia didn’t think this much of a problem: “Oh, yeah, there’s got to be someone out there—Chinese Catholic or otherwise—that has a spare room willing to offer it for God’s purpose.  I mean, look how many empty nesters there are in the area.”

“Um,” I responded, “I mean, we have two months to figure this out.  You sure we can find someone?  With our budget, we can barely afford pizza for the Executive Board, much less–“

“—it’ll be fine.”  

Ever have that one conversation with a friend and the friend, firmly yet politely, says that the conversation is over?  Yeah…that.  

The next seven weeks were stressful.  Tricia would call and email several communities and families about housing her Assistant.  Though some houses were open, the conditions of the stay were insurmountable—rent was too high (remember how ridiculous amounts of cash studios go for in San Francisco) , the commute unrealistic, or something else.

***

Over a cup of coffee, I said, “Okay, we’ve tried about five families in that community, we have to start looking at studios in Mountain View.”

She grimaced.  “Please do, but I’m going to keep on praying and talking to people.”

“Aren’t you worried about this?” I asked, flummoxed.

She looked indignant.  “Of course I am.  But God is going to be amazing.  Just watch.”

I willed my eye from rolling.  “Watch.”

***

A few weeks later, I ran across a place that seemed ideal, though it was on the other side of the Bay.  “It looks good and you know some of the people involved.”

She sighed.  “…yeah, but…I don’t know, I think we have to wait.”

“I’m done waiting, Tricia,” I announced, gripping my cell phone.  I felt like I was choking it.

“Just wait and pray with me, okay?  We’ll be okay,” she said.

“You don’t sound convinced.”

She didn’t respond.

  ***

Tricia and I ran into roadblocks, Dobermans, not to mention electric fences.  I sent letters to my personal prayer network—laity, nuns, other priests—all asking them to pray that we find housing for Tricia’s Assistant.  Many of Tricia’s contacts fell on false hopes.  Time ran short.  Both of us lost sleep, thinking and praying for options, looking at apartment prices and housing options.  

 

A few days before Tricia’s Assistant arrived, a fellow Board member had lunch with Tricia and a mutual friend.  The friend mentioned, “Sure—my husband and I can house her for like…I don’t know, a week?”  

Tricia said, “We’ll take it.”  

A few hours later, on the phone, my response was, “Okay, so we have one week down, what about the other fifty-one?”  

I felt thankful that I had said this over the phone; I wasn’t in the mood for Tricia’s scowl.  

***

Four days after the Assistant arrived, Tricia received an email from our Board member’s friend who had offered the short-term temporary housing.  It read:

“We talked it over and we would like to house [the Assistant] for the remainder of her ministry service.”

When I had heard this, I growled.  

“Aww, what you’re you thinking?” she said.  You could hear her smile.

“Nothing….nothing.”  

“Fr Isaiah Mary Molano, of the Order of Preachers,” she said.  I felt like my mom was calling me downstairs for a spanking.

“Nothing, I-I-I…” I stuttered, looking over Bush Street.  

“Uh-hunh,” she said.  

faith“Stupid crazy charism—I cannot believe this!” I growled, shaking my head.  “I mean, Jesus could have given us a little more leeway.”

“Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  I knew it!  I knew that would bother you!”  she laughed at me. “You, dear friar, don’t trust God enough.”  

I exclaimed. “How do you do this?!”

“The Charism of Faith is annoying that way,” she surmised. “It’s beautiful in that it assures me that Jesus is there with you and will always bring things together in accordance with his will.  In this sense, it allows me to regularly step out in faith in a way that might seem imprudent to others.  But,” she said, pausing, “it doesn’t at all mean you don’t stress out about these things.”  She sighed, laughing.  

“I can’t believe this,” I responded, kicking some trash.  “How much will they charge for rent?”  

She told me.

“Oy—are you serious?”  

She laughed again.  

I sighed, looking up at the cloudy, San Francisco summer sky.  “Well, Jesus, have it your way.”

Tricia laughed, brighter this time.  “Exactly.”

