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!
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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.

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!