By Fr. Rich, O.P.
With the celebration of Jesus’ baptism, the Christmas season draws to a close. We return to Ordinary time, when we are simply counting the time until we enter into another special liturgical season. Throughout this time, we experience the ministry of Christ as he heals and teaches. We experience the miracles of Jesus feeding the hungry and healing the sick. We hear Him offer to His disciples a new moral code, offering the Beatitudes for us to order our lives on. Each liturgical year has about it the inevitable cycle that leads us from birth to death and resurrection.
Each liturgical year offers a different perspective on the life and death of Jesus. Each year offers us an opportunity to enter more fully into the story of our redemption. We get to decide how to participate. The opportunities are many and varied. Whether we decide to participate in a small group or enter into our own engagement of Scripture, that choice draws us into our sacred history and invites us to live it out daily. A more frequent presence at the Eucharist, participating as part of our community in the sacred mysteries, offers us grace in abundance. Grace is what strengthens us in the face of the chaos and temptations of the world.
As we enter this second full week of 2020, the question arises as to how our New Year’s resolutions are holding up — the answer frequently being, “Not so well!” The question can be the same for our resolution: to be more prayerful and more thoughtful about our spiritual lives. The answer can also frequently be, “Not so well!”
Now is the time to re-affirm our choices. They are indeed individual choices, but we don’t make them in isolation, and they have an impact on our community. Our culture, which offers more methods of communication than ever before, also contains more isolated people than ever before. Our faith is founded on the unitive energy of the people whose hearts and souls were set afire by the Holy Spirit. We are their spiritual descendants. We are called to be aware and intentional about nurturing our beliefs.
We do that by reading a variety of sources, not necessarily just those that echo our own thoughts and beliefs. We should study, but not just the Church fathers and mothers, our spiritual parents, who have given us so much to prayerfully consider. Theologians from different faith paths have any number of insights to offer us; different perspectives deepen and strengthen our faith. The holistic approach to eastern thought can bring enlightenment as well.
If we support our work with an intentional, conscious prayer life, we stand to become better Catholics, better citizens, and better children of God. “Throwing down the gauntlet of light …” as we seek enlightenment and insight is a powerful outcome of our prayers. There is no better time than now for that to occur. Prayer is powerful. Prayer that is supported by contemplation and study is even more so.
On a different note: Fr. Joachim will, on January 13 (weather permitting), be moving to his new assignment in Chicago. As you know, his departure is the opening chapter in the Dominican exodus from St. Thomas More. His unique ministry as a canon lawyer will allow him to continue to participate in the work of a variety of tribunals. Our faith community will be lessened by his departure; his preaching, his engaging presence, and his willingness to support the members of our community have been a wonderful gift. Although it is the nature of our lives as Dominicans, departures are nonetheless challenging for the brother departing as much as the community that is losing him.
Anytime a brother leaves a community, the brothers must make adjustments as well. Joachim’s duties in our house were varied; he was faithful to them. Fr. Mike and I will need to work a bit harder with Fr. Joachim’s departure. And our community will miss his steady, firm faith; we will miss his insights into the workings of our province and his honesty. We will also miss his enjoyment of all things culinary. I’ll miss his presence and support.
I would ask that you keep Fr. Joachim in your prayers as he embarks on a new chapter in his life as faithful, devoted Dominican brother.