Dominican Shield

The charism of faith.  That gift that reminds the Body of Christ that Jesus really is in control despite us.  With Saint Dominic, it was the confidence he had in those first few years of knowing that Jesus was calling him to found an Order that lived and operated in a way that revitalized the Church.  For XLMS, it is that charism informing Tricia that Jesus wants this work to persevere, and will bring down any obstacles in his own time…despite the skeptics that hang out across the table.  

Tricia-thar-desert-253x190I am honored to be part of the fledgling XLMS.  So many times in the past eight years, there have been those times in which Tricia could have—and in some cases, should have—walked away and gone after a secular job, giving her an opportunity in which she could obtain more proper housing, a more predictable paycheck, and other things she very much wants.  Yet here is this young woman, throwing her lot with the unpredictable, always providential, Father, ardent in her faith and love.  O God, what a life!

It looks foolish, though, to put things off, not move on opportunities because it doesn’t seem right, whatever.  But then again, we also know that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta rarely, if ever, fundraised and let God’s work through her ministry speak for itself.  Yet…how many people on the street could identify Blessed Teresa, as opposed to any of the richest Americans today?

The Letter to the Hebrew teaches, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31).  That’s just another way of saying that living on the graces of the provident God is an awesome adventure.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Dom head

 

Be part of the mission!  You are invited to give of yourself to help XLMS bring the Gospel of Christ to the peoples of greater Asia.  If you would like to join XLMS, or participate in this extraordinary work, go here.

Dominican’s Corner, AUGUST 16, 2015, TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

This weekend, we welcome our mission director Fr. Martin Walsh to St. Dominic’s. Fr. Martin will preach all the Masses sharing with us the vision and need for our current Dominican Missions around the world. One area of the world where Dominicans remain in dire need is in Iraq. Recently there was a hearing on Capitol Hill titled “Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities.” Our own Sr. Diana Momeka, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Mosul, Iraq, testified at this hearing and gave a stark and moving account of the state of affairs in her homeland. For your edification, I share it with you in its entirety. ~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

 

Sister Diana Momeka, OP, speaking at the UN

Sister Diana Momeka, OP, speaking at Capitol Hill

I am Sister Diana Momeka of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Mosul, Iraq. In November 2009, a bomb was detonated at our convent in Mosul. Five sisters were in the building at the time and they were lucky to have escaped unharmed. Our Prioress, Sister Maria Hanna, asked for protection from local civilian authorities but the pleas went unanswered. As such, she had no choice but to move us to Qaraqosh. Then on June 10, 2014, the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, invaded the Nineveh Plain, which is where Qaraqosh is located. Starting with the city of Mosul, ISIS overran one city and town after another, giving the Christians of the region three choices: 1. convert to Islam, 2. pay a tribute (Al-Jizya) to ISIS or 3. leave their cities (like Mosul) with nothing more than the clothes on their back. As this horror spread throughout the Nineveh Plain, by August 6, 2014, Nineveh was emptied of Christians, and sadly, for the first time since the seventh century AD, no church bells rang for Mass in the Plain of Nineveh. From June 2014 forward, more than 120,000+ people found themselves displaced and homeless in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, leaving behind their heritage and all they had worked for over the centuries. This uprooting, this theft of everything that the Christians owned, displaced them body and soul, stripping away their humanity and dignity.

Christians-in-IraqTo add insult to injury, the initiatives and actions of both the Iraqi and Kurdish governments were at best modest and slow. Apart from allowing Christians to enter their region, the Kurdish government did not offer any aid either financial or material. I understand the great strain that these events have placed on Baghdad and Erbil however, it has been almost a year, and Christian Iraqi citizens are still in dire need of help. Many people spent days and weeks in the streets before they found shelter in tents, schools and halls. Thankfully, the Church in the Kurdistan region stepped forward and cared for the displaced Christians, doing her very best to handle the disaster. Church buildings were opened to accommodate the people; food and non-food items were provided to meet the immediate needs of the people; and medical health services were also provided. Moreover, the Church put out a call and many humanitarian organizations answered with aid for the thousands of people in need. Presently, we are grateful for what has been done, with most people now sheltered in small prefabricated containers or some homes. Though better than living on the street or in an abandoned building, these small units are few in number and are crowded with three families, each with multiple people, often accommodated in one unit. This of course increases tensions and conflict, even within the same family.

