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Posted by on Aug 8, 2013

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

St. Dominic

Insights from Conversing with an Innkeeper

Dominic Guzmán (1170-1221), a Spanish priest traveling with his bishop in southern France, spent an entire night talking with an innkeeper who was a believer in Catharism, a dualistic religious cult that originated in the East. He discovered that the man had not really rejected Catholic teachings but rather was ignorant of them. This discovery led to the founding of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans), a group dedicated to learning theology and other disciplines and communicating the beliefs of the Church to all they met, while living as beggars and travelers on the highways and byways of Europe. Many great theologians and prophets, both men and women, have served the church through the centuries as followers of Dominic and his early companions.

Moving into a Changing World

Dominic’s insight that the Gospel must be taught both with words and through the lives of the ones proclaiming it in the contemporary world with all of its challenges holds as true today as it did some eight hundred years ago. In many ways, we as a community of faith had, until recently, settled into an almost self-satisfied attitude that all of the answers to the questions of faith and  moral behavior had been resolved by theologians of the Middle Ages and/or at the Council of Trent. As Tevye (of “Fiddler on the Roof”)  might have expressed it, “Everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to be!”

Yet such an attitude of self-confident satisfaction with who we are and what we believed did not serve us well. The world’s people continued to discover new truths in science and new understandings of human behaviors and cultures. Industrialization brought changes in family life and opportunities. Education of both boys and girls has become a given in Western societies and increasingly this is also the case in non-industrial societies around the world as well. More strikingly, perhaps, we did not as intelligent inhabitants of this planet learn how to live together in peace, with the common good as our highest concern. Instead, we set about conquering each other, with the nations having the strongest military plundering the regions they had conquered. Somehow the old teachings no longer answered the new questions about God, life, and the reality of evil in the world.

Evangelization Today

Pope Francis and his recent predecessors have called the Church to a new focus on evangelization. The teachings of the Church, including new insights from theology, philosophy, anthropology, psychology and other disciplines, must be presented to the world and lived out joyfully by Christian believers. Pope Francis repeatedly stresses the importance of going out into our communities and meeting people where they live and work. We are to work to alleviate poverty and suffering. We are to serve without judging others whose lives and values differ from ours. We are to be true to the traditions of our community, but recognize that those traditions may need to be presented in different words and explained using different images. Some of those traditions may need to be stretched so they express the lived experience of a new generation of believers. This is the age of the Holy Spirit in salvation history and we must recognize that God is so much bigger and more amazingly wonderful than we could ever imagine, that no human formulation could ever totally express the full reality of who God is.

Like the times of Dominic Guzmán, there is a great need in today’s world for people of faith to learn about God, about our Christian beliefs and traditions, and about the newly emerging insights of our living faith community. The days when the catechism lessons of childhood sufficed for an adult life of faith are long since gone, if they ever truly existed. We are all called to continue to learn, to study Scripture, to reflect on God’s active presence in our lives, and to share what we have learned with others. And we do this not just at Church or in catechism classes, but also in our daily activities on the highways and byways of our lives. The People of God are once again called to be proclaimers of the loving presence and activity of our God.

And that innkeeper with whom Dominic spoke all night? He returned to the Catholic faith once he understood what the community really believed.

St. Dominic, Pray for us!

Image: St. Dominic by Fra Angelico, Side panel of the Altarpiece in Perugia

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Posted by on Jun 24, 2013

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

A Song of Praise as a World Turns — The Benedictus

Zechariah and John the Baptist

Zechariah and John the Baptist


On the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, I find myself reflecting on the song of praise attributed to his father, Zechariah, known by its Latin name, the Benedictus.

Who was Zechariah?

