Today we begin our Novena in preparation for the feast of our holy father Dominic on the 8th August. During the coming 9 days we invite our readers to join in prayer with us. Before Vespers each evening we sing the following – known in Latin as the O Spem – the equivalent of a national anthem for Dominicans!!

O wonderful hope which you gave to those who wept for you at the hour of your death, promising that after your death you would be helpful to your brothers and sisters;

Fulfil Father what you have said and help us by your prayer

You shone on the bodies of the sick by so many miracles, bring us the help of Christ to heal our sick souls;

Fulfil Father what you have said and help us by your prayer.

We offer here for your reflection the main points of a letter, which Fr Carlos Azpiroz Costa, Master of the Order sent, (Advent 2008), to all the members of the Order as we began another year of our 9 year Dominican Jubilee Pilgrimage which will culminate in 2016, with the celebration of the 8th Centenary of the confirmation of the Order by Pope Honorius III.
This year’s theme is: Dominic – Preacher of Grace.

Dear brothers and sisters in St. Dominic and St. Catherine:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:1.14).

…….In these few words, the evangelist invites us into the fullness of the mystery of the Incarnation. This is not a spectacle that we contemplate from afar, for as the text says, the Word came to dwell “among us,” as one of us – …..it is the actual heart of the Christian faith”…………

For Dominic, too, the Word of God was present “in the beginning” of the miracle that gave birth to the Order of Preachers. His entire life, lived in intimate union with the Word, invites us into a profound contemplative listening to the Word and a bold commitment to preach that very same Word to the world today. In the Dialogue of our sister, Catherine of Siena, we read, “[Dominic] appeared as an apostle in the world, sowing the seed of my Word with great truth and luminosity, dissipating the darkness with the gift of light” (n. 158). The Word of God that became flesh and burned in the heart of Dominic was the very same Word which he preached with ardent zeal, setting Europe on fire with the love and tender mercy of Christ.

The Blessed Dominic had a great and burning thirst for the salvation of souls, for which he was an unequalled apostle. He gave himself to preaching with great fervour, and he exhorted and obliged his brothers to announce the Word of God by day and by night, in churches and in homes, in the fields and along the byways – in other words, in all places to speak only of God.

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, in opening the Synod on the Word of God, reminds us that, “It is important that individual believers and communities enter into ever increasing intimacy with God’s Word…[for] to draw nourishment from the Word of God is [the Church’s] first and fundamental task.” Therefore, as part of our ongoing Jubilee pilgrimage that began with the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the community of Prouilhe, the whole Dominican Family is invited to pause and focus on the following theme throughout this year of 2009:

“In the beginning was the Word: Dominic, Preacher of Grace”.

With the help of this theme, we commit ourselves to sit with Dominic at the feet of Christ, and with him, “to draw nourishment from the Word of God.”

This is the heritage of grace which is shared by all of us – friars and nuns, apostolic sisters and lay Dominicans, young and old, rich and poor. And we well know that once we have been nourished by the Word, we face the other great challenge that St. Paul had to face, summed up in his apostolic cry: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). Therefore, following the example of Dominic, we make St. Paul´s cry our own, and we do so by making it the overall guiding theme for these years of Pilgrimage, from now until we reach the Jubilee celebration of 2016. To do this, though, we recognize the need to make one small, yet essential modification: as Dominicans we can only be true to our vocation if we cry out as a community:

“Woe to us if we do not preach the gospel!”

These words of St. Paul, said Pope Benedict in his opening address of the Synod, are, “a cry that becomes for every Christian a pressing invitation to serve Christ.” And so we take to heart these words, recognizing in them the very Gospel that gave birth to the preaching mission of our Holy Father St. Dominic who, carrying the Gospel of St. Matthew and the letters of St. Paul with him as he travelled, truly became God’s Preacher of Grace. Each time we sing the O Lumen we invoke Dominic under this title: Prædicator Gratiæ, (Preacher of Grace) for it is he, the preacher, the disciple of the Word, who promises to walk with us and renew in us the gratuitous out-pouring of the Word that was present when the first seeds of the Holy Preaching were sown in the fertile ground of southern Europe. May he unite us as a family gathered around the Word, and give us a contemplative, obedient heart, willing and ready to respond in freedom to the challenges of the Gospel in our day.

……….“Bethlehem” – the house of bread – is a reminder to us of two important realities. First, the Incarnate Word has come to nourish us. May we feed at his table of mercy and compassion each day……. And secondly, in a world that continues to face massive hunger and the ongoing scourge of war, let us look again to Christ, whose “words proclaim justice, instil courage to the disheartened and offer forgiveness to sinners” (Synod Message, IV, n.13). May His words become our words, so that we, too, might proclaim the gospel of peace in his name.

Brothers and sisters, we walk this pilgrimage of faith together, as a family, encouraging one another along the way. May the Holy Spirit anoint us as we journey forth in hope, and may St. Dominic bless us and inspire us to be ever faithful to the great heritage which he has left us.

Your brother in St. Dominic, Preacher of Grace, “

bro Carlos A. Azpiroz Costa, OP
Master of the Order

We invite you to join us in reciting the special jubilee prayer for the renewal of the Order, remembering especially the many young men and women who are in formation and the many others who are discerning their vocation to the Order throughout the world and indeed in our own Irish province.

Jubilee Prayer

God of Mercy,
In your eternal Wisdom, you called your servant Dominic to set off on a journey of faith as itinerant pilgrim and preacher of grace. With your Word of gentle Truth in his heart and on his lips, Dominic invited the first sisters and brothers to join him in a life of contemplative obedience in the service of the holy preaching.

As we commemorate this Jubilee, we ask you to breathe the Spirit of the risen Christ once again into our hearts and minds. Re-create us, so that we might faithfully and joyfully proclaim the gospel of peace, through the same Christ, our Lord.

AMEN