Jesus said to His disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds.” Mt 13:47

The opening words of the Gospel reading we heard today at Mass seemed to me to be a very fitting description of the Order of Preachers – and providential, that we have been given these words at the beginning of our novena to St Dominic.

In its almost 800 years of life, the Order of Preachers has proven itself to be like the dragnet Jesus spoke about – attracting to itself people of all kinds, rich in diversity; of every shape and size; from every corner of the earth – and each one has found in it a home; a place where they feel welcome and to which they belong; and a place where they have discovered they can be free to be themselves; a place of mercy where they have found acceptance and love – the beginning, perhaps, of eternity?

We know that St Dominic was inspired primarily from the hours he spent in contemplation at the foot of Christ’s Cross; that his sole prayer for himself was that he be given the gift of perfect charity.  The shape of the Cross is the shape of the greatest commandments we have been given by the Lord Jesus: that we love God with all our heart and soul; with all our mind and strength; and that we love our neighbour as ourselves.  When Jesus had His arms outstretched on the Cross, His embrace of humanity was without limit; without condition and with the capacity to enfold in His mercy everyone who went to Him and sought Him there … and everyone entrusted Him theough the faith of others, as was the paralytic who was let down though the roof of the house where Jesus had been teaching and preaching.

In reflecting on St Dominic and on the shape of the Cross on which hung the Saviour of the world: the Cross which was so dear to St Dominic – it seemed to me that the gift we have been given as Dominicans, the grace of the Holy Spirit Who has been breathing His life into the Order since its beginnings in 1206 – and Who has been guiding and directing the children of St Dominic in a most dynamic period of the world’s history: the gift of unbroken unity with which we have been blessed, is a fruit of St Dominic’s whole-hearted docility to God. 

His vision for the Order he founded was – maybe? – that it take as its pattern the shape of the Cross: in all things – in its common life; its fidelity to the liturgy and prayer, especially the Eucharist; in its study and its preaching – in all these things, we should direct our gaze upwards, on God  And, in experiencing the Lord’s boundless love and infinite mercy – that we might open wide our arms so as to be able to embrace, with Christ crucified, all of our brothers and sisters in the Order and in all the world.

We pray then, as we look forward to the year of mercy and the Jubilee of the Order – through the intercession of St Dominic – that when the dragnet is full and the fishermen have hauled it ashore, that it may be that the baskets are filled to overflowing, and none may be found to be ‘no use’ and thus thrown away.

May the Lord be gracious and bless us with His mercy, may His face shine on us and on the whole world that we may be saved.