Zechariah was a priest from the family of Aaron. His wife Elizabeth was of the same family line. They were elderly and had no children. According to the Gospel of Luke, one day when Zechariah was serving at the temple in Jerusalem, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to offer sacrifice. This was the most solemn duty for any priest and large numbers of people gathered outside to pray. Suddenly, an angel appeared to him, “standing at the right of the altar of incense.” The angel announced that his prayers and those of his wife for a child would be answered. The child would be a son and was to be named John. The angel explained that this child would be filled with the Holy Spirit while still within his mother’s womb and would bring back many of the sons of Israel to God. He would prepare “a people well-disposed” for the Lord. (Lk 1:5-17)

Zechariah found all of this hard to believe, so he asked the angel for more details about how it could happen — after all, both he and Elizabeth were beyond their normal child-bearing ages. The angel, Gabriel, responded that because he questioned the message, he would remain mute until the birth of the child. Then he would see that the Lord’s promise had been fulfilled. And so it happened. (Lk 1:18-25)

Nine months later, the child was born. Elizabeth’s cousin Mary, who had also been blessed by a visit from Gabriel, had come to help her for a few months and the child within Elizabeth’s womb leaped with the joy of Mary’s coming. (Lk 141) When John was born, all the relatives and neighbors expected that he would be named for his father, Zechariah, but both Elizabeth and Zechariah insisted that the child’s name would be John. With that, Zechariah’s tongue was freed and he spoke, praising God and uttering a prophecy regarding his son’s role in salvation history.

A Prophetic Canticle

Zechariah’s prophetic song is not a statement like that of a fortune teller. Prophecy in Biblical terms refers to speaking on behalf of God of the underlying reality of what God is doing in the lives of the members of the community.

Zechariah begins by blessing God as the God of Israel who visits and ransoms his people. God raises a savior from the House of David, the royal house, as promised in days of old. This savior will rescue the people from the hands of their foes in fulfillment of the covenant established with Abraham, delivering them from fear and freeing them to serve the Lord all the days of their lives. Only after laying out the ancient promises, Zechariah speaks briefly to his own child —  a child who will be called a prophet of the Most High because he will go before the Lord to announce the coming of salvation and to help the people prepare to receive it (the image used is to prepare straight paths for the coming savior). Zechariah concludes by noting that all of this is a work of kindness from the Lord, the Dayspring who in his tender mercy will visit Israel, freeing those who sit in darkness and guiding their feet into the way of peace. (Lk 1:68-79)

A World Turns

In the birth of John the Baptist, the trajectory of history began to turn. The final step of God’s plan to reclaim all of creation and return it to the initial unity with God has been initiated. God does not force this transition or the people involved in it to cooperate. But God persistently works with humans and through human history to bring it about. Zechariah reminds all who hear his voice through the ages that God keeps the covenant, rescues the people, gathers the community, and wants to bring all people back to joyful unity in Love.

The Christian church (community) remembers this song of prayer, praise and promise in the Liturgy of the Hours. As part of Morning Prayer, the People of God around the world recite or sing this canticle daily. Some chant it. Some arrange its words to fit other religious or popular tunes. One of my favorite versions was set to the tune of an English folk song by Ruth Duck. Those who really listen deeply to it find a special joy bubbling into their day as they join Zechariah in praising a God who works such wonders.

 Image from Holy Cross Monastery in Jerusalem

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Posted by on Aug 4, 2012

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

Quote of the Day – St. John Vianney

St. John Vianney

August 4 is the feast of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests. John Vianney was born to a peasant family in Lyons, France. He wanted to be a priest, but his education was limited and he was not a very good student, despite his great desire to learn enough to be ordained. Finally his bishop took a chance on him and agreed to ordain him. John was assigned to a remote town far away from any place of note. He was not a great homilist. His knowledge of theology was limited. But he was a good listener and a compassionate man whose advice and counsel was welcomed by those who came to him for confession. Before long, he was spending up to eighteen hours a day, sitting in a confessional, hearing the confessions of people who traveled from all over France to receive forgiveness through his ministry.

St. John Vianney also loved the Eucharist. Among his many insights was this one on God’s love for us.

“The soul hungers for God, and nothing but God can satiate it. Therefore He came to dwell on earth and assumed a Body in order that this Body might become the Food of our souls.”

 Image of St. John Vianney is in the public domain.

