"For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
Recently I was able to take some precious time away for retreat in the great state of Maine. One day, with another of our Sisters, I had an opportunity to walk along a very special path there called "The Marginal Way." This narrow path winds and stretches for a mile high up along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean where the views of the sea are pretty spectacular. There are some shaded spots along the path too with benches nestled between trees, trees that seem barely connected to the craggy rocks. These invite walkers—perhaps pilgrims—to pause and drink deeply of the beauty and majesty of God's creation.
Pope Francis suggests to us the kind of study and prayer which should be brought to preaching, and much of it is familiar to you. First, the call to contemplate: to take time,"a prolonged time of study, prayer, reflection, and pastoral creativity," with the passage itself in prayer and study, striving to grasp its original meaning and intent using the biblical research now available to us. Additionally and of equal importance, is the time one gives to contemplate the Word in light of the people with whom one ministers. He asks for a "broad and profound sensitivity to what effects peoples' lives." This leads the pope into a discussion of the principal message of the text, and the principal effect of the text as it comes from the author.
Every few minutes my e-mail is binging with yet another message on the September 21 People's Climate March in New York City, NY. This may be the "mother of all marches." According to those planning the march, hundreds of thousands of activists from around the country will take to the streets to share their concerns about the most critical social issue of our time. While it is important to make phone call, send e-mails and sign petitions to our legislators demanding action on climate change, nothing focuses the attention of those in power as a huge crowd of determined people calling for action.
From the demonstrations to end segregation in the 1960's and 70's to the "no nukes" movement of the 1970s and 80s, activists have worked relentlessly for a belief in what is right and urgent. The time for serious action on global climate change is now.
This theme was quite evident as Dominican Associates and Sisters gathered at Heartland Center for Spirituality in Great Bend, KS, August 8-10, for their Commitment Retreat. Marcia Berchek, Tammy Jones, Joan Dreher, Verlene Wilson and Ann Axman were received as new Associates. Sr. Jolene Geier opened our time together reflecting on Luke 10:38-42. Associates Russ and Connie Ginest shared how their hearts were changed working with Sr. Rita Schwarzenberger in Africa. Sr. Teresita Huse's enthusiasm and love for the Nigerian missions was highlighted in her comments.
The candlelight procession around the Garden of Our Lady of Peace reminded me of those held each evening at the Grotto in Lourdes, France. Candles were carefully shielded with paper lanterns, rosaries swung from the hands of old and young alike and the voices of more than 40,000 pilgrims rose like incense before God. This Procession and Opening Mass marked the beginning of the 37th Annual Marian Days Festival.
I was unprepared for the swell of emotion I felt as I watched the people walk, sing, and pray with such joy and deep faith. I could feel God's presence with us as we walked along with them. In the background the crickets and tree frogs sang along on this muggy August night in Carthage, MO. It was as if all of creation was singing along.
Once upon a time, in the 13th century, Dominic visited the sisters at a convent near Rome, bringing with him a gift of spoons from Spain, one spoon for each sister. He had brought them personally from Spain, and presumably carried them across Europe himself. Actually, Dominic may have had his reasons for the gift. He was trying to persuade the sisters at Santa Maria outside of Rome to move to another convent, to St. Sixtus in Rome. The Pope wanted him to establish a reformed community. I don’t know if that was the motive for the gift giving, but it is often cited as an example of his tenderness.
A tug of war continues between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA. The long awaited report on the Bush administration’s use of torture ("enhanced interrogation") following 9/11 has been made available to the committee. Just one problem—someone in the CIA has a very thick black magic marker to make it impossible to read key parts of the torture report. CIA officials stated that "only 15% of the document was "redacted," read, censored. They have eliminated key details that support the report’s findings and conclusions."
"We, the Associates, in relationship with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, are called by God to become the Holy Preaching by promoting the liberating truth of the Gospel of Jesus, and collaborating with God for the transformation of all creation. In response to that call, I, as part of the world-wide Dominican Family, commit myself to the preaching mission of the Dominican Order. I will express the mission through a life rooted in prayer, study, community and ministry." - Associates Statement of Commitment
At evening prayer today Dominicans (the Order of Preachers) all over the world will begin this year’s celebration of St. Dominic de Guzman founder of the order. Happy Feast Day
Two aspects of Dominic’s life stand out for me. First, he engaged the Word of God in the Scriptures with all that was happening in the lives of the people of his time. His willingness to leave the cathedral where he lived a more monastic life as a canon gave him the opportunities to see the struggles of the people of his time and to take direct actions to make a difference.
I started out to summarize and reflect on the next section of Evangelii Gaudium, but have been so taken and moved by Francis's words that I am going to share with you directly from his text. I certainly cannot improve on the depth of his insights and the beauty of his language. He subtitles this portion of the text "Words which set hearts on fire."
142. Dialogue is much more than the communication of a truth. It arises from the enjoyment of speaking and it enriches those who express their love for one another through the medium of words...
the memory of the faithful...should overflow with the wondrous things done by God...in the homily truth goes hand in hand with beauty and goodness…(the faithful) will sense that each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand.