Thursday, January 27, 2011

St. Thomas Aquinas

Feastday: January 28

St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church, patron of all universities and of students. His feast day is January 28th. He was born toward the end of the year 1226. He was the son of Landulph, Count of Aquino, who, when St. Thomas was five years old, placed him under the care of the Benedictines of Monte Casino. His teachers were surprised at the progress he made, for he surpassed all his fellow pupils in learning as well as in the practice of virtue.

When he became of age to choose his state of life, St. Thomas renounced the things of this world and resolved to enter the Order of St. Dominic in spite of the opposition of his family. In 1243, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Dominicans of Naples. Some members of his family resorted to all manner of means over a two year period to break his constancy. They even went so far as to send an impure woman to tempt him. But all their efforts were in vain and St. Thomas persevered in his vocation. As a reward for his fidelity, God conferred upon him the gift of perfect chastity, which has merited for him the title of the "Angelic Doctor".

After making his profession at Naples, he studied at Cologne under the celebrated St. Albert the Great. Here he was nicknamed the "dumb ox" because of his silent ways and huge size, but he was really a brilliant student. At the age of twenty-two, he was appointed to teach in the same city. At the same time, he also began to publish his first works. After four years he was sent to Paris. The saint was then a priest. At the age of thirty-one, he received his doctorate.

At Paris he was honored with the friendship of the King, St. Louis, with whom he frequently dined. In 1261, Urban IV called him to Rome where he was appointed to teach, but he positively declined to accept any ecclesiastical dignity. St. Thomas not only wrote (his writings filled twenty hefty tomes characterized by brilliance of thought and lucidity of language), but he preached often and with greatest fruit. Clement IV offered him the archbishopric of Naples which he also refused. He left the great monument of his learning, the "Summa Theologica", unfinished, for on his way to the second Council of Lyons, ordered there by Gregory X, he fell sick and died at the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova in 1274.

St. Thomas was one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time. He was canonized in 1323 and declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Conversion Of St. Paul.

The Conversion of St. Paul is an important event in the life of Christianity. As the Acts of the apostles tell us that St. Paul was not always a lover of Christians. He was involved in the persecution of our early Christians. The miracle of the conversion of St. Paul was not his own conversion but the conversion of the Christian community. Through their obedience of God they were able to receive St. Paul into their community. The community forgave St. Paul. Some it payer for our conversion and others.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

St. Margaret of Hungary (1242-1271)

Margaret, the daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary, was offered to God before her birth, in petition that the country would be delivered from the terrible scourge of the Tartars. The prayer having been answered, the king and queen made good their promise by placing the little girl in the Dominican convent at Vesprim. Margaret was three years old. Here, in company with other children of the nobility, she was trained in the arts thought fitting for royalty.

Margaret was not content with simply living in the house of God; she demanded the religious habit and received it at the age of four. Furthermore, she took upon herself the austerities practiced by the other sisters fasting, hairshirts, the discipline, and night vigils. She soon learned the Divine Office by heart and chanted it happily to herself as she went about her play. No one but Margaret seemed to take seriously the idea that she would one day make profession and remain as a sister, for it would be of great advantage to her father if she were to make a wise marriage.

This question arose seriously when Margaret was twelve. She responded in surprise. She said that she had been dedicated to God, even before her birth, and that she intended to remain faithful to that promise. To settle the matter, she pronounced her vows to the master general of the Order, Humbert of the Romans. Again, when Margaret was eighteen, her father made an attempt to swerve her from her purpose, because the king of Bohemia had come seeking her hand. He even obtained a dispensation from the pope and approached Margaret with the permission. Margaret replied as she had previously, "I esteem infinitely more the King of Heaven and the inconceivable happiness of possessing Jesus Christ than the crown offered me by the king of Bohemia." Having established that she was not interested in any throne but a heavenly one, she proceeded with great joy to live an even more fervent religious life than she had before.

Margaret's royal parentage was, of course, a matter of discussion in the convent, but the princess managed to turn such conversation away from herself to the holy lives of the saints who were related to her by blood St. Stephen, the king, St. Hedwig, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and several others. She did not glory in her wealth or parentage, but strove to imitate the saints in their holiness. She took her turn in the kitchen and laundry, seeking by choice much heavy work that her rank might have excused her from doing. She was especially welcome in the infirmary, which proves that she was not a sad faced saint, and she made it her special duty to care for those who were too disagreeable for anyone else to tend.

Margaret's austerities seem excessive to us of a weaker age. The mysteries of the Passion were very real to her and gave reason for her long fasts, severe scourgings, and other mortifications. She had a tender devotion to Our Lady, and on the eve of her feasts, Margaret said a thousand Aves.

Unable to make the long pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to Rome, or to any of the other famous shrines of Christendom, the saint developed a plan by which she could go in spirit: she counted up the miles that lay between herself and the desired shrine, and then said an Ave for every mile there and back. On Good Friday she was so overcome at the thoughts of our Lord's passion that she wept all day. She was frequently in ecstasy, and very embarrassed if anyone found her so and remarked on her holiness.

A number of miracles were performed during Margaret's lifetime and many more after her death. The island where her convent stood, called at first the "Blessed Virgin's Isle," was called "Isle of Margaret" after the saint. She is invoked against floods, in memory of a miracle she performed in stopping a flood on the Danube.

