Thursday, April 29, 2010

Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

Today is the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena. An extraordinary woman, a Dominican tertiary, visionary, mystic and died at the young age of 33. In 2000, she was proclaimed co-patroness of Europe (the others being Saint Teresa Benedict of the Cross and St Brigid of Sweden). On the occasion of her proclamation of co-patroness of Europe, the then Master General of the Dominican Order, fr Timothy Radcliffe wrote of Catherine:

"How can we grow as men and women who are touched by Catherine's passion for God? How can we be liberated from smallness of heart and contentment with little satisfactions? Perhaps it is through discovering, as did Catherine, that God is present in the very centre of our being and identity. The passion for God is not a taste to be acquired, like a love of football. It is there in the core of my being, waiting to be discovered. Our world is marked by a deep hunger for identity. For many people today the urgent question is: `Who am I?' This was Catherine's question.

The contemporary search for self knowledge is often a narcissistic preoccupation with self, an
introverted concentration on one's own well being and fulfilment. But for Catherine, when I finally see myself as I am, I do not discover a little nugget of lonely selfhood. In what Catherine called `the cell of self knowledge' I discover myself being loved into existence. She described herself as `dwelling in the cell of selfknowledge in order to know better God's goodness towards her'. If I dare to make that journey towards self knowledge, then I shall discover how small, flawed and finite I am, but I shall also see that I am utterly loved and valued. God told Catherine: `It was with providence that I created you, and when I contemplated my creature in myself, I fell in love with the beauty of my creation.'

So Catherine offers a liberating answer to the contemporary quest for identity. It takes us far away
from a false identity based on status or wealth or power. For at the heart of our being is the God
whose love sustains us in being. This is the place of contemplative prayer, where one meets the God
who delights in loving and forgiving, and whose own goodness we taste. Here we discover the secret
of Catherine's peace and her dynamism, her confidence and her humility. This is what made this
young woman, with little formal education, a great preacher. This is what gave her the freedom to
speak and to listen. This is what gave her the courage to dive in and address the great issues of her
time. With the help of her prayers we may do likewise."

Saint Catherine, pray for us and for vocations to the various branches of the Dominican family.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Only The Good Shepherd Leads His Flock - Pope Benedict's Address on Vocations Sunday.

Below is a translation of some of the text of Pope Benedict prior to the recitation of the Angelus in St. Peter's Square, Rome yesterday (Good Shepherd/Vocations Sunday). The Holy Father particularly appeals to parents to pray that their children will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and secondly the Pope had words for priests that they might be a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is called "Good Shepherd Sunday," the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is celebrated, which has as its theme this year "Witness Awakens Vocations," a theme that is "closely linked to the life and mission of priests and consecrated persons" ("Message for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, April 25, 2010"). The first form of witness that awakens vocations is prayer (cf. ibid.), as is shown to us by the example of St. Monica, who, supplicating God with humility and persistence, obtained the grace of seeing her son Augustine become Christian. St. Augustine wrote: "Without a doubt I believe and affirm that through her prayers, God granted me the intention not to propose, not to want, not to think, not to love anything else but the attainment of truth" ("De Ordine," II 20, 52; CCL 29, 136).

Therefore, I invite parents to pray that the heart of their children open to listening to the Good Shepherd, and "each tiny seed of a vocation ... grow into a mature tree, bearing much good fruit for the Church and for all humanity" ("Message"). How can we hear the voice of the Lord and recognize it? In the preaching of the Apostles and their successors: In it there resounds the voice of Christ, who calls us to communion with God and to the fullness of life, as we read today in St. John's Gospel: "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never be lost and no one will take them out of my hand" (John 10:27-28). Only the Good Shepherd leads his flock with immense tenderness and defends them from evil, and only in him can the faithful place absolute confidence.

