novena

Novena to St Dominic – Day 6: Exploring an Icon of St Dominic

Every one of us is a living icon of God. He created us in his likeness and in his own image.

As you can see, this Icon of St. Dominic is not yet finished. At first I was disappointed not to have completed it in time for his Feast. Then it occurred to me that there was a message for me in this. Like this icon each one of us is not quite finished. We are still on a journey from darkness into the light. It is my hope that the image of St Dominic portrayed or perhaps more accurately, revealed to us through this icon may help us to enter the hidden, inner sanctuary of his heart and there discover more deeply the depths of our Dominican vocation—WHAT WE SHOULD LOOK LIKE.

The first portrait of St. Dominic was a word picture given to us by St. Cecilia, one of the first nuns of the Order, who knew him personally. For a long time historians did not give much credence to St. Cecilia’s description. Then, after World War 2, a scientific examination was done by anthropologists on St. Dominic’s remains and the results confirmed the authenticity of her description. Cecilia had said that he was of medium height- the measurements taken of his relics show that he was five feet six inches tall. She noted that, “His figure was supple; his face handsome and somewhat ruddy; his hair and beard had a reddish tinge. He was not a bit bald; his hair had a touch of grey.” At the bottom of the reliquary the examiners found some shreds of Dominic’s hair. It was exactly as Cecelia had said it was. “From his brow and his […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 7: St Dominic a man of encouragement

On this 7th day of our Novena in honour of St. Dominic, I would like to share just a few thoughts on St. Dominic as a man of Encouragement.

 

“When your words came, I devoured them, your Word was my delight and the joy of my heart” (Jr.15:16).

How aptly this Scripture text from the prophet Jeremiah can be applied to O.H.F. Dominic – we can just see him in our mind’s eye, contemplating from the depth of his heart with great joy and exultation, this Scripture jewel,  overwhelmed as he always was, with an immense love of Holy Scripture.

‘Dominic showed himself a man of the Gospel in word and deed’, we are told by those who knew him.

With his deep spirit of unceasing prayer and with the Gospel as his weapon, he  was fired with zeal to be an apostle of encouragement among his Nuns, his Friars and all those among whom he laboured.

 

Among his numerous virtues spoken of again and again by those who knew him and by those who bore witness to his life under oath at his canonisation process, his virtue as a man of encouragement, in one form or another,  shines especially brightly – ‘Dominic was compassionate and consoled people in time of temptation, he was a source of strength (or we can say a source of encouragement) to all’.

 

In this day and age the need for encouragement for every person at one time or another, is more needful than ever before, St. Paul himself reminds us in his letter to the Colossians (col.3:16)) – ‘Let the Word of Christ in all its richness dwell in you ……. encourage each other’.

By abiding in God’s encouraging Word speaking in our hearts  we […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 5: St Dominic and Body Language

My reflection is on the significance and importance of bodily posture in St Dominic’s prayer. As we know from the ‘Nine Ways of Prayer,’ St Dominic used his whole body when he prayed: bowing, prostration, reaching up to heaven.

It struck me as odd that in our time, when there is so great an awareness of the importance of body language in interpersonal communication and of how much of what is communicated is through bodily posture etc., that there should be such a widespread dismissal of any significance of our bodily posture when we pray. It is said that bodily posture doesn’t matter because God looks at the heart.

I think that this ignoring of bodily posture gives rise to a number of problems, largely because it fails to consider the impact that my body language has on my own perception of, and response to, the person that I am talking or listening to. To give an example, if at a lecture I am slouched and looking off out the window my body is telling my mind not to pay attention. If, on the other hand, I sit up straight, keep eye contact and watch expectantly, my body is telling my mind to pay attention.

Our bodily prayer postures act in a similar way: blessing ourselves as we enter a Church reminds us that we are entering a holy place and is also a sort of trigger (as is kneeling) that we are about to pray (like the way insomniacs are advised to develop a ‘pre-bed’ physical routine that will trigger the mind to prepare to sleep). Similarly, genuflecting before the tabernacle is the bodily expression that Jesus (God) is truly present here. Kneeling and prostration likewise […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 3: Dominic a man of prayer

As we continue the novena to our Father St Dominic, I’d like to read an extract from the book “15 Days of Prayer with Saint Dominic” by Alain Quilici O.P.