iraq-churchThere are many who say, “Why don’t the Christians just leave Iraq and move to another country and be done with it?” To this question we would respond, “Why should we leave our country – what have we done?” The Christians of Iraq are the first people of the land. You read about us in the Old Testament of the Bible. Christianity came to Iraq from the very earliest days through the preaching and witness of St. Thomas and others of the Apostles and Church Elders. While our ancestors experienced all kinds of persecution, they stayed in their land, building a culture that has served humanity for the ages. We, as Christians, do not want, or deserve to leave or be forced out of our country any more than you would want to leave or be forced out of yours. But the current persecution that our community is facing is the most brutal in our history. Not only have we been robbed of our homes, property, and land, but our heritage is being destroyed as well. ISIS has and continues to demolish and bomb our churches, cultural artifacts and sacred places, like Mar Behnam and his Sister Sara, a fourth-century monastery ,and St. Georges Monastery, in Mosul. Uprooted and forcefully displaced, we have realized that ISIS’ plan is to evacuate the land of Christians and wipe the earth clean of any evidence that we ever existed. This is cultural and human genocide. The only Christians that remain in the Plain of Nineveh are those who are held as hostages. The loss of the Christian Community from the Plain of Nineveh has placed the whole region on the edge of a terrible catastrophe. Christians have for centuries been the bridge that connects Eastern and Western cultures. Destroying this bridge will leave an isolated, inculturated conflict zone emptied of cultural and religious diversity. Through our presence as Christians, we’re called to be a force for good, for peace, for connection between cultures.

To restore, repair and rebuild the Christian community in Iraq, the following needs are urgent:
1. Liberating our homes from ISIS and helping us return.
2. A coordinated effort to rebuild what was destroyed – roads, water and electrical supplies, and buildings, including our churches and monasteries.
3. Encouraging enterprises that contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq and inter-religious dialogue.

This could be through schools, academics and pedagogical projects. I am but one, small person – a victim myself of ISIS and all of its brutality. Coming here has been difficult for me – as a religious sister I am not comfortable with the media and so much attention. But I am here and I am here to ask you, to implore you for the sake of our common humanity to help us. Stand with us as we, as Christians, have stood with all the people of the world and help us. We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want nothing more than to go home. Thank you and God bless you.

A Preacher’s Life – A Corporate Identity

Praying with the Saints-page-001Fr Michael and Fr Justin are back to give a four-part series on prayer.  Not only is there an overview about what prayer is, but also the major schools of thought about prayer, including the Dominican Point of View.  Of course.

And one might think that the Dominicans’ point of view would be rather esoteric and intellectual.  Afterall, ours is the intellectual branch of the Church—St Thomas Aquinas, St Albert the Great, St Catherine of Siena, we have two major schools of academia, both in Rome and Freiburg.

Yet Dominican prayer, or spirituality, is quite corporal.

Fr Michael and Fr Justin reminded me of a grand tale about Holy Father Dominic.  While visiting the brethren in Bologna, St Dominic would keep vigil and pray for them while they slept.  The novices, hearing Dominic pray, would sneak down to the main church and watch their father make his supplications to the Father.

9waysAnd all the while, St Dominic would make a variety of gestures throughout the night.  Genuflecting, bowing, prostrating, throwing his arms as though crucified.  For the entire night, Dominic would make these gestures over and over again, till the sun rose.