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Posted by on Nov 26, 2011

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

Celebrating Feasts With Food – St. Catherine of Alexandria

Icon of St. Catherine of Alexandria


St. Catherine of Alexandria was born towards the end of the 3rd century. According to legend, she became a Christian at the age of 14 following a vision. She was known for her wisdom and is said to have successfully debated 50 non-Christian philosophers when she was only 18. Responsible for the conversion of hundreds of people, she was eventually martyred (around 310 AD). Condemned to death on the wheel, instead she was beheaded because the wheel broke at her touch. Catherine is remembered since the 14th century as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers saints to whom people prayed especially for healing and protection from diseases.

In the middle ages, a tradition arose of celebrating her feast by visiting neighbors, singing songs requesting food and drink (cakes and breads or apples and beer). I came across this recipe for Catherine’s Cake (Kattern Cakes or Catterning Cakes). It is simple to make and would make a great project to do with children to help make it fun to be Catholic Christians. The detailed recipe on the web is written in metric system, however, there’s a basic description with quantities in the old English system we still use in the United States.

Catherine’s Cake

2 pounds yeast bread dough
2 oz  (1/4 cup) butter
2 oz  (1/4 cup) sugar
1 egg, beaten
A few caraway seeds

Frozen bread dough may be used, or make your own. Soften the butter and mix with sugar, egg, and caraway seeds, then knead into the dough. Allow to rise in a warm place for approximately 2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, either divide it into tennis ball sized loaves or form it into a larger loaf and place on/in a floured baking pan. Allow to rise another 30 minutes. If you have made the smaller loaves, flatten them slightly to make “cakes” for individual servings.

Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for two hours. (Smaller cakes may require a shorter baking time.)

Invite in the neighbors and enjoy with sparkling cider or other festive drink!

Image in the Public domain –
From St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt

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Posted by on Aug 11, 2010

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

Happy Feast Day, St. Clare of Assisi


St. Clare of Assisi - Window of the Chapel at St. Joseph's Monastery in Aptos, CA


On the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, I’d like to share a wonderful discovery. The chapel of St. Joseph’s Monastery of the Poor Clares in Aptos, CA has a beautiful set of stained glass windows illustrating aspects of Franciscan spirituality. The window for St. Clare is shown here. The website for the monastery has pictures of the windows and an explanation of the symbols associated with each of eight saints.

For St. Clare the text is as follows:

“St. Clare is shown holding the Monstrance, associated with the miracle performed by Clare of protecting the nuns living at the San Damiano Monastery. Over her arm is a towel, implying her role as a servant of God. The towel is embroidered in a style now known as the Assisi stitch. Above her are acorns, representing the cloister, and the oak branches extending from Francis. She stands on the deep river of spirituality.”

Thank you to the Sisters of St. Clare for all your prayers for us and our world. And thank you, St. Clare for all the doors you continue to open today, for new forms of ministry and outreach.


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Posted by on Jul 23, 2010

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

Recipe for How to Celebrate Your Saint’s Feast Day


Time to celebrate

 This post was written by Rosie Pozos.

Recipe for How to Celebrate Your Saint’s Feast Day*


1 bottle Sparkling Apple Cider or favorite wine
2 Pretty candles
1 Nice Table Cloth
4 Goblets
4 Settings of nice silverware and china
Ingredients for your family’s favorite dinner.
Approximately six servings of Pan Dulce (sweet Mexican pastry) – or other favorite dessert.
Family or other special people with whom to celebrate
Coffee or tea (optional)

Set table with table cloth, china, silverware, goblets and candles. Fix dinner. Light candles. Pour cider or wine. Have family and/or special people all sit down.

Enjoy dinner family style: that’s where everyone reaches for whatever dish is closest to them, serves themselves and passes the dish to the next person.

Bring out Pan (or other dessert) after everyone is finished. Pass plate of Pan around the table. Ask if anyone wants tea or coffee. If yes, fix it.

Take time to enjoy each other’s company with dinner and dessert.

Enjoy the rest of the evening.

Approximately 4 servings. (Can be adjusted for more celebrants!)

Recipe can be used for celebration of any saint’s feast day.

* If for some reason you are at a loss for which saint to celebrate, visit for biographies of saints and for the “Saint of the Day.”

