Tag Archives: Dominicans

Congress on St. Catherine of Siena

The Holy See Press Office reports that an international congress dedicated to St. Catherine, Doctor of the Church and co-patron of Europe will take place in Rome and Siena this week.

The congress has as its title “‘Virgo digna Coelo” (“Virgin worthy of Heaven).

Fr. Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, explained in a Vatican press conference that “the figure of St. Catherine extends far beyond her own earthly existence and takes on a powerful symbolic value” for the Church today.

In his Oct. 21 announcement, Fr. Ardura said the study of St. Catherine “serves to remind us of the unshakable faith which she possessed and which made her spiritual mother to so many Christians.”

Her example is especially important, he said, as the Church prepares for the 2012-2013 “Year of Faith” announced Oct. 16.

Fr. Ardura went on to explain that the forthcoming congress will be divided into four sessions “to facilitate a more profound examination of the life and influence of the saint” who, he said, “also enjoyed great recognition among theologians, to the point that on October 4, 1970, Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church, for her exalted theology and her influence in the renewal of that discipline.”

The first session of the congress will see a contribution from Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The second session will be dedicated to the cause of canonization of St. Catherine, including an examination of its documents and a review of models of female sanctity between 1300 and 1400. The third session will focus on the relationship between St. Catherine and the religious orders of her day. “In the fourth session,” Fr. Ardura continued, “we will see how it is possible to study and celebrate St. Catherine today, because her memory has remained alive among Christians and her influence has never ceased to enrich the Church, mainly though hagiographies and literary culture, and in particular thanks to her magnificent Letters.”

On its last day the congress will move to Siena for the inauguration of an exhibition entitled “Catherine of Siena and the process of canonization.” It will also hold its last session there, dedicated to “St. Catherine in art.” Professor Utro explained that the session will take place in the chapter house of the convent of St. Dominic in Siena, and will be presided by Paolo Nardi, prior general of the International St. Catherine Association and curator of the exhibition. Other art historians will also participate, including Diega Giunta, the leading specialist on artistic representations of St. Catherine.

Courtesy of the Vatican Press Office and Catholic News Agency.

The “Firstborn” of St. Dominic

There was an interesting interview published in the National Catholic Register earlier this month with Sr. Mary Catharine Perry, O.P., the novice mistress of The Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey.

What struck me is the way she distinguished her community of contemplative nuns from the Dominican sisters that one more typically finds staffing Catholic schools:

Most of us know Dominican sisters as teachers. Maybe we had them in school. How do you fit into the whole Dominican picture?

The nuns are the “firstborn” of St. Dominic. In 1206 in Prouilhe, France, he gathered together nine women who had been converted from the Albigensian heresy, and they became the first monastery. You might say that they were “Dominican” before they were the Order of Preachers. It was 10 years before the friars came together.

From the very beginning, St. Dominic understood the nuns as integral to the preaching mission of the order. The nuns not only pray for the success of the holy preaching, but our life in community is itself a preaching because we witness to what the brethren preach . . . the reconciliation of all things in Christ.

The nuns ponder the Word, so that, as the prophet Isaiah says, “The word of God may not return empty but may still bear fruit.” Our role in the order is very feminine. We receive the Word, and the Word becomes mysteriously fruitful.

You’re a real, live nun. We usually call religious sisters “nuns” who really aren’t. Why is the distinction important to those of us on the outside of the convent?

Strictly speaking, nuns (moniales) are those who are cloistered. Sisters are those who are in the active life. Until the Code of Canon Law in 1917 only moniales were considered religious.

In the Order of Preachers–the Dominicans–the distinction is important because the nuns have both a spiritual and juridical bond with the friars, and together they are the Order of Preachers. There is no such thing as first and second order like with the Franciscans and Poor Clares. We profess obedience to the master of the order just as the friars do. The sisters, however, while belonging to the Dominican family, have a different relationship. It’s not that they are less Dominican; it’s just the relationship is different.

For more information on the Dominican nuns, or to help support their community, click here.

Deception in Discernment

The following essay by Br. Gabriel Torretta, O.P.,  first appeared in Dominicana 60:1 (Spring 2011), 7-9, and it and was recently reprinted in its online edition. We reprint it here because of the excellent insights it provides on the subject of vocational discernment.

If you’ve ever thought about a priestly or religious vocation, perhaps this prayer has passed your lips: “God, if it’s your will that I do this, just give me a sign!” The prayer is easy, natural, and ubiquitous among those ‘discerning.’ But this little prayer may also be the single easiest way to short-circuit a vocation and leave a man dead on the waters of life.

The problem with this prayer is that it pits God’s will against mine, as two discrete entities, one of which must give way to the other. Will looks like a zero-sum game: if I win, God loses, and if I lose, God wins. The danger is that when I compete with God, whoever wins, I lose.

Moreover, the prayer assumes that God’s will is an inscrutable mystery that I must implore Him to reveal. My will bears no sure relation to God’s, and I have no way of knowing if my desires are really holy or just selfish. My desire and my will are like a mercury thermometer with all the numbers rubbed off; I could be edging toward spiritual hypothermia or burning with zeal, but I’ll never know unless God puts the numbers back on. As a result, I have to ask God to give me extraordinary signs so that I can know what to do and how to do it.