Years later, the brothers knew that Dominic would have these nine ways of prayer, but we didn’t adapt them, as such, into the spirituality of the Order.  …actually, that is a half-lie.  We did, in a not sort of way.  What we did is integrate a series of bows, genuflections and prostrations in our most ancient rites—a ritual in which men receive the habit, when they take vows, during Liturgy of the Hours and sometimes, during Mass.  But all nine ways?  Not exactly.

nine-ways-2

Way 2 – prostration

Anyway, I digress.  What is important to note is that bodily worship—genuflections, bows, whatever—is more central to a Christian’s way of life that we would like to admit.  Christ himself was fully human, yes? His ultimate sacrifice was, in a sense, a corporal one.  He allowed His Body to be an Altar of Sacrifice.  His Body was beaten, bloodied and bruised to death, till was he asphyxiated.

Many of us would rather pray quietly, mentally, and away from the noise.  All well and good—yet we also remember that we may and should use our bodies in order to praise God.  As Christ used his own Body to glorify the Father, so ought we.  As Christ allowed his Body to be used as the gateway towards salvation, so ought we.  As Christ’s Body is the narrow gate towards holiness, so ought ours.

Way 8 - study

Way 8 – study

It is St Dominic’s month, a time where we celebrate our Founder and Father.  A time when we contemplate his contribution within the road of sanctification.  Let us joyfully kneel, bow, lower our eyes and contemplate the wonder of our Creator, and use our bodies as an instrument of joy and praise.

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

OUR SISTER’S CORNER – AUGUST 9, 2015, SOLEMNITY OF HOLY FATHER DOMINIC

Sr ColleenTaste and See the Goodness of the Lord. The hunger theme from the past weeks’ scripture readings continue this week. In the reading from I Kings, Elijah is fed by an angel. In the Gospel reading, Jesus reminds the Jews their ancestors were fed by God when they ate manna in the desert. Then, he reveals that he is the living bread given for the world.

In the past months of my new ministry as Director of Community Service here at St. Dominic’s, I have been amazed by this community where parishioners, neighbors and visitors come—from early in the morning until late in the evening—every day of the week!  I believe that our great hunger for communion and community brings us to St. Dominic’s and I feel graced to witness the various ways in which we are fed and feed one another. It is the sharing of food, friendship, prayer and communion that keep us coming back again and again.

Last week, I reflected on material and spiritual hunger. Today, I am struck by ways in which this hunger moves us to action. In the first reading and the Gospel, the focus is on being fed—of being fed the manna and hearth cake and of being fed the living bread of Jesus. In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he speaks to the Community of Ephesus where all share their bread with one another and partake of the Living Bread of Christ. After the feeding of these material and spiritual hungers, St. Paul calls this community to action and directs them to “be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving … be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.”

As I consider these readings, I see how we at St. Dominic’s mirror the action of our spiritual ancestors by our daily actions in the parish and in our lives.

tabghaThis week, we will come together in a variety of ways to feed our spiritual and material hungers. Parish members will come together to worship, to learn to pray with the saints, to gather with peers for friendship and community, to offer food and comfort at the Lima Center, and to go out to bring Christ to our neighbors in the Convalescent Hospitals, in detention and to those whom we meet in our daily lives.

This Thursday at the Hunger Banquet, we will focus on the physical hunger experienced by many in the Bay Area and throughout the world. Next Saturday, we celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Lima Center where hundreds of homeless women and men have come for food and friendship over the years. In all of these activities I see how our hungers lead us to community and then to action. I see the ways in which our activities are rooted in the love of God and in the sharing of that love. I see how, together, we live out the directive from St. Paul to be kind, be compassionate and to live in love.

As I reflect on all the ways in which I have witnessed how the members of this parish live out this love, a variety of images come to me.

  • I see the outreach of parish members visiting those who are ill in the hospital or at home—offering prayers, friendship, communion.
  • I see parish members sharing their time, treasure and talents—in dancing, comedy and singing at the Coffee House organized for the past 25 years by the Young Adults Group.
  • I see connections made in the greeting of one another at Mass and at the much longer than a “Coffee Minute” after the Sunday Masses, in the Docent tours, and in this week’s Youth Mission Possible experiences.