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Posted by on Jul 15, 2010

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

Saint of the Day – St. Bonaventure, the Athiests and the NeoPagans

Forest, by mohan p

There is a growing cottage industry of books attempting to prove or disprove the existence of God. Today, on this spot on the Church calendar devoted to St. Bonaventure (July 15), reflection on his blending of the rational and the spiritual is even more important than when he formulated it seven centuries ago.

Unfortunately, we live in a time of two simplistic approaches. One claims that religion is literally a superstitious hangover from the time of Bonaventure – the late Middle Ages – and has no basis in rational scientific thought. The inhumanity to which we have been reduced by the rational technological world destroys our spirit just as surely as the dogma of the religious. The scientific rationalists show that there is no empirical proof for the existence of God and the literalist acceptance of the Bible only heaps on further irrationality. The spiritualists of the New Age, on the other hand, are concerned about energy flows, the design of built spaces and the sacred diffuse life force emanating from the planet, with its animate and inanimate manifestations.

As much as we might like to think that these debates are new, they are as old as recorded civilization. Christianity is unusual in the sense that it holds and affirms the supra-rationality of faith in the unknowable and then elaborates the faith experience and its doctrinal content in a rational manner. To say it in more simple terms, the Christian experiences and creates reality within the faith experience itself. Given the inherent order of creation itself, this experience reveals and elaborates that core capability of the human, which is critical reason. Creation is sacred and diaphanous and faith enlightens our minds and leads them to the perfect knowledge revealed in Christ.

These view are presented mystically, poetically, and rationally in St. Bonaventure’s Itinerarium Mentis Ad Deum (The Mind’s Road to God). This small book is in many ways a meditation on the the vision of Christ by St. Francis on Mount Alverno, in which the saint becomes so identified with the Risen Christ that he receives the stigmata and the five wounds appear on his body.

How can thinking people believe is the post modern question. How can people with systematic rationalized collections of belief be spiritual is the New Age question. In the post modern age, empirical science is truth. In the New Age there is my truth, my karma, and your truth, your karma. No faith is required. No revelation is possible. There is no enlightenment and encounter with the Divine – a Divine that we cannot control with mathematical models or the arrangement of crystals.

Bonaventure provides a guide to living for the post-modern / New Age Christian – delightfully encountering the “vestigia Trinitatis,” the footprints of the Trinity in creation, learning and understanding in enlightenment, and caught up in the wonder of the divine.

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Posted by on Oct 15, 2009

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

“Let Nothing Disturb You” – St. Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila's Vision of the Dove - Peter Paul Rubens

Teresa of Avila's Vision of the Dove - Peter Paul Rubens

On this feast of St. Teresa of Avila, when all is so uncertain in our world and so many worries seem to plague us all, I offer her reminder of what really matters. This quote is sometimes called her “Bookmark” because after her death in 1582 it was found written on a piece of paper in her prayer book.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away,
God does not change.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone is enough.

In the original Spanish:

Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante;
Todo se pasa.
Dios no se muda.
La paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta:
sólo Dios basta.

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Posted by on Jul 31, 2009

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

Following in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius Loyola

Company - Summer 2009 Cover

Company - Summer 2009 Cover

On the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, AKA “The Jesuits,” it seems fitting to look at one of the many ways the men (and women) who have come after him and his first group of followers have continued to serve God’s people – bringing the fruits of their experience of God’s presence in our world (a contemplative experience) into the messiness of everyday active life. This approach has been called “contemplation in action” and is a fundamental of Ignatian spirituality.

Ignatius and his friends, like many young men of his day, thought it would be a great idea to go to the Holy Land and convert all to Christianity. They had taken the standard vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that are common in religious orders. But they also took a vow to do whatever the Pope needed them to do. They suggested to the him that they go to the Holy Land on this mission and he turned down the offer. Instead, he asked them to preach and teach in Europe. It was a time of much upheaval in the Church. The Reformation/Protestant Revolution was in full swing. The Church was divided. Much of what we would call faith education was needed, along with basic education in reading, writing, mathematics and the other classical subjects. So the Jesuits got started in the education business and have continued their schools and universities to this day!