 

All of those who knew Dominic, either from near or far, as close friends of just acquaintances, attested to the intensity of his prayers. Dominic prayed like he breathed. He was not one of those who had time to write books, not even books on prayer, he just prayed. He spent the majority of his time in prayer. He entered into a state of prayer as naturally and rapidly as others fell asleep. To spontaneously fall asleep is a childhood grace. Dominic was a child according to the gospel, a child who dove into prayer whenever he had a moment, most especially during the night. For him, the night was made for prayer.

Even when he was just a young religious, he already appeared to be a man specially gifted for prayer:

Night and day, like the olive tree that produces fruit or the cypress that reaches to the heavens, he used the floor of the church, devoting his time to contemplation, never appearing to leave the monastery. God had given him the special grace of prayer for sinners, the poor, the afflicted: he carried their maladies in the intimate sanctuary of his compassion; and the tears that came boiling from his eyes manifested the ardour of the feelings that burned within him. It was his habit to spend his nights in prayer. With the door closed, he prayed to his Father. During and at the end of his prayers, he uttered moans which came from his heart. He couldn’t hold back, and these cries, coming spontaneously, […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 2: The paradox of the Cross

“For everything there is a season,

and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; …

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; …

A time to mourn, and a time to dance; …

A time to love, and a time to hate …”  (Ecclesiastes, cf 3:1-9)

 

There is never, however, a time to despair,

and no matter how challenging or God-less the time in which we find ourselves seems to be,

we are called at all times to be creatures of hope.

St Dominic’s time was not more desperate than ours, yet more than anything it could be said of him that he was a man of hope because of his amazing confidence in God and of his reverence for the length to which Christ went, in order to save us.

The paradox of the Cross:

A place of failure and of triumph;

A place of horror and also of indescribable love.

Pope St John Paul II frequently spoke and wrote of JESUS as the answer to all the questions man seeks an answer to, in order the better to know and understand himself and how to be human.

We could say that the shape of all the answers we seek, is the shape of the Cross.  … … … Difficult to gaze upon, and difficult to understand, and extremely difficult to reconcile with love – especially with divine love.  It is, nevertheless, the shape of all the answers we seek, and St Dominic knew and understood this so well, from the many hours he spent contemplating it. For the Cross is, among other things, also the shape of wisdom, which, when we put it on, becomes the shape of the freedom which is so […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 9

St Dominic’s Charity and HumilityOn this the final day of our Novena in honour of St. Dominic and as we are about to celebrate first Vespers of this special solemnity, I would like to focus this reflection on St Dominic as a man of prayer , with particular emphases on his humility and charity.Jordan of Saxony tells us in the Libellus that the conferences of Cassian figured amongst Dominic’s favourite reading. Cassian tells us that humility, simplicity and charity are the foundations of all prayer. St. Dominic practised all these to a heroic degree.Take for example humility: when the Bishop of Osma made him a canon regular in his church, we are told that “he was the lowliest of them all in his humility of heart, but he was their leader in holiness.” ( Libellus No. 12) His first and second Ways of Prayer, are based on humility of heart , as in his first Way of Prayer he “ bowed as low as possible before the altar, as though Christ, whom the altar represents  were present there really and personally” and in the second Way of Prayer,     “ throwing himself flat on the ground, face down, where he was moved to sorrow in his heart and reproved himself and on occasion came out so loud that that phrase of the Gospel, ‘ O God, be merciful to me a sinner’,  was heard to come from him”. At his final Chapter in Bologna, he did not want to be re-elected as Master of the Order but to be given the freedom to be an ordinary friar and to go and preach to the pagans in the East. He was neither ambitious nor power hungry […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 8

