As Dominicans we treasure what few writings Dominic has left us and those words of his of which there is a record, especially his last words. As Nuns of the Order we hold dear his letter to the nuns in Madrid, but there are two words in particular which should be written on our hearts and woven into the very fabric of our beings and it is on these two words that I would like to reflect this evening. ‘Sancta Praedicito’. Two words which for Dominic define a Dominican nun. He called his first Monastery a ‘Sancta Praedicitio’, a Holy Preaching.
Dominic did not wish us simply to assist our Brothers’ preaching by our prayer and penance, that is not how he understood the vocation of a Dominican Contemplative nun. He saw us as being intrinsically a Holy Preaching. Our whole lives, who we are is ordered to the Apostolate. This is our identity. And we are not just a preaching but a Holy Preaching. This cannot be taken for granted. We have to become holy so that we may be a holy Preaching. This is our primary task, indeed it is our only task and our influence on the world for good depends upon on it. A holy preaching , a preaching about eternal realities, a preaching about being set aside for God’s use, to be used for God’s glory. Sacred things, holy things point towards God. Our preaching, the word we are, should be a word that directs people beyond us to the vision of God. The lived reality of our life together either points to God or away from Him.
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. It is only by being open, docile and obedient to that love, allowing it to transform us as we expose ourselves to it that we will be effective preachers. Why?, because then it is Jesus who will be encountered when others meet us.
The odour of sanctity, an archaic term, a bit meaningless now, but let us rephrase it . How about saying she died having spread the fragrance of Christ everywhere. Wouldn’t we all like that for an epithet? When we are walking round the garden what do we do if we catch the smell of a rose in passing or Regina’s sweet pea.? We automatically move up nearer and bend over the flower, inhaling deeply, trying to draw the fragrance into us. Then we walk on and meet another Sister and instinctively tell her about the beautiful smell from the flower and she goes to suss it out. Soon the fragrance becomes a shared experience. I think that’s the way it works when we smell of Jesus. I have to ask myself, do others breathe in Jesus when they encounter me? After I have moved on from being with others do I leave a pleasant odour in my wake. Is the air charged with beauty , goodness, truth, love. To the extent that we do this for one another in Community- to that extent only do we invigorate the whole body. As we breathe in the fragrance of Christ, that breath courses through the whole body bringing healing and the experience of love to everyone, without my putting a foot outside the enclosure door. This is the Holy Preaching.
The first reason we are gathered in Community is to have one mind and heart in God, for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. That I think is the significance of the Mascarella Table, where Dominic is depicted gathered in unity with his brothers, around one table together. All the other tables in our lives- the table of the Word and Liturgy, the table of the Eucharist, the table of study, the table around which we have Chapter, the table we work at, the table we recreate at, the table we eat at, each of these serve in their own way, as a school, that we might learn gradually the lesson of love, God’s love for us and where we learn how to love one another, spreading the fragrance of Christ everywhere. Our unity is the clearest image of the Blessed Trinity, visible in our world, a truly ‘Sancta Praedicito.’
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