Then as now, people with money can afford excellent schooling for their children. People with fewer resources have fewer choices. Recently, members of various provinces of the Society in the United States have embarked on a program to provide high quality Catholic education for children of families whose income is under 75 percent of the median per-capita income of their city. These children would not ordinarily have the option of attending a private high school or even dreaming of attending college. Yet in 22 schools around the country, the dream is being realized.

The schools started in 1996 with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. The great challenge for any private school is how to fund the costs of providing the educational program. How can the faculty be paid? Where will classes be offered? How can the rent be paid? At Cristo Rey, a unique solution was proposed. Corporate sponsors would provide entry level pay for students that would cover about 70% of tuition. Four students would share each job – each working one day per week. The other days the student would attend classes. Class days would be a bit longer than normal and the students would have a longer school year, but they would get a full year of education that way. Families that could afford to pay some tuition would do so. Others would receive additional financial aid to make their education possible. Students would also receive intensive training in the basics of functioning in the corporate world during the summer before their first year in the school, so they could be successful in their work. The combination of academics and real-world work experience in meaningful jobs has proven to be a key to the success of the school. It has been so successful, in fact, that other schools have been opened in other cities.

In 2008-09 the Cristo Rey Network  included 22 schools. Another two are opening this fall. In cities across the country, young men and women who would not have had much of a chance even to finish high school, are not only graduating from high school, but most of them are going on to colleges and universities. From there they are going out into the corporate world and entering successful careers in business, science, education, etc. The Ignatian charism (vision) of education of all students, both rich and poor, continues to bear fruit in our day.

Cristo Rey’s story has been told in a new book, More than a Dream: How One School’s Vision is Changing the World. 

Cristo Rey and other schools in the network are also featured in the Summer 2009 issue of the Jesuit magazine, Company, the world of Jesuits and their friends. The Summer issue is not online as of this date, but it should be there within a few weeks.


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Posted by on Jul 30, 2009

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

Having a Martha-like day on the Feast of St. Martha – July 29

Martha, Mary and Jesus

Martha, Mary and Jesus

I’ve spent the feast of St. Martha doing a lot of very Martha-like things. You’ll remember the story of the day Jesus came to visit Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus always traveled with something of an entourage in those days. There were the apostles, of course. But there were also many others who followed along the way or came out to see Him as He passed through their towns. When He came to visit, it was a big deal.

The role of women in Martha’s day was not unlike that of today in some ways. Women were responsible for making sure there was food and drink prepared for the guests. Martha took her role seriously and set out to make sure all the guests were treated well and had what they needed. I can understand her actions. I’ve often found myself doing the same thing – whether in my own home or in another’s. I’m an oldest child and a daughter. I learned very early in life to look out for the needs of others, whether younger siblings or visitors to our home. Yet much to Martha’s dismany (and sometimes to my own in a similar situation), her sister Mary wasn’t helping. Mary was sitting with the guests, listening to Jesus.

Martha complained to Jesus about Mary’s actions and Jesus’ reply must have astounded her and any others who heard it. “Marth, Martha. You are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Lk 10: 38-42)

Throughout history, we’ve read this passage and debates have raged interiorly and publicly about the relative choices and positions of the two women and women in general. That’s not the theme of this post. Something else struck me this week. There’s another side to Martha.

We often get stuck on the image of Martha as anxious and concerned about many things. Yet another side of Martha appears in the story of the raising of Lazarus. In that story, Jesus arrives in Bethany after His friend has died and been in the tomb for three days. Lazarus is well and truly officially dead. Martha goes out to meet Jesus on the road. She chides Him for not arriving in time to save Lazarus from death. She also tells Him of her belief that God will do whatever He asks. She professes her belief in life after death and then makes a great statement of faith. “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” (Jn 11:27) She makes this statement before Jesus raises Lazarus from death. Before His own death and resurrection. Martha – the woman worried about many things – is also a woman of great faith.

So, as I spent my day caring for a baby grandson, cooking, doing laundry, and squeezing in the bookkeeping for my household and business, I tried also to remember to be open to the Lord’s coming in all things. And at 11 pm, while the baby played happily after a too long nap, I penned these words!

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