St Dominic, The Transfiguration, & TruthOn this feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord: a feast in which we celebrate the Light that Jesus is;  the Light He radiates on all who believe Him; the Light that He wants to shine on all humanity, even on those who do not yet know Him – it seems appropriate to consider St Dominic and one of the mottoes of the Order – possibly a lesser known one – that is Veritas, or Truth.The importance of such a motto in the early days of the foundation of the Order of Preachers is unquestionable.  Heresies which denied the goodness of the physical world and the intrinsic goodness and worth of the human person were increasingly popular, and are popular even now.  St Dominic – in seeking to combat these, together with his brethren and the support of the prayers of the nuns whom he had associated with their mission – was seeking to re-present the truth which Christ Himself had taught so long ago; the truth He had entrusted to the Church for all time.  It could be observed that in fact what St Dominic founded the Order for, was ‘nothing new.’  Yet, he must have had an extra-ordinary, single-minded faith and trust in God, to be able to establish his Order at the time he did; and to disperse the brethren in order to preach the Gospel, so soon after having gathered them together.Today, when we celebrate the mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord, it is possible to see why St Dominic was so attracted to Jesus.  Dominic, like us, was a pilgrim throughout his life; constantly and tirelessly intent on living according to the truth, […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 7

St Dominic and PrayerAs we continue our Novena to St Dominic, I would like to reflect on St. Dominic’s  Prayer.So deeply was Dominic moved by the LOVE of Jesus Christ Crucified that he strove in all things to imitate Christ, passing the day in apostolic work and the night in prayer.Prayer was the breath of St Dominic’s Life and the light on his pilgrim path. He prayed always and He won more souls by his prayer than by preaching or miracles.Fervent and humble prayer was the sling and stone with which he overthrew the Goliath of Heresy.St Dominic’s methods of prayer known as “The Nine Ways of Prayer” were various. He made abundant use of gestures, genuflections, prostrations and other postures where his soul in prayer used the different parts (members) of his body to foster its own loving ascent to God.In his Seventh posture of prayer, St Dominic was often found standing erect stretching his whole body upwards with his hands joined and raised towards heaven, often he would open his hands as though in receipt of something from heaven.  And it is believed that at such times he received an increase of Grace, obtaining from God the gifts of the Holy Spirit for himself and his brethren.In all labours and disquiets, in hunger, thirst, fatigue, his heart turned always to God.The Friars would hear him praying aloud reciting Psalm 27: V1-2“HEAR O GOD, THE VOICE OF MY PLEADING AS I CALL FOR HELPAS I LEFT UP MY HANDS IN PRAYER TO YOUR HOLY PLACE”By word and example he taught the brethren always to pray like this, using verses from the psalms. (For example the PS 133 VERSE 1-2 ,the  PS 140 VERSE […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 6

St Dominic and the Rosary the easiest means for helping him to pray.It was for this reason that the devotion of the rosary found in him its keenest apostle. His own way of prayer, consisting … of vocal expression of love and adoration, was intermingled with silences; it passed from speech to contemplation as it fixed itself on to the character of our Lord. All these elements are united in the rosary. It was contemplative and vocal. It comprised the saying of Our Fathers and Hail Marys which were checked and noted by a string of beads, a contrivance, of course, older even than Christianity, and already widespread over Europe before his time. St Dominic did not invent these things, though it would seem that he popularised them. To him, however, a papal tradition points as the originator of the division into decades or groups of ten, separated by larger beads called ‘Paternosters.’ Under the influence of the Order these chaplets, at this date, spread widely over Christendom, and are to be found carven on tombs, and are from St Dominic’s time increasingly alluded to in devotional literature.But the mere recitation of prayers would be of no use unless these could be accompanied by a consciousness of God’s presence and of that converse with him that alone gives them a value and makes them efficacious. Hence it was necessary to add the idea of some sort of mystery, some act or scene of our Lord’s life, […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 5

St Dominic’s passion for the salvation of All set himself to win all the souls he could for Christ. His heart was full of an extraordinary, almost incredible yearning for the salvation of everyone.Jordan also tells us:He had a special prayer that God would grant him true charity, which would be effective in caring for and winning the salvation of all; he thought he would only really be a member of Christ’s Body when he would spend himself utterly with all his strength in the winning of souls.Dominic never achieved his ambition to be a missionary to the non-Christian world but he directed the Order to this path. At the Chapter of 1221 it was decided to send bands of Dominicans to three different territories beyond the frontiers of Christendom. Those who were sent with Paul of Hungary asked to go […]