On this special day of prayer for vocations I especially exhort the ordained ministers, so that, inspired by the Year for Priests, they are moved to "a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world" ("Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests"). May they remember that the priest "continues the work of the Redemption on earth;" may they know how to "stop frequently before the tabernacle;" may they remain "completely faithful to [their] own vocation and mission through the practice of an austere asceticism;" may they be available to listen and forgive; may they form the people entrusted to them in a Christian way; may they cultivate with care "priestly fraternity" (cf. ibid.). May they take wise and zealous pastors as an example, as St. Gregory Nazianzus, who wrote to his dear friend and bishop, St. Basil: "Teach us your love for your sheep, your solicitude and your capacity for understanding, your vigilance ... the austerity in sweetness, the serenity and meekness in activity ... the combats in defense of the flock, the victories ... achieved in Christ" (Oratio IX, 5, PG 35, 825ab).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Vocations Sunday 2010 - Reflections

Ten years ago I was preparing (with a great deal of trepidation) for my first 'Vocations Sunday' as director of vocations for the Irish Dominican friars. It is a long time ago, and indeed the world was a very different place. The church in Ireland was also in a very different place, although some similarities between 2001 and 2010 can still be drawn. What follows are some reflections on the state of vocations in Ireland now and how it compares to ten years ago - and the final reflection will be on where the Dominicans and vocations are at now in 2010.

The Vocation of All
In 2001, it was more politically correct to speak of vocation of all peoples and the various states that people are called to: marriage, single life, religious life and priesthood. However in 2001, it was clear that this emphasis of an 'all-inclusive' vocation made it difficult to make the distinction between the various types of vocation - to the point where it was not easy to promote vocation to religious life and priesthood without having to include all other types of vocation. In 2010, this has changed - and indeed the language about vocation has also changed. It is apparent over these years that of necessity, the church has had to take a positive stance on promoting the vocation of religious and priests, and not to be afraid to do so. There now exists a situation where the vocation of all is respected and an understanding that there are distinct calls made by the Lord to follow Him. This is progress in the right direction.

Taking Vocation Promotion Seriously
In 2001, you would have been hard pressed to find any diocese or religious order promoting vocations in any systematic or serious manner. The culture of promotion was very much in its infancy despite the many strides made with technology and media at the time. Indeed, anyone considering a vocation ten years ago would have found it difficult to find any meaningful information on how to properly pursue their vocation. in 2010, this has changed, although not as dramatically as one woud have liked. While there is a far greater amount of information available on vocations in general, it is fair to say that the church has still not grasped the potential that exists in reaching large numbers of people. It is slow progress.

Vocational Discernment
In 2001, a culture of vocation discernment hardly existed. There was little by way of method in diecerning vocation with potential candidates. More often than not, enquirers were instead offered spiritual direction in response to a request to discern vocation. Frequently, a culture had emerged at that time to allow candidates to 'give it a go' in seminary or a house of formation, without any meaningful or real reflection. As one might expect, this had unfortunate outcomes. In 2010, one would like to think that this picture has changed, and it has - but slowly. Vocation directors, in the main, are not trained for their ministry and are still crying out for help in this area from authorities in dioceses and religious congregations. Potential recruits and enquirers deserve much better in this area. We are failing them if we do not offer real, methodical discernment. To me, it is the greatest lack in vocation ministry in Ireland these past ten years.

Creating A Culture of Vocations
In 2001, a 'culture of vocation' did not really exist in Ireland. For the vast majority of vocation directors (male and female) their ministry competed with many other ministries asked of them by their diocese or congregations. Creating a 'culture of vocation' was not high on the agenda of most dioceses or congregations who asked their vocations personnel to take on this difficult burden. To be fair, many congregations and dioceses saw the need to create such a 'culture of vocations' that they did in fact appoint people to full-time positions of vocations promotion and discernment. Those dioceses and congregations who did appoint someone full-time are beginning to see some of the rewards of their foresight. Those who did not and continue to decline this possiblity are surely asking themsleves some questions. In 2010, a minority of dioceses and religious congregations in Ireland have full time vocations directors/personnel. What does this say of their seriousness in tackling the problem?

