St Dominic and the Imperative of Joy

A Benedictine nun wrote:

          鈥淚 continue to believe in the efficacy of the contemplative life

          which acts as a lever to raise the human heart to

          truth, goodness and beauty.鈥

From 鈥淭he Joy of God:  Collected Writings of Sr Mary David.鈥 p.125  

It seems odd in a reflection during our novena to St Dominic, to take inspiration from a 鈥榝oreigner,鈥 so to speak.  Nevertheless, she did seem to capture very well, in that short expression, something of the validity of contemplative life 鈥 if it needs validity: an answer to many who cannot comprehend such a vocation.

And in his letter to the nuns of the Order, away back in 1971, fr Anicetus Fernandez 鈥 then Master of the Order of Preachers 鈥 observed that

鈥榯his contemplative life, the 鈥渂est part鈥 of the Christian life, has always held a most important place in the Church and the Order, but perhaps today is more necessary than ever before to the Church, to the Order and to society.鈥

Quoted in the Book of the Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers.

We know how deeply absorbed in God and in the things of God, St Dominic was.  We know of the depth of his compassion for the souls, for the lives of everyone 鈥 those he encountered and even those he did not:  the souls and the lives of the people who cross our own paths now.  His legacy and his compassion endure.

In his day he was very concerned to open the eyes of heretics and even of the faithful, to the truth, the goodness and the beauty of every son and daughter of God 鈥 united as they were to him, even bound to him and to us, by the love and the blood of Christ.  Life is nothing if it is not rooted in joy; and the contemplation of life: the contemplation of the LORD who is Life itself, must ultimately touch the human heart with joy:  and thus touched, open the mind and heart to truth, goodness and beauty and recognise these most especially in all of us who have been created in the image and likeness of our God 鈥 our Father 鈥 our Joy.

For us to remember this now, in our time which is beset with despair and discouragement; hopelessness and lack of faith; when peoples鈥 very hold on life is precarious and fragile, is of vital importance.   It is so easy to forget 鈥 in the busyness of all that has to be done; and in a society that holds human life as frighteningly disposable 鈥 what we instinctively know:  that despite the wretchedness we encounter; the hypocrisy, selfishness and discouragement 鈥 even at times within ourselves 鈥 despite all these, that beneath the weakness there is a fundamental attraction in all of us to the truth, goodness and beauty for which we were made.

St Dominic, we are told, was a man of joy, and this is our vocation.

To open our hearts, even to expose our hearts to truth, goodness and beauty and thus to see through our fidelity, what profound joy awaits us, 鈥rooted in the Spirit, in the certainty of the truth鈥 鈥 this is our vocation.

鈥淲e must pray for this joy,鈥 wrote the Benedictine nun, 鈥溾 it is not something we feel but something we do.  It is something to be chosen, a choice God calls us to.  In calling us to Himself, He calls us to joy, for He is our Joy.鈥

From 鈥淭he Joy of God:  Collected Writings of Sr Mary David.鈥 pp.9, 10