But asking for signs from God is a dangerous endeavor. More often than not, “God give me a sign” really means “God, do what I tell you,” or “Give me the kind of sign I want you to give.” Jesus himself addresses this problem in the Gospels; after a series of remarkable miracles and authoritative teachings, the disbelieving scribes and Pharisees tell Jesus, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You,” to which Jesus responds, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet” (Mt 12:38-39; cf. Mk 8:11-12, Lk 11:29). The question betrays the blindness of the questioners, because Jesus’ entire life is the sign they claim to be looking for. The Pharisees refuse to observe the reality unfolding before them and instead ask for a sign on their own terms. The honest men among the Pharisees may have asked the question in earnest, hoping that God would help them decide whether or not to follow Jesus. But their purported ardor for God’s will blinded them to the marvelous ways God was actually working in their lives.

This is the blindness of moralism. The moralist ‘discerns’ as if to wrest the secret of God’s will out of His hands by brute force; dashing from one spiritual program to another and from one vocation event to the next, he pours out novenas, rosaries, and mass intentions, begging God to reveal the mystery of his vocation. All the while the moralist ignores the actual signs God has been pouring into his heart. For God’s will is not radically opposed to my will; rather, God’s will works through mine, moving it by grace to respond to Him with a total gift of love. Jesus spoke of this to the great Dominican mystic St. Catherine of Siena after a period of spiritual darkness: “Your will is a sign to you that I am there, since I would not be within you by grace if you had an evil will” (Letter T221/G152). Formed by a life lived with God, my will can be the signpost by which God directs me where He wants me to go.

Vocation is not a shell game in which I have to outwit God and find the perfect life He has hidden among all the options in the world. Vocation is a call of love to love. God moves our hearts to love Him, to answer the one, universal call to holiness. The Christian’s task is to respond to that love concretely with the complete gift of himself. To give himself utterly, he needs the honesty, generosity, wisdom, and prudence that come from God, for which he must pray. Then, when his heart burns with a specific desire to love God with this woman, or this religious order, or in this diocese, then he decides and commits himself irrevocably into God’s hands. This is the mystery of vocation. This is the mystery of love.

Friar Proof

Last March, in a post entitled “Putting Out Friars!“, we commented on the new springtime of vocations experienced by the St. Joseph province of the Dominican order. 

Now, courtesy of Creative Minority Report,  we’ve learned that the community has posted new photos of their novices, who typically receive their habit on August 8, St. Dominic’s feast day.

This photo shows the novices who just finished their novitiate together with those coming in. Please pray for them!

Rosary Hill Home

There was a wonderful story making the rounds last week concerning the work  of the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne at the Rosary Hill Home, a facility in New York that provides palliative care to indigent cancer patients. 

The Hawthorne Dominicans were  founded at the turn of the last century by Rose Hawthorne, a daughter of New England novelist Nathaniel, author of The Scarlet Letter.

Mother Mary Alphonsa, as Rose Hawthorne was known, wanted to treat patients as family, “and put them up in our very best bedroom and give them comfort in what time they had left. In dressing their wounds, she was dressing the wounds of Our Lord,” according to Superior General Mother Mary Francis. Continue reading Rosary Hill Home

Dominican Republic!

This has been a banner week for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

On Monday, eighteen new novices received their religious habit and a new name. Yesterday, four sisters professed their final vows. And for good measure, seven sisters will profess their first vows on Thursday.

Later this month, the community will welcome sixteen new aspirants into the fold.

Some of you might recognize the young sister at the lower right-hand corner of the photo as my daughter, Mary Kate Suprenant. As of Monday, she is a Dominican novice, and her name is now Sr. Evangeline. God be praised!

Show of Faith

photo by Peter van Agtmael for The New York Times

I never thought when my daughter Mary Kate entered a Dominican community last August that within a year she would be on Oprah and have her picture in The New York Times, but I guess stranger things have happened!

I especially like the photo of Sr. Mary Kate, which is how she has looked at prayer for many, many years. God has always blessed her with a deep desire and gift for contemplative prayer.

When Sr. Mary Kate was here for a home visit last month, she mentioned the interview and expressed doubt that they would publish any of the interview, as it didn’t seem to be quite what they were looking for. They chose to publish a few comments on prayer, and particularly when it comes to dealing with distractions in prayer–something common to the experience of everyone who has sought to grow closer to the Lord.

For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to add the Catechism’s treatment on distraction in paragraph no. 2729:

“The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.”

Siblings Following Path to Priesthood, Religious Life

The following uplifting article was recently posted by Patricia O’Connell, a correspondent with the Catholic Free Press, serving the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Meaghan Boland first felt the call to religious life at age 16. She was preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

“It was just kind of the whole preparation,” she said.

Also, in high school, she went on a youth retreat, where she spent time in the presence of Our Lord.

“That drew me into the adoration piece,” she explained.

Meaghan’s faith continued to deepen.

So her parents, Thomas and Virginia Boland, were not surprised by Meaghan’s recent announcement that she wanted to join a convent.

But there was an unexpected twist three years ago when Meaghan’s older brother, James, discerned he had too a vocation. Continue reading Siblings Following Path to Priesthood, Religious Life

New convent supports contemplative life of teaching sisters

Last Sunday the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (aka the “Nashville Dominicans“) opened a new convent in the Baltimore area. The event generated very favorable coverage in the Baltimore Sun.

The convent is adjacent to Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville, which the sisters have helped staff for the past quarter of a century. Not surprisingly, the school has flourished under their watch:

“The academy’s student body is also expanding. Founded in 1852 by Visitation nuns in Georgetown, the school has seen its student population expand under the Dominican Sisters, a teaching order. It had 201 students in 1984, and will open its doors this fall to 507 girls.”