(Source : Dorcy, Marie Jean. St. Dominic's Family. Tan Books and Publishers, 1983)

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Master of the Order’s homily on Christmas Eve

Dear brothers and sisters,
This night is the night of the greatest mystery. “A child is given to us, whom you will find wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” This is given to us as a sign. How can such an ordinary reality of a new-born baby, how can such a fragile sign of a child who depends for everything on those who welcome him, how can this be the news of salvation that has been expected for centuries?
On this night, precisely, it is the coming of this child “begging” for hospitality from humankind that becomes the holy dawn, the dawn that, with all its weaknesses, will overcome the darkness of the night. This little beggar, this child of dawn, he is the sign that is given to us in order to recognize, wait for and welcome the new world that God, through Him, wants to bring on earth. Brothers and sisters, this is the profession of faith that we carry in our hearts, that can fill us with emotion on Christmas night.
Like the shepherds, the news of this holy dawn reaches us in the middle of our normal daily activities. They are on the mountains, and it is night. Their job is to watch over the flock entrusted to them, and which probably does not belong to them. It is there, in the middle of their human life, that the angels come. Suddenly, when they hear the news, their hearts awaken. From the shepherds’ example we can keep for ourselves two important points. First, even though we have things to do, day after day, and we have responsibilities to carry out and they are important, nothing should extinguish the Word of the promise from the depths of our heart. If the shepherds had simply forgotten this promise, how could they have taken the angels seriously? Let us have our heart ready to be awakened, in such a way that the promise of a new world given to us by God could mobilize our hope. Then there is a second aspect of the attitude of the shepherds that should guide us through life in our days. The Word that God speaks to them is strange: a child has been born, a sign has been given, whom you will find down there, in a manger. This notwithstanding, the trust is complete: they get up and do what the angels told them. The beginning of hope comes when we welcome with trust the fact that God speaks to us, that through this Word addressed to us, He already wants to make us his friends. By this dialogue which he started on his own initiative, we should have our heart awakened to this incredible desire on God’s part to come personally to us, to speak to us, to dialogue with us in the heart of our ordinary life.
Then the shepherds set out towards the manger that was pointed to them by the angels. Note that they start walking when it was still night and that, therefore, they dared to go forward. Surely they recalled the verse we have just heard again: the people who walked … The shepherds walk towards the child, and it is as if they take with them all those men and women who, like them, try to advance without yet seeing the rising dawn. How numerous are those we surely recall on this Christmas night, who are still crushed by the yoke, on whose shoulders they still carry burdens that are too heavy to carry, who are still refused their human dignity, and who no longer dare to hope. Tonight, I remember many realities of which our brothers and our sisters throughout the world are unfortunately witnesses, and in which they show solidarity. Tonight, together with the shepherds walking the still dark paths that lead to the holy manger, we carry with us the children of the Saint Martin de Porres homes in Latvia and in the Ukraine who barely have a roof where to rest, and very little support for them just to learn the ways of humanity. We carry with us the street children of many and many countries, from Haiti to Manila, of whom our brothers or our sisters are protectors, and they stay by their side so that they would be respected and loved. Again, tonight, whole countries walk with us, for the dictators’ boots have not yet relaxed, and corruption and political abuse of power still run
the streets of this world. Yes, all of them are here with us, following the shepherds who go forward with confidence. Down there, in the holy manger, the sign given to us by God that a new world shall be born, that dawn is going to rise, that night shall be overcome, is waiting for us.
And we arrive there. Oh, the place is surely very miserable: a fragile shelter, even because there is no place for them in the main inn. There is barely enough warmth. In short, our little beggar is in fact received, but as if reluctantly, halfheartedly. He is put with other people who do not have any place themselves. He is already ranked with those who count so little for the world’s powerful people. He comes from far. He is like a little nomad whose name is barely known. My brothers and sisters, it was not enough for God to take on himself our humanity. He also had to carry the weight of human precariousness when it is threatened with abandonment, exclusion and rejection. When it is obliged to show that it has the same right as anybody else to be welcomed and to have its place in the dialogue of all humanity. There the dawn of our salvation starts to rise: a new world is given to us, through this little mendicant nomad, who forces the door of humanity and lets into the company of all, those who, like him, are so easily excluded. However, from this infant lying in his makeshift crib comes forth a mysterious force that seems to draw love from those around him. Mary is there, and then Joseph who simply accepted the promise and the message of God with such faith and equal confidence, as did the shepherds in due time. They accepted that God adopts the love that bound them together, and to draw from him the strength to make it possible for this love to teach humanity to the Son of God. Yes, brothers and sisters, here the holy dawn of our salvation makes itself even more intense: God gives his son to the world as a beggar so that humanity could teach him to live a human life. He adopted humanity. He made himself “capable of humanity” in order to reveal to humans that they themselves are “capable of God”. It is a marvelous and mysterious exchange made possible through the adoption by God of the love in the middle of which Jesus was born. This adoption of the love of which humans are capable is our salvation. On being born in its midst, the Son of God reveals to humans from where to draw the strength to join him so that with him they could bring the dawns that overcome the nights.
Where can we get this strength from? From the love that, in this holy night, watches over the child in the manger. In the fragility and sweetness of this little nomad God who begs hospitality and, on receiving it, carries with him all those who, until then, had been rejected. It comes from the trust that God has in the ability of human beings to let their own human life be inhabited by the Breath of His Life. A child is born for us; a Son is given to us, and through him tonight we see the dawn of our lives.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Chapter

Today we the Dominicans of the Irish-vicariate of Trinidad and Tobago began our chapter. This is etymology of the word chapter: Middle English chapiter < Old French chapitre < Latin capitulum (“a chapter of a book, in Medieval Latin also a synod or council”), diminutive of caput (“a head”); see chapiter and capital, which are doublets of chapter. Base on this etymology from a Dominican point of view a chapter is a synod or council. A synod is an ecclesiastic council or meeting to consult on church matters.

At this garthering the brothers first elect a new superior and other important govenmental post. Secondly the brothers set particular goals for the vicariate for the next four years.