Dominicans and Vocations
The Irish Dominican friars in their provincial chapter in 2000 decided to take the bold decision of nominating a friar in the role of full-time vocations promoter. In 2001, the Irish Dominican friars had one man in initial formation. Now, ten years on, the Irish Dominican friars have 22 men in formation for the priesthood, having had 5 men ordained during that period. The Irish Dominicans have further committed to putting all the necessary resources in place to maximise the potential number of vocations at its disposal at the present moment.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Irish Dominican Biblical Scholar Receives Honorary Doctorate.

Irish Dominican friar fr Jerome Murphy O' Connor OP was honoured recently with an honorary doctorate from the Dominican University of Saint Thomas in Rome "The Angelicum". Irish Dominican Vocations sends warm congratulations to fr Jerome. Thanks to the brethren of the Dominican Province of Saint Joseph USA for highlighting the event on their blog: Dominican Province of St. Joseph | Dominican Biblical Scholar Receives Honorary Doctorate Blog |

Monday, April 12, 2010

Diaconate Ordination of David Barrins OP

Brother David Barrins OP was ordained deacon in Saint Saviour's Dominican church (Dublin)yesterday (Sunday 11th April 2010) during the 11.30 am conventual Mass by the archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin. The images below show Bro David prostrate during the Litany of the Saints and the moment of ordiantion as Archbishop Martin lays his hands on the ordinand. Thanks to Luuk D Jansen OP for supplying these images - more can be found on his blog

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ordination of Father Fergus Ryan OP

Fergus Ryan OP was ordained priest in the church of Mary, Mother of God, Ballygarvan, County Cork today by the bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley. Below are some images from the ordination ceremony. We wish Father Fergus well in his priestly ministry as a Dominican.
Bro Fergus Ryan OP

The Gospel is proclaimed
Promising Obedience

Laying on of Hands
Receiving Chalice and Paten
Receiving Chalice and Paten
Members of choir in full voice
Blessing Bishop
First Blessing for Parents

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ordination to Priesthood and Diaconate

The friars of the Irish Dominican province will rejoice this weekend as Brother Fergus Ryan OP is ordained priest and as Brother David Barrins OP is ordained deacon.

Fergus Ryan OP will be ordained to the priesthood in the church of Mary the Mother of God in Ballygarvan, County Cork on Saturday, April 10th at 12 noon. The bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley will be the ordaining prelate. Brother Fergus is a native of Ballyagarvan. He is a science graduate from University College Cork. Before joining the Order in 2001 he worked for a telecommunications company. Having completed his novitiate in Limerick, Fergus has studied theology in Saint Saviour's, Dublin, philosophy in NUI Maynooth and completed his theological studies in Lille, France. For the past academic year, he has been chaplain to the Dominican College, Newbridge, Co. Kildare.

David Barrins OP will be ordained deacon in Saint Saviour's Dominican church, Upper Dorset Street, Dublin 1 on Sunday April 11th at 11.30 am. The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin will be the ordaining prelate. Brother David is a native of Collooney, County Sligo. Before joining the Order in 2005, David worked in the financial services industry and in the teaching profession. He is currently completing his theological studies at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Irish Dominican Vocations wishes our brothers Fergus and David every blessing as they begin these new phases of their Dominican lives.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter from London

A happy and blessed Easter to all readers of Irish Dominican Vocations. May the risen Christ find a place in your hearts that you might know His love for you more deeply.

Lumen Christi! - the light of Christ lightens our darkness! Exultet! - Exult, all creation.....Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of your King.....Darkness vanishes forever....! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

(A word of sincere thanks to my Dominican brethren in Saint Dominic's in North London for the warmth of their kind hospitality and generosity during this past Holy Week. It was memorable!)