I reflect on the words from St. Paul and I am filled with joy as I review the past week and experience again the dedication, creativity and faithfulness of the St. Dominic’s Community.

Open-HandsIn the next week, I encourage you to enter into these readings and to consider the words from today’s Psalm in which we are invited to Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord. Each day, take a “time out” to notice where you experience the love of God and where you are called to be the love of God for another. Who has shared God’s love with you this week? How are you being invited to share God’s love today?

~ Sr. Colleen McDermott, O.P.

A Preacher’s Life: Home

You know, it’s weird what sticks.

After a multitude of unsolicited and unanticipated comments and compliments, I have decided to offer on the blog my homily from this past Sunday for the Solemnity of the Dedication of St. Dominic’s.

Here you go—

Dominican Shield

In the year 1863, Fr Sadoc Villarasa, O.P., bought a slice of property between Bush and Pine Streets, and Pierce and Steiner Streets, for six thousand dollars.  By 1873, the first building dedicated to Saint Dominic was erected—a wooden Church with no nails.
The congregation quickly outgrew the Church, and the community commenced to build the second Church, which was completed in 1883.  Though this Church was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, St Dominic’s was the first Church to be reconstructed in 1923.
This reconstructed Church is this Church, the building in which we are worshiping God this day.

For nearly 150 years, St Dominic’s has been a sacred space dedicated to Our Lord, a place in which our God is alive, vibrant, and present.

rsz_2013-12-14_153959Think of all of the candles that has been lit thanks to the St Jude Shrine, the number of people praying at the Altar of the Dead, or at the Holy Name Altar, in front of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Pieta, or at our many side Altars.

Think of the battalions of believers who have sunk to their knees and prayed at this very Altar Rail.

Think of the number of baptisms, weddings, funerals, first Masses and Profession of Vows that have taken place within the Priory Church of St Dominic for all of these decades.

All of these people, coming to St Dominic’s, friars, sisters, laity alike, coming into the Priory Church of St Dominic, praying and thanking God during the highest and lowest moments of their life.

Think of the numbers of believers that have passed through these doors…all coming with their gladness and their sadness, coming into this Holy House…entering their spiritual home.

***

193This weekend, we are celebrating that day in which this Church was dedicated to the Lord.
The day this building was called a house of God, this is God’s home, as well as ours. 
This is one of the deepest things we can contemplate this week:

The fact that we are celebrating our home.  This place of rest and light.  This place, the Priory Church of St Dominic, has served as a spiritual home for so many Christians for so many decades, and hopefully, for centuries more.  This place where we can find our deepest friends and loved ones, the place where we can truly be ourselves.  The place where we can be most vulnerable to our God and to our friends and family—
home.

St Dominic’s Catholic Church is not merely another building amidst a bunch of Victorians and nursing centers.  St Dominic’s is not merely another address next to Walgreens, or La Boulange, or Fillmore.  St Dominic’s is not just another street address.

No…it’s home.

It’s the place, I hope, where you found a community.  Where you found family.  The place where you can fall in love with God.

For many, St Dominic’s is that place where we can be, truly, who we are meant to be.  A Christian in the fullest sense of the word.  “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks.

Those who come into this Church are challenged to answer this question every time they fall on their knees.  How freely do we say that Jesus is my Lord and my Savior?  Jesus is my closest friend?  Is Jesus that person in which we can struggle, and fight, as well as share our deepest and darkest thoughts and desires?  “Who do you say that I am?” 

St Dominic’s brings a challenge to every single person who calls this place his or her home.  It demands a dedication to the live the Life of Christ in the here and now.  Demands us to discern our Christian identity as the Father’s sons and daughters.  It demands that we dwell deeply into the heart of Christ and to ponder His Mystery.  The challenge demands that we discover the ramifications and consequences of calling ourselves Christian.  “Who do you say that I am?”

***

We have some of our community that are simply indifferent to the home that our Church provides.  Our own friends and family who come to the Altar of God on a wind of fancy.  Those who, when they come through those sacred doors, this is not their home…this is a place they visit.

“Who do you say that I am?”  They say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care.”

Yet I am also reminded of the twenty-one martyrs who were beheaded because they named Jesus as Lord.  Twenty-one of our brothers, martyred just a few months ago, because they call the Church their home.  That their relationship with Jesus is so real,
so bold, so vibrant, that they could not imagine their lives at home anywhere else.  “Who do you say that I am?”

When we enter this Church, how do we answer?  Who do we say that Jesus is?  How do we answer?

***

For nearly 150 years, we at St Dominic’s have been challenging, encouraging, preaching, that Jesus Christ can dwell in the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds.  In the darkest places in our souls to brightest thoughts of our minds—can Jesus be in our midst.  “Who do you say that I am?”

Through the intercession of Holy Father Dominic, may Jesus, Our Lord and Our Light,
make His home, His abode, in your hearts.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Hurley_welcome home

AUGUST 2, 2015, OUR SISTER’S CORNER, SOLEMNITY OF THE DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH BUILDING

colleen grottoSpiritual and material food. In last week’s Gospel, Jesus fed the hungry crowd with the miracle of the loaves and fishes. In this week’s Gospel, he tells his followers that he is the answer to their spiritual hunger. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps through the Community Service Ministry at St. Dominic’s Church. At the Lima Center, our guests come in hungry and are fed by Pablito’s oatmeal and nurtured by Carol’s kind and dedicated service. The Lima Center community of guests, many of whom are homeless, parish volunteers, and staff begin each day with the offerings of food and friendship—to feed both material and spiritual hunger.

So too, the families who seek our assistance with food, rent or utilities. Through your generosity, we are able to help these families meet their material needs. That is not all that happens in our meetings however. I tell the families that this assistance is a gift of this parish and then they know that they are not alone. Through the caring of this parish, they are connected to community—to this spiritual home.

Parish members carry this mission of feeding spiritual and material hunger both inside and outside the parish via the many other outreach activities of Community Service:

  • Grief & Consolation Ministry
  • Detention Ministry
  • Eucharist Ministry to Catholics in any of the 6 Convalescent Hospitals and CPMC
  • The Sandwich Program in which parish members prepare bag lunches for those in transitional housing
  • Second Spring shares of food and friendship
  • The Social Justice Committee offers opportunities to learn about and engage in justice activities.

 

193This model of Church where spiritual and material needs are met has always been how I experience my baptismal call. I believe that we are called to community and I am so grateful to be a part of so many blessed communities—Lima Center, St. Dominic’s Parish, my beloved Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, and the wider Dominican Family. Growing up, I was nurtured in my concern for all members of our Church and neighborhoods. My mother worked in public health and my father in vocational rehabilitation—they provided vital services to those most in need in various communities and talked about how we as citizens and Catholics should work to alleviate poverty and suffering through direct service and by our work to change unjust systems. These beliefs brought me to ministry on college campuses and to justice education which, in turn, led me to Doctoral Studies in Adult Education in which I focused on justice work in poor communities.

How have you been fed in your life? Did a family member, mentor, teacher or priest encourage you and support you on your path? Who are you called to feed this week? A child? Co-worker? Friend? Remember that we are called to live out both Gospels—to feed both hungers. We must listen deeply to how God is inviting us. Today, I invite you to join me in praying for all our neighbors and parish members who do not have enough resources. Let us continue to share both material and spiritual food—to follow the Way of Jesus and the apostles.

 

I would like to invite you to two more opportunities to consider how to address spiritual and material hunger:

  • On August 15, we celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Lima Center. If you have given any donations throughout the year of at Christmas or volunteered at any time in the past 10 years, please come and celebrate.
  • On August 13, join the Hunger Banquet: 65% of children in our public schools receive free or subsidized lunches, but only about half of these kids receive food assistance in the summer. Come to the Hunger Banquet to learn more about hunger. Proceeds benefit the Lima Center.

~ Sr. Colleen